WITH a new halfback and an intimidating forward pack the New Zealand Warriors look to open their account at home against a young Bulldogs team tipped to take the spoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
New Zealand Warriors
Scraping into the top eight last year, the Warriors were eliminated quickly by the Penrith Panthers 27-12. Prior to that they did defeat the Raiders and the Panthers but with a young halfback and some experience lacking it’s hard to get a gauge.
Some big roster changes to ease salary cap pressure could have spelt disaster for the Dogs. But they have been served well by CEO Andrew Hill and Chairwoman Lynne Anderson, as well as coach Dean Pay. They finished 2018 in good form and will at least be competitive against the Warriors.
New Zealand Warriors
The departure of two of their favourite sons, in Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman, has caused a host of changes to the Storm’s line-up. Jahrome Hughes has been given given the nod at fullback, Kenny Bromwich takes the place of an injured Joe Stimson (back) and Tui Kamikamica has been resultantly elevated to the interchange bench.
New Zealand Warriors 19-man squad:
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) 2 David Fusitu’a 3 Peta Hiku 4 Solomone Kata 5 Ken Maumalo 6 Adam Keighran 7 Blake Green 8 Agnatius Paasi 9 Nathaniel Roache 10 Bunty Afoa 11 Adam Blair 12 Tohu Harris 13 Lachlan Burr. Interchange: 14 Jazz Tevaga 15 Sam Lisone 16 Leeson Ah Mau 17 Blake Ayshford. Reserves: 18 Gerard Beale 20 Ligi Sao
Dylan Napa replaces David Klemmer, while Will Hopoate has won the number one jersey over Nick Meaney. In an unexpected selection Marcelo Montoya snares a centre spot alongside Kerrod Holland while former Penrith flyer Christian Crichton debuts on the wing.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 19-man squad:
1 Will Hopoate, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Kerrod Holland, 4 Marcelo Montoya, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Kieran Foran, 7 Lachlan Lewis, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 Dylan Napa, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14 Jeremy Marshall-King, 15 Danny Fualalo, 16 Corey Harawira-Naera, 17 Sauaso Sue Reserves: 20 Nick Meaney, 21 Chris Smith
HEAD TO HEAD
On home soil and without fan-favourite Shaun Johnson at the helm a lot of weight lies on the shoulders of Bulldogs junior Adam Keighran. He is up against a younger but more experienced Lachlan Lewis who has been given the task of also steering his team around the park. The battle of the the halfbacks will be exciting as will be the fullback clash. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Will Hopoate are both dynamic and skilful number ones who love to get involved in the action rather than sit back and direct.
Both forward packs are equally aggressive, with the Bulldogs to feature gun recruit and hard hitter Dylan Napa with big man Jessie Sue and Corey Harawira-Naera both coming off the bench. The Warriors will match that with young gun Bunty Afoa up front while their new recruit Lachlan Burr, who won last year’s Bulldogs player of the year in the NSW Cup, earning a starting spot in jersey 13.
No doubt both sides will play an expansive and exciting style of football. The Bulldogs were caught out in defence in their only trial against the Raiders, so Dean Pay will want to ensure his men can take what’s thrown at them.
The Bulldogs have the advantage in head-to-head clashes, winning 18 of 33 match ups. The teams have played out two draws since 1998 and it was nearly three the last time they met, if not for a late field goal to Bulldogs halfback Lachlan Lewis.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2019
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
Kick-off: 3.00pm (AEDST)
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite encouraging signs it is hard to go past the Warriors at home. The have a strong team and will be out for blood against a new-look Bulldogs team who may take some time to gel.
Warriors by 8.