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North Sydney will provide the Vodafone Auckland Lions with another demanding assignment in their New South Wales Premier League clash at North Sydney Oval on Saturday. The Bears are South Sydney's feeder club in the competition, providing a reserve grade outlet for Rabbitohs players not required for first-grade duty. Last weekend the Bears shocked table-topping Newcastle with an old-fashioned scoreline of 5-4. Their side to take on the Vodafone Auckland Lions contains as many as eight players with NRL experience with former Kiwi international Joe Galuvao the most seasoned. As well as playing four tests, Galuvao has made 124 first-grade appearances for the Vodafone Warriors, Penrith and South Sydney. He also won a premiership ring with the Panthers in 2003. Hooker Stuart Webb and prop Scott Geddes have made more than 50 NRL appearances each while fullback Beau Champion, centres Germaine Paulson and Fetuli Talanoa, halves Ben Rogers and Eddie Paea plus loose forward Shannon McPherson have all had exposure at NRL level. A number of the squad are also New Zealand-born - Galuvao, Talanoa, Isaac Luke and Eddy Pettybourne. The Vodafone Auckland Lions, sitting fifth on the points table with three wins from five starts, will be able to fall back on some NRL experience at this stage but only from three players - standoff Jerome Ropati, winger Cooper Vuna and captain Steve Buckingham.
VODAFONE AUCKLAND LIONS v NORTH SYDNEY BEARS
North Sydney Oval, Sydney
2.30pm, Saturday, April 28, 2007
1 BEAU CHAMPION 2 TROY BOSTON 3 GERMAINE PAULSON 4 FETULI TALANOA 5 BLADEN BAIRD 6 BEN ROGERS 7 EDDIE PAEA 8 SCOTT GEDDES 9 STUART WEBB 10 JOE FALEMAKA 11 JOE GALUVAO 12 JARDINE BOBONGIE 13 SHANNON McPHERSON
14 VALU NASIO 15 DAVE WYNYARD 16 RYAN VERLINDEN 18 ISAAC LUKE 19 EDDY PETTYBOURNE 20 CONRAD TA'AKIMOEAKA COACH: WAYNE LAMBKIN
Ropati (22) returned from a long injury lay-off last weekend, playing for the Auckland Lions in their Bartercard Cup match against Harbour League. He scored a try in a 26-22 victory and came through the match untroubled in his first hit-out of the year. Ropati teams up in the halves with captain Steve Buckingham against the Bears.
The 21-year-old Kirk has been out of action since the 2006 NSW Premier League grand final. Playing for the beaten Newtown Jets, Kirk scored a try in the decider before being forced from the field with a serious knee injury.
His first game of the year comes after a long rehabilitation process following knee reconstruction. He starts at fullback on Saturday, replacing former Te Atatu utility Patrick Ah Van who