PANTHER PRIDE | A big win for the mountain men tonight has them firmly entrenched in the top eight, ...
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Off-season signing Nathan Fien will have his first outing as a Vodafone Warrior in Sunday?s NRL pre-season trial against the New Zealand President?s Selection at Albany?s North Harbour Stadium.
While his 91-match NRL career with the North Queensland Cowboys centred on the halfback?s position, the 25-year-old Mount Isa product will have the key responsibility of filling the dummy half?s role with his new club.
After missing the 20-10 trial win against Parramatta in New Plymouth on February 13, Fien finds himself part of a new starting front row alongside props Evarn Tuimavave and Richard Villasanti.
Second rower Awen Guttenbeil and loose forward Monty Betham are again set to start in the back row while new buy Ruben Wiki, who ran on at prop against the Eels, is in the second row this time.
Head coach Tony Kemp has picked a starting backline that?s close to the one he used against Parramatta, the only change coming on the left wing where Francis Meli is in ahead of Rowan Baxter.
A bench of six has been named, among them giant winger Manu Vatuvei who has just been signed on a full-time contract. Also appearing is hooker Tevita Latu in his first match since he had his injured shoulder reconstructed.
Captain Steve Price, Sione Faumuina, Epalahame Lauaki and Karl Temata are among those not involved in this trial but Kemp says Price is still on target to play in the first match of the NRL season against Manly on March 13.
?We?ve picked the best possible side we can for the match and once again it?s a trial we want to win. That?s important to us,? he says.
?It?s another chance as well for us to look at combinations before the season starts.?
Four players from the Vodafone Warriors? 28-man top squad will play for the President?s men. Fullback Toshio Laiseni and winger Baxter both played in New Plymouth but will line up against their team-mates on Sunday, as will Simon Mannering and winger Cooper Vuna. Mannering (18) will be in the centres although he plays much of his football in the back row.
The President?s side, coached by Vodafone Warriors football development manager John Ackland, includes four players with NRL experience ? Vuna, Ben Lythe, Odell Manuel and Paul Atkins. Manuel, a 40-match Warrior in 1999-2000, has been named in the second row while Lythe, who played five times for the club in 2000, is at hooker.
The match kicks off at 4.00pm on Sunday.
The teams are:
VODAFONE WARRIORS ? Brent Webb, Todd Byrne, Tony Martin, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli, Lance Hohaia, Stacey Jones, Richard Villasanti, Nathan Fien, Evarn Tuimavave, Ruben Wiki, Awen Guttenbeil, Monty Betham. Reserves: Louis Anderson, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Tevita Latu, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Wairangi Koopu.
PRESIDENT?S SELECTION - Toshio Laiseni (Otahuhu Ellerslie), Cooper Vuna (Otahuhu Ellerslie), Simon Mannering (Wellington), Josh Davis (Parramatta), Rowan Baxter (Mt Albert), Daniel Vasau (North Harbour), Bernard Perenara (Marist Richmond), George Tuakura (Counties Manukau), Ben Lythe (Hibiscus Coast), Phil Shead (Villeneuve), Odell Manuel (Hibiscus Coast), Chris Newton (Canterbury), Wayne McDade (North Sydney). Reserves: Paul Atkins (Otahuhu Ellerslie), Andreas Bauer (Mt Albert) Marvin Filipo (Mangere East), Robinson Godfrey (Mt Albert), Pinomi Tafea (Counties Manukau), Willie Live (Central Falcons), Artie Shead (Toulouse), Sam Rapira (WaiCoa Bay), Chris Tupou (North Harbour), Dean Shepherd (Glenora), Antonio Tusani (Counties Manukau)