Round 8: Warriors v Broncos preview
New Zealand host Brisbane - at Gosford - in must-win encounter.
In a contest pitting the 14th-placed New Zealand Warriors against the 15th-placed Brisbane Broncos, both teams will be desperate to emerge from Central Coast Stadium with two points on Saturday evening.
Copping a 50-6 hiding against Melbourne last Friday, the New Zealand Warriors will be hoping to continue their surprisingly strong form in Gosford.
Holding an 80 per cent record at Central Coast Stadium, including wins in both their appearances this season against St George Illawarra and North Queensland, interim coach Todd Payten will be hoping his team can maintain a slight advantage over the Broncos following nine wins and a draw from 18 clashes during the past decade.
Set to be without Roger Tuivasa-Sheck after the New Zealand fullback was found guilty of a should charge at the judiciary, former Brisbane utility Gerard Beale is expected to come into the backline, while Jack Hetherington will make his club debut after being loaned from Penrith in place of recalled Sydney prop Poasa Fa'amusili.
After being a late scratching from the team that went down to the Storm last Friday, prolific try-scorer David Fusitua will belatedly become the 24th player to bring up 100 games for the club.
Boasting the worst defence in the league having been outscored 42-170 during their run of losses, under pressure coach Anthony Seibold will be aiming to orchestrate the Broncos first win on the Central Coast since 2011.
Offsetting the loss of representative forward Joe Ofahengaue (suspension) with the return of young duo Thomas Flegler and Patrick Carrigan, former Dally M Rookie of the Year Jamayne Isaako has been granted a reprieve at the expense of Corey Oates - who will have to wait to play his 150th game for the club.
Who to watch: Bursting onto the NRL scene two years ago as a feisty second rower eager to tussle with the game's toughest players, Jack Hetherington will be raring to get back on the field for his first match since the opening round. Penning a short-term loan to join the Warriors' ranks for the next four weeks, the 2018 Penrith Rookie of the Year will provide the NRL nomads with an injection of sorely needed aggression. Managing just three games in the top grade since his rookie campaign, look for the 25-year-old forward to rip in on Saturday evening as the Warriors look to continue their unbeaten record at Gosford this season.
Retaining the number one jersey despite finishing on the bench seven days earlier, Tesi Niu will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of last week. Coming up with a costly error in the opening minutes against the Titans, the former Australian Schoolboys representative will be eager to amend by showcasing the talents that saw him debut for Tonga just months after turning 18 last October. Likely to receive plenty of attention under the high ball on Saturday evening, Niu shapes as a player capable of helping the Broncos breakthrough for their first win since the COVID-19 lockdown.