Monday's Expert - 2022 NRL Round 16
6 hours ago | Monday's
New Zealand bid farewell against Australia's finest
The New Zealand Warriors will play their 59th - and final - consecutive premiership match on Australian soil against the high flying Penrith Panthers on Saturday evening at Moreton Daily Stadium.
Spending the past two-and-a-half years away from home in order to keep the premiership alive due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Warriors will be aiming to break a run of six straight losses with a win over the reigning premiers.
Getting off to a good start before reverting to bad habits in last Sunday's 38-16 defeat to Cronulla, interim coach Stacey Jones has responded on the selection front by handing former Roosters junior Ronald Volkman his first-grade debut at five-eighth.
Among the other changes announced on Tuesday afternoon, Chanel Harris-Tavita shifts to the bench, Jesse Arthars replaces Rocco Berry in the centres, and Bunty Afoa comes into the front-row with Aaron Pene joining the bench.
Winning four of their six appearances at Redcliffe over the past 12 months, hooker Wayde Egan will play his 50th game for the Warriors against the club he debuted with four years ago.
Riding high with a four-point buffer atop the premiership ladder, the Penrith Panthers will be aiming to extend a run of dominance over their opponents in recent seasons.
Claiming victories over the Warriors in their past four meetings, coach Ivan Cleary has enjoyed similar success with an 80 per cent strike rate over his former club since returning to the foot of the mountains four years ago.
Barely breaking a sweat while posting their largest score of the season during last Sunday's 42-6 victory over the Knights, co-captain Isaah Yeo has been named to return after sitting out last week due to a head knock sustained in the opening tackle of Origin I.
Last meeting: Round 18 2021 - Warriors 16 Panthers 30
Who to watch: Finishing 2021 among the most exciting young players in the league, Warriors fullback Reece Walsh has struggled to recapture his attacking best in season number two. Taking until last Sunday to register his first try of the year, the 19-year-old Queenslander has recorded seven try-assists, 56 tackle-breaks and an average of 141 running metres in 13 appearances this season. Possessing the X-factor needed to break the game open on his own, Walsh will need to rise to the challenge if the Warriors hope to end their time across the Tasman with an upset.
Emerging as a diamond in the rough for the Panthers this season, Jaeman Salmon has produced his most consistent form in the top grade by transitioning into an impact edge forward. Coming through the lower grades at Cronulla before debuting with Parramatta in the halves, the 23-year-old has played exclusively off the bench, averaging a touch under 28 minutes, in every match over the opening 14 rounds. Providing the reigning premiers with the versatility to cover a variety of positions across the park, Salmon will be determined to build upon his reinvention by securing an extended deal at the foot of the mountains.
The favourite: In a match up pitting the best attack against the worst defence, the Panthers will head into Saturday's clash as one of the shortest priced favourites of the season.
My tip: The Warriors have claimed victory every time they've scored 20 points or more at Redcliffe. The Panthers only loss this season came when they conceded more than 20 points. Draw your own conclusions. Panthers by 18.
1. Reece Walsh 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Jesse Arthars 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Ronald Volkman 7. Shaun Johnson 23. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Jazz Tevaga 11. Jack Murchie 13. Josh Curran 12. Tohu Harris 8. Bunty Afoa 14. Chanel Harris-Tavita 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Bayley Sironen 20. Eliesa Katoa
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Taylan May 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 19. Matt Eisenhuth
Referees: Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Belinda Sharpe, Tyson Brough; Video Referees: Chris Butler;