Monday's Expert - 2022 NRL Round 22
8 hours ago | Monday's
They're finally home!
After a two and a half year tour of duty playing home games in Australia, the New Zealand Warriors will return to Mt Smart Stadium for a critical match against the Wests Tigers. A win for either side gets them one step away from the wooden spoon.
It has been an incredibly challenging period for the Warriors since they've been relocated to Australia. It's been a period which has seen two head coaches sacked, and a new one to be appointed before the year is out. They can finally put the off-field politics behind them and play before their fans who have missed out on the chance to watch their local team in person. On the field, it hasn't all been plain sailing this season, after a promising start which saw the Aucklanders pull off upsets against Brisbane and North Queensland, the wheels have quickly fallen off the bus winning only one match since their three game winning streak which came to an end in Round 6.
However, they are back at Mt Smart and it's a real opportunity to re-establish their home ground as the fortress it once was a few seasons ago. Last start against Penrith, the Warriors were competitive in the opening 20 minutes, but ultimately came well short of defeating the premiers. This time around, New Zealand are the stronger side with a point to prove on their home ground. Addin Fonua-Blake outran the Penrith forwards last start and should come back from the Tongan side a much better player and with Ronald Volkman warming in confidence after his debut, expect his combination with Shaun Johnson and Reece Walsh to be firing. As far as the team list is concerned, Stacey Jones has bitten the bullet and shifted Euan Aitken back to centre in place of Adam Pompey. Eli Katoa returns on the bench replacing Duanmis Lui who's been left out of the line-up.
Meanwhile, the Wests Tigers are hurdling down the ladder at a rapid pace and are walking into a hostile atmosphere on Sunday as the Warriors will be keen to give their home fans something to cheer about. After two shock wins over Parramatta and Souths, there was signs of renewal but only one win from their next four spelled the end of Michael Maguire's tenure and more boardroom chaos.
The start of Brett Kimmorley's coaching tenure hasn't been easy with two heavy losses at the hands of Manly and Canterbury and poor defensive lapses in critical stages has led to the downfall of Noddy's side in the last fortnight. Adam Doueihi's successful return from injury is a welcome boost for a Tigers side heavily hit by injuries. Jackson Hastings need to rally his troops and take advantage of some at times paper thin defence that we've seen from the Warriors at times this season. Brett Kimmorley has seen enough from his under-performing forwards handing boom rookie Fonua Pole his first grade debut. Luke Brooks survives despite media reports suggesting he'd be dropped for this one. James Roberts and Stefano Utoikamanu return for the first time in several weeks. Nu Brown starts at hooker with Jacob Liddle dropped.
Last meeting: Round 3 2022 - Wests Tigers 12 Warriors 16
Who to watch: After shifting from the Roosters a few weeks ago, Ronald Volkman was rewarded with his NRL debut last round. Even though the scoreline wasn't in the Warriors favour, Volkman showed the huge potential that has seen the huge wraps placed upon his shoulders. Volkman has an excellent kicking game and good game management skills, look for the young half to assert his dominance as the Warriors look to make their return to Mt Smart a winning one for their long suffering supporters.
In what has been an inconsistent season for the Tigers thus far, Jackson Hastings has been the shining light for a side that has lacked an identity for the past few seasons. Hastings has never given up in a side that has been at times lacking that winning spirit and desire to compete with the top clubs in the NRL. Look for Hastings in this one to try to snap a losing streak and begin a late season surge to climb out of the bottom four on the premiership table.
The favourite: New Zealand are the favourites for their return to NZ clash. The Tigers have a 47% winning percentage in New Zealand since their arrival in the competition in 2000.
My tip: New Zealand will return home and in a big way, it's been a long and painful two and a half years for the men from Auckland and it'll be an emotional afternoon for the players. The Warriors will want to show to their supporters the form that saw them knock off those premiership contenders and prove that they can be a late season spoiler for sides trying to make the NRL finals. Warriors by 14.
14. Chanel Harris-Tavita 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Jesse Arthars 18. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Ronald Volkman 7. Shaun Johnson 20. Aaron Pene 9. Wayde Egan 10. Jazz Tevaga 4. Euan Aitken 13. Josh Curran 12. Tohu Harris 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 15. Bunty Afoa 17. Bayley Sironen 22. Freddy Lussick 16. Eliesa Katoa
1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Starford To'a 4. James Roberts 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Luke Brooks 7. Jackson Hastings 16. Alex Seyfarth 9. Fa'amanu Brown 10. Zane Musgrove 11. Luke Garner 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Stefano Utoikamanu 15. Adam Doueihi 17. Fonua Pole 20. Austin Dias 21. Jacob Liddle
Referees: Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Nick Pelgrave, Tyson Brough; Video Referees: Kasey Badger;