Caretaker coach Tony Iro has wielded the axe for the season finale against the Raiders on Sunday, dropping the star combination of Shaun Johnson and James Maloney and returning Feleti Mateo to the playmaker's role in the halves.
There's also the welcome sight of skipper Simon Mannering returning after five weeks out with an ankle injury, during which time the Warriors' lost every match as part of their seven-game streak of disasters.
But it's the players missing for this last match of the NRL campaign at Mt Smart that is the biggest sensation. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Iro is desperate to avoid a club record of eight consecutive losses.
He's asking Mateo, a ball-playing second-rower who has spent time in the halves before with mixed success, to spark the attack, something neither Johnson nor Maloney has been able to do in recent weeks.
Mateo will partner Pita Godinet, who moves up from the bench to start.
“This is a case of us picking the side we think will give us the best chance of winning against the Raiders,” Iro said in naming his radically altered team.
“We had to make some changes. We have to do something about trying to get a much-improved performance from the team in front of our members.
“Pita has been in good form since coming back into the side and deserves the opportunity, and we wanted to use Feleti at six.”
Johnson was injured in last week's 38-6 humiliation by the Dragons in Wollongong but Iro made it clear that fitness had no part in this decision and the youngster, who has been flirting with the idea of playing rugby sevens, could turn out for the Vulcans on Saturday.
Maloney's slide in form has been alarming. He has played every game this season but lately has looked like he's already had his mind on Bondi, where he joins the Roosters next year. He is left fighting for a place on the interchange with seven players vying for four positions.
Mateo has also decided to drop departing centre Lewis Brown, who is heading to the Panthers. Brown has also played every game this season but in his absence youngster Konrad Hurrell gets another chance, with the coach deciding it's better to invest in the future with the recent past having been so bleak.
Ben Matulino, a late inclusion on the interchange against the Dragons, starts in the front row at the expense of Russell Packer, another player battling a form slump.
WARRIORS: Carlos Tuimavave, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Feleti Mateo, Pita Godinet, Jacob Lillyman, Alehana Mara, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Michael Luck. Interchange: Russell Packer, Sione Lousi, Ukuma Ta'ai, Lewis Brown, James Maloney, Sam Lousi, Sebastine Ikahihifo.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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