Warriors skipper Simon Mannering has labelled Eels winger Will Hopoate as ‘‘dangerous’’, and is wary of the influence the returning star could have on tomorrow’s game in Sydney.
Hopoate will play his first NRL game in since 2011 in the Warriors’ season opener against the Eels at Parramatta Stadium, after leaving league to complete a two-year Mormon mission in Queensland.
The Warriors are more than familiar with what the 21-year-old star is capable of in the NRL.
His last first-grade appearance came in the 2011 NRL Grand Final in Sydney, which pitted his former club the Sea Eagles against Mannering’s boys.
Though he didn’t cross the white chalk himself, Hopoate served up a flick pass that would lead to Glenn Stewart’s key try at the beginning of the game’s second half.
Last week, Hopoate admitted he was taking a little while to get use to the pace of first-grade again – but Mannering believes it won’t take the one-cap New South Wales representative long.
‘‘He was obviously a great player when he left a couple of years ago, and I’m sure he’ll get back to that form pretty quickly,’’ Mannering said.
‘‘He’s still very young, so I’m sure he’s got a lot of gas left in the tank. It will probably be hard, being out of the game for a couple of years – but I’m sure he’ll find his feet pretty quickly. He’ll definitely be one of their most dangerous players on Sunday.’’
The Warriors will feature four new faces in tomorrow’s clash, with star fullback Sam Tomkins, back rower Jayson Bukuya, Sharks castoff Chad Townsend and former Under-20s star John Palavi all getting a start.
The selection of Carlos Tuimavave at centre has pushed human cannonball Konrad Hurrell into the New South Wales Cup reserve-grade team, where he will play alongside 2013 late-season regular Ngani Laumape.
Mannering said the host of new faces in the team, and the demotion of Hurrell and Laumape to NSW Cup, shows the growing depth the club has.
‘‘The stronger your reserve team is, usually the better your top-grade team goes,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s more competition and guys fighting for spots. It definitely keeps everyone honest, and hopefully sees the benefits from that this weekend.’’
‘‘It’s great to see JP [Palavi] get a start. He’s been in the system for a long time and he’s had a great off-season. He definitely deserves his shot, and I know all the guys are excited about seeing him get a run.
‘‘Jayson has added a lot to the team. He’s had a lot of experience at the Sharks, probably missed out on a lot of football with injuries. I’m sure he’s up for a big year.’’
Alongside Hopoate, ex-Broncos standoff Corey Norman and the ever-impressive Jarryd Hayne loom as the biggest danger men for the Eels tomorrow.
Mannering didn’t want to get drawn into talking about how to contain the big names however. For the Warriors skipper, it’s all about his team implementing their own game plan.
‘‘We’ve got to worry about our own backyard first, and make sure we can control what we can with our own performance,’’ he said.
‘‘They’ve definitely got guys in their team that can play. The more opportunity you give them, the more chance ntsDthey arente of making something of it. It’s just about making sure we play the smartest game we can.’’
SHARKS V WARRIORS
KICK OFF: 8.30pm tomorrow at Pirtek Stadium, Sydney
REFEREES: Adam Devcich and Henry Perenara
COVERAGE: Live on Sky Sport 2 from 8pm
1 Jarryd Hayne
2 Semi Radradra
3 Will Hopoate
4 Willie Tonga
5 Vai Toutai
6 Corey Norman
7 Luke Kelly
8 Tim Mannah
9 Nathan Peats
10 Fuifui Moimoi
11 Ben Smith
12 Manu Ma’u
13 Kenny Edwards
Interchange (from): 14 Joseph Paulo, 15 Peni Terepo,16 Darcy Lussick, 17 Kelepi Tanginoa, 18 David Gower, 19 Mitch Allgood. Coach: Brad Arthur.
1 Sam Tomkins
2 Glen Fisiiahi
3 Dane Nielsen
4 Carlos Tuimavave
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Chad Townsend
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Sam Rapira
9 Nathan Friend
10 Ben Matulino
11 Jayson Bukuya
12 Simon Mannering (c)
13 John Palavi
Interchange (from): 14 Jacob Lillyman, 15 Suaia Matagi, 16 Sione Lousi, 17 Feleti Mateo, 18 Jerome Ropati. Coach: Matt Elliott.
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