NZ Warriors send Hurrell back to reserve grade
Warriors' stand-in coach Andrew McFadden has wasted no time in stamping his mark making several changes to his team in just his second week in the job.
The most notable change, for the team to face the Dragons in Sydney on Saturday night, is the dropping of centre Konrad Hurrell to the reserve grade team because of defensive lapses.
The rollicking centre spent the first two games of the season in the reserve team after returning from the offseason overweight.
Hurrell made 12 tackles in the Warriors' 20-21 loss to the Bulldogs at Eden Park on Sunday and missed just one.
However, McFadden said Hurrell needed to be given time to work on his game.
"It has been made clear to him what he needs to improve on," McFadden said.
Ngani Laumape, who started Sunday's game on the wing, will start at centre in place of Hurrell with David Fusitua moving up from the reserve grade team to play on the wing.
Fusitua is a much different, and faster, player to Laumape and was favoured by ousted coach Matt Elliott.
His second NRL game comes against the same opponent he made his debut against at Eden Park on March 15 when the Warriors' lost 31-13.
In other changes to the team, Jayson Bukuya (foot) and Ben Henry (knee) return from injury. Henry's recovery, in particular, has been nothing short of spectacular. After initial fears he would be sidelined for much of the season, the seriousness of the injury was downgraded and he has returned within four weeks.
Bukuya replaces Ben Matulino, who is out for two matches after taking an early guilty plea on a shoulder charge from the Bulldogs game, while Henry comes onto the bench for Sebastine Ikahihifo who is recovering from a head knock.
McFadden said Henry's return earlier than expected was a major boost.
"Ben has recovered really well and it's great to have him back in the side," he said.
"With Seb [Ikahihifo] we're taking a conservative approach after he left the field with a head knock on Sunday. We've been monitoring him and he's making good progress."
With Matulino and Ikahihifo missing, Dominique Peyroux, who played his first NRL game of the year last weekend, starts in the second row with Bukuya and captain Simon Mannering is switched to loose forward.
Veteran Jacob Lillyman will again start in the front row. Lillyman had a massive game against the Bulldogs and was named the players' player of the day for the third time this season.
This weekend's match will mark just the fourth time the Warriors have played at Win Jubilee Oval (Kogarah Oval).
The team lost their first two games. The Warriors had a 30-20 win over St George Illawarra there in 2003.
WARRIORS vs ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
WIN Jubilee Oval, Sydney
7.30pm (NZ time), Saturday, April 19
NZ WARRIORS: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitua, Dane Nielsen, Ngani Laumape, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman, Dominique Peyroux, Jason Bukuya. Interchange: Suaia Matagi, Charlie Gubb, Ben Henry, Tuimoala Lolohea