The WaiCoa Bays Stallions are bracing for a tough test against the Junior Warriors this afternoon – but it's a game that the Stallions believe will stand them in good stead for progressing to higher honours.
The two sides meet in the curtain raiser to today's Warriors-Panthers NRL trial match at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, and the fixture represents a great chance for the Stallions to test themselves against a high quality outfit.
"Obviously we're underdogs because we're playing the best 20-year-olds in the country," Stallions coach Morgan Kutia said of his side's chances. "So it'll be huge for us, but when you play football you want to play at the highest levels and against the best players. The opportunity's been given to us so the boys are excited really."
The Stallions are completely out of season, with their national competition taking place between August and October at the end of the club competitions.
But since they found out about the opportunity to face the Junior Warriors in December last year, the Stallions kicked into training, with fitness testing, a week before Christmas.
Last weekend the side had their first outing, against the Otahuhu Leopards in Ngaruawahia, which the hosts won 36-8.
While the Leopards, who play in Auckland's Fox Memorial competition, weren't at full strength, they still presented a big, competitive outfit for the Stallions, who have introduced a three-strikes policy for their players this season to ensure more dedication to being available for games and trainings.
"I think it's all about commitment for us," Kutia said. "We want players that'll turn up to trainings and won't let their team-mates down. I think that policy has worked because we've got players that are turning up and we're rewarding them with these games. It doesn't matter how good they are, we just want them to show commitment to the team."
Because of this match, the Stallions have also been contacted by the Auckland Vulcans for a pre-season game, and the two sides will meet next weekend in Auckland.
The majority of the Stallions' squad have returned from last year, and there are a couple of new second rowers in Mac Carson – who played for the under-17s last season – and Phil Rameka – who was plucked out of left-field.
Rangy and tough, Rameka plays for the Reporoa Razorbacks in the second division WaiCoa Bays club competition
"Our trainer mentioned him," Kutia said of how he heard of Rameka. "He travels two hours one way from Taupo to get up to trainings. Last week was the first time I'd seen him play, and he deserves his place in this team."
The Junior Warriors will put a very good side today, with 11 of their 19 having played in the Toyota Cup (now Holden Cup) National Youth Competition last year.
Last weekend the Juniors put out a side featuring no players from last season and beat the Howick Hornets Fox Memorial side 40-22.
AT A GLANCE
WaiCoa Bays Stallions v Junior Warriors
Waikato Stadium, Today, 1.45pm
HOW THEY LINE UP
Stallions: Jonty McBeth, Moses Tuivoavoa, Leigh Bristowe, Faamoana Leilua, Marrin Haggie, Aaron Jolley, Hayden Karena, Sam Pritchard, Willie Rutene, Toafitu Sili, Mac Carson, Phil Rameka, Simon Beale (c). Interchange: Nick Read, Dana Ratu, Josh Weeden, Waka Sweet, Riki Collier, Peter Rameka, David Gideon, Fetaiamauso Tauiliili-Pelesasa, Renata Leilua.
Junior Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea, Viliami Lolohea, Sione Feao, Ngataua Hukatai, Esera Esera, Eko Malu, Mason Lino, Albert Vete, Michael Sio, James Taylor, Kouma Samson, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, David Bhana. Interchange: Sam Cook, Sam Lisone, Kurt Robinson, Tama Koopu, Solomone Kata, Abraham Papalii.
- Waikato Times
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