Nathaniel Roache vows to make the most of call-up as Warriors youngsters fight to stay positive
Take two for Nathaniel Roache.
Six weeks after his first start of the season ended with a torn hamstring, Roache gets another chance in the Warriors' No 9 jersey against Canberra on Sunday courtesy of Issac Luke's demotion to the bench.
Despite struggling for the game time this season, the 2016 club rookie of the year has rarely let the team down when called on by Stephen Kearney.
Roache was one of the few players to hold his head high following last week's dismal defeat in Newcastle, impressing with his speed around the ruck before showing his versatility by filling in on the wing when David Fusitu'a went off injured.
As one of their marquee players, Luke's slump in form is a big concern for the club and a strong finish to the season from Roache would heap even more pressure on the Kiwis veteran.
Not that the 21-year-old is buying into any of that talk.
"It doesn't mean anything in terms of me and 'Bully' (Luke)," Roache said. "'Bully' to me will always be the number one hooker at this club. I've still got a lot to learn off him and he's still learning himself.
"He's very experienced and he's probably dealt with this kind of thing before. I think it's just building new combinations leading into next year and giving us young guys a shot towards the end of the season."
Apart from the challenge posed by an in-form Canberra outfit, Roache's main concern is staying healthy.
A frustrating run of injuries saw him miss most of the pre-season before his hamstring gave way against Manly in July.
But he has used those setbacks to sharpen the mental side of his game and senior back-rower Ryan Hoffman, who himself is returning from five games on the sidelines, says that is exactly the sort of attitude the club needs more of.
"Just to typify how much of of a good player Nate Roache is, the bloke had four weeks out with a torn hamstring, comes on the field plays hooker and then gets thrown on the wing and was close to our best player," Hoffman said.
"He's a great example of the type of players we want wearing Warriors jerseys and it's good to see those players being rewarded."
The Warriors head into Sunday's game on a five-match losing streak with their finals hopes gone for yet another season, while their task has only become harder following the late withdrawal of Kieran Foran due to a shoulder injury.
Rookie five-eighth Ata Hingano has taken his place in the halves, bringing the number of players in the 19-man squad with less than 20 NRL games to eight.
It is hardly the ideal environment for young players to come into and Roache admitted confidence was down right throughout the club.
They have their work cut out against the 10th-placed Raiders, renowned for their big forward back and powerful outside backs, who are fighting to stay in the hunt for the top eight.
But Roache believes their youth can work in the Warriors' favour.
"There's always pressure and you're always going to get it when you're playing," said Roache, who makes his 20th appearance on Sunday.
"As young guys you don't really take into consideration the negatives, you always think about the positives - you're playing NRL and you're around guys that you'd never thought you'd play with.
"It's a positive for us."
AT A GLANCE
WARRIORS v RAIDERS
4pm Sunday, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Mason Lino, Jacob Lillyman, Nathaniel Roache, Ben Matulino, Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering. Interchange: Issac Luke, Sam Lisone, Isaiah Papalii, Jazz Tevaga, Chris Satae, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Raiders: Jack Wighton, Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker (c), Joseph Leilua, Jordan Rapana, Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, Junior Paulo, Josh Hodgson, Shannon Boyd, Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine, Elliott Whitehead. Interchange: Kurt Baptiste, Clay Priest, Dave Taylor, Luke Bateman, Michael Olfield, Jeff Lima.
- Sunday News