Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Kearney: No complacency from Warriors

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is confident there will be no complacency from his side on Sunday, as the Auckland club kicks off their season against the lowly rated Newcastle Knights.

The Knights only tasted victory once last season and head into the first round on an 18 match losing streak.

The Novocastrians have also endured a difficult pre-season, with key play maker Jarrod Mullen provisionally suspended after returning a positive drug test for anabolic steroids.

Newcastle will be massive outsiders, but just the kind of banana skin that has proved perilous for the Warriors in the past.

"We need to make sure we get our game right and have a real respect for Newcastle and what they can do," said head coach Kearney. "We have set ourselves a certain expectation throughout the year on how we prepare and how we perform."

As if to remind his troops, Kearney indicated he was wary of the Knights, who beat the Raiders 44-0 in their final pre-season trial.

"They played really well [against Canberra]," said Kearney. "Knowing [coach] Nathan Brown, he made a conscious decision last year to blood young guys, to give young guys a run and they are 12 months better."

Senior prop Jacob Lillyman agreed the Warriors won't take anything for granted this weekend.

"The way things have gone around here we have no right to be complacent," said Lillyman. "We have a lot to prove and that starts out on the field on Sunday...that's where it happens."

After naming a 21-man squad on Tuesday, Kearney confirmed on Wednesday that young forward Isiah Papalii would be part of the 17 on Sunday.

"Isiah will definitely be making his debut," said Kearney. "He came on last week when Ryan [Hoffman] got injured and played the rest of the game. He is an impressive young man - I gave him the opportunity to get a job done and he did it really well."

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Bodene Thompson remains the major question mark, but the 28-year-old back rower is confident he will be ready.

Thompson picked up a toe injury in December, which meant a modified training load in January and February.

It also precluded him from taking part in the Nines, and either of the Warriors trials against the Storm or the Titans.

"I probably could have played the last trial but I wanted to make sure I was right for round one," said Thompson. "I've got through heaps of contact last week and the week before and I'm getting through all the sessions now so it's sweet as. It's good to go."

If he plays, Thompson will be an important element on Sunday, in the youthful Warriors pack with Albert Vete, Sam Lisone, Charlie Gubb and Papalii in the mix.

- NZ Herald

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