NRL: Mara keen to take his chance

Alehana Mara will share the hooking duties against the Roosters with Lewis Brown. Photo / Getty Images.
Alehana Mara will share the hooking duties against the Roosters with Lewis Brown. Photo / Getty Images.

Hooker Nathan Friend is an 80-minute player, even with a broken jaw, and his absence means the Warriors will do things a little differently against the Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium tomorrow night.

Friend had his jaw broken early in the 30-20 defeat of Brisbane last weekend and, although he played on, the biggest thing he will tackle over the next five weeks is the food blender.

Alehana Mara will share the hooking duties against the Roosters with Lewis Brown, who started his career as a hooker before being converted into a second-rower/centre, in his first game since round 26 last year.

The 22-year-old suffered a knee injury in pre-season and, although he's played for the Vulcans over the past two weeks, admits he's short of match fitness.

However, He knows this is a big opportunity and one he wants to take considering he's played only 10 NRL games since making his debut late in the 2010 season.

He's looked lively in his rare outings and Friend's absence gives him the chance for an extended run in the No 9 jersey.

"It's really good to be back," Mara said. "I have been doing a lot of the hard work off the field and I finally have the opportunity. I'm ready for it.

"It's been pretty hard. There were times I felt like I was playing well and really wanted to be in the team but there is so much competition here [at the Warriors]. If everyone wasn't doing their job then I felt like I could complain but that hasn't been the case."

Mara loves nothing more than probing from dummy-half - "as soon as I see an opportunity, I will just scoot," he says. "I just love to run - but he is also a strong defender in the middle.

He will need to be against a powerful Roosters pack who dominated the Warriors in their 26-8 win six weeks ago but the Warriors have been building steadily since that match. They accounted for Souths 44-22 and pushed Melbourne for 60 minutes before succumbing 32-14 and then brushed aside a very good Brisbane outfit 30-20 in arguably their best performance of the season.

"We feel like we have grabbed some traction in the last three weeks and we would like to continue that," coach Brian McClennan said. "Our focus this week is on our own backyard. We need to perform better for ourselves, not just because the Roosters spanked us last time they played us, but because we'd like to improve on what we did against Brisbane."

McClennan isn't putting pressure on his hookers, preferring them to provide the sort of service others can take advantage of.

"Alehana won't be able to do 80 minutes of what Nathan Friend can do, but Ale and Lewis Brown can," he said. "They can hold it together for us, and that's their main focus this week.

"If they can just get out there and hold that area nice and tight, give good service from dummy half and get the odd carry out of there when they can, that's all we want from them. We've got enough strike throughout the team to handle other aspects of the game."

Warriors team to play Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.30pm: Jerome Ropati, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Alehana Mara, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Ukuma Ta'ai, Sione Lousi, Jacob Lillyman.

Roosters: Anthony Minichiello, Peni Tagive, Joseph 'BJ' Leilua, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Martin Kennedy, Aidan Guerra, Mitchell Aubusson, Tinireau Arona. Interchange: Boyd Cordner, Lama Tasi, Brad Takairangi, Mose Masoe, Jack Bosden (one to be omitted).


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