NRL: Warriors waiting on a Friend

By Michael Brown

Warriors hooker Nathan Friend. Photo / Getty Images.
Warriors hooker Nathan Friend. Photo / Getty Images.

It's not on the scale of Cronulla getting their coach Shane Flanagan back, but the sight of hooker Nathan Friend doing extra tackling practice this week was a welcome one for the Warriors.

Friend played 17 games last year but it was interrupted by shoulder and jaw injuries. He missed the start of this season after undergoing more surgery because of nerve damage to the shoulder he dislocated last August but is making good progress and could be ready within a fortnight.

Back-rower Elijah Taylor has done a workmanlike job as the starting hooker and the livewire Pita Godinet has impressed coming off the bench to take advantage of tiring defences but neither are hookers by trade.

Friend is a classy operator renowned for his high workrate and the fact he can be an 80-minute player. Last season against Brisbane he even played a full game despite breaking his jaw in the opening five minutes - and still finished with 53 tackles.

Friend needs to see the specialist before returning to the playing field but coach Matt Elliott expects the 29-year-old to be available soon.

"I don't think he's too far way," Elliott said. "Another couple of weeks. He will obviously be nice to have available, that's for sure.

"He did a little contact last week and some really solid contact this week so I would like to think within the next couple [of weeks] he will be available for selection."

Taylor will once again wear the No 9 jersey on Sunday against Cronulla in Sydney with Godinet providing a spark off the bench. Godinet has caught the eye with his darting runs out of dummy half in the first two games and he's hoping to continue that role when Friend returns because he is off contract at the end of the season.

His wife is keen on a move across the Tasman - her brother Latrell Schaumkel plays for Manly's under-20s side - but Godinet isn't picky.

"It's always in the back of my mind," the 25-year-old said. "I need to give it my all and hopefully stand out and get more game time.

"I have been thinking about [Friend's return] as well, where I will slot in because he's an 80-minute player. You never know. The coach might still use me off the bench. We will soon find out."

Godinet grew up playing halfback but feels at home at hooker and is suited to coming off the bench when some of the sting has been taken out of the game. Last week against the Roosters he played the last 48 minutes and scored a second-half try when scooting out of dummy half close to the line.

"I'm probably just blessed to have that natural ability to play football," he said. "Defensively, I have a bit of work to do because there's some heavy traffic up the middle. It's what I focus on in training because I know my attack comes naturally.

"I enjoy coming off the bench. Everyone is fresh at the start but a bit fatigued around the 25-minute mark and that's when Matty sends me out there to try to dance around with the big boys."

Cronulla have a fair few of them in their pack and will be a formidable opposition on Sunday, especially given the return of the popular Flanagan. The Warriors are desperate to arrest a 10-game losing streak but will need to play with more fluency than they did in the 16-14 defeat to the Roosters.

Warriors side to play Cronulla at Sharks Stadium, Sydney, on Sunday (4pm): Kevin Locke, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Bill Tupou, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Steve Rapira, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pita Godinet, Ben Henry.


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 21 Feb 2017 09:11:19 Processing Time: 330ms