Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Tomkins runs straight into old side

Warriors v Warriors as Auckland start busy year with match against Wigan followed by trials and NRL Nines
Sam Tomkins is keen to make an impression. Photo / Greg Bowker
Sam Tomkins is keen to make an impression. Photo / Greg Bowker

Sam Tomkins' first match for the Warriors could be against his old Warriors outfit. The Auckland club will take on the Wigan Warriors in a pre-season match on February 12 next year.

The game, which will be played at Waikato Stadium, could mark Tomkins' debut for his new club.

It will also create a fixture log jam for the Warriors, who will have three trials as well as the NRL Nines in the space of 15 days.

"It will be a challenge but it was too good an opportunity to turn down," says Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah.

"Now that we have three teams we have a much broader full-time roster. We are confident we can balance out the squads for each assignment."

Scurrah confirmed that the Nines, which will be staged just three days after the Wigan match, is a "major priority" but also assured that the Warriors will field a strong line-up in Hamilton.

The match continues the burgeoning alliance between the two clubs, who formalised their official relationship earlier this year.

A pre-season game was first discussed in April but after Wigan were crowned SuperLeague champions - and the World Club Challenge was switched to Australia (for the first time since 1994) - it became a much more viable possibility.

Wigan needed a warm-up match ahead of its encounter with the Sydney Roosters on February 22. The English club had considered a match in Papua New Guinea or Northern Queensland but the Warriors was always first preference, if the logistics could work.

"We hugely appreciate the Warriors being able to help us as we prepare," said Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan. "It's been 20 years since the challenge was played in Australia and we are doing all we can to be ready be for the contest."

The Wigan match adds to an already confirmed programme of trials against Gold Coast and Brisbane plus the Nines.

Whether Tomkins will play in Hamilton is yet to be decided, with Warriors coach Matthew Elliott now looking to cover selection requirements for all the games.

"We'll wait and see on who will play which trials and who we'll settle on for the Nines," said Elliott. "We won't have a full squad back in training until January 13 so there's a long way to go yet before we make our decisions."

The Wigan Connection
Wigan legend Dean Bell was the Warriors' first captain and former All Black Frano Botica joined from Wigan for the debut season. Phil Blake, Jerry Seuseu, Quentin Pongia, Iafeta Paleaaesina and Thomas Leuluai are among many others who have played for both clubs, as well as English recruits Dennis Betts and Andy Platt. John Monie and Frank Endacott have also coached in Auckland and Wigan.

Warriors 2014 pre-season programme
Sunday, February 9: 4.00pm Gold Coast Titans North Harbour Stadium
Wednesday, February 12: 7.30pm Wigan Warriors Waikato Stadium
Saturday & Sunday February 15-16: NRL Auckland Nines Eden Park
Sunday, February 23: 3.00pm Brisbane Broncos Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

- NZ Herald

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