By PETER JESSUP
Auckland Warriors coach Mark Graham has gone for NRL experience in selecting his side for the only pre-season hit-out against another NRL club, all the off-season Aussie buys to get a run in the trial against Canberra at Western Springs on Friday night. Lee Oudenryn fills in in a familiar role at the back, former skipper Matthew Ridge obviously now set to depart the club since he was not named though no one's saying so just yet.
"It's not over until the fat lady sings," was the universal comment yesterday as lawyers looked at contracts.
Former Norths wing Scott Pethybridge takes Oudenryn's flank spot for the one-off at the Springs as the Big Day Out takes over Ericsson.
Robert Mears remains at half for the injured Stacey Jones, Jason Death goes to Mears' spot at rake and former Magpie Scott Coxon gets lock, his old team mate Matt Spence in the second row. Ivan Cleary comes in at right centre and will kick. Mark Tookey and David Myles will come off the bench.
There are some selections made on pre-season form and fitness, Spence for one and prop Jerry SeuSeu edging Terry "The Rock" Hermansson, who is still troubled by his bad knees.
Ali Lauiti'iti comes back after time off to repair a shin stress fracture. Joe Galuvao was not considered after re-tearing a hamstring, while a return date for Jones will be clearer after next week, when he has the last of the pins and rods removed from his shattered arm. Awen Guttenbeil's return date is even further away in the murk.
Graham and Canberra opposite Mal Meninga have agreed each can run unlimited interchange and the Warriors coach will recycle players from the curtainraiser to be played between the Warriors' `B' side and a combined Aotearoa Maori/New Zealand Residents XIII.
It's hard to see Graham making wholesale changes after this game despite it being just a trial. Barring any injury or a bolter of a performance from one of the `Bs', Friday's starting 17 will be the starting team for the first competition game against the Melbourne Storm at Ericsson on February 6.
The Warriors open 2000 with far greater depth than they had last season or the one before, 34 players on the books, `B' side backs Francis Meli, Peter Lewis, Clinton Toopi and Cliff Beverley and forwards Wairangi Koopu and Talite Liava'a having had premiership appearances last year, Ben Lythe the Queensland Cup's top points scorer and scholarship
player Henry Perenara making the Maori side.
The Maori/ Residents XIII will have only two runs before Friday's game, one last night and the other tomorrow.
Selected by Maori coach Cameron Bell, Junior Kiwis coach Gary Kemble and Auckland coach Dominic Clark, the side is running under former Northcote and NZ Nines coach Graeme Norton with help from Warriors development officer Bob Hall. The pair were serious in intent to give the Warriors a good test despite the lack of preparation.
The Maori yesterday confirmed a three-test series against Fiji here in April as both sides build to the end-of-year World Cup. They'll play first at Davis Park, Huntly, on April 22, then Rotorua over Easter, with the third game venue to be decided between Whangarei and Carlaw Park.
Warriors: Lee Oudenryn, Odell Manuel, Ivan Cleary, Nigel Vagana, Scott Pethybridge, John Simon (c), Robert Mears, Joe Vagana, Jason Death, Jerry SeuSeu, Logan Swann, Matt Spence, Scott Coxon; interchange Mark Tookey, Tony Tuimavave and with David Myles, Cliff Beverley, Ben Lythe, Shontayne Hape, Ali Lauiti'iti and Monty Betham to back up.
Warriors B: David Myles, Henry Fafailii, Shontayne Hape, Paul Whatuira, Francis Meli, Cliff Beverley, Ben Lythe, Terry Hermansson, Monty Betham (c), Talite Liava'a, Wairangi Koopu, Jonathon Smith, Henry Perenara; interchange Vai Kololo, Clinton Toopi, Ali Lauiti'iti, Peter Lewis.
Aotearoa Maori/NZ Residents XIII: Joe Flavell (BoP), Alan Lio (Glenora), Boycie Nelson (Glenora), Steve Berryman (Waikato), Willie Clarken (Eastern Tornadoes), Gavin Bailey (Glenora), Shane Edwards (Otahuhu), Ben Vailini (Glenora), Esau Mann (Mangere East), Jason Williams (Marist), Adrian Smith (Manurewa), Finave Gasu (Otahuhu), Sione Santos (Group 20 Aust); interchange Channerith Ly (Manurewa), Aaron Tucker (Glenora), Anthony Kiro (Manurewa), Jamie Cook (Northcote), Phillip Leuleuai (Otahuhu), Joe Albert (Mt Albert), Jarrod Trott (Northcote).