David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Warriors duo too young to attend season launch

The Warriors marked the launch of their NRL season with a breakfast function in Auckland city yesterday but two of their most promising players were notable absentees.

Teenage hooker Nathaniel Roache - named to make his debut off the bench in Saturday's round one clash against Wests Tigers - and playmaker Ata Hingano are both 19 and under the legal age to attend the function at Sky City Casino.

Captain Ryan Hoffman, coach Andrew McFadden and managing director Jim Doyle joined the rest of the Warriors top squad who were introduced to an assembled crowd of sponsors and media.

McFadden confirmed Roache will be brought on to add spark to their attack with new signing and Kiwis test rake Issac Luke still building his fitness after a shortened pre-season.

"We want plenty of energy in the middle," explained McFadden.

"We certainly think Issac will play 80 minutes but he's only had limited footy so we just want to make sure that we give him the best opportunity to play his best.

"I want him to be thinking about running and adding impact and not just trying to get through the 80 minutes."

Roache's versatility - he can also play in the halves and fullback - makes him a valuable addition to the side following the reduction of interchanges from 10 to eight and the stringent rules around concussion.

The importance of having adequate cover was highlighted in the Warriors second pre-season trial against St George Illawarra in Nelson, when a head knock saw Manu Vatuvei depart to force a significant backline reshuffle.

"He's played multiple positions in lower grades. His primary role is at hooker but having versatility on your bench is pretty critical particularly with the head rule and obviously the less interchanges."

Along with the two No9's, four other players - halfback Jeff Robson, centre Blake Ayshford, fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and bench forward James Gavet - are making their club debuts at Campbelltown Stadium.

McFadden expects their various combinations will take some time to gel and believes the team's playing style will develop as the year progresses.

"Our style will evolve throughout the season," he said. "We don't want to be a conservative team but we need to earn the right to play that exciting style."

Many critics are suggesting Wests Tigers are in for a difficult year but the Warriors insist they face a tough assignment and say pre-season predictions count for nothing.

"I'm not buying that," said McFadden. "It helps them having that less expectation and they'll certainly be excited about round one. It's their first home game and we're not buying into that sort of talk."

Listen to Ryan Hoffman on the Crowd Goes Wild Breakfast

- NZ Herald

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