Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Return of Hurrell is shrouded in mystery

Blockbusting centre should be an asset but best place for impact needs to be assessed.
Hurrell should be an asset to a Warriors team who have been short of game breakers. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Hurrell should be an asset to a Warriors team who have been short of game breakers. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Konrad Hurrell is back for the Warriors but there is mystery over how he will be used.

The powerful centre, who has yet to play at NRL level this season, has been named on the interchange bench for Monday's match against the Newcastle Knights.

He replaces Nathaniel Roache, who sustained an ankle injury in a heavy tackle against the Melbourne Storm last Sunday at Mt Smart.

But it's not clear exactly where Hurrell slots in.

Most NRL teams employ a utility on the interchange bench, alongside three power forwards. Roache was cover for hooker, but could also play almost every position in the backline. Hurrell is a different proposition. He can play centre or wing - and that's about it.

The reduced interchange this year means tactical replacements in the backline are an unaffordable luxury, as the forwards need to be rotated efficiently to mitigate fatigue.

Perhaps the most likely scenario will see Hurrell used as an impact player at the back end of each half, while another player (maybe Jeff Robson, Bodene Thompson or Tui Lolohea) shifts to dummy half for a period to give hooker Jazz Tevaga a spell.

But Hurrell should be an asset to a Warriors team who have been short of game breakers. His defensive issues make him an enigma, but what he can bring to the attacking side of the game should not be under-estimated.

Hurrell can wear out opposition defenders with his charges, and brings a physical intensity that others in the Warriors backline can't match.

The inclusion of Hurrell is one of only two changes to the 17 that faced the Storm, with prop Sam Lisone replacing fellow front rower James Gavet. Gavet impressed earlier in the season, but struggled to make an impression against the Storm.

Meanwhile, the club have confirmed hooker Issac Luke suffered a knee injury in training on Saturday, less than 24 hours before the clash with the Storm.

Luke was a surprise late withdrawal, though youngster Tevaga made an excellent fist of his debut.

It's understood Luke was caught awkwardly in a tackle during the captain's run, and sustained a soft tissue injury. He had scans yesterday which cleared him of any serious damage. The Kiwis international is expected to be available for the round five clash against the Roosters.

Manu Vatuvei (rib cartilage) is also likely to return then. Thomas Leuluai might not be available until the round six game against Manly.

- NZ Herald

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