David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

David Skipwith: Warriors face more pain

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Tomorrow's team announcement will be notable for how many of the banned six players are recalled.
Speculation is mounting that Konrad Hurrell may be on his way out of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Speculation is mounting that Konrad Hurrell may be on his way out of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors face yet another week of intense scrutiny as the public wait to learn the how the six players recently embroiled in the prescription pills and energy drinks saga are brought in from the cold.

The club has endured one of the darkest periods in their history, after Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Konrad Hurrell, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete were all dropped to reserve grade and ruled ineligible for test selection last week.

That came after five of the group admitted mixing pills and energy drinks on an unsanctioned late night out on the town, in the wake of the Warriors' 42-0 Anzac Day defeat to the Melbourne Storm.

After two weeks of largely negative attention, the media spotlight remains firmly fixed on the club's Penrose headquarters ahead of tomorrow's NRL team naming for Saturday's clash against Penrith in Christchurch.

Although Vatuvei remains on medical leave and is unavailable for selection, the other five players are all eligible to make a playing return after sitting out last week's gritty 26-10 NRL win over St George Illawarra.

Interest remains high in whether any will be selected by head coach Andrew McFadden or if they will spend another week in reserve grade.

One of several headaches faced by McFadden is whether to reintroduce any players in place of the first grade fill-ins who applied themselves wholeheartedly against the Dragons, including Jazz Tevaga, James Gavet, and late replacements John Palavi, Matt Allwood and 21-year-old debutante Toafofoa Sipley.

Sione Lousi's season-ending knee injury suffered in the Mt Smart Stadium victory means McFadden will need at least one forward replacement, and a repentant Matulino could be the player to benefit with selection for the Panthers clash. Thompson may also be in line for a recall to the pack, to slot back into the second-row ahead of new recruit Shaun Lane.

Lisone and Vete may also come in for consideration, although it is difficult to see both forcing their way into a starting role. While one of the young front-rowers may be fortunate enough to claim a bench spot, the other is likely to be heading to Sydney for Saturday's Intrust Super Premiership game at Penrith.

But much intrigue surrounds the ongoing tension and uncertainty over Hurrell's future at the Warriors, with speculation rife that another reserve grade appearance may be a precursor to the 24-year-old's departure from the club.

Hurrell is the only player of the group who did not admit to indulging in the pills and energy drinks, and his management remain intent on clearing his name. Even if he is successful in pleading his case to managing director Jim Doyle and McFadden, it's understood the damaging ball-runner has used up numerous second-chances and may have tested the club's patience one too many times.

It will be some time before all the players involved are granted the opportunity to publicly express their regret, or in Hurrell's case, offer their version of events, but tomorrow's team announcement will provide the first look at how the club hopes to move on. There are also some positives expected, with Tui Lolohea (knee) and Simon Mannering (facial cut) expected to be available after missing one game.

However, their potential return could yet be tempered by a possible judiciary appearance for centre Solomone Kata, after the Tongan international was involved in a kneeing incident with Samoa's Kirisome Auva'a in Saturday's lively Pacific encounter at Pirtek Stadium. Samoa won 18-6.

- NZ Herald

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David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

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