A positional switch for Shaun Johnson, the inclusion of a teenage prodigy, the return of James Gavet from the league wilderness and the omission of Konrad Hurrell are the standout features of the first Warriors team named for 2016.

It's only round one, but already there is some intrigue around the lineup to face the West Tigers on Saturday evening (7:30pm NZT). Coach Andrew McFadden has included six new faces for the match at Campbelltown Stadium, headlined by Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. There is plenty of excitement around Tuivasa-Sheck, though Luke may have the biggest early season impact. He will add another dimension to the Warriors' attack, with his speed and power from dummy half and ability to pass just before the advantage line.

The other debutants are 19-year-old Nathaniel Roache, Blake Ayshford, Jeff Robson and Gavet.

Robson will play halfback, with Johnson shifting to the five eighth role. Such a move was floated last year by McFadden but it will still be strange to see Johnson in the number six jersey.


"There is not a real big difference between six and seven in their roles," said Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan. "Shaun will probably have a little bit more free rein because that is his style, to pop up where he likes. Jeff can give us that steadying influence and direction [but] I wouldn't read too much into the numbers."

Listen: Assistant coach Justin Morgan on the season opener

One of the biggest dilemmas for the coaching staff was in the outside back rotation. Ayshford - like Robson - has experience and is a safe choice, along he will need to show considerably more than he did for the Cronulla Sharks over the last two seasons. On the other edge Solomone Kata is preferred over Tui Lolohea, who will start on the wing.

"We debated playing Tui [Lolohea] in the centres but the deciding factor was that [Solomone] has trained really well, played really well...and deserved a spot," said Morgan. "And he is probably more suited to centre than wing."

Morgan added that Lolohea and Kata could "interchange positions" throughout the game on Saturday or in the coming weeks. Lolohea can have an impact from the wing - and has better aerial ability than Kata - but will be pushing to move further inside as the year progresses.

Meanwhile, the enigmatic Hurrell will start 2016 in the NSW Cup.

"It was a difficult selection," said Morgan. "Konrad and a number of other players will be tapped on the shoulder at some point but we need to make sure those guys get some good game time in the lower grades."

Gavet is the feel good story of the year so far. He's come home after 14 NRL appearances across four seasons with Canterbury-Bankstown, the Tigers and Brisbane. Gavet, who was in the Warriors' NRL squad in 2010 and 2011, has been plagued by injuries and off-field issues but has huge potential.

"James has really surprised us with the way he has come through to demand a place," said McFadden.

Roache is another eye-catching selection. He was part of the 2014 premiership-winning Junior Warriors side and also played NSW Cup last year but came to prominence with his sharp performances at the NRL Nines last month.

Ben Henry also makes his long awaited return from injury, as does fellow second rower Bodene Thompson.

Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
7.30pm, Saturday, March 5

Vodafone Warriors

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
2 Tuimoala Lolohea
3 Blake Ayshford
4 Solomone Kata
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Shaun Johnson
7 Jeff Robson
8 Jacob Lillyman
9 Issac Luke
10 Ben Matulino
11 Ben Henry
12 Ryan Hoffman (C)
13 Simon Mannering


14 Nathaniel Roache
15 Sam Lisone
16 James Gavet
17 Bodene Thompson
18 Jonathan Wright
20 Albert Vete

Head Coach: Andrew Mcfadden