Warriors winger Ken Maumalo will start his first NRL game of the year against the Roosters this week, after consistent performances for the club's reserve grade side.

That the major talking point of the team named for Sunday's match, which also sees fellow youngster Toafofoa Sipley in line for his second first grade appearance.

The 21-year-old Maumalo has been biding his time, as coach Andrew McFadden has consistently preferred other options as back up to Manu Vatuvei. But Maumalo finally gets his chance to impress this season with Vatuvei expected to be out for up to a month after a hamstring strain suffered in the 50-14 win over the Knights.

It's a well earned opportunity. Maumalo has scored nine tries in 10 Intrust Super Premiership matches this year, as the Stacey Jones-coached team have stormed to the top of the ladder. It's also quite a turnaround; a few weeks ago Maumalo was believed to be close to agreeing terms with the Dragons, before the Warriors took up an option on him for the 2017 season.


His selection might also be evidence of a changed approach. Up until now McFadden has opted for the likes of Jonathan Wright or Matthew Allwood, principally seen as solid players who will defend well. Maumalo has been working on his defence since the start of the season - and has improved - but brings much more on attack. In the absence of Vatuvei, the 1.91m, 105kg Maumalo will offer metres and momentum, particularly when the Warriors bring the ball out of their own territory.

Maumalo made his NRL debut in round 10 last year, making a total of eight appearances for the first grade side. He impressed in his early outings, only to struggle later during the team's long losing streak.

Fellow youngster Sipley made some eye catching charges in the round nine win over the Dragons and, like Maumalo, has undoubted potential.

"They're massive units and Ken and [Toafofoa] certainly bring lots of enthusiasm, not to mention size," said assistant coach Justin Morgan.

"Ken's ball carrying is his strength and he'll help us get out of trouble with his runs from our end. His defence has also been improving and he has worked hard to earn this opportunity. [Toafofoa] had an impressive debut against the Dragons [and] has been pushing for another chance, too."

Ben Matulino comes into the starting XIII in place of State of Origin bound Jacob Lillyman, with Sipley joining an otherwise unchanged interchange bench.

Warriors v Sydney Roosters
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
6.10pm, Sunday, June 19


1. Tuimoala Lolohea
2. David Fusitu'a
3. Blake Ayshford
4. Solomone Kata
5. Ken Maumalo
6. Thomas Leuluai
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Albert Vete
9. Issac Luke
10. Ben Matulino
11. Bodene Thompson
12. Ryan Hoffman (C)
13. Simon Mannering

14. Nathaniel Roache
15. Sam Lisone
16. Toafofoa Sipley
17. Charlie Gubb