Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has rewarded the players who performed in the club's final trial and named an unchanged starting side for Sunday's NRL season opener against the Newcastle Knights at Mt Smart Stadium.

With Ben Matulino out of action following knee surgery, Albert Vete and Charlie Gubb will again start in the front row as they did in the 26-6 trial win over the Gold Coast Titans in Palmerston North on February 19.

Young playmaker Ata Hingano is locked in at five-eighth, Ken Maumalo will again play on the left wing, and Bunty Afoa will make his fourth NRL appearance in the second row alongside Ryan Hoffman.

The match doubles as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's first NRL game since he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Bulldogs in Wellington last April and also his first-grade debut as captain.


"Those players earned the opportunity for the first match of the season," said Kearney.

"There were a lot of good signs from them against the Titans. Having said that, there are lots of areas we need to improve on."

The NRL has instituted a new team-naming protocol this season which requires all clubs to list 21 players each Tuesday with the squad to be trimmed to 19, 24 hours before the game. The final playing 17 - confirmed an hour before kick-off - must come from the 19-man group.

Intrigue surrounds the make-up of the Warriors extended eight-man bench that features two teenagers yet to make their NRL debuts - 18-year-old second-rower Isaiah Papali'i and 19-year-old utility Erin Clark.

Experienced back rower Bodene Thompson has also been named on the bench despite sitting out the pre-season with an ankle injury, along with front-row trio Jacob Lillyman, Sam Lisone, and James Gavet, halfback Mason Lino and centre Blake Ayshford.

Veteran wing Manu Vatuvei missed selection after a knee injury ruled him out of the preseason fixtures but will turn out in the second tier NSW Cup competition in the curtain raiser to the main game.

"Manu was nearly right for the last trial but didn't quite get there and it's important for his confidence that he goes back and gets some game time under his belt before we can get him into the NRL team," said Kearney.

"With regards to Bodene, that's a little bit different. We might look to play him off the bench possibly. We're just waiting to see about his fitness over the next couple of days."

The game provides a chance for the Warriors to break an eight-year round one hoodoo, as they have not managed a first-up victory since they overcame Parramatta 26-18 at Mt Smart Stadium in 2009 season - the last time they started a season at their home ground.

The Warriors have won 10 of their past 11 encounters at home against the Knights who finished the last two seasons with the wooden spoon.

However, the visitors will be buoyed by their promising early season form that saw them account for the Tweed Heads Seagulls 38-22 and Canberra Raiders 44-0.

Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tui Lolohea, David Fusitu'a, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Shaun Johnson, Albert Vete, Issac Luke, Charlie Gubb, Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering.

Interchange: Erin Clark, Jacob Lillyman, Sam Lisone, Isaiah Papali'I, Bodene Thompson, Mason Lino, James Gavet, Blake Ayshford.