All the action from the Warriors' first NRL match of the season against the Bulldogs.

By Michael Burgess

It's no surprise Adam Keighran has won the nod to wear Shaun Johnson's old jersey this Saturday.

The Australian always seemed the frontrunner in what could have been termed the Game of Three Halves across the Warriors' long pre-season.

Advertisement

Junior Kiwi Chanel Harris-Tavita has great potential and will surely get some game time this year, while Rotorua product Hayze Perham is highly rated by club insiders, though his background is mainly in the outside backs.

But Keighran was the safe option. He is a strong defender, always a vital consideration for Warriors coach Stephen Kearney, and has a prodigious boot, with a long-range kicking game. Keighran, who nailed 81 goals at ISP level for the Panthers last season, is also seen as the best goal kicker at the club.

He's also a solid ball runner and has impressed coaching staff with his development over the pre-season after a slow start.

The 21-year-old also started at standoff in each of the club's NRL trial victories over Melbourne and Wests Tigers.

Kearney said yesterday he won't be "chopping and changing" his halves combination through the year but it's inevitable that Harris-Tavita, the club's 2018 Reserve Grade Player of the Year and a natural playmaker, will feature at some stage due to injury or form.

Issac Luke's omission, in favour of Nathaniel Roache, also was not unexpected. Luke is still recovering from an off-season shoulder operation and didn't feature in either trial. He's close to full fitness but not worth risking for round one.

Roache, unseen at NRL level since 2017 after two major injuries, showed promising signs against the Storm and Tigers.

Kiwis prop Leeson Ah Mau is named on the bench for his first match for the Warriors in 10 years. After two games in 2009, he went on to play 177 games for North Queensland and St George Illawarra before rejoining his original club.

Former Bulldog Lachlan Burr will make his Warriors debut at loose forward in his first NRL appearance in three years after last playing for Gold Coast in 2016.

The 26-year-old has had an itinerant career, playing just 24 NRL matches since 2013. He replaces Isaiah Papali'i, who has been stood down after a drink-driving offence.

Kearney has given different roles to last year's regular centres Peta Hiku and Solomone Kata.

Hiku switches to the left edge, combining with second rower Tohu Harris and wing Ken Maumalo, while the right edge combination sees Kata linking with David Fusitu'a and second rower Adam Blair.

Dally M Interchange Player of the Year Jazz Tevaga is back in his familiar No 14 jersey, while Blake Ayshford has been included as backline cover and can also play back row.

Warriors v Bulldogs
Mt Smart Stadium, 5pm Saturday

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), David Fusitu'a, Peta Hiku, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Adam Keighran, Blake Green, Agnatius Paasi, Nathaniel Roache, Bunty Afoa, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Lachlan Burr.

Interchange: Jazz Tevaga, Sam Lisone, Leeson Ah Mau, Blake Ayshford, Gerard Beale, Ligi Sao, Karl Lawton, Chanel Harris-Tavita.