It's been a rough week for the Warriors.
After announcing the immediate departure of Matt Lodge ahead of last weekend's match against the St George Illawarra Dragons, which has led to plenty of off-field drama, the club lost workhorse prop Addin Fonua-Blake to a minor Lisfranc (mid foot) injury.
Within two days, the club's two first-choice props were no longer available. It has left a big hole to fill, particularly Fonua-Blake's absence, as he has led the way in running meters with 1708 – 773 of those coming after contact.
While they were able to sign one-time Queensland State of Origin representative Dunamis Lui in Lodge's place, their depth is set to be tested on Saturday night against the Newcastle Knights.
Lui has been playing in the Queensland Cup for the Redcliffe Dolphins this season and is essentially a half-season rental as he is expected to sign with Wayne Bennett's Dolphins team on a one-year deal in 2023, when the team join the first-grade competition.
With Lodge and Fonua-Blake out, utility middle forward Jazz Tevaga was a surprising selection at prop for the Knights clash, alongside Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Murdoch-Masila has recently returned from injury and is yet to play more than 29 minutes in those four performances. But he feels ready for more minutes, and this weekend will probably get them.
"Coming back from a serious injury, it's going to take some time, but the more I play the faster it will come back. I'm still working on it," Murdoch-Masila said of his game-day fitness.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"I'm ready for more minutes. The more I push it the better I get."
In 11 appearances this season, Fonua-Blake averaged 55 minutes per game, while Lodge averaged 46 in eight matches, so there will be plenty of extra minutes to go around.
The Warriors meet a settled Knights pack featuring New South Wales State of Origin props David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti in what will provide a stern test.
Like the Warriors, the Knights have had their troubles this season and have staggered to a 3-8 record – due in large part to their struggle to score points. Their 136 points for the season is the second-worst – matching their place on the ladder – ahead of only the bottom-placed Canterbury Bulldogs.
There will be opportunities for the Warriors to get back on track in the game, and Murdoch-Masila said while they are down a few troops, he and Tevaga are prepared to shoulder the extra load.
"His (Tevaga's) role doesn't change from what he's been playing at lock. Prop and lock are the same nowadays. He'll be good. He's got the biggest heart in the team, so you can almost put in stone what he'll put out on the field.
"It will be a big role, but the way I see it my role doesn't change. I keep it simple – I don't have the footy head like all these other boys. I always say to the boys: run hard, tackle hard and work hard for your teammates."