Warriors captain Simon Mannering (left) and coach Brian McClennan see the funny side at yesterday's season launch in Auckland.
Warriors captain Simon Mannering (left) and coach Brian McClennan see the funny side at yesterday's season launch in Auckland. Sarah Ivey

Rookies too good to leave out

ONE has been long touted as a future first grader, the other has virtually come from nowhere. But both Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry have forced their way into the Warriors line-up for Sunday's NRL season-opener against Manly at Eden Park the same way - by being too good to leave out.

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"They've both been really impressive and have thoroughly earned selection," Brian McClennan said after naming the team for his first NRL match as Warriors coach. "It's so exciting for them, their families and for us as a club to have them making their debuts in our first game of the season."

Exciting is certainly the right word for Hurrell, who burst on to the scene last year with a string of remarkable performances for the club's championship-winning U20s side after being plucked from the Auckland Grammar First XV. The hulking Tongan scored 22 tries in 21 games, breaking the most tackles in the competition in the process.

Still considered raw heading into 2012, Hurrell's progress throughout the pre-season campaign has been irresistible. His selection relegated last year's finals hero Krisnan Inu to an extended seven-man bench.

The mercurial Inu now finds himself on the outer for a season-opening game for the second straight year, although McClennan has left the door slightly ajar for a recall.

"We haven't quite settled on the final line-up yet," he said. "We have a few things to consider and we'll make a final decision closer to the time."

While Hurrell's ascent has been dramatic, Henry's has been measured. Earmarked for big things as a 17-year-old, Henry played a club record 64 games at the junior level, many of them as captain during the last two title-winning campaigns.

New recruit Nathan Friend, who has played 135 matches for Brisbane, Melbourne and Gold Coast, will make his club debut at hooker, while veteran centre Jerome Ropati returns after making a successful recovery from a knee reconstruction.

With front row candidates Jacob Lillyman, Sam Rapira and Steve Rapira all sidelined with injury, McClennan has named Sione Lousi and Ukuma Ta'ai to provide support for frontline props Russell Packer and Ben Matulino.

Senior referees Tony Archer and Ben Cummins have been named to control the match.


Kevin Locke
Bill Tupou
Konrad Hurrell
Jerome Ropati
Manu Vatuvei
James Maloney
Shaun Johnson
Russell Packer
Nathan Friend
Ben Matulino
Feleti Mateo
S. Mannering (c)
Elijah Taylor

Warriors: Lewis Brown, Sione Lousi, Ben Henry, Ukuma Ta'ai, Glen Fisiiahi, Krisnan Inu, Alehana Mara.


Brett Stewart
Michael Oldfield
Jamie Lyon (c)
Steve Matai
David Williams
Kieran Foran
D. Cherry-Evans
Jason King (c)
Matt Ballin
Brent Kite
A. Watmough
Tony Williams
Glenn Stewart

Manly: Jamie Buhrer, Vic Mauro, Darcy Lussick, George Rose, Jorge Taufua.

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