Patched up Warriors await the Storm
THE last time the Warriors lost three games in a row, Ivan Cleary did some serious axe-wielding. This time, the raft of changes the coach announced for Sunday's visit of the Melbourne Storm appears more a case of slapping bandaids on some gaping wounds.
Centre Krisnan Inu has been dropped, while exciting young halfback prospect Shaun Johnson has been relegated to a six-man bench.
Veteran playmaker Brett Seymour returns to add some direction to a side that badly lost its way in the second half against the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.
Johnson's ultimate fate remains unclear but, with no other backs cover on the extended bench, it appears he may be retained as an impact player.
Other than Inu's axing and Johnson's demotion, the changes are largely forced. Fullback Kevin Locke (knee) and back-up option Glen Fisiiahi (groin) are both out after picking up injuries against the Cowboys. Lance Hohaia returns to fullback from the bench.
Bill Tupou comes into the side on the right wing, while Cleary has also rejigged the troublesome centre picture. Shaun Berrigan has been recalled from the Vulcans and Lewis Brown is back at centre after a brief spell coming off the bench.
Captain Simon Mannering starts in his favoured back row position for the first time since filling in for the injured Jerome Ropati in round three.
Impressive young hooker Alehana Mara is back in the mix, named on the bench alongside Steve Rapira, Johnson, Jeremy Latimore, Sione Lousi and Ben Matulino.
Having lost three straight games since taking a five-match winning run into their first bye, the Warriors will be hoping for a repeat of their stirring 18-14 Anzac night win in Melbourne.
The Storm have won six of their last seven games to move to the top of the NRL ladder. But the Warriors' recent record against the Melbourne club is decent, having lost just two of the last seven meetings.
"We always look forward to playing against the Storm," Cleary said.
"Every game against them is a tough battle. They're such a good side and they're obviously going really well at the moment. We'll have to lift in all areas to compete with them."
Sunday's match is the first of three consecutive home games for the Warriors. After their second bye next weekend, they will play back-to-back Friday night games against the Titans and Bulldogs.
Simon Mannering (c)
Warriors: (two to be omitted) Shaun Johnson, Jeremy Latimore, Sione Lousi, Alehana Mara, Ben Matulino, Steve Rapira
Storm: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Sika Manu, Adam Woolnough, Jaiman Lowe, Rory Kostjasyn, Justin O'Neill