Regional | Hākinakina

Walsh, Nikorima back in; new signee Matt Lodge to start in Warriors-Sharks clash

The NRL season has reached single digits of round-robin action. With nine rounds to go until the finals, the 13th-placed Warriors' journey to the top eight is still viable. In fact, only two points separate them from the bottom team of the top eight, who are also their next opponents this week; the Cronulla Sharks.

Last week saw a horror show of sorts from the New Zealand side. Even the addition of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and a returning Chad Townsend, who had been released from the Sharks to join the Warriors immediately and converted three tries, couldn't help.

With 10 minutes to go, the Warriors let three late tries in, including one on the 80th minute, from the St George Illawarra Dragons to tie it up and send the game into golden point. In extra time, Corey Norman redeemed his poor kicking form that night (one from four)  and stole the win with a one-point field goal, the final score 18-19.

With the side named to face the Sharks this Sunday, they hope to leave the past behind and score a victory this week. The newest signee, Matthew Lodge, who was released from the Brisbane Broncos last Friday, starts in the front row alongside fellow prop Addin Fonua-Blake.

It's one of the biggest front rows ever in the Warriors club. The 189cm Fonua-Blake weighs in at 123kg, while the 191cm Lodge weighs 117kg.

With Townsend unable to play against his old club, Kodi Nikorima is back in as five-eighth alongside halfback Sean O'Sullivan. They match up against Connor Tracey and Shaun Johnson on the Sharks side. Notably, Shaun Johnson is making the trip back home to the Warriors next year on a two-year deal, starting in 2022.

Another return sees Māori-Indigenous player Reece Walsh resume the fullback position, pushing skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back to the wing.

Walsh comes off the back of a low-grade hamstring injury suffered during State of Origin training camp with the Queensland Maroons a few weeks ago.

The Warrior nation will be eager to see what magic can be made with Walsh and winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak as they play together for the first time.

The clash between the two clubs goes down this Sunday, July 11, kicking off at 6:05pm on Sky Sport.