Rookie Warriors props making their mark
Last Sunday the Warriors romped to a rare away win against the Canberra Raiders, doing so thanks largely to a forward pack that stubbornly rolled through the middle of their opponents.
But amid the big names like Ryan Hoffman and Jacob Lillyman, it was a couple of local juniors on the interchange bench who really stood out.
Just two games into their NRL careers 22-year-old Albert Vete and former Junior Warriors captain Sam Lisone, 21, are already being talked up as the future of the New Zealand side's front row.
Both players were tested by coach Andrew McFadden with big-minute debuts in Round 1 – Vete playing 52 minutes and Lisone 41 in the Newcastle heat.
No interchange player ran for more metres than Vete's 125 in that match, while Lisone was solid with 92 metres and 28 tackles.
Across the opening two weeks of the NRL both have averaged over 100 metres and looked perfectly at home in a forward pack scattered with international stars.
"The two young lads who have come in, Albert Vete and Sam Lisone, are real good players," Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins said.
"They have been pushing for a spot for a while now and at the back end of last year Lisone was a real standout in the lower grades.
"They have only played two games so let's not put too much pressure on them, but for those two games they have been really good."
Ten-year veteran Sam Rapira, who announced this week he will be moving on from the New Zealand club at the end of the year, said he will do so with confidence that the next generation of props are more than capable.
Right now both Lisone and Vete present a threat to Rapira's hopes of returning to the NRL squad once he recovers from a hamstring injury, but that wasn't stopping him from heaping praise on the duo.
"I think those two boys are special and you won't find too many like that, so we are lucky," Rapira said.
"I can't speak highly enough of them, they have done all the hard work over the off-season and the jerseys they are wearing are well deserved, and they have shown that over the last two weeks.
"They are more than capable, mentally tough and they have massive futures ahead of them.
"The way they have held themselves the last two weeks, the club has a good base and are in safe hands and the other young kids who are coming through are a strong squad."
On Saturday afternoon the Warriors return home to Mt Smart Stadium for the first time in 2015, facing off against an Eels side that boasts a formidable pack, led by captain Tim Mannah, new recruit Anthony Watmough and second-rower Manu Ma'u – who played his junior footy with the Richmond Bulldogs in central Auckland.
Warriors hooker Nathan Friend, who will play his 200th game against Parramatta, said his forwards will have to find a new level if they hope to contain the feisty Eels.
"We improved [last week] but there is still a lot of improvement required, especially this week against a big pack and a very aggressive side," Friend said.
"We are going to require that effort again this weekend… they will try and hold us down on our line so we need to work in numbers and around the ruck we need to be on our game.
"Hopefully near the end of the game they tire and are not so aggressive and we can take advantage of that."