Warriors prop Albert Vete meets the Dragons' defence on Saturday.

Warriors back their baby front row

At the start of this season he only expected to play a couple of Telstra Premiership games, but fast forward to this weekend and Albert Vete will be the Warriors' second-most senior prop.

With Ben Matulino and Sam Rapira out suspended, Jacob Lillyman is left as the only front-rower in the Kiwi side who has played more than 20 NRL games.

Come Saturday night at Mount Smart Stadium 22-year-old Vete, who has played 18 games in his rookie season, will assume one of the starting spots alongside Lillyman, while Sam Lisone (16 games) and Charlie Gubb (13 games) will come off the interchange bench.

 

Compare that to their rivals in Round 24, the North Queensland Cowboys, who boast an all-representative starting front row in Matthew Scott and James Tamou, between them having made over 300 appearances at first grade level.

Interchange man Ben Hannant has also played 214 NRL matches. 

But speaking to NRL.com this week Vete said there was no changing the situation the Warriors find themselves in, and how they react to it will be what counts most.

"I guess it's a challenge, we can either hold back and use the excuse that we are new, or embrace the challenge and take it to the Cowboys' front-rowers who are well established," Vete said.

"What am I going to do as a player? Will I react well or use it as an excuse to sit back?

"I want that challenge, I want to step up and I want to be a leader in the team, so why not show it now when we need some leadership."

While excited by the new role, Vete admitted he and the other young boppers would miss having another senior player in their ear when the going gets tough against a Cowboys pack who run for more metres than any other side in the competition, averaging 1760 per game.

While that youthfulness and enthusiasm in the front row can be a major plus for the Warriors, it can quickly turn into a negative if they don't channel it in the correct way – and Vete admitted the experience of Matulino and Rapira will be missed.

"We will be missing those little reminders, whether it's tying in on defence or sharing the workload and not trying to do too much when I get on," Vete said.

"When someone like Benny [Matulino] is there he will say something like 'let me have this one and save yourself for the next set'.

"That's probably been the main thing and just having that presence.

"For me, Sam and Charlie we have got to feed off each other's energy when you get on.

"Sometimes it means that we have got to back off a little bit and let someone else do a carry or something for the team, and we just back them up."

Meanwhile Lillyman insists not much will change despite the lack of experience packing down with him in the scrum, with the Queensland State of Origin representative confident his young colleagues know how to get the job done.

"It's been tough this year with the injuries we have had, not only in key positions but also with experience," 31-year-old Lillyman said.

"I guess the good thing is that those guys have got a lot of exposure this year and they have really applied themselves well with the opportunities they have got.

"There won't be any need to rant and rave, just a bit of a chat among the forwards to remind everyone of the challenge ahead."