Warriors pin-up Shaun Johnson has made the shock move to five-eighth after coach Andrew McFadden opted to insert veteran buy Jeff Robson at halfback.
Johnson’s positional change was one of a number of selection surprises by McFadden for his side’s NRL season-opener against the Wests Tigers, naming six new faces for Saturday’s clash.
The club’s two big acquisitions, fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Issac Luke, are in the starting line-up, as are two other recruits, centre Blake Ayshford and Robson.
Robson will provide the steadying hand in the No.7 jersey.
Former Brisbane prop James Gavet, who the Warriors have just signed after he impressed during a trial period, is the other new face and has been selected on the bench.
However, missing is blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell, who played in the NRL All-Stars game in Brisbane where he powered over for a try.
Ayshford, who made more than 100 appearances for the Tigers between 2009 and 2013, has been preferred to Hurrell.
Utility Nathaniel Roach will make his debut from the bench, and could give Luke a spell during the match.
McFadden says the outside backs was an area where there had been plenty of discussion.
“Konrad has put in the work to get himself in terrific shape, but for this game we have gone with Blake there,” he said.
Roache, 19, was in the club’s under-20 NYC premiership-winning side in 2014 and played for both the Junior Warriors and in the NSW Cup last year.
He was a standout in the NRL Auckland Nines in February, scoring three tries as the Warriors finished runners-up.
Second rower Ben Henry, who is coming back from a second knee reconstruction in two years, gets a starting spot beside new skipper Ryan Hoffman.
McFadden said it was great to see Henry back after his injury woes.
“He has worked so hard to fight his way back into the NRL,” he said.
Bodene Thompson, a regular starting backrower last year, has been included on the bench after missing both the Nines and the club’s two trials.
Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tuimoala Lolohea, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Jeff Robson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Ben Henry, Ryan Hoffman (capt), Simon Mannering. Res (from): Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, James Gavet, Bodene Thompson, Jonathan Wright, Albert Vete.