Ahead of arguably their biggest test of the year in the shape of playing the in-form Sea Eagles in Perth, the Warriors have thrown their complete support behind new starting rake Nathaniel Roache.
With veteran hooker Issac Luke out after dislocating his shoulder in last week’s 21-14 win over the Bulldogs, Roache is named to start for just the second time in his 20-game career.
Prior to last week, when Roache was called upon to fill the void at dummy-half from the 32nd minute onwards, the 21-year-old had averaged under 10 minutes per game in his eight NRL appearances this year, and twice was left to sit on the bench for the full 80 minutes.
Hope Nate Roache takes a cushion for the bench this weekend
— Goodnight Kiwi 🇳🇿 (@_goodnight_kiwi) 20 June 2017
But experienced forward Simon Mannering said the playing group had total confidence in Roache, even backing him to play the full 80 minutes if required.
“I am really looking forward to him starting this weekend.,” Mannering said of Roache.
“Much of the same [is what we are after], we all knew Nate was capable of that performance on the weekend. He will be better for it and continue to grow as a player.
“He is very physical for a hooker, strong and fast as you saw, and very confident defensively. I am looking forward to him playing some more minutes.
“He is more than capable. Of course it is a step up from the opportunities he has had previously. [But] I know he has played 80 numerous times for the [reserve grade] side and he is one of fittest guys at training.
“He will have no dramas.”
Coach Stephen Kearney took his praise for Roache a step further this week, labelling the former Junior Kiwi “a supreme athlete”.
Roache heads into Round 17 off the back of a strong showing on both sides of the ball last Friday, running for 101 metres off just seven carries, including a line break.
Roache spoke this week about the challenge ahead.
“I am obviously a bit disappointed for ‘Bully’ [Luke], this isn’t the best way to get a chance, but it’s an opportunity for me to make my mark,” Roache said.
“I am feeling excited and some nerves, because I didn’t think the opportunity to start would actually come this year given Bully has been playing some really good footy.
“But I am excited to see how I can handle the minutes and the start. I only started the one NRL game which was last year, and I have never worn the No.9 jersey.
Nathaniel Roache stepping up in a big way #NRLWarriorsBulldogs
— Damien Percival (@DamienPercival) 23 June 2017
“I don’t know if I will be allowed to keep the jersey, but it will definitely be one I remember!
“At this stage I’m not sure how long I will play, if required yeah I can push myself to do 80, but it’s a matter of being effective for all those minutes. It’s definitely not something I will shy away from.”
The Sea Eagles v Warriors match at nib Stadium kicks off at 3.30pm AWST, which is 5.30pm AEST and 7.30pm NZT.