INJURIES to Sam and Steve Rapira sustained in Saturday night's trial win over South Sydney mean the Warriors will begin their NRL campaign without three senior front rowers.
Kiwis international Sam Rapira damaged his shoulder in the 22-14 win, while Steve Rapira suffered a high ankle sprain. The severity of both injuries is not yet known. However, initial assessments suggest the brothers could both be out of action for four to six weeks.
The hard-hitting Steve Rapira has played most of his football in the back row. However, he had bulked up in the off-season in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino and convert to prop.
With Queensland Origin prop Lillyman also out for an extended period with a biceps injury, the club is facing a stern test of its front row depth just two matches into its pre-season campaign.
The rash of injuries at prop is hardly ideal. But with Kiwis reps Matulino and Russell Packer expected to be available and Ukuma Ta'ai and Sione Lousi also able to plug into the front row, the club does have some cover in the engine room.
"It is just part of the game," coach Brian McClennan said. "The unfortunate thing is that it's in our prop ranks. Take three props out of any NRL squad and ask them the question and you'll get the same answer. We'll cover it, but the more you take out the less experience you have."
With Micheal Luck (hand/shoulder) also out of action, an experience deficit is looming as a major hurdle for McClennan heading into his first NRL campaign. But covering for injuries, he said, was not his main focus.
"Our challenge is to play our systems good. Our challenge isn't injuries. That's going to happen and we are going to get more. Our challenge is to play to our systems, which we didn't do for a large majority of the game. When we did we went from 6-4 to 22-4 in one quarter and we were good. If we can play like that we feel pretty confident about our chances in any game. Once we can accept as a group to really work hard within our systems then we will play some good footy.
"The positives are that Sione Lousi is really playing some good footy for us. He has really stepped up to the mark. And Ben Matulino was good on Saturday night. He is really going to take us forward."
A blockbusting 50 metre try by Manu Vatuvei was the standout moment of Saturday's match, while Konrad Hurrell continued his strong trials form with another try.
With Krisnan Inu left out of the travelling party altogether - a sign the gifted but enigmatic back is already on notice - Hurrell appears to have a chance of forcing his way into the side to play premiers Manly at Eden Park on March 4.
"Konrad's accelerating through the system," McClennan said. "That can happen. He has got good potential. He turns up to training and he is willing, he is listening and learning. As long as he stays humble and keeps working hard at his game who knows where it will stop."
Both Inu and veteran centre Jerome Ropati are expected to play in the final trial against the Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles at Toll Stadium in Whangarei on Saturday.
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