Warriors v Panthers: Fonua-Blake returns; Yeo back from break

Stacey Jones' baptism of fire as an NRL coach continues as the rampant premiers come to town looking to heap more pain on the Warriors.

The Panthers could not have been more impressive in their demolition of Newcastle while the Warriors started well enough against Cronulla but fell away badly in Jones' first game at the helm.

Ivan Cleary's men have lost just one game all season and have positioned themselves perfectly to emulate the Roosters in 2018-19 and collect back-to-back premierships.

If the Warriors are to throw a spanner in the works they will need to get their discipline in check and cut out the simple errors that cost them any chance of victory against the Sharks.

The Rundown
Team news

Warriors: Addin Fonua-Blake is a massive in for the Warriors after recovering from a foot injury and will start at prop, with Bunty Afoa dropping back to the interchange. Youngster Ronald Volkman will make his NRL debut at five-eighth, pushing Chanel Harris-Tavita to the bench while Jesse Arthars comes into the centres at the expense of Rocco Berry. Euan Aitken misses the game with concussion and his place is taken by Josh Curran.

Panthers: Skipper Isaah Yeo returns for the premiers after he was given a rest last weekend so Matt Eisenhuth goes back to the reserves. Key match-up
Shaun Johnson v Nathan Cleary: Johnson returned to the Warriors amid plenty of fanfare in 2022 but the homecoming has been anything but a happy one. The veteran playmaker has copped plenty of criticism as the Warriors have slumped to a 4-10 record but he has still come up with 13 forced dropouts, seven try assists and five line break assists. Cleary joined the party late after off-season shoulder surgery but the gifted No.7 has been in majestic form with 10 try assists, 12 forced dropouts and three 40-20 kicks, including a monster against the Knights on Sunday which he launched from his own 30-metre line. Cleary took the heat for the Blues' loss in Origin One and he'll be looking for a big game in his final tune-up for Game Two.

Stat Attack
The Panthers' points differential in their premiership year in 2021 was +390 at the end of the regular season. With 10 games still to play this season they are sitting on +264, well clear of the Storm on +197 and Cowboys +179.


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