The Happiest Place on Earth

It’s not often that we, the inhabitants of Warrior Nation, can look forward to the weekend with absolute confidence. It’s the nature of the beast, of the path we have chosen, of the life we have committed to. At the start of each new season, we pull down the safety barrier, fasten our seatbelts and mentally prepare for take-off as the Warriors rollercoaster sets in motion. We know there’ll be ups and downs, and that, at times, we’ll need to hang on for dear life. We have to accept that we’ll never quite know what’s around the next corner, or what’s up ahead. But, once a year — or twice if the fixture-list-gods are kind — our journey visits the happiest place on Earth and for one day, be it afternoon or evening, we know that nothing can wipe the smile from our face. For one day we can be free of doubt, free of nerves — the only thing we have to worry about is getting some sleep the night before the game.

On Saturday night, at Yarrow Stadium in Taranaki, that day arrives. It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for, the one we circled on our wall calendars as soon as the NRL draw came out. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than when the fixture list reads ‘Warriors v Canberra’?! Get your calculators out, Warrior Nation, we’re about to rack up a few points.

The Happiest Place on EarthDon’t believe me? Sounding too good to be true? A quick peek at the archives reveals that this is no Fantasyland — Smash the Raiders Day has become an annual event.

2013

2014

2015

2016

Coming Soon

So sit back and enjoy, Warrior Nation, the two points are in the bag.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s touch on a little team news. There’s been a somewhat surprising omission for Charlie Gubb, and a start for Matt Allwood after Solomone Kata’s suspension. While the media has focused mainly on the non-selection of Konrad Hurrell, personally I’m really interested to see how Allwood goes against his former side. Lauded as a promising prospect when he first made the switch to Mt Smart, Allwood’s opportunities in the top grade have been few and far between, but in those brief appearances he’s showed glimpses that he’s more than capable at the NRL level. His form in the NSW Cup this season led to his selection for the NSW Residents, and he’ll be desperate to try and prove he can make the step up. Watch for him to be right near the top of the ‘metres gained’ stats by the end of the night.

FLASHBACK

See above — Jarrod Croker must be happy Konrad isn’t playing!

MATCH DETAILS

New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, 7:30pm (Local)

Gates open 4:45pm

Curtain raiser: Taranaki Sharks v Manawatu Mustangs

TEAMS

Warriors

1 Tuimoala Lolohea

2 Jonathan Wright

3 Blake Ayshford

4 Matthew Allwood

5 David Fusitua

6 Thomas Leuluai

7 Shaun Johnson

8 Jacob Lillyman

9 Issac Luke

10 Ben Matulino

11 Bodene Thompson

12 Ryan Hoffman (c)

13 Simon Mannering

Interchange

14 Jazz Tevaga

15 Sam Lisone

16 John Palavi

17 James Gavet

18 Toafofoa Sipley

Canberra

1 Jack Wighton

2 Edrick Lee

3 Jarrod Croker (c)

4 Joey Leilua

5 Jordan Rapana

6 Blake Austin

7 Aidan Sezer

8 Shannon Boyd

9 Josh Hodgson

10 Paul Vaughan

11 Josh Papalli

12 Elliott Whitehead

13 Luke Bateman

Interchange

14 Kurt Baptiste

15 Jeff Lima

16 Clay Priest

17 Joe Tapine

18 Sam Williams

19 Frank-Paul Nuuausala

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