Warriors put friendships aside as James Gavet returns to Mt Smart with Newcastle Knights
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/112410227/-

2019-05-03 19:22:23

The Warriors come up against a familiar face at Mt Smart Stadium this weekend and Knights prop James Gavet is bringing plenty of reinforcements to set the stage for a physical battle.

Gavet squares off against his former club for the first time since being released at the end of last year after three seasons at the Auckland NRL outfit.

While the 29-year-old enforcer's departure came with reports the Warriors were unhappy with parts of his training, he was popular among fans for his uncompromising style and a well-liked figure in the dressing room.

Warriors bench forward Bunty Afoa is relishing the matchup but was not hung up on trying to get one over his old teammate.

With the middle forwards a real area of strength for the Knights, the Warriors simply can't afford to as they look to avoid a fourth-straight defeat.

"It's a great challenge and it will be a good to go up against him. He's a great player himself but there's no friends on the field," Afoa said.

"It will be the same as any other player, they're stopping us from getting that two points so I just see him as an opponent that's stopping us from winning."

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown spent the off-season beefing up his pack in a bid to turn the Knights into a top-eight side.

Along with Gavet, Brown secured the prime signature of Kangaroos prop David Klemmer and Queensland representative Tim Glasby, joining the likes of Kiwis international Herman Ese'ese and Daniel Saifiti.

It's a heavyweight pack but the Warriors forwards can take confidence from going toe-to-toe with the Storm last week, their late offloads proving to be particularly effective in rolling upfield.

Hooker Issac Luke has called for more of the same on Sunday.

"James Gavet comes back, he'll be trying to stamp his mark on this game and they've got some big boys in the middle," Luke said. "We just have to step up to the mark and it's no different to how we played last week."

​Afoa finished the one-point loss to Melbourne nursing a tight hamstring but is confident he will be ready come kick-off.

The Warriors are set to be boosted by the return of influential duo Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (hamstring) and Blake Green (groin), while a final decision on wing David Fusitu'a (rib) will be made after Saturday's captain's run.

After starting the first three games of the season, Afoa has since reverted to the bench where he averages 100-plus meters per game.

It's always been an important role but, with Stephen Kearney opting for an extra hooker or outside back on the interchange over the last fortnight, the Warriors have been even more dependent on the hard-running prop's impact.

"You see our bench, it's pretty small," Afoa said. "It's a tough job but it doesn't change our mindset and what on the field and give energy to the boys."

AT A GLANCE

Warriors vs Knights 4pm Sunday, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), David Fusitu'a, Peta Hiku, Patrick Herbert, Ken Maumalo, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Blake Green, Agnatius Paasi, Issac Luke, Leeson Ah Mau, Isaiah Papali'i, Tohu Harris, Lachlan Burr. Interchange (from): Nathaniel Roache, Adam Blair, Bunty Afoa, Gerard Beale, Hayze Perham, Solomone Kata, Ligi Sao, Chris Satae.

Knights: Kalyn Ponga, Edrick Lee, Hymel Hunt, Jesse Ramien, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Connor Watson, Mitchell Pearce (c), David Klemmer, Danny Levi, Daniel Saifiti, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Mitchell Barnett, Tim Glasby. Interchange (from): Sione Mata'utia, Herman Ese'ese, James Gavet, Josh King, Mason Lino, Kurt Mann, Jamie Buhrer, Pasami Saulo.

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