Hooker Nate Roache set to make long awaited return in Melbourne
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/110704719/-

2019-02-19 21:21:25

Warriors hooker Nathaniel Roache is in line for his first hit-out in more than 18 months in the Warriors' first pre-season match on Friday, coach Stephen Kearney has confirmed.

The injury-plagued No 9, not seen on the park since August 2017, will complete his return from serious back surgery in the trial match against the Storm, in Geelong.

The promising 22-year-old has managed just 20 first grade games since his debut in 2016, and his horror run of injuries looked to have taken another hit just before Christmas last year when he suffered a hamstring strain.

However, Kearney told to media on Tuesday that his preferred back-up hooker was fit and ready to go for Friday and would get "at least" 20 minutes of action against Melbourne.

"He's tracking along nicely, we've had to nurse him through the pre-season," Kearney said.

"He's had a tough run Nate. He's a real athlete, pretty highly strung. If I'm using a car analogy, between a Datsun or a Ferrari, he's certainly the latter.

"Come Friday, he'll probably be a little bit nervous, understandably, but Nate came to us earlier and said he wanted to play in the first trial and he's worked extremely hard to get himself there."

Roache signed an extension with the club at the end of 2016 after an impressive rookie campaign, but injuries have meant he has been unable to fulfil that potential.

However, veteran centre Blake Ayshford believes his good friend has a chance to not only break back into the Warriors starting 17, but perhaps push for even higher honours.

"I don't want to heap any extra pressure on the kid but yeah, I see him as a real star of the future and someone who, if his body holds up, he could go a long way in our game. A really long way," Ayshford said.

"I'm rapt for the guy you know, he's worked extremely hard, he's a freak. He can not do anything for six months and come back and still look like a physical freak, it's a bit annoying actually.

"He's done all the hard work Nate. He's quicker now, bigger, hits harder and has great vision. The sky is the limit for that kid, truly."

The team overall are relatively healthy heading into the first pre-season trial, with the exception of Blake Green (hamstring).

Ayshford, who himself is pushing for a regular spot in the game-day 17, said the side are fitter and stronger than last year and everyone was "buzzing" to get back into playing some football.

"According to (Alex) Corvo's little book our numbers are all ahead of where they were last year so we're physically ahead of where we were last season already," Ayshford said.

"I know the boys just can't wait for the season and to show everyone what we've been working so hard on behind the scenes since basically November last year."

The match against the Storm kicks off at 6pm New Zealand time.

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