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NRLW Roosters v Warriors: Howard grabs No.7; Nine rookies for Warriors

A repeat of last year's season-opener to start the 2019 Holden Women's Premiership with the Roosters and Warriors travelling to AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. 

Both sides will field a host of debutantes in round one after a large player turnover across all four clubs. 

But the core players for each side - including the Roosters' Isabelle Kelly, Simaima Taufa and Karina Brown - remain key in the second season. 

The Warriors shocked the Roosters in the corresponding game 10-4 at ANZ Stadium last year. 

They'll be well led by playmaker Georgia Hale and key returning players Krystal Rota and Annetta Nuuausala but Honey Hireme's availability remains under a cloud.

The Rundown

Team news

Roosters: No major surprises here for the Tricolours with Mel Howard edging Zahara Temara and Simone Smith for the No.7 jersey alongside Kirra Dibb. Six players including Corban McGregor, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, are listed to make their NRLW debut. Simone Smith and Quincy Dodd were omitted on Friday. 

Warriors: A huge blow for the New Zealand club with Honey Hireme missing due to family reasons. The Warriors will blood nine rookies for the clash with last year’s regulars Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell and Onjeurlina Leiataua listed in the reserves. Amber Kani and Tyler Reid were the two players left out 24 hours before kick-off.

Key match-up

Corban McGregor v Apii Nicholls

Two representative players who are at the peak of their powers. The two No.1s  have similar builds and are regarded as pocket rockets who naturally glide onto the ball from fullback.

McGregor will play her first NRLW game after missing last year's campaign through injury.

Nicholls is back with the Warriors after a successful 2018 season. Both could find themselves lining up opposite each other at international level in the near future.

For the Roosters to win

They'll need to be on the same page from the get-go and bring some of their bigger names into the picture early on. Roosters coach Rick Stone had enough halves to settle on a combination but could find himself changing mid-game if things aren't going to plan. If they remain patient and take advantage of their opportunities it should be enough.  

For the Warriors to win

Another fast start is required against the Tricolours with the side's fitness set to be tested late in the contest. The Warriors did well to defend their line in last year's corresponding clash after racing to a 10-0 lead but 12 fresh players are in for an all-new experience. The side has a wealth of experience despite losing 10 players from last year's squad – they need to use it to their advantage.

Stat Attack

The Roosters enjoyed 55 percent of possession in last year's clash but could only muster one second-half try for their efforts with 11 errors showing their lack of cohesion in attack. They Roosters had 18.3 dummy-half runs per game in 2018 compared to the Warriors' 10.7.

And another thing ...

Goalkicking could prove critical for both sides in 2019 and the Roosters notably struggled with just three conversions from 11 attempts last year. New recruit Kirra Dibb is a notede kicker, along with former Dragon Melanie Howard.

Tarsha Gale's prediction

I can't see the Roosters losing this one. When you have the attacking flair of Isabelle Kelly, Kirra Dibb and Corban McGregor, along with strong forwards like Vanessa Foliaki, Simaima Taufa and Tallisha Harden, the scoreboard will just keep ticking over. The Warriors are also without Honey Hireme, who is undoubtedly one of the best attacking and defensive players in the competition. Her services will be sadly missed. Roosters by 18