Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tevaga makes timely return ahead of Warriors playoffs journey

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

This is the ninth finals campaign in the Warriors’ history, only the third time they’ve been in the top four.

The experienced Jazz Tevaga brings his energy back to the One New Zealand Warriors’ cause for their first NRL finals match in five years when they face defending premier Penrith at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday (4.05pm kick-off local time; 6.05pm NZT).

The 28 year old returns on the bench after missing the last three games of the regular season campaign with a hamstring injury picked up in the round 24 win over the Wests Tigers in Hamilton.

It was only his second match back in a season in which the livewire middle forward has been limited to just eight appearances.

Making a delayed start in round three following offseason surgery, he put together a run of six games before a calf injury in the Anzac Day clash against Melbourne sidelined him for more than three months. Of the eight matches he has played in, the Warriors have won six.

With the return of the players rested for the final regular season match against the Dolphins, head coach Andrew Webster has been able to call on all of his most experienced players for the first time this season.

After being used from the interchange in his last outing against St George Illawarra, second rower Jackson forward returns to the starting line-up with Josh Curran going back to the bench.

The match-up is a repeat of the One New Zealand Warriors’ last finals match in week one of the 2018 play-offs but both sides were then in the bottom half of the top eight, the fifth-placed Panthers beating the eighth-placed Warriors 27-12. 

One New Zealand Warriors survivors from that match are halfback Shaun Johnson and middle forwards Tohu Harris and Tevaga while Bunty Afoa is named on the extended bench. Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was at fullback for the Panthers that day.

Since that campaign the Panthers have set the benchmark in the NRL, playing in three consecutive grand finals and winning the last two in 2021 and 2022 while wrapping up the 2023 minor premiership yet again last weekend.

The two teams met only once in the 2023 regular season, the Panthers winning a tough and controversial Magic Round contest 18-6 at Suncorp Stadium on May 6.

After that defeat the One New Zealand Warriors went on a run which netted 11 wins from 13 matches before losing to the Dolphins when they fielded a combination missing a host of frontline players.

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