As NZ Warriors prepare to unleash a new halves pairing on Brisbane Broncos on Saturday, club icon Stacey Jones believes rookie Luke Metcalf will be an ideal foil for Shaun Johnson.
Metcalf, 24, will make his long-awaited Warriors debut at Napier's McLean Park, after signing for the club at the end of 2021.
After a standout youth career with Cronulla Sharks, the Warriors lured Metcalf across the Tasman, joining the club at the start of the year, before losing him to a hamstring injury for the first 12 rounds of the competition.
Now fit and playing again, Metcalf will be thrown to the wolves in the absence of Te Maire Martin (broken leg), Ronald Volkman (broken finger) and Dylan Walker (broken toe).
Helping the young playmaker is former Cronulla teammate Johnson, in arguably the form of his career to start 2023, playing every game this year to guide the Warriors into the NRL's top eight.
Metcalf will don the No.6 jersey, with his potentially devastating running game likely to allow his partner to control the tempo with ball in hand and on boot.
For Warriors great-turned assistant coach Jones, Metcalf's introduction can be another catalyst for Johnson to continue his run as one of the game's best halfbacks.
"I really feel like his game can complement Shaun," said the legendary half of Metcalf. "Shaun has played some wonderful football this year.
"Ronald Volkman has filled in and done really well, and obviously we lost Te Maire a while back, [but] what Luke brings, he'll really complement Shaun."
In seven NRL games for Cronulla Sharks, Metcalf scored three tries, playing predominantly at fullback, rather than in the halves.
The pair will be aided in the Warriors spine by hooker Freddy Lussick, playing after Wayde Egan was ruled out with a calf injury, and fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
As well as Egan, utility Walker has also been scratched, leaving the Warriors without two of their season standouts.
After enjoying a week off since victory over Canterbury Bulldogs, Jones says a refreshed group will be more than up to facing a Broncos side bereft of five frontline players on State of Origin duty.
"Losing Wayde is a big loss," he added. "Then in training, earlier in the week, Dylan got injured.
"It would have been really nice to have him playing, he's been playing some really good football - both of those players- but the week off really freshened the group up and [we're] feeling a really good buzz around Napier."2023-05-26T03:01:49Z dg43tfdfdgfd