The Roar
The Roar


Trial takeaways: Tigers hail Sezer after giving team some bite, RTS shines in return, Cobbo's Broncos switch a success

18th February, 2024
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18th February, 2024
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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Aiden Sezer made successful returns to the NRL universe in Wests Tigers’ narrow win over teh Warriors in Christchurch while Selwyn Cobbo stood out in his first gallop in the centres for the Broncos in an emphatic triumph over the Cowboys in Mackay.

Warriors 16, Tigers 18

Sezer strong, RTS returns with vigour

Wests Tigers have a long way to go to avoid a third straight wooden spoon but they have solved one of their glaring issues with the acquisition of Aiden Sezer.

The veteran halfback gave the Tigers much-needed direction in an impressive first appearance for the club after new coach Benji Marshall brought him back from the Super League to replace Manly-bound playmaker Luke Brooks. 

With Sezer calling the shots in unison with hooker Api Koroisau and young guns Jayden Sullivan and Jahream Bula running off them, the Tigers have a spine which has potency as well as a calmness which has been missing for many seasons. 

Trial wins don’t mean much, unless you are one of the dozens of people on this planet who care about the Pre-Season Challenge standings, but for a club that has racked up just eight victories over the past two seasons, the 18-16 win over the Warriors in Christchurch is a shot in the arm for Marshall in the early stages of his major rebuild. 

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 18: Aidan Sezer of the Wests Tigers dives over to score a try during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between New Zealand Warriors and Wests Tigers at Apollo Projects Stadium on February 18, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Aidan Sezer dives over to score a try in Christchurch. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)


For the Warriors, they were also boosted by an old new face with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck showing he’s lost none of his impact despite playing in a new position at centre.

The former Dally M Medal winner, who has returned after a two-year stint in rugby which included a brief foray with the All Blacks, looked at home despite being in an unfamiliar position. 

RTS made a couple of crunching tackles and although he only had a few half chances in attack, the class is still there and the 30-year-old could prove to be one of the best signings of 2024.

Young forward Zyon Maiu’u is set to break into the NRL team for the Warriors this year but the 20-year-old prospect is facing a hefty ban that will delay his debut.

Maiu’u was sent off for in the 20th minute soon after coming onto the field when he levelled Wests centre Declan Casey with a high shot.

His shoulder thudded into the head of the former Bulldog who was taken off and played no further part in proceedings.


“It’s a high level of force that’s hit him directly in the head,” explained referee Chris Sutton before sending him on his way. 

Tigers forward Samuela Fainu was later banished to the sin bin for high contact which seemed pretty minor after previously being placed on report for a hit which should have at least earned him a 10-minute stint on the sidelines.

The Tigers had been the better side before the send-off and despite being a player down, the Warriors managed to claw their way back into the contest as each team made a raft of changes to give inexperienced players a taste of NRL.

Tigers forward Alex Seyfarth opened the scoring running off short ball from Koroisau before Warriors young gun Jacob Laban levelled the scores after he forced a turnover with a heavy tackle and then combined with Luke Metcalf to touch down.

The visitors led 12-6 when Sezer sent the ball wide to Sullivan who put centre Solomona Faataape through a gap for the halfback to back up for the try.

When rookie Sione Latoa-Vaihu made it 18-6 in the 57th minute it looked like the Tigers would run away with the match but the undermanned Warriors reduced the gap to just two points heading into the final 15 minutes after Paul Roache and Setu Tu crossed in quick succession.


A pitch invader halted their momentum a minute from full-time and despite a final flurry, they came up short as the Tigers hung on for a win that means nothing on the premiership ladder but could count for plenty in terms of preparation when their regular season campaign kicks off.

Cowboys 20, Broncos 46

Cobbo kicks on as a centre

Kevin Walters’ plan to switch Selwyn Cobbo to centre to replace Dolphins recruit Herbie Farnworth got off to a great start as the Broncos proved way too strong for the Cowboys in Mackay.

Both teams were looking to get something totally different from this match.

Cowboys coach Todd Payten gave many of his fringe first-graders a run while the Broncos used this as a tune-up for their Las Vegas season opener against the Roosters by fielding a much more experienced line-up.

With international forwards Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan carving through the middle, Adam Reynolds organising the backs and Reece Walsh blitzing his way around the edges, the Broncos were always going to have way too much firpower for the young North Queensland outfit.


But it was the strong showing of Cobbo at left centre which will be the biggest takeaway from this match for Broncos fans.

The Queensland winger scored a try and had his fingerprints all over a few others as Brisbane converted a 16-14 half-time lead into a 46-20 thumping.

“I trained all pre-season in the centres and it felt good, I’m excited for the future. Working with your half in defence is the biggest difference from playing on the wing but I’ll get used to it,” he told Fox League in a sideline interview after full-time.

“I was a lot more comfortable in the second half.”

The concern over Cobbo in switching in from the wing was whether he would have the passing skills required but he showed quick hands on several occasions as the Broncos ran rings around their youthful opponents.


Another change in the off-season at Brisbane has been the elevation of Brendan Piakura to the starting second-row spot on the left following Kurt Capewell’s switch to the Warriors.

It is easy to see why the Broncos allowed their veteran forward a release because Piakura has the talent and line-running capabilities to be a valuable asset on the edge.

He scored two tries in the first half and granted he was not facing NRL standard opposition for the most part but the 21-year-old back-rower is primed to step into the starting pack as the Broncos look to go one better than last year’s Grand Final heartache.

Haas was placed on report during the first half for a swinging arm which collected Cowboys utility Kyle Schneider but he is unlikely to be charged.

For the Cowboys, young gun Kulikefu Finefeuiaki was one of the few players on display who is likely to be in their line-up for Round 1 and he underlined why teams like St George Illawarra are desperate to prise him away from the club with a barnstorming effort to score a try in the first half.

Jake Clifford returned to his junior club at five-eighth but his chances of being in the team to start the season are probably confined to a bench utlity role behind first-choice halves Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden.


Dolphins 26, Titans 14

Herbie makes a splash in patchy win

Herbie Farnworth made an eye-catching first appearance for the Dolphins but the side was well below par in their 26-14 win over a depleted Titans team. 

At a sold-out Sunshine Coast Stadium, Farnworth carried four Titans over the line after a slick pass from young five-eighth Isaiya Katoa in just the eighth minute.

The England international spent an hour on the field, at centre in the first half before spending 20 minutes at fullback in the second half.

“I thought Herbie looked really good,” Dolphins assistant coach Kristian Woolf said.

“Him and Jamayne have a great combination on that right edge. I think Herbie enjoyed going back and playing a little bit of fullback as well. 


“He wanted to get his hands on the footy and was very involved early. It looked like he enjoyed it.”

Gold Coast half Tom Weaver fired a cut-out pass that was tapped on by centre Aaron Schoupp for winger Tony Francis to score the opening try of the match. 

The Titans gave Jaylan De Groot a crack at fullback and he set up Francis for his second try with a superb pass for an 8-4 lead at half-time. 

Veteran prop Jarrod Wallace crashed over under the posts for the Dolphins to regain the lead before off-season recruit Jake Averillo, who came off the bench at left centre, put young winger Jack Bostock over to increase the lead.

“(Averillo) has got great acceleration, speed and skill. He’s a great player,” Woolf said.

“I thought Tesi Niu  was really good as well, as was Jack Bostock. That competition (for outside back spots) is still going. There’s another trial next week to see how it goes.”


Rookie winger Brenton Baira and second-rower Connelly Lemuelu also crossed the stripe for the Dolphins while Tom Steadman touched down for the Titans late in the piece. with AAP