Reece Walsh showed his class to help the Warriors to a 30-18 trial match win over Melbourne as coach Nathan Brown revealed his plan to replace the suspended wunderkind for the first two NRL rounds.
Playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita is set to deputise for Walsh at fullback when the season officially gets underway after a solid display in the custodian’s role at Casey Fields.
Walsh came off the interchange on Saturday afternoon to accommodate Harris-Tavita’s shift.
There was plenty to please both coaches in a willing Unite for Tonga fundraiser match.
Xavier Coates was fantastic in his Melbourne debut, the former Brisbane winger scoring in the corner from his first touch and routinely carting the ball strongly from his own end.
A trim Cameron Munster enjoyed some silky moments as he played big minutes alongside fellow Storm stars Brandon Smith and Harry Grant, all of whom are suspended for round one.
Already weighing up his options in the halves and at hooker, Storm coach Craig Bellamy revealed recruit Nick Meaney could begin the campaign at fullback with Ryan Papenhuyzen (ankle) in doubt.
Cooper Johns was supposed to partner comeback kid Jayden Nikorima in the halves but withdrew due to a calf complaint, paving the way for Munster to join the run-on team.
Smith, who started at lock, used power and footwork to touch down in the 13th minute.
But a quickfire double to Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya and a four-pointer to Walsh, who backed up a Harris-Tavita line-break, gave the visitors a 14-12 half-time lead.
Munster threw a lovely face-ball to assist Dean Ieremia in the 47th minute, but the Warriors came home with a wet sail to secure a six-tries-to-three win.
Garrett Smith, Junior Ratuva, and Matt Lodge rounded out the scorers for the New Zealand team.
Melbourne youngster Jonah Pezet was placed on report and sin-binned for a late hit on Walsh after the 19-year-old gun fired a terrific pass to set up Ratuva.
Ash Taylor and Kodi Nikorima were solid if not spectacular starting in the halves for the Warriors, with Brown indicating pre-game that both men were in the running to partner Shaun Johnson.