Another promising local product will make his NRL debut for the Titans in Auckland tomorrow against the NZ Warriors.
The 20-year-old utility player Karl Lawton will play in the centres tomorrow with Chris McQueen going back to the pack in a re-shuffle after the withdrawal of co-captain and hooker Nathan Friend.
Friend suffered a hand injury in the match against the Raiders last Sunday and, after he participated in the final training session on Wednesday before the team departed, it was decided he would not travel across the Tasman to play against his former team after .
McQueen will start in the second row and Auckland-raised Leivaha Pulu going back to the bench. Ryan Simpkins can cover as relieving hooker if Nathan Peats doesn’t play the 80 minutes.
Lawton played in the halves and hooker in the Titans under-20s in 2014-15 but after a late start to the season after a pelvic injury, he has played in the centres for Tweed Head Seagulls in the Intrust Super Cup in the past four rounds.
“Karl is a versatile player who has worked really hard and he’s big enough and quite quick,” coach Neil Henry said.
“He hasn’t played a lot of football after a late start to the season because of injury but he has been with us full-time since the off-season and gets his chance against the Warriors, and we’re confident he won’t let us down.”
Lawton and older brother Kane Lawton become the first brothers to represent the Titans at NRL level. Kane made his debut, also at age 20, in 2009 and went onto play seven games before moving to Manly then a season with Carcassonne in the French competition last season.
“It means a lot to me to follow Kane and become the first brothers to play first grade for the Titans, and at the same age – it’s pretty special,” Kane said.
“He’s stoked. He’s travelling in Europe but we’ve messaged.
“It was a surprise to get my debut, especially in the centres, but the boys are really good in making me feel comfortable and I’m really thankful Neil has shown faith, after having a late start to the season.”
Lawton missed most of the pre-season training because of a groin/pelvic injury that eventually required surgery and did not play until round eight.
Halfback Ash Taylor did not travel to Auckland because of a groin injury that needs rest and Cameron Cullen will take his place.
Eddy Pettybourne will also miss tomorrow's clash after failing to recover from concussion suffered last Sunday against the Raiders. Lachlan Burr comes in for him on the bench.