The NZ Warriors' pre-season has gone from bad to worse, with the club confirming prop Bunty Afoa is set to miss most of 2020.
Just three days after returning home from a disastrous NRL Nines campaign, the Warriors received "devastating" news that one of the shining lights of their woeful 2019 season had suffered a serious knee injury.
The club had hoped for a better outcome, after the confrontational forward limped out of a training session last week. The Warriors propping stocks are now seriously depleted, with just Sam Lisone, Leeson Ah Mau and Agnatius Paasi having experienced first-grade football.
While Ah Mau and Paasi were regular contributors during last season's struggles, Lisone only played 11 games, with fitness and work-rate concerns leaving coach Stephen Kearney to look elsewhere.
But the club may have no other choice than to lean on Lisone, with uncapped rookie Jackson Frei the only other front-rower on the books.
The other option for the coaching staff would be to shift veteran Adam Blair back to the front row, but the former Kiwis captain is much more effective when playing in the loose forwards.
Afoa is set for surgery next week, with the club describing the 23-year-old's hopes of playing in 2020 as "unlikely".
The Warriors have their first pre-season trial against the Melbourne Storm in Palmerston North on Saturday,
Their NRL season kicks off with a visit to the Newcastle Knights on March 14.
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