NRL 2021: NZ Warriors receive timely boost with centre Euan Aitken confirmed to start against Parramatta Eels

NZ Warriors have received a timely boost for their NRL encounter against red-hot Parramatta Eels, with centre Euan Aitken confirmed to start, after returning from injury. 

Aitken picked up an ankle injury in the opening game of the season against Gold Coast Titans and was forced to undergo a "tight-rope surgery" that saw him in a cast for the first two weeks of an eight-week layoff.

The off-season signing was initially named on an extended bench by head coach by Nathan Brown, but Aitken has announced that he would replace rookie wing Edward Kosi in the starting side.  

"I'm confirmed to be in the centres this weekend and I'm really keen to get back out there," Aitken says. 

"Kosi is going to move out and there is going to be a couple of changes around that. Kosi is in the development, so he's going to miss out, but he's been playing some good footy, so he needs to keep his head up. 

"I'm looking forward to getting back out there against the Eels, but we are going to bring the fire against them, as they've been running pretty hot, so we are going to try to stop them in their tracks. 

The change would see Aitken start at centre, with either Rocco Berry or Adam Pompey moving to the wing in place of Kosi. 

The Eels have made a strong start to the NRL season, winning eight of their nine games to sit in second place on the ladder, behind unbeaten Penrith Panthers.

They had an impressive victory over Sydney Roosters last time out and Aitken knows the Warriors will have to start well, if they want to control Parramatta. 

"They're running red hot at the moment, so we gotta bring it to them and start well," he says. "We need to take the fight to them, but we can't give them too much respect and if we start well that will go a long way."  

A marquee signing for the club over the off-season, Aitken picked up an untimely injury, but is looking forward to shoring up the defence that got exposed against Manly Sea Eagles. 

"It's always tough being in rehab. I think anyone will tell you there is sort of a disconnect from the group, as you're always training by yourself, which didn't help when coming to a new club," Aitken says.

"It's my time to get back out onto the field now and I'm really hoping to make an impression. 

"Our attack is coming together really nicely over the past couple of weeks, so it's always good to see that, but I think it's just a couple of lapses, as we haven't played for 80 minutes, so we got to keep consistency around that.

"The start of our second halves is an area we really need to focus on. I'm just looking to play my role and my strengths, and add some punch in the backline and defend well."

With the injury to centres Aitken, Pita Hiku - who was ruled out for the season on Tuesday - and Marcelo Montoya, the Warriors have been forced to blood young talent like Berry and Kosi. 

Aitken's return should strengthen the defence that went missing in the second half against the Sea Eagles and help the young players in the big moments. 

"I've obviously played a lot of games now and I'm looking forward to adding to that tally, so I definitely want to help guide the new boys through.

"I still feel like I can play some good football. I'm pretty young in my career, and looking forward to going out there and testing it."

Aitken will get his first opportunity to play with young gun Reece Walsh, who was named on the interchange bench for Sunday's clash, and is seriously impressed with the teen's talent. 

"He's such a good talent and the best thing about him is he can create space for people outside of him, which is a rare sort of talent that people can do that consistently," Aitken adds.

"I'm glad he's in our club and that he's progressing well, and a big future lies ahead of him."

Join us at 4pm Sunday for live updates of the NZ Warriors v Parramatta Eels NRL clash