NRL: New NZ Warriors five-eighth Ronald Volkman given free rein against Cronulla Sharks

The message this week to new NZ Warriors five-eighth Ronald Volkman has been clear - just be himself.

Volkman has been named alongside star Shaun Johnson to play Cronulla Sharks on Sunday, with Johnson's regular halves partner, Te Maire Martin, ruled out with a head injury.

The 20-year-old has played just two firs-grade games, but his starring roles in New South Wales Cup has seen him promoted.

Volkman ranks second in try assists and linebreak assists for the second-tier competition, including a man-of-the-match performance against Canterbury Bulldogs last week.

Unlike last year, his inclusion comes at a time the Warriors are flying high, with three wins from their opening four rounds.

Volkman's first-grade debut - a 40-6 drubbing by reining champions Penrith Panthers - now looks like a distant memory.

Both Warriors coach Andrew Webster and his teammates have been explicit with what they expect from the young five-eighth.

"Just let Ronald be Ronald," said Warriors prop Addin-Fonua-Blake. "He's a young freak and everyone knows what he can do.

"We just let him do what he can do and play off the back of him. We don't want him to go in there feeling he has to play like Te Maire, because Te Maire's his own player."

While it's never ideal to have to call up reserves so early in the season, Volkman's selection has a different feel to it. No longer are the Warriors dipping into their extended squad with hope, but rather with expectation, with so many of their players performing well.

Webster is excited by Volkman's skillset and believes his attacking game, in tandem with Johnson, will cause headaches for the Sharks

"I just want him to be himself, we want him to run the ball," he said "He's different from Te Maire, brings different strengths, he's got a really good kicking game and he can relieve some pressure for Shaun.

Te Maire Martin.
Te Maire Martin. Photo credit: Photosport

"Their fullback is going to have to think about both sides of the field this weekend, who's kicking and what they're doing.

"Ronnie's going to bring some energy this week, have some fun and back himself, and know that everyone believes in himself and he's there for a reason.

"He's coming off a man-of-the-match performance in the New South Wales Cup, he's coming into the NRL on form. He's not just coming in for the sake of coming in, he's playing some really good football, so just be himself, have fun and rip in."

Like his debut against Nathan Cleary's Panthers - where Webster was assistant - he faces another tough battle with his opposites on Sunday.

The Sharks have been boosted by last week's return of star halfback and Dally M Medal-winner Nicho Hynes, who led them to a comfortable 40-8 win over St George Dragons, with a hand in almost every one of their scores.

"They're definitely a threat with Nicho Hynes back," said Fonua-Blake. "He's linking them all together and their middle is very mobile - a very tough pack.

"We have our hands full this weekend. We're looking to go to Shark Park and get stuck into them, and see how we go."

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