- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 19 February 2020, 1:53PM
The Warrior' hopes for 2020 have taken a significant hit, with the loss of one of their most important forwards.
Prop Bunty Afoa has been ruled out for the season, after tearing his ACL during a contact session at training last week.
The 23-year-old was meant to be part of the Nines squad - but didn't make the trip - and is unlikely to be back before the end of the NRL campaign, with an operation scheduled in the next few weeks.
It's a huge blow.
Not only is he one of the most damaging runners with ball in hand, the 1.83m, 111kg Afoa also adds size and bulk to a pack that has a lightweight feel.
The Warriors are already short on experienced props, and Afoa's absence will leave a significant void.
It will put more pressure on Agnatius Paasi and Leeson Ah Mau to carry the load, and might also mean that Sam Lisone comes back into favour.
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Lisone made 11 appearances last year but was never seen as a regular, and there was speculation that he could leave in the off season, with some Super League clubs said to be interested in the 25-year-old.
But Afoa's setback could mean a new opportunity for Lisone, who made his debut back in 2015 and has played 85 NRL games since then.
Jackson Frei will also be in the mix, while Adam Blair, Lachlan Burr and Josh Curran are options in the middle, though they aren't traditional front rowers.
Afoa made his debut in 2016 under Andrew McFadden and has been tracking upwards since then.
He carried for around 90 metres a game last year, even though he was used mainly from the bench.
Afoa has become a cult figure at Mt Smart with his runs into the heart of the opposition defence, and also has good footwork, especially for his size.
The Warriors' first pre-season trial is on Saturday, against the Melbourne Storm in Palmerston North.