Here it is. My late mail debut. The nerves are there heading into the big games but I’ve studied for this. I’ve practiced for it. And now it’s time to shine. Although, after punching out over 6,250 words for the Tuesday Team List Analysis, recording the SCReport podcast and then turning around straight into this, I’m feeling a bit like…
BRONCOS v BULLDOGS
Friday, 7.55pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
BRONCOS: Little in the way of movement here and should run out 1-17. This game will be all about Te Maire Martin who returns to NRL action after 1,092 days. Originally being forced into medical retirement because of a bleed on the brain, it’s the feel good story of the weekend / year.
24 Hour Cuts: Brenko Lee, Ezra Mam, Ethan Quai-Ward, Logan Bayliss-Brow
BULLDOGS: A lot going on for the Belmore club. COVID has caused mayhem for the Dogs but they’ve now had 19 players test negative to the virus. However, Jake Averillo, Ava Seumanufagai, Reece Hoffman and Brent Naden all tested positive to COVID ahead of their Friday night clash are have obviously been withdrawn from availability. Hoffman was on the extended bench so they’ve only had to make three COVID replacements.
Jayden Okunbor returns to the wing and Jacob Kiraz will make his debut in the centers with Billy Tsikrikas also set to debut off the bench. Bailey Biondi-Odo comes onto the bench as well as the utility with Wakeham missing for a non-COVID reason. Josh Jackson took a heavy head knock last week, but should take his spot in the side.
24 Hour Cuts: Jake Averillo, Ava Seumanufagai, Brandon Wakeham, Brent Naden, Reece Hoffman, Tuipulotu Katoa
COWBOYS v TITANS
Saturday, 5.30m, Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
COWBOYS: Cowboys should be 1-17 but I’ll be keeping an eye on Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow from the extended reserves. They also could (i.e. WILL) have some changes to the makeup of the team list before kickoff. The past three games have seen McLean drop to the bench, Lolo shift to prop and Cotter come into the lock position. I’d expect the same here.
TITANS: Phillip Sami missed training on Thursday and apparently David Fifita was seen training in the centers. It doesn’t make much sense to me while Corey Thompson is on standby, so maybe that suggests they assume Sami will be ok. Coach Holbrook has all but ruled out an early Jayden Campbell return so Jamayne Isaako survives one more week.
TIGERS v RABBITOHS
Saturday, 7.35pm, CommBank Stadium, Sydney
TIGERS: Tigers are more than likely to run out 1-17 with Jake Simpkin the only concern. He suffered a nasty looking ankle injury in the round 6 Monday Miracle but is being given every chance to suit up. Jacob Liddle will come in if Simpkin can’t go. Ken Maumalo failed to finish last week with a knee injury but should be able to play.
RABBITOHS: The only changes for the Bunnies from last week’s teams are Davvy Moale onto the bench for Isaiah Tass, and a starting prop switch of Hame Sele for Tom Burgess. There shouldn’t be too much more happening for this game.
KNIGHTS v EELS
Sunday, 2.00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
KNIGHTS: The Kalyn Ponga contract circus can finally be put behind us. The media will have to find something else to falsely report. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t take long. As for the Sunday side, the only change I’d expect to see if a Saifiti swap as had happened in recent weeks: Dan to bench and Jacob on field.
EELS: Similarly to the Tigers write up above, Reagan Campbell-Gillard is the Eels main concern with his own ankle injury. He should be ok to play but in case he’s not, Oregon Kaufusi would start with Wiremu Greig coming on to bench.
Hayze Perham is a starter this week due to the Marata Niukore injury absence, but Sean Russell is also due back either next week or the week after.
PANTHERS v RAIDERS
Sunday, 4.05pm, BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
PANTHERS: Panthers will be 1-17 as you’d expect after a comfortable win against Brisbane. They barely got out of second gear, except Scott Soreson who had his nitrous boost jammed on all night.
RAIDERS: Elliott Whitehead was withdrawn from the squad on Thursday after suffering a gruesome head clash at training which led to dental surgery and a whole bunch of stitches. If you haven’t seen the pictures, do yourself a favour and keep it that way. Hudson Young is expected to replace him in the 17, likely on the bench with Adam Elliott promoted to edge starter.
The backline of Rapana fullback, Savage wing is interesting as both men are proficient in the opposite position. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some rotations between the two during the game.
DRAGONS v ROOSTERS
Monday, 4.00pm, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
DRAGONS: Dragons have named the same 17 from last week and since they won, I’d expect the team reamins unchanged. That should see Tyrell Sloan gone at first team cuts once again.
ROOSTERS: Paul Momirovski is in some doubt for the ANZAC clash and with no Billy Smith on the extended bench, Adam Keighran has been the man lining up there in training. Sam Verrills got through his first game back and has been named to start, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Verrills/Hutchison switch happen on game day.
STORM v WARRIORS
Monday, 7.00pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
STORM: They say good and bad things come in threes, and the last of the three ankle injuries from last weekend is Ryan Papenhuyzen. He was reportedly playing golf a day or so after the game so it doesn’t sound like the injury is too bad. They should also be 1-17 but have some COVID worries in their squad with Tom Eisenhuth and Sualauvi Faalogo contracting the virus and Will Warbrick a close contact. As Melbourne play the last game of the round, it will be a nervous watch regarding any other players being around these guys.
In some signing news, Tariq Sims has a deal in place with the Storm for after this season. However, there is some talk that the clubs are working on an immediate release.
WARRIORS: According to Mike Burgess on twitter, Nathan Brown has confirmed both Matt Lodge and Jazz Tevaga will be healthy enough to face the Storm. Considering Jazz is on the extended bench, this suggests he’ll be promoted but in what capacity, I’m still not sure.
In more signing news, Mitch Barnett has agreed to a move to the Warriors from 2023.