This may be the most interesting end to a season in recent memory. With big wins for the Bunnies, Knights, Eagles and Titans, and subsequent losses for the Raiders, Sharks, Cowboys and Eels, the top 8 race is as close as I can remember. There are really only two teams that are safe for a finals berth, while everyone from 3 to 14 are within three to four games. With five weeks left in the season, there’s still so much to play out. Round 23 will play a big part in shifting some of the pieces around too.
This is all good news for SuperCoaches as those teams in contention will be loathe to rest anyone over the final weeks with hopes of securing a post season spot, and even the Panthers and Broncos are in a fight for the minor premiership. So let’s check out the teams.
And apologies again for the condensed issue. Another busy week for me.
This Weeks Bye Team/s
Not too much to worry about with the Dogs on the bye. Except that it’s one less team for captains to play against.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS vs MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Thursday, 7.50pm, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Billy Smith 4. Joseph Manu 5. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 6. Luke Keary 7. Sandon Smith 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Siua Wong 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley
Bench: 14. Drew Hutchison 15. Nathan Brown 16. Terrell May 17. Fletcher Baker
Reserves: 18. Corey Allan 19. Elie El Zakhem 20. Jake Turpin 21. Fetalaiga Pauga 22. Dylan Napa
The Roosters lost Egan Butcher to a HIA on the weekend, his second in the last month so not only is he missing here, he’s in danger of missing a number of weeks in rehab. Siua Wong ($217.9k – 2RF – BE 6) moves to the edge.
James Tedesco ($730.7k – FLB – BE 63): the man. The myth. Th……..at’s it. He’s a myth in 2023. Proven as such by the Broncos. Just 34 points in following up his season high score? And yes, I know he went close to scoring a couple of times but he didn’t, did he? He’s just not who he used to be. Last season, Teddy averaged 72.7 against the top eight teams. This year? As the ladder currently stands, he’s averaged 48.4. Gross.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
1. Reuben Garrick 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Tolutau Koula 5. Ray Tuaimalo-Vaega 6. Josh Schuster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Toafofoa Sipley 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Matthew Lodge 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Jake Trbojevic
Bench: 14. Ben Trbojevic 15. Aaron Woods 16. Dean Matterson 17. Ethan Bullemor
Reserves: 18. Ben Condon 19. Jakob Arthur 20. Kaeo Weekes 21. Morgan Harper 22. Gordon Chan Kum Tong
Christian Tuipulotu suffered a knee injury and is expected to miss a number of weeks, potentially ending his season early. Raymond Vaega ($243.1k – CTW – BE 31) has been brought in on the wing, with Reuben Garrick ($622.2k – FLB/CTW – BE 73) remaining at fullback, instead of the alternative option of Kaeo Weekes.
GOLD COAST TITANS vs THE WARRIORS
Friday, 6.00pm, Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Gold Coast Titans
1. AJ Brimson 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Brian Kelly 4. Aaron Schoupp 5. Phillip Sami 6. Kieran Foran 7. Tanah Boyd 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. David Fifita 12. Joe Stimson 13. Erin Clark
Bench: 14. Jayden Campbell 15. Chris Randall 16. Klese Haas 17. Iszac Fa’asumaleaui
Reserves: 18. Keano Kini 19. Jacob Alick 20. Jo Vuna 21. Kruise Leeming 22. Ken Maumalo
The Titans are set to be without Fifita for a number of weeks after he injured his ankle against the Cowboys. Jojo Fifita that is. To note: I’ve been taking some reporting cues from NewsCorp. To cover that, Aaron Schoupp ($347k – CTW – BE 73) has moved into the centres.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Luke Metcalf 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Jackson Ford 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tohu Harris
Bench: 14. Dylan Walker 15. Bunty Afoa 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Josh Curran
Reserves: 18. Jazz Tevaga 20. Taine Tuaupiki 21. Freddy Lussick 22. Tom Ale 23. Ronald Volkman
The Warriors are back from the bye round with just about their full strength team lining up. Marata Niukore ($447.9k – 2RF – BE 61) suffered a HIA in their last game but served is stand-down period over the bye week so doesn’t miss any games. But Jazz Tevaga is on the extended bench so could be upgraded later on.
But most importantly, Shaun Johnson ($768.7k – HFB – BE 34) is back guys, and he has no more bye weeks. He’s on a 94.7 point 3RA and last time he met the Titans he scored 71, but that was back in 2021 when with the Sharks.
PENRITH PANTHERS vs MELBOURNE STORM
Friday 8:00pm, BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Zac Hosking 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo
Bench: 14. Soni Luke 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Matt Eisenhuth 17. Jaeman Salmon
Reserves: 18. Jack Cogger 19. Luke Garner 20. Izack Tago 21. Thomas Jenkins 22. Liam Henry
Oh baby! I can’t wait for this one on Friday night. It’s 1 vs 4 and while a loss for either side won’t change their top 4 standings this week, it could have longer term implications.
Penrith will be without Tyrone Peachey due to a high grade careless high tackle, and with Izack Tago still out (but named on the extended bench mind you), it’s Zac Hosking ($426k – 2RF – BE 71), of all people, who comes into the centres. I can’t say I saw that coming.
Onto Nathan Cleary ($788.8k – HFB – BE 60) watch. His injury worries haven’t held him back as he’s now rattled off 81 and 109 since returning. He wasn’t there when these sides met in round 18, but Cleary did have 85 on them last season. However, they’re allowing the NRL least 41.1 PPG to right halves this year. Cleary should beat that easy enough, but by how much?
1. Nick Meaney 2. William Warbrick 3. Marion Seve 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Harry Grant 10. Christian Welch 11. Trent Loiero 12. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 13. Josh King
Bench: 14. Tom Eisenhuth 15. Alec MacDonald 16. Tepai Moeroa 17. Eliesa Katoa
Reserves: 18. Tyran Wishart 19. Bronson Garlick 20. Jonah Pezet 21. George Jennings 22. Grant Anderson
No injuries at the Storm so they haven’t lost anyone. However, Nelson Asofa-Solomona ($566k – FRF – BE 89) returns from his absence last week to boost the side.
Jahrome Hughes ($648k – HFB – BE 12) went bananas last weekend. He not only scored a clear season high 156 points, but it was his all-time SuperCoach high score. He and Harry Grant ($705.2k – HOK – BE 38) destroyed the Eels, with Cam Munster ($678.3k – 5/8 – BE 38) chipping in with 80 points of his own. It’s a fantastic sign for all who have invested in the Storm guns to end the year.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS vs BRISBANE BRONCOS
Saturday, 3.00pm, Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Nth Queensland Cowboys
1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Semi Valemei 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Jason Taumalolo 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Coen Hess 13. Reuben Cotter
Bench: 14. Jake Granville 15. Griffin Neame 16. Heilum Luki 17. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
Reserves: 18. Sam McIntyre 19. Kyle Feldt 20. Riley Price 21. Brendan Elliot 22. Jack Gosiewski
The OG Queensland Derby is sure to be another blockbuster in Townsville. But one of the stars of the show isn’t expected to be there.
Valentine Holmes ($765.6k – CTW – BE 161) was binned for the second straight week and is now looking at a stint on the sidelines. Unless of course, he wins his fight of the charge at the judiciary tonight. But if he loses, the four week ban coupled with the Cowboys round 24 bye means his regular season is over. It would then caused a backline reshuffle that I’m not qualified enough to guess at. That’s not my job until Lake Mail returns.
Heilum Luki ($526.2k – 2RF – BE 105) comes back from injury too and is named on the bench and then there’s a host of positional changes that I can’t be bothered typing out. You figure them out. Stink Cowboys making my job hard.
1. Reece Walsh 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Selwyn Cobbo 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Brendan Piakura 13. Patrick Carrigan
Bench: 14. Tyson Smoothy 15. Corey Jensen 16. Kobe Hetherington 17. Keenan Palasia
Reserves: 18. Deine Mariner 19. Xavier Willison 20. Jordan Riki 21. Jock Madden 22. Tristan Sailor
No major concerns from Brisbane but they have made some minor adjustments. Jesse Arthars ($332.3k – CTW – BE 72) is available after suspension and goes to a wing, Brendan Piakura ($376.9k – 2RF – BE -4) comes back into the second row and Pat Carrigan ($611.6k – 2RF – BE 38) shifts to lock.
THE DOLPHINS vs NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Saturday, 5:30pm, Optus Stadium, Perth
1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Kodi Nikorima 4. Valynce Te Whare 5. Tesi Niu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Connelly Lemuelu 13. Kenny Bromwich
Bench: 14. Herman Ese’ese 15. Josh Kerr 16. Isaiya Katoa 17. Jarrod Wallace
Reserves: 18. Max Plath 19. Trai Fuller 20. Poasa Faamausili 21. Ray Stone 22. Jack Bostock
The first game of a Perth double header of all places.
The Phins will enter this one without Euan Aitken due to a knee injury that ended his game last week, but Connelly Lemuelu ($480.2k – 2RF/CTW – BE 69) failed a HIA last week so I’m a bit surprised to see him named. Watch this space.
Elsewhere, Anthony Milford ($389k – 5/8/FLB – BE 47) starts in the halves against his 2022 side and Kodi Nikorima ($615.8k – 5/8/HOK – BE 45) takes over for Aitken.
So after missing a bunch of time, and questions marks over his availability heading into the game, Jeremy Marshall-King ($594.8k – HOK – BE 21) exploded back on the SuperCoach scene with 95 points. He didn’t look like he’d missed a minute of football and still looms as a great run home guy.
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Tyson Gamble 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Phoenix Crossland 10. Leo Thompson 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Adam Elliott
Bench: 14. Kurt Mann 15. Brodie Jones 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Mathew Croker
Reserves: 18. Dylan Lucas 19. Enari Tuala 20. Simi Sasagi 21. Dane Aukafolau 22. Jack Johns
The Knights keep doing what the Sharks cannot: beating top 8 sides. So then, does a match against the 13th placed Dolphins pose a risk? When these sides met in round 3, the THE took the honours 36-20. But with the form of this current Knights team, they’ve not made any changes to last week’s winning side.
At this point, is there any reason to doubt Kalyn Ponga ($1.008M – FLB/5/8 – BE 101). He took a hit to the head on the weekend which is always a concern with him, but he was perfectly fine and still knocked out 122 SuperCoach points despite missing 15 minutes for the HIA. He’s in top form right now and captainers should ride the purple patch. The Dolphins allow 77 PPG to fullbacks this year, second most in the league. Ponga missed that earlier matchup but the fullback on the day, Lachie Miller, had 98 points. And if he can do it…..
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS vs CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS
Saturday, 7:35pm, Optus Stadium, Perth
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Jai Arrow 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Michael Chee Kam 13. Cameron Murray
Bench: 14. Davvy Moale 15. Siliva Havili 16. Jed Cartwright 17. Tallis Duncan
Reserves: 18. Tyrone Munro 19. Jacob Host 20. Shaquai Mitchell 21. Peter Mamouzelos 22. Dean Hawkins
Souths are listed with a big “NIL” on the NRL.com casualty ward. A huge benefit to this time of the year. They named the basically same side as round 22, with the minor exceptions being very irrelevant for SuperCoach.
Latrell Mitchell ($769.7k – FLB – BE 128) got through his return game and looked great while doing so. Sure, it was just the Tigers but he wasn’t shy in taking on the line and getting involved in the attack, just as he had to start the year. I was hoping he wouldn’t score as well so he’d be a bit cheaper but this game gave me some FOMO that I need to remedy ASAP.
1. Connor Tracey 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Braydon Trindall 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Toby Rudolf 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Cameron McInnes
Bench: 14. Jack Williams 15. Thomas Hazelton 16. Royce Hunt 17. Jesse Colquhoun
Reserves: 18. Matt Moylan 19. Kayal Iro 20. Mawene Hiroti 21. Tuku Hau Tapuha 22. Daniel Atkinson
The Sharks struggles continued against the Panthers and their job of turning their form around just became a lot harder with star fullback Will Kennedy tearing his hamstring early in the game. He’s set for a long stint on the sidelines. I apologise again for the curse I’ve put on the club.
And worse still, with the Souths win last week as well as losses for the Eels and Cowboys, they’ve put themselves back inside the top 8.
The Sharks have had some recent team shake ups but Kennedy’s injury has forced another. Connor Tracey ($500.9k – CTW – BE 73) gets the nod at fullback and Ronaldo Mulitalo ($448.5k – CTW – BE 79) comes back in on the wing. And more importantly, Briton Nikora ($689.6k – 2RF – BE 126) goes back to the edge.
And this is usually the place I talk about Nicho Hynes ($826.3k – HFB – BE 153) and his potential captaincy prospects. But I would be remiss not to give plaudits to Cam McInnes ($603.8k – 2RF – BE 9) after an absolute ironman performance. It was through a typical bloody visage, McInnes officially tallied 81 tackles for the game, breaking Michael Luck’s 14 year record of 74. For SuperCoach, he was awarded 78 tackles and finished on a score of 87, which goes to show just how much defending the team had to do against the reigning premiers.
PARRAMATTA EELS vs St. GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Sunday 2.00pm, CommBank Stadium, Sydney
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Isaac Lumelume 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Sean Russell 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Joe Ofahengaue 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. J’maine Hopgood
Bench: 14. Luca Moretti 15. Andrew Davey 16. Wiremu Greig 17. Makahesi Makatoa
Reserves: 18. Brendan Hands 19. Arthur Miller-Stephen 20. Ofahiki Ogden 21. Daejarn Asi 22. Jack Murchie
The main change for the Eels, and a big boost to their hopes of fighting back into the top 8, is the return of Dylan Brown ($815k – 5/8 – BE 61) from suspension for off-field indiscretions. Brown was averaging 76 PPG before being stood down and could be one of the top 5/8’s on the run home, although Parramatta do have the round 27 bye to factor in.
Other changes include Waqa Blake out, Isaac Lumelume ($216.1k – CTW – BE 33) onto the wing, Joe Ofahengaue ($250.9k – 2RF/FRF – BE 24) to prop, Joey Lussick ($234.8k – HOK – BE 19) at hooker and Ryan Matterson ($532.8k – 2RF – BE 33) is finally in the starting side on the edge.
Many were trading Clint Gutherson ($857.1k – FLB – BE 101) to Trell last week, and yes, it worked out 20 points to your favour immediately, but Gutho plays the Dragons this week. They only allowed 55 and 40 to their opposing fullbacks across the past two weeks, but before that is 77, 75 and 145. So ask yourself, are the Eels more aligned with the Tigers and Eagles of the past fortnight? Or the Raiders, Sharks and Warriors from those former three weeks? This could be a big score.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Talatau Amone 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Billy Burns 12. Dan Russell 13. Jack de Belin
Bench: 14. Connor Muhleisen 15. Michael Molo 16. Toby Couchman 17. Zane Musgrove
Reserves: 18. Ryan Couchman 19. Sione Finau 20. Jack Bird 21. Max Feagai 22. Ben Murdoch-Masila
The Dragons are two games ahead of the Tigers and will be trying to avoid the wooden spoon, likely without Jack de Belin ($519.7k – 2RF/FRF – BE 52) in the short term. He’s been hit with a charge from the “Dangerous Contact” that caused Tuipulotu’s injury. He’s also fronting the judiciary so if he loses, he’s out four weeks only to return in the final round of the year. Jack Bird is back in the extended side and could start at lock pending JDB’s outcome. But for now, they’re unchanged.
Shout out to Zac Lomax ($758.8k – CTW – BE 49) who’s upped his scoring now he’s back to right centre. He’s got a 3RA of 109.7 thanks to scores of 138, 115 and 76.
CANBERRA RAIDERS vs WESTS TIGERS
Sunday, 4.05pm, GIO Stadium, Canberra
1. Jordan Rapana 2. Albert Hopoate 3. Sebastian Kris 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Horsburgh
Bench: 14. Adrian Trevilyan 15. Emre Guler 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Ata Mariota
Reserves: 18. Utuloa Asouma 19. Matt Frawley 20. Tom Starling 21. Trey Mooney 22. Ethan Strange
The Raiders need a win this week as they hope to stay within shot of the top 4, and fortunately get a “Taco” week to work on righting themselves. They’ve had a bit of a shake up as they hope to right the ship.
Jarrod Croker and Tom Starling are out for Nick Cotric ($218.6k – CTW – BE 58) and Adrian Tevilyan ($234.8k – HOK) respectively, while Jordan Rapana ($467.3k – CTW – BE 23) has been named at fullback and Sebastian Kris ($447k – CTW/FLB – BE 66) in centre.
This may be the least exciting SuperCoach game of the week as neither team have a ton of assets. Joe Tapine ($671.8k – FRF/2RF – BE 85) has a 5RA of 74.6 with a low of 61. He seems to be finishing the year strong.
1. Jahream Bula 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Starford To’a 4. Junior Tupou 5. Charlie Staines 6. Daine Laurie 7. Luke Brooks 8. Alex Twal 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. John Bateman 13. Fonua Pole
Bench: 14. Jake Simpkin 15. Justin Matamua 16. Aitasi James 17. Asu Kepaoa
Reserves: 18. Tallyn Da Silva 19. Alex Seyfarth 20. Will Smith 21. Kit Laulilii 22. Josh Feledy
Daine Laurie ($433.2k – FLB – BE 14) suffered a knee injury early in last weeks game which may keep him out if he’s unable to get through captains run. Will Smith is on the extendeds for a break glass scenario. Big Stefano Utoikamanu hasn’t been named and Shawn Blore is also out having failed his HIA in the game.
A quick pat on the back for me suggesting last week that Api Koroisau ($515.4k – HOK – BE -20) could be a run home hooker and then him scoring 120 on the Bunnies. One to watch for next year perhaps if the price is right.