Fifita Watch was the biggest talking point of round 10 right until the final team announcement on Sunday afternoon, with the big unit catching many SuperCoaches off-guard by not only starting but pumping out a massive score to punish the unaware, the busy or the dog-walkers among us.
This round, Fifita Watch has transitioned seamlessly into Arrow Watch, though mercifully we knew that outcome before the round began and are able to make decision accordingly without it hanging over us for the entire weekend.
PSA: Stilesy will be hosting and MC’ing a work conference from Friday night through to Sunday. I’ll undoubtedly be sneaking some updates out when I can but apologies in advance if there are any delays on my end.
Good luck for round 11 and may the Late Mail be ever in your favour.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Gold Coast Titans, Friday 6:00pm (Lottoland)
Manly are expecting no changes to the team named on Tuesday and will look to continue their inspired start to the season with a win over the struggling Titans at Lottoland, despite not having the best record against the Goldie. Haumole Olakau’atu and Lloyd Perrett dropped out Thursday night.
In the biggest news of the round, Jai Arrow has been officially ruled out after sustaining a hip flexor strain at training on Thursday morning. Best case, this means he will miss three of the next six rounds and, for me at least, is an unfortunate sell. Moeaki Fotuaika is tipped to shift to lock with Jack Stockwell to prop. Keagan Hipgrave is also in doubt and must make it through the captain’s run. Will Matthews is the other man to be omitted 24 hours out. Garth Brennan himself may be a late out in the coming week, with the club confirming they will be launching a ‘performance investigation’ which surely spells the beginning of the end for Brennan’s tenure.
Newcastle Knights vs Sydney Roosters, Friday 7:55pm (McDonald Jones Stadium)
Kurt Mann thrived in the five-eighth role alongside the resurgent Mitch Pearce in the Knight’s win over the Dragons, so it would not surprise me to see the same switch as last round with Watson playing the utility role from the interchange with Mann again to start in the only change for the side. Pasami Saulo and Mason Lino dropped out Thursday night.
The Roosters have been dealt a blow with Cooper Cronk and Zane Tetevano both ruled out. Brock Lamb will come into the halves and Linsday Collins will be added to the interchange. There is some positive news with Boyd Cordner, Daniel Tupou and Siosiua Taukeiaho all cleared to play. Englishman Ryan Hall will play reserve grade after making his debut last round.
Canberra Raiders vs North Queensland Cowboys, Saturday 3:00pm (GIO Stadium)
Joe Tapine just needs to make it through the captain’s run to confirm his extremely early return from an ankle injury, but everything is looking positive. I predict Hudson Young will still start this weekend but play reduced minutes, with Tapine taking over the starting gig as early as next round. The biggest news however is that John Bateman is expected to return from a fractured eye socket in round 13, which makes for some very interesting decisions for SuperCoaches who by that stage will be looking ahead to the second bye.
Josh McGuire is firming to make his return from a calf injury for the Cowboys and could push his way into the 17 for the clash in the capital. With Origin selection on the line he will likely do everything he can to take the field. Jake Granville is clear to play after beating his dangerous contact charge at the judiciary.
New Zealand Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos, Saturday 5:30pm (Mt Smart Stadium)
Stephen Kearney decided to rest Lachlan Burr and Ken Maumalo from training during the week as they reportedly were suffering from ‘general soreness’ (aren’t we all?) but both are expected to play, with Maumalo being in the most doubt.
The Broncos are expected to run out 1-17 in the Nikorima-bowl, despite Jamayne Isaako picking up a minor ankle injury during their win against the Roosters and Matt Gillett copping a head knock during training.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Wests Tigers, Saturday 7:35pm (ANZStadium)
The Rabbitohs should run out 1-17 outside of the usual Tatola/Gurgess swap, however there are rumours swirling that Liam Knight could make way for Billy Brittain to get the young hooker some NRL experience to cover for Cook during the byes. Keep an eye out for final teams, as this could sway you away from a Cook captaincy if 80 minutes aren’t guaranteed.
The Tigers are also expected to run out 1-17, despite Ben Matulino (concussion) and Thomas Mikaele (knee) picking up injuries last weekend. David Nofoaluma is lurking on the extended bench, but Coach Maguire is expected to give the Jennings/Momirovski combination at least one week to pay dividends.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Melbourne Storm, Sunday 2:00pm (Belmore Sports Ground)
No significant changes are expected for either side in this clash, with the Storm looking to make amends for their unexpectedly close clash earlier in the year. Those calling for a late Ryan Papenhuyzen start for the Storm will likely have to wait at least another week, with the club reluctant to move Jahrome Hughes into the halves at the expense of Brodie Croft.
Rhyse Martin is seemingly the third string lock for the Bulldogs and could be made available to other clubs in the coming weeks which would be massive for non-owners, particularly if he moved to a team such as the Dragons who play in the second buy round. One to watch, one to watch…
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks, Sunday 4:05pm (WIN Stadium)
No changes are expected for the Dragons after Coach McGregor tore the side apart again on Tuesday. Korbin Sims has been cleared to play after being a late omission in round ten.
For the Sharks, Matt Moylan has been all but confirmed to make his return from a hamstring injury suffered earlier in the year, though in what position will likely be decided before kick-off. If he comes in at fullback, it would likely shift Josh Dugan to the wing and Aaron Gray out of the side. They could also opt to ease him back in the halves, which would see Kyle Flanagan drop out. In either scenario, it seems Bronson Xerri is a safe hold, which is ironic given how many tries the youngster has dropped since his debut.