After the Late Mail chaos of the first Origin, the standalone round was a nice breather at the halfway point of the season where SuperCoaches could take stock of their teams and plan their trades for the crucial super-trade week.
But like a parent who leaves their child unattended for even a moment, I was scared about what Late Mail carnage I would come back to – particularly after both an Origin match and a traditionally bloodthirsty international round.
Mercifully, the casualties have been minimal with most key player statuses – including Kalyn Ponga – already known as we head into the weekend. That said, there is still a healthy dose of chaos to keep me busy during what is hopefully an entertaining round 15.
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs North Queensland Cowboys, Friday 6:00pm (WIN Stadium)
Despite being named on Tuesday to return from injury, Tim Lafai has been ruled out for the Dragons and will be replaced in the centres by Lachlan Maranta. Both he and Jordan Pereira were omitted Thursday night. The Origin quartet is expected to back up, with Tyson Frizell in the most doubt.
Matt Scott has also failed to overcome his shoulder injury for the Cowboys and was ruled out 24 hours out, along with Emry Pere. Michael Morgan has been in some doubt during the week after sustaining a minor shoulder injury in Origin II, however Coach Green has rested him during the week and says he should be available to play with no other changes expected. Scott Drinkwater will make his club debut at the back.
Sydney Roosters vs Melbourne Storm, Friday 7:55pm (Adeliade Oval)
Ryan Hall has been ruled out for the Roosters and will be replaced on the wing by Matt Ikuvalu, however Brett Morris is still lurking on the extended bench. Sitili Tupouniua also drops off 24 hours out, with Poasa Faamausili promoted to the interchange. Boyd Cordner has been in doubt for weeks now and still takes the field so I don’t expect that to change this round, however Coach Robinson confirmed he will be rested after Origin III.
The Storm lose Marion Seve, with Justin Olam to come into the squad. Tino Faasuamaleaui was the other man to be omitted Thursday night however he has been approved to come back into the squad for Jahrome Hughes, who has been ruled out with a back injury.
Gold Coast Titans vs Manly Sea Eagles, Saturday 3:00pm (Cbus Super Stadium)
Tyrone Peachey was unable to finish training on Wednesday for the Titans with a pectoral issue and is set to be ruled out, but this is offset by the return of Kevin Proctor from a facial injury. Proctor’s return likely shifts Will Matthews to the interchange. Jarrod Wallace will back up from Origin.
No late changes are expected for the Sea Eagles with all Origin players backing up. No player will be more closely ridden/death-ridden this round than Tom Trbojevic, who is in sublime form. Api Koroisau will miss at least 6 weeks with surgery on a syndesmosis injury, which means Fainu will see extended run as starting hooker.
Newcastle Knights vs Brisbane Broncos, Saturday 5:30pm (McDonald Jones Stadium)
Good news for the Knights with Kalyn Ponga and Tim Glasby both confirmed to play after copping knocks during Origin. David Klemmer is confirmed and Aiden Guerra should also return, which will bump Pasami Saulo and Josh King from the squad and James Gavet to the bench.
Interesting news from Brisbane yesterday that Anthony Milford has been training at fullback with Darius Boyd in the 5/8 role, which appears set to eventuate on Saturday in a development with SuperCoach ramifications for the mercurial Milford. No other changes are expected with all Origin players backing up and Haas/Ofahengaue confirmed to return from injury.
Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders, Saturday 7:35pm (TIO Stadium)
No changes are expected for the Eels with Dylan Brown certain to return from injury and Blake Ferguson making it through Origin unscathed.
Emre Guler has been ruled out through illness for the Raiders, and the NRL has approved #22 JJ Collins to come back into the extended squad. Corey Horsburgh just needs to pass a final fitness test to return from injury. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad missed the international round with a minor hamstring injury but will play, as will Josh Hodgson after being cleared to return from a broken thumb.
New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers, Sunday 2:00pm (Mt Smart Stadium)
The Warriors are expected to be 1-17, and Patrick Herbert could resume the kicking duties with Kodi Nikorima nursing a minor groin injury that won’t keep him from playing.
Dean Whare is firming to return from injury for the Panthers and would slot straight back into the centres with Brent Naden to drop out. In good news for Nathan Cleary he is out of his moon boot and is progressing well with his injury, which hints that he could be good to go as soon as round 17.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Cronulla Sharks, Sunday 4:00pm (ANZ Stadium)
Adam Elliott is expected to return this round for the Bulldogs, which once again places Rhyse Martin in jeopardy of being dropped. Chris Smith the other likely option to miss out. Dylan Napa will play despite still being under an injury cloud due to his wrist and Jack Cogger has been cleared to return from concussion.
Aaron Woods just needs to make it through the Sharks’ captain’s run to return from a broken foot, which could give potential Braden Hamlin-Uele owners pause despite the former Tiger likely coming off the bench in place of Jayson Bukuya or Blayke Brailey. Bronson Xerri has been cleared to return from concussion and Wade Graham will back up from Origin.