No, this isn’t a Nike shoe giveaway. This is the battle-cry that went up Tuesday night as the news spread about Viliame Kikau’s two-game suspension after a seemingly innocuous tackle that also landed him in the bin during the actual game last round. Kikau owners who also have Fifita in their sides will have a lazy $1,000,000 in suspensions riding their pine, reminding us again how much of a fickle mistress this game can be.
Thankfully, of the players in doubt this round there aren’t too many with major SuperCoach ramifications despite there being several question marks around the grounds. Hopefully, your teams have enough depth by Round 19 that you can cover any potential late outs.
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers, Friday 6:00pm (McDonald Jones Stadium)
It seems likely that the Knights will start Connor Watson at hooker, with Danny Levi to assume the utility role from the interchange. Josh King and Aidan Guerra dropped out Thursday night. There is also a strong rumour that Herman Ese’ese will be wearing Canterbury colours next season.
Coach Maguire has opted to run a four forward bench this round, which means Matt Eisenhuth replaces Jacob Liddle on the interchange. This should mean huge minutes for Robbie Farah in what will be an emotional 300th game. Josh Reynolds was also omitted 24 hours out. In sadder news, Ben Matulino’s career could be over after ongoing knee issues and extensive cartilage damage have derailed the last few years of his career.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs St George-Illawarra Dragons, Friday 7:55pm (ANZ Stadium)
Braidon Burns was limited at training during the week, but this was only precautionary with the centre expected to play. Tom Burgess looks set to return from his ankle injury and will slot straight back into the starting prop role in place of Dean Britt. There is also some doubt around Dane Gagai, who missed training with the flu. He will be replaced by Corey Allan should he be unable to take the field. Sam Burgess was trimmed from the bench 24 hours out along with Connor Tracey, however, Coach Bennett confirmed that the big Pom will be fit to return next week.
No late changes are expected for the Dragons, who welcome back the cavalry. It will be interesting to see if Mary reverts to his bizarre early-season spine shuffles during the match. Jacob Host and Patrick Kaufusi dropped out Thursday night.
Parramatta Eels vs New Zealand Warriors, Saturday 3:00pm (Bankwest Stadium)
Josh Hoffman is replaced on the wing by Ethan Parry. Blake Ferguson is now going to be out indefinitely after suffering a reaction to the antibiotics he took for a knee infection. He will be hospitalised until next week.
After a false start last week, Ken Maumalo has been cleared to return from a concussion. In worse news, both Kodi Nikorima and Jazz Tevaga (ankles) are in doubt and must make it through captain’s run on Friday to be considered this round. Nikorima has been ruled out with CHT moving to halves and Keighran joining the interchange.
Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos, Saturday 5:30pm (Cbus Super Stadium)
AJ Brimson must make it through the Titans’ captain’s run after picking up a hip injury last week. Sam Stone is tipped to start with Bryce Cartwright dropping to the bench. The coaching search also continues.
Matt Gillett has been ruled out with an ongoing groin issue, which will shift TPJ to an edge and Ofahenguae to lock with Palasia to join the interchange for the Broncos. No other changes are expected.
Melbourne Storm vs Manly Sea Eagles, Saturday 7:35pm (AAMI Park)
Despite the success the Storm have had with Jahrome Hughes in the halves (and some very interesting stats from @3WiseDraftsmen about the SuperCoach statistical drop-off of Storm edge players with Croft in the halves) the side should run out 1-17 with Papenhuyzen again on the interchange.
Cade Cust was a late out last week after failing to overcome a concussion, but he could be an inclusion this round at the expense of Lachlan Croker if he makes it through captain’s run. This would shift Dylan Walker back to centre and Brad Parker moving to the interchange.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Sydney Roosters, Sunday 2:00pm (ANZ Stadium)
Kieran Foran (hamstring) has been named on the extended bench but is unlikely to make his return this round. Aiden Tolman will also need to pass a final fitness test after picking up a rib injury, with Ofahiki Ogden the man to replace him if needed.
The consensus for the Roosters seems to be that Sitili Tupouniua will come into the final 17, with one of either Ryan Hall, Brett Morris or even Daniel Tupou (for rest purposes) to drop out. No other changes are expected, with Isaac Liu cleared to return from his concussion.
Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders, Sunday 4:05pm (Panthers Stadium)
After unsuccessfully defending a normal tackle at the judiciary (thanks @TowballDan on Twitter for that line) it is expected that Isaah Yeo will shift to the edge with Liam Martin or Jed Cartwright to make the final 17. It was also confirmed that this will be James Maloney’s last season in the NRL, with the half to make the shift overseas to see out his career with the Catalans Dragons.
For the Raiders, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad confirmed in an interview that the only part of him that isn’t currently injured is his heart. Despite this, he seems likely to line up this weekend and is set to be offered a contract extension by Canberra. Joey Leilua has been cleared to return to training after spinal surgery and he could return this year. No other changes are expected for Ricky Stuart’s side.