Round 20 has been a strange week for Late Mail so far. Yes, there are outs due to injury as usual, but arguably the more interesting developments are related to the ins (Chee-Kam, despite a horrible concussion), the judiciary (Issac Luke copping a 3 weeks ban compared to some similar incidents from last week) and the axings (Jesse Ramien told to find a new club).
It’s been a wild one to keep an eye on that’s for sure, before considering the usual scattering of injuries and maladies that are set to keep players in the sideline in the first round of August.
As usual, I will keep this article up to date where I can as the round progresses but for the most up-to-date info make sure you follow me on Twitter @AStilesAuthor.
Good luck everyone for Round 20!
New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders, Friday 6:00pm (Mt Smart Stadium)
Issac Luke was unsuccessful in his attempt to downgrade his dangerous contact charge at the judiciary, which means he will be suspended for 3 weeks. This potentially halves his remaining games in NZ with Bully uncontracted after this season. His absence hands Lawton the starting hooker role. Jazz Tevaga is basically held together with duct tape at this point but he trained during the week and is in no doubt for this one. In worse news, Tohu Harris could miss the rest of the season with ongoing foot issues. Adam Keighran was the other man omitted Thursday night.
Canberra has no concerns heading into this one and should run out 1-17, however they are on a five-day turnaround including the flight across the ditch. Sebastian Kris and Hudson Young were trimmed 24 hours out.
Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm, Friday 7:55pm (Suncorp Stadium)
Matt Gillett failed the captain’s run fitness test on Thursday and as battling multiple injuries. Xavier Coates trained inside Corey Oates which suggested that Alex Glenn would move back to the forwards, however, at first cut Joe Ofahengaue has been named on the edge with Shaun Fensom joining the interchange. There could be further changes before kick-off. Tom Dearden also drops out.
Matt Gillett has failed his fitness test at captain’s run. Out of tomorrow’s broncos storm clash at Suncorp Stadium— Pete Badel (@badel_cmail) August 1, 2019
Christian Welch must pass concussion protocol to line up, but Jesse Bromwich (sternum) has been cleared to play with no other changes expected. Marion Seve and Tino Faasuamaleaui were trimmed Thursday night.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Newcastle Knights, Saturday 3:00pm (Lottoland)
Apisai Koroisau is lurking on the extended bench in a bid to return from his ankle injury and is considered a strong chance to replace Lachlan Croker on the Manly interchange for his 100th game for the club, despite being linked to the Bulldogs for next season.
After wielding the axe on Team List Tuesday, Coach Brown is also expected to run out the same 17 as named. Sensationally, Jesse Ramien has been told that he is free to look for another club and has likely played his last game for the Knights. He has reportedly been unhappy at Newcastle and it is this, and not some sort of blow-up, that has led to the decision. The Knights have also signed Jayden Brailey for next season after the rake was released early by the Sharks.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers, Saturday 5:30pm (Bankwest Stadium)
There are no concerns for either side leading into this one, so both the Bulldogs and Panthers should run out 1-17.
Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs, Saturday 7:35pm (PointsBet Stadium)
Despite making it through the full 80 minutes last week, Briton Nikora has reportedly been nursing an ankle injury and will be monitored during Friday’s captain’s run but at this stage is expected to play. All their injured cavalry, including Matt Moylan and Wade Graham, are expected to play. Andrew Fifita is an outside chance to be a late inclusion to the starting side in place of Matt Prior or Aaron Woods.
Dane Gagai has been withheld from training this week after reportedly suffering memory loss from his concussion against the Dragons and must pass protocol in order to play. Sam Burgess should make his long-awaited return from a shoulder injury and subsequent infection, however will be on a minutes restriction.
Sydney Roosters vs Gold Coast Titans, Sunday 2:00pm (Sydney Cricket Ground)
No changes are expected for the Tricolours, with Nat Butcher to return despite playing for a month with a broken rib. Machine.
Ash Taylor has been named on the Titans’ extended bench, but no indication has been made as to whether he will be a late inclusion this round and he could travel with the team despite not making the 17. Phillip Sami must also pass concussion protocols to play.
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Parramatta Eels, Sunday 4:05pm (Netstrata Jubilee Stadium)
Both the Dragons and Eels are also expected to run out unchanged to the 17s named on Tuesday. Blake Ferguson has reportedly begun training again with the Eels despite earlier concerns that he could be out for the rest of the season with an infection following knee surgery, though he won’t be rushed back.