Here it is folks, the moment that separates trade hoarders from the pack. Taumalolo is out. I repeat: Taumalolo is out! At this stage of the season, having no trades left with a marquee man going down can really handicap you so I hope that you have a game plan should he be gone long term. But fingers crossed for us all he can make a return in 2019.
While Taumalolo hurts us this season, other late changes such as the debut of Izaiah Perese for the Broncos could potentially ruin perfectly good cheapie candidates for next season. Such is the game we play.
With head-to-head finals kicking off and overall players gearing up for their last stands I’m going to jump right into the Late Mail so read on to find out about the “definite, Stilesy-confirmed outs” (credit to Magee for this term) and as always, best of luck for the upcoming round.
Gold Coast Titans vs Parramatta Eels, Friday 6:00pm (Cbus Super Stadium)
Nathan Peats and Anthony Don are still on the extended bench after the first cut, with assistant coach Craig Hodges confirming after captain’s run that Peats “should be ok” but his return may be off the interchange filling in at lock. Leilani Latu and Tanah Boyd dropped out Thursday night.
No changes are expected for the Eels despite Shaun Lane running into some trouble for Mad Monday shenanigans whilst with the Sea Eagles. George Jennings and Stefano Utoikamanu were omitted 24 hours out.
Brisbane Broncos vs Penrith Panthers, Friday 7:55pm (Suncorp Stadium)
Coach Seibold will swing for the fences this Friday by blooding young gun Izaiah Perese, potentially ruining a 2020 cheapie candidate. It was originally speculated he would start in place of Gehamat Shibasaki with the two swapping roles throughout Wednesday’s training run, but coach confirmed Perese will debut from the interchange. Matt Gillett and Alex Glenn were lurking on the extended bench but both have been cut 24 hours out.
The Panthers have no concerns heading into this one and should be 1-17. Kaide Ellis and Hame Sele dropped out Thursday night.
Newcastle Knights vs North Queensland Cowboys, Saturday 3:00pm (McDonald Jones Stadium)
No late changes expected for the Knights, they should run out 1-17.
Jason Taumalolo has been ruled out for at least this round with a foot injury. Assistant coach David Fairleigh said that they are hopeful he will be back next week, but it is up to the medical team’s assessment at this stage. It seems they will try to get him back as soon as possible, but with the Cowboys’ season all but over is there any reason to risk him? SuperCoaches potentially have a large decision to make. In the short term, John Asiata will likely start with Peter Hola being promoted to the 17. Jordan McLean hasn’t been training but at this stage is expected to play.
Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders, Saturday 5:30pm (AAMI Park)
The Storm welcomes back most of the cavalry this round and should run out 1-17 unless there are any setbacks at Friday’s captain’s run to Hughes, Papenhuyzen or Kamikamica.
The Raiders have no concerns heading into this one, but it seems likely that Siliva Havili will replace Bailey Simonsson on the interchange in the only expected change.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Canterbury Bulldogs, Saturday 7:35pm (ANZ Stadium)
Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds have both been cleared to play this weekend for the Bunnies but Braidon Burns is still in doubt.
Keiran Foran is tipped to return from injury this round in place of either Jack Cogger or Lachlan Lewis, with a call to be made at captain’s run. No other changes are expected.
Sydney Roosters vs New Zealand Warriors, Sunday 2:00pm (Sydney Cricket Ground)
Boyd Cordner looks set to make his return after spending two weeks on the sidelines with a calf injury and will likely relegate Angus Crichton to the interchange, though there is still a chance that Mitch Aubusson could make way. Sam Verrills failed to finish last week’s match against Canberra but at this stage is tipped to play.
Kodi Nikorima will return for the Warriors, though Coach Kearney is going to stick with the starting 13 who got the job done last week and use Nikorima off the bench in a utility role. Adam Keighran is likely to make way to accommodate.
Cronulla Sharks vs St George-Illawarra Dragons, Sunday 4:05pm (PointsBetStadium)
Matt Prior is in serious doubt with a rib injury and has been held out of training during the week, which when coupled with Andrew Fifita’s omission could see a major pack reshuffle that would bring Jack Williams into the starting side and Blayke Brailey onto the bench.
Zac Lomax is available for selection this week after being held out in round 21 with a hamstring injury and could be a late inclusion on the wing in place of Mikaele Ravalawa.