Nothing exemplified the importance of staying on top of Late Mail last week more than Shaun Johnson being scratched AFTER the final team announcement. This caught many a SuperCoach unaware and was a cruel blow in a round that saw many late changes and injuries that were in no way helped by the bloodthirsty banner curse. Unfortunately, this round is shaping to dish up much of the same with a boatload of late changes looming.
But before we get there, I’d like to illustrate how you can make Late Mail work in your favour for a change, using the scenario I have been facing this week. Unless you have a pressing schedule over the weekend, WAIT to make your trades until the final teams have been set in the earliest game that involves your trade candidates. Let me explain.
The two trades I want to make are Flegler and Tom Trbojevic out for Okunbor and Ponga (who is featured heavily in this article). Flegler plays in the first game of the round, so him to Okunbor is one trade I will need to make before lockout. As for Ponga, that trade doesn’t need to happen until Saturday at 5:30pm. The player I’m trading out for him (Turbo) plays in the same match so I do not need to do that trade earlier than I must.
With a cloud of doubt over Ponga, I can wait until an hour out from kick-off to assure myself he is starting. If he does in fact miss that match, I can choose to hold the trade or bring in someone else playing in that game onwards. It also gives me a free look at Chanel Harris-Tavita, who plays in the game before Ponga. He would be a trade in target for me next week but if he stinks it up or gets injured, even if Ponga IS playing, I could opt to bring Ponga in the following round instead of CHT and use my second trade this round on someone like Angus Crichton.
It might not seem like much, but it’s the 1%ers that get you ahead of the pack and I hope this is something you consider as you check the Late Mail and Twitter updates throughout the round.
I also wanted to thank the lads who sent me insider news on Twitter throughout the week, which really makes me feel a true late mail guy and not just the bloke in Wacko’s shadow. With that out of the way, let’s kick into the Late Mail.
Gold Coast Titans vs Penrith Panthers, Friday 6:00pm (Cbus Super Stadium)
Tyrone Roberts (Achilles) made it through Thursday’s training run and will play in the halves for the Titans, thus keeping AJ Brimson on the interchange for yet another week. The Titans do however lose Shannon Boyd, who finished the captain’s run with hamstring soreness. Jai Whitbread will replace him, with Ryley Jacks also dropping off the extended bench 24 hours out.
For the Panthers, the shoulder complaint that forever hangs over Josh Mansour keeps Malakai-Watene-Zelezniak in contention however all signs point to the Sauce lining up. A concussion has kept Wayde Egan sidelined this week, with Jarome Luai joining the bench in his place. Liam Martin joins Egan in dropping off the extended bench.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Melbourne Storm, Friday 7:55pm (1300SMILES Stadium)
The Cowboys appear set to run out 1-17 after Jordan McLean overcame a knee injury throughout the week. Jordan Kahu will be celebrating his 100th NRL game—captaincy option anyone?
Josh Addo-Carr was a late scratching last weekend due to a family illness but has trained this week and should his place on the wing, however Sandor Earl has also travelled with the team to Townsville as cover. Curtis Scott (virus, shoulder) has been ruled out 24 hours before kick-off with Marion Seve to move into the centres and Ryan Papenhuyzen to start on the wing. Patrick Kaufusi has joined the bench.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs New Zealand Warriors, Saturday 3:00pm (Sunshine Coast Stadium)
Mercifully for the Rabbitohs, they should run out 1-17 after the tumultuous Greg Inglis retirement rumours that have haunted the team throughout the week in what would be a trying time for the club off the field.
Issac Luke’s status firmed today for the Warriors, with the hooker now a near certainty to start against his former club at the expense of Karl Lawnton. Jazz Tevaga was cleared by the judiciary on dangerous contact charges and Bunty Afoa (concussion) has also been cleared to play.
Newcastle Knights vs Manly Sea Eagles, Saturday 5:30pm (McDonald Jones Stadium)
The biggest Late Mail talking point this week has been Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga, who rushed to New Zealand for the funeral of his close cousin. He was set to return to Australia Friday morning to resume training, but this has been pushed back to Friday afternoon. Coach Brown expects he will play but has also said he will grant compassionate leave to Ponga should he need to stay in New Zealand this weekend, which is a real possibility. Thoughts are with him and his family. The bad news doesn’t end there for the Knights, with Sione Mata’utia tipped to drop out with a shoulder injury which would shift Mitch Barnett to the edge and bring Josh King onto the bench. Connor Watson could also be a late inclusion to the bench after overcoming a knee injury, with Kurt Mann to drop out. However, this could be offset if Ponga is unable to play. Watch this space closely.
Conversely, the Sea Eagles should run out 1-17. However, Corey Waddell must pass concussion protocol after a heavy knock last weekend. If ruled out, Taniela Paseka will join the bench. Daly Cherry-Evans will play his 200th NRL game.
Cronulla Sharks vs Sydney Roosters, Saturday 7:35pm (PointsBet Stadium – RIP Shark Park)
There are huge questions marks over key Sharks players including Shaun Johnson (quad), Paul Gallen (ribs) and Josh Dugan (back) despite all being named. Gallen and Johnson have not trained with the squad during the week and must get through the captain’s run to play. Kyle Flanagan is waiting in the wings for Johnson as we saw last weekend, with Braden Uele and Will Kennedy floating on the extended bench should Gallen or Dugan be forced to withdraw.
The Roosters are confident that Cooper Cronk will play despite not finishing the game against the Broncos after the late hit that landed Tevita Pangai with a suspension. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (ribs) needs to get through training on Friday before a call is made on his availability and Isaac Liu will need to pass concussion protocol.
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Canterbury Bulldogs, Sunday 4:05pm (Netstrata Jubilee Stadium)
Cheapie Jacob Host failed to return last week for the Dragons after picking up an ankle injury and is in serious doubt for this round, with Josh Kerr to replace him should he fail to recover in time. The rest of the Dragons should run out as named.
In positive news for the Bulldogs, the squad is expected to run out 1-17 after almost upsetting the undefeated Storm last weekend.
Canberra Raiders vs Parramatta Eels, Sunday 6:10pm (GIO Stadium)
The Raiders also appear set to run out the same 17 players as named, however Joseph Tapine is expected to be a late switch onto the edge after a thumb injury has kept him sidelined since the opening round. This would move the John BateGun back to lock and Ryan Sutton to the bench.
The Eels should also run out 1-17 with no players in doubt after a big win over the Sharks last weekend.