All games updated below.
There are a host of stars already either out or with question marks hanging over them – including Jack Bird, RTS, Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua Blake – it feels like I’ve picked up right where I left off. But if every team just ran out 1-17 each week I’d be out of the job I guess.
Site veterans know that Late Mail is normally posted as a stand alone Thursday Night Report, with the remainder of games in a separate post on Friday morning. This year, it will be posted as a singular article on Thursday afternoon with all relevant updates for the Thursday night game, with the rest to be added throughout the evening. So check back Friday morning for all the latest for the other matches.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @AStilesAuthor for all the game day updates and note that the times below are from the Sunshine State so convert accordingly until the country returns to normalcy in April.
Bring on season 2020 and best of luck to all!
Parramatta Eels vs Canterbury Bulldogs, Thursday 7:05pm (Bankwest Stadium)
Waqa Blake has overcome his shoulder injury and is set to line up tonight with no other changes expected for the Eels. Will Smith and George Jennings dropped out Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs have a host of players who carried niggles throughout the pre-season – including Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Jeremy Marshall-King, Nick Meaney and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – but all are at this stage expected to play. Jake Averillo and Ofahiki Ogden are on precautionary standby but the team should be 1-17. Sione Katoa and Jack Cogger made way 24 hours out.
Canberra Raiders vs Gold Coast Titans, Friday 5:00pm (GIO Stadium)
The Raiders have no concerns heading into this one and should line up 1-17. There is some chat about Tapine and Horsburgh swapping positions, though Tapine has said he wants to remain in the middle rotation so I think they’ll run out as named. Semi Valemi and Tom Starling were omitted 24 hours out. The most interesting news out of Canberra however is that Jordan Rapana is poised to make a shock return to the team after departing for Japanese Rugby Union. With their season cancelled due to CORVID-19, Rapana’s agent is in discussions with the NRL to allow his return which has big implications for Bailey Simonsson owners.
The Titans also look to run out 1-17. Moeaki Fotuaika ( wrist/knee) and AJ Brimson (back) dropped out Thursday night through injury.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Brisbane Broncos, Friday 7:05pm (Queensland Country Bank Stadium)
No changes expected for the Cowboys. Valentine Holmes will be the first choice kicker heading in. Connelly Lemuelu and Jake Clifford were dropped 24 hours out.
There’s injury chaos for the Broncos with Jack Bird unfortunately tearing his ACL again at training. This sees Jamayne Isaako start at fullback (with kicking duties) and Herbie Farnworth join the interchange. Xavier Coates and Thomas Dearden dropped out Thursday night so the 17 is still technically as named, but the lineup will be updated an hour out.
Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors, Saturday 2:00pm (McDonald Jones Stadium)
Newcastle have no concerns and should run out 1-17.
Despite stating that his ankle is “almost at 100%”, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is still in doubt for the weekend with Hayze Perham to slot in at the back if the captain is held out. There is also talk that bottom dollar cheapie Eliesa Katoa will start at lock with Adam Blair reverting to the bench to rotate through the middle. It is presumed that Katoa’s stint in the starting side would be short-lived with Tevaga still due back from injury in round three, which would see Papali’i shift back to the edge.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Cronulla Sharks, Saturday 4:30pm (ANZ Stadium)
Ethan Lowe has overcome his knee injury and should take his place on the Rabbitohs interchange. In concerning news for Braidon Burns owners, I’ve heard talk that Alex Johnston could come on to spell Latrell Mitchell at fullback while he gains match fitness, which would see Mitchell shift to centre and Burns to the bench. This hasn’t been substantiated by the club, but it is something to keep a close eye on.
The Sharks have had a week full of drama, but for this week they look set to run out 1-17. There is still a chance that Billy Magoulias comes onto the interchange in place of Scott Sorensen, however.
Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters, Saturday 6:35pm (Panthers Stadium)
James Fisher-Harris has been named on the interchange as he returns from surgery over the off season, but he has stated previously that he feels great so he is a chance to come into the starting side. If he starts at lock, Isaah Yeo likely shifts to and edge with Liam Martin to the interchange. He could also be brought on at prop, with Tetevano demoted. Final teams will be key an hour out.
No late changes expected for the Roosters. Boyd Cordner is also tipped to sit out round two as well, with a potential return coinciding with the debut of Josh Morris in round three.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm, Sunday 3:05pm (Lottoland)
All eyes will be on Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake for the Sea Eagles, who have both been named to return from injury earlier than expected. Tommy Trbo has all but confirmed that his brother will play, but AFB is still in some doubt.
The Mebourne Storm have named Nelson Asofa-Solomona on the extended bench as he battles back from a hamstring issue and will need to make it through Saturday’s captain’s run to make the final side. If he is a late inclusion, Tui Kamikamica likely returns to the bench with Max King dropping out.
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers, Sunday 5:15pm (WIN Stadium)
For the Dragons, Josh Kerr will be given “every chance” to return from the knee injury he sustained during the All Stars game. His inclusion would see Jacob Host drop out. Trent Merrin is also a chance to be a late starter, with Blake Lawrie moving back to the interchange.
The only potential late change for the Tigers would be Michael Chee Kam joining the interchange in place of Chris Lawrence. Adam Doueihi is confirmed to be the goal kicker from centre.