Round 13 threw up one helluva TLT and unfortunately we’re not out of the fire yet with numerous late outs and Covid breaches hammering our already threadbare squads. If you can field a halfway decent 17 this round it may be a big moving week for you with many struggling just to get warm bodies on the park.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AStilesAuthor for the round updates and I will complete this article Thursday night with the remaining mail.
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Sydney Roosters, Thursday 7:50pm
Paul Vaughan must go into 14 day quarantine for breaching the Covid bubble after allegedly having breakfast at a cafe and not signing in. This likely sees Josh Kerr move to the front row and Kaide Ellis join the interchange. I was very surprised to see Euan Aitken named after a hamstring injury looked to keep him out for several weeks but he will play. Jacob Host and Jason Saab dropped out Wednesday night. Update: Vaughan out, Kerr prop, Ellis bench.
The Roosters have dramas of their own with Josh Morris dropping out again with an ongoing calf injury (he really can’t play without his brother!) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also missing with a calf complaint of his own. Currently, Sitili Tupouniua has been named at centre with Lindsay Collins being promoted to prop and Nat Butcher to the edge. However, Mitch Aubusson is being tipped to move to centre with Tupouniua back to the edge. Daniel Fifita and debutante Max Bailey join the interchange. Robbo confirmed that Kyle Flanagan was indeed dropped and not rested as initially believed, and that TKO will take over the kicking duties. Update: J. Morris and JWH out, Aubo centre, Collins prop, Butcher edge, Fifita/Bailey bench
Manly Sea Eagles vs New Zealand Warriors, Friday 6:00pm
Manly will be without both starting edges, with Joel Thompson (ankle) and Curtis Sironen (knee) dropping out Thursday evening at first team cut. Haumole Olakau’atu and Corey Waddell will replace them with Morgan Boyle joining the interchange.
No changes expected for the Warriors with Gerard Beale and Jack Murchie cut 24 hours out.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Brisbane Broncos, Friday 7:55pm
Jaydn Su’a has been scratched for one week at the judiciary and is replaced on the edge by Jack Johns. Adam Reynolds should also be right to play after copping a shoulder burner last round. Troy Dargan was also omitted 24 hours out.
Matt Lodge will make his return from a knee injury this round and will replace Rhys Kennedy on the interchange. Cory Paix and Ethan Bullemor dropped out Thursday night.
Melbourne Storm vs Canterbury Bulldogs, Saturday 3:00pm
No changes expected for the Storm, should be 1-17.
Ditto for the Bulldogs, expected to be 1-17.
Newcastle Knights vs West Tigers, Saturday 5:30pm
Kalyn Ponga was almost another Covid breach casualty after being pictured with teammates in a restaurant, however he was just waiting for takeaway. Phew. Lachlan Fitzgibbon is now the main concern and must pass concussion protocols after exchanging faces with Chris Randall last week.
No changes expected for the Tigers after a massive TLT.
Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders, Saturday 7:35pm
The Panthers are expected to be 1-17.
The Raiders should also run out unchanged.
Gold Coast Titans vs North Queensland Cowboys, Sunday 2:00pm
Jai Arrow will play for the Titans after passing HIA protocols throughout the week. No other changes expected.
JT’s boy Michael ‘White Lightning’ Morgan could miss his first match back in months due to the birth of his child (that’s Morgo and his wife, not Morgo and JT). Jake Clifford will replace him if needed. No other changes expected.
Cronulla Sharks vs Parramatta Eels, Sunday 4:05pm
Josh Dugan, Matt Moylan and Jesse Ramien are all expected to return this round as named. Toby Rudolph shifts to the bench every week so expect to see Jack Williams at lock come kickoff.
Marate Niukore is the only man in doubt for the Eels and must pass concussion protocols. He will be replaced by Andrew Davey if he isn’t good to go.