It was a bye round for me with late mail last week but that already feels long gone with what has already been a very eventful round with implications for not just this week, but also the important second bye next week. With players like Lodge swapping clubs, Nikorima out and the final confirmation of Tom Trbojevic coming at us there is a lot to keep an eye on, so hopefully I can guide you through it below.
As usual, you can follow me on Twitter @AStilesAuthor for all the 24 hour and game day updates. across the round. Good luck!
WARRIORS V DRAGONS, FRIDAY 6:00PM
WARRIORS: Kodi Nikorima is out with an ankle sprain sustained in round 15 and has been replaced in the halves by Sean O’Sullivan. He is a chance for next week but it should make the Nikorima/SJ decision easier for potential owners. New Warrior Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is listed in the casualty ward with a foot injury but I haven’t seen anything placing him in doubt. Unfortunately for anyone who held/brought him in early for the bye, Josh Curran, along with Euan Aitken, is currently in Covid quarantine though both returned negative tests. The 14 day quarantine was announced Sunday and the Warriors play on Sunday in round 17, which will make their availability interesting, however given neither of them will be able to train properly for two weeks it makes me think you won’t see them for the byes. It was also announced Thursday evening that Matt Lodge has signed with the Warriors effective immediately, so while it will be too late for him to feature this week, anybody who has held him after the first bye will be rewarded with a double-dip with no trades spent. Well done. Taniela Otukola was the other man to drop out Thursday night.
DRAGONS: Nobody named seems to be in doubt so the Dragons should be 1-17. Kaide Ellis and Jordan Periera were the first cut.
PANTHERS V EELS, FRIDAY 7:55PM
PANTHERS: Viliame Kikau is listed with a hamstring issue though he should be OK to play, with no changes expected on match day. The big news has been covered pretty extensively already, but Nathan Cleary is set to miss 3-6 matches as he rehabs his shoulder in an attempt to return this season. From what I understand, the club is taking a free hit with regards to his return, because if the shoulder doesn’t respond well to the rehab he’ll have to go for surgery and miss the season anyway, so they are hoping that he’ll come good. I would imagine Stephen Crichton kicks again in Cleary’s absence. Jaeman Salmon and Taylan May (not Tyrone May) were first cut.
EELS: There is very rarely much to report on for the Eels and this week is no exception, should be 1-17. Sean Russell and Jake Arthur were dropped 24 hours out.
BULLDOGS V SEA EAGLES, SATURDAY 3:00PM
BULLDOGS: Tui Katoa is still listed with a head knock from before Origin but he should be right to play. Nick Cotric has also been ruled out for the season with ligament damage in his toe.
SEA EAGLES: My Twitter notifications were destroyed this week from chat about Tom Trbojevic, who sustained a minor foot injury during Origin that he was able to play through. Des Hasler himself has confirmed today however that he will back up, along with DCE. No other changes expected though I’m always alert for Marty Taupau reverting to the bench on game day. Apparently Josh Schuster will be out until round 18: a blow to anyone who has held him for the second bye.
RAIDERS V TITANS, SATURDAY 5:30PM
RAIDERS: Josh Papali’i and Jack Wighton were both subjected to Covid tests but both came back negative and they have been training during the week, suggesting they will be fine to back-up. Doesn’t seem relevant for this round but I read Thursday night that Wighton is in doubt for Origin III due to the birth if his child. Should be 1-17, though the Raiders typically enjoy a game day swap in the forward pack.
TITANS: AJ Brimson, Corey Thompson and Beau Fermor are all listed in the casualty ward but should be fine to play. Greg Marzhew has a 4 week return to play with muscle strain in elbow so unfortunately we don’t truly know where he sits in the pecking order of Thompson, Sami and himself.
KNIGHTS V COWBOYS, SATURDAY 7:35PM
KNIGHTS: Kalyn Ponga was apparently ‘dazzling’ in training during the week, so it looks likely he’ll be finally good to go after multiple false starts due to his groin injury. Barry Toohey noted however that Jake Clifford likely kicks goals, at least this week. Kurt Mann has been carrying an ankle injury but I haven’t seen anything to place him in doubt at this stage. Daniel Saifiti should back up after Origin.
COWBOYS: I vaguely recall Valentine Holmes collecting some kind of minor injury during Origin (I’ve tried to wipe most of that match from my mind) but he played the full 80 and isn’t listed in the casualty ward so I assume he’s good to go, and Francis Molo should back up after playing low-ish minutes.
BRONCOS V SHARKS, SUNDAY 2:00PM
BRONCOS: The Broncos’ forward depth (or lack thereof) is about to get tested even further. Matt Lodge has signed with the Warriors effective immediately and has been publicly been told goodbye from the club so I assume he’ll be a late out, but I’ve also heard from a couple of sources that Tom Flegler is dealing with a concussion and could also be a late out which would decimate the pack. I would assume Jordan Riki and Rhys Kennedy would come back into the side if both are out with two of them, Kobe Hetherington or Keenan Palasia starting. This is definitely a mess to keep an eye on. Payne Haas at least should back up and likely plays big minutes this round and moving forward.
SHARKS: Braden Hamlin-Uele is already named on the bench in place of Andrew Fifita so I’m expecting 1-17.
TIGERS V RABBITOHS, SUNDAY 4:05PM
TIGERS: Adam Doueihi should be fine to play despite being listed with a concussion from the previous round however both Thomas Mikaele and Shaun Blore are listed as carrying ankle and knee injuries respectively so will likely need to make it through captain’s run.
RABBITOHS: Should be 1-17 with the long turnaround for Souths’ Origin players. Tevita Tatola, while not named, will miss 6 weeks with an MCL strain.