If you’re reading this, congratulations on having something to play for! Whether it be a h2h final or that last push towards a respectable overall position, injuries and team lists have pushed us to the absolute limit and there are still some hits to come just to cement 2020 as the season from hell.
Unfortunately, some of the hits likely won’t be known until the round progresses, or even as the games themselves play out as the resting of players during a match cannot be forecast outside of speculation. Does Ivan Cleary opt to rest one of his halves for the final 40? Impossible to say.
On a more personal note, being my final article for 2020 and all, I just wanted to thank the NRLSCTalk community for the year that was. 2020 has been a disaster – not just in SuperCoach terms – and whether your team did well or not the importance of having a place to chat about footy and take our minds of things has helped to make the whole thing bearable, and hopefully I was able to steer you right more than wrong in regards to the mail.
As usual, I will update this article on Thursday evening and you can follow me on Twitter @AStilesAuthor for the final batch of 24 hour and game day updates across the round.
Good luck for the final round of 2020!
Brisbane Broncos vs North Queensland Cowboys, Thursday 7:50pm
No changes expected for the Broncos. Ethan Bullemor and Sean O’Sullivan were omitted Wednesday night.
Daejarn Asi has been replaced at centre by Justin O’Neill due to a knee injury for the Cowboys. Gavin Cooper is usually a late demotion to the bench in favour of Tom Gilbert, however he may be granted the start in what will be his final NRL game. Jason Taumalolo reportedly feels fine this week, so coupled with comments last week about his minutes being managed for the remainder of the season I expect he’ll have an uptick in game time from last week though lower than his usual allotment. Emry Pere was also omitted 24 hours out.
Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights, Friday 6:00pm
The Titans should line up 1-17. Mitch Rein seems to have overcome an eye injury since Nathan Peats dropped out of the squad 24 hours out, along with ailing winger Corey Thompson.
The Knights also appear 1-17. Starford To’a and Jirah Momoisea were omitted Thursday evening.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters, Friday 7:55pm
Tevita Tatola returns for the Rabbitohs on the interchange, with Patrick Mago dropping back to the extended bench. Jack Johns and Cory Denniss were omitted Thursday night. Cody Walker appears fine to play despite copping a knock last week.
Brett Morris will be rested this round, with Matt Ikuvalu replacing him on the wing. Freddy Lussick was the other man to drop out, confirming Jake Friend’s availability for the game.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers, Saturday 3:00pm
Tim Lafai is out through suspension, likely to be replaced by Kerrod Holland. Lachlan Lewis seems probable to play despite a concussion, though will be replaced by Brandon Wakeham should he fail any stages of concussion protocol.
Despite opting to rest several key players on TLT, there could be more to come. Dean Whare is being tipped as a chance to return to the side, though I’ve seen conflicting reports as to whether Brent Naden or Tyrone May would drop out. I would assume Naden, given the latter missed the first portion of the season through suspension and has been playing fewer minutes predominantly from the interchange. There is also speculation (though no official comment) that Matt Burton could spell Nathan Cleary of Jarome Luai for the second half, however this is not enough to base any real start/sit decisions around. I’ve also seen talk that Mitch Kenny could replace Api Koroisau at hooker, though my feeling is that Cleary would want to play Api given he missed out last week.
Cronulla Sharks vs Canberra Raiders, Saturday 5:30pm
No changes expected for the Sharks, should be 1-17. I don’t know what to believe any more since the ‘Rudolph bench’ trend has been broken.
Ditto for the Raiders, despite naming key players such as Tapine, Whitehead and Wighton on the extended bench. My guess is that with soooo many outs, Ricky didn’t have enough remainders to fill 21 spots on the team sheet without them.
Wests Tigers vs Parramatta Eels, Saturday 7:35pm
David Nofoaluma has been carrying a hip niggle sustained last round though at this stage is expected to play with no other changes on the cards for the Tigers.
The Eels appear 1-17, however have taken to switching around their forward pack on game day so we could see more of the same involving players such as Junior Paulo.
New Zealand Warriors vs Manly Sea Eagles, Sunday 2:00pm
Jazz Tevaga owners were relieved to see him named though he still has to pass concussion protocols to run out. Tohu Harris has been switching to prop in recent weeks with Isaiah Papali’i rotating to the edge, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see this happen again.
The Sea Eagles look set for 1-17.
St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Melbourne Storm, Sunday 4:05pm
Euan Aitken is being tipped to overcome his hamstring injury to play his last game for the Dragons, and Adam Clune is also looking likely after withdrawing last round with an identical malady. No other changes expected.
The Storm also appear 1-17, however with so many fresh faces we might not even notice if Bellamy swaps another one in there on game day.