Geez it’s the week for it. Covid scares, doubts around heavily owned players and role shuffles are headlining what has already been a chaotic round – just ask potential Harry Grant owners (myself included) after a last minute benching.
As usual you can follow me on Twitter @AStilesAuthor for all the 24 hour and game day updates across the round.
PANTHERS V SHARKS, FRIDAY 6:00PM
Panthers: Kurt Capewell was in some doubt with a rib injury but is a confirmed starter, however Spencer Leniu has been omitted and will be replaced on the bench by Scott Sorensen. Panthers’ journo Peter Lang says this is not due to form, but to get some more game time into his legs because of the low minutes Leniu has averaged lately. Mitch Kenny also dropped out Thursday night.
Sharks: Jesse Ramien is good to go this week and Matt Moylan will also return on the interchange in place of Braydon Trindall, who dropped out of the squad Thursday night. Jenson Taumoepeau was also trimmed 24 hours out.
EELS V ROOSTERS, FRIDAY 7:55PM
Eels: I was shocked to see Nathan Brown named this week and he even survived the first team cut, but surely he’s still in doubt. Joey Lussick and Jordan Rankin were the first players cut, so presumably either Keegan Hipgrave or Wiremu Greig would replace Brown if he’s ruled out. Shaun Lane played through the middle rotation from the bench last week so he could move to lock. Papali’i was originally intended as a middle rotation player but it seems he’s found his home on the edge due to his electric form.
Roosters: Fletcher Baker was ruled out at first team cut and the Roosters were permitted to promote Tuku Hau Tapuha to the bench from outside the original 21. Lachlan Lam and Haufahu Whyte were also cut 24 hours out. I saw some people asking about Sam Walker’s availability but based on the first team cut I can’t see anything placing him in doubt. The players were also asked to all get Covid tests after an early scare but were allowed to undertake their captain’s run and the match itself doesn’t seem to be at risk.
RAIDERS V KNIGHTS, SATURDAY 3:00PM
Raiders: George Williams was a late withdrawal last round after suffering a hamstring injury during the warmup – leading to a long rant by Gus about warmups in general – and is in doubt again this week despite being named. Sam Williams would replace him should he drop out. I also read George is growing homesick with him not being able to see his family and the Covid situation in England, but the club has put support around him and really want him to stay. Sebastian Kris’s name is floating around the casualty ward but I haven’t seen anything ruling him out. No other changes expected.
Knights: There’s been a lot of chat about Connor Watson being in doubt but Barry Toohey is calling it fake news. Toohey also won’t be surprised to see Lachlan Fitzgibbon find his way into the 17 regardless, though the impact that will have on the minutes of the likes of Mitch Barnett and Watson himself remains to be seen since Fitzy was seemingly on the outer before he got hurt. Hymel Hunt has also been ruled out, with Starford To’a replacing him on the wing and Gehamat Shibasaki being brought back into the 21 man squad via exemption.
TIGERS V TITANS, SATURDAY 5:30PM
Tigers: No Tigers are in doubt for this one and should be 1-17.
Titans: Ash Taylor has been dropped this round due to a combination of poor form and ongoing issues from his off-season hip surgeries. Tanah Boyd will replace him in the halves. Holbrook won’t put a timetable on his recovery but expects him to return to the team when fit. Esan Marsters was signed during the week in reaction to the minimum 2 month sidelining of Corey Thompson and could be a late call-up, but that would be tough without much preparation time with the team.
COWBOYS V BRONCOS, SATURDAY 7:35PM
Cowboys: Doesn’t look like there will be any game day changes for the Cowboys, should be 1-17.
Broncos: Broncos also look like they’ll be 1-17.
SEA EAGLES V WARRIORS, SUNDAY 2:00PM
Sea Eagles: With both Josh Aloiai and Martin Taupau ruled out, we won’t see the usual game day shakeup in the forward pack so the team looks likely to run out as is. Moses Suli has been cleared to return from his back injury.
Warriors: Both Chanel Harris-Tevita and Euan Aitken are listed on the extended bench to return from foot and ankle injuries respectively, but a call will likely come Saturday after captain’s run as to whether they’ll be given another week or not. Coach Brown confirmed that CHT would be starting halfback whenever he was fit to return, which would see Kodi Nikorima move to five-eighth and Reece Walsh drop out, but seemed non-committal as to whether it would be this week or not.
DRAGONS V BULLDOGS, SUNDAY 4:05PM
Dragons: Cody Ramsey has been named despite copping a rib injury and will likely have to prove his fitness over the course of the weekend. Mat Feagai is the only back on the extended bench so would likely be the man to replace him should he be ruled out.
Bulldogs: Dylan Napa has also been named despite being listed in the casualty ward with his shoulder injury and will need to get through captain’s run to line up.