A short turnaround leaves Nathan Cleary racing the clock to be fit for Round 3 with the Panthers putting young gun Matt Burton on standby.
Meanwhile at Redfern, superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell had tongues wagging when he skipped out on training before the session had finished.
Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire looks set to swing the axe on his most maligned star, while the Eels are scrambling to find a replacement for a key forward.
Read on for Round 3 Team Tips.
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THURSDAY MARCH 25
Penrith Panthers vs Melbourne Storm, 8.05pm at Panthers Stadium
Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 21. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Matthew Eisenhuth 17. Liam Martin
Team Tips: There are conflicting reports that halfback Nathan Cleary will sit out Round 3 after copping a whack to the head late in Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs. Cleary passed his SCAT test and the Panthers will leave the door open for him to play against the Storm. It means young gun Matt Burton will remain on standby. “We’ve got Matt Burton sitting there… maybe it’s his week, we’ll see what happens,” coach Ivan Cleary said. Meanwhile, hooker Api Koroisau was a late withdrawal last week due to a wrist injury. Mitch Kenny was called into the squad and he will fill that spot for the next six weeks.
Last week’s Storm team: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14. Tyson Smoothy 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Chris Lewis
Team Tips: The Storm will be without Felise Kaufusi after he was charged for his elbow to the head of Ryan Matterson. Kaufusi is facing two weeks on the sidelines with either Tom Eisenhuth or Chris Lewis coming in to replace him. Nelson Asofa-Solomona picked up a sternum injury but is expected to play. Melbourne confirmed over the weekend that Brenko Lee is looking at a Round 4 return while Dale Finucane and Harry Grant are hoping for Round 5.
FRIDAY MARCH 26
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Sea Eagles, 6pm at WIN Stadium
Last week’s Dragons team: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Cody Ramsey 3. Jack Bird 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Josh Kerr 12. Tariq Sims 13. Tyrell Fuimaono 14. Poasa Faamausili 15. Trent Merrin 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Brayden Wiliame
Team Tips: The Dragons came out of last weekend’s win with no injury concerns and coach Anthony Griffin is expected to stick with the same 17 that got the job done over the Cowboys.
Last week’s Sea Eagles team: 1. Dylan Walker 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 17. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Andrew Davey 15. Jack Gosiewski 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cade Cust 16. Sean Keppie 18. Josh Schuster 8. Josh Aloiai
Team Tips: Manly’s injury woes have taken another hit with Andrew Davey suffering an ACL injury last weekend. The workhorse second rower will miss the rest of the season. Meanwhile, bench utility Cade Cust had a head knock on Saturday so will need to be cleared to play. Coach Des Hasler revealed centre Brad Parker could shift into the second row. “I thought Brad Parker was really good today so we might have a look at options around that. Brad might find himself in the second row, we’ll see,” he said. Hasler also suggested a backline switch-up, in particular Dylan Walker moving from fullback. “It was a tough day today for any fullback. But obviously we’ve got to keep looking at that. We might need to reshuffle some players.” Morgan Harper is an option to come in at No.1 and Walker could move to Parker’s centre spot. Ben Trbojevic — young brother of Jake and Tom — has been playing in the second row for Manly’s Jersey Flegg squad and can play in the centres so at a pinch could be considered on the bench. Young half Josh Schuster was used off the bench in the second row and will likely be used in a similar way again this week.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters, 8.05pm at Stadium Australia
Last week’s Rabbitohs team: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Benji Marshall 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Patrick Mago 17. Jai Arrow
Team Tips:Latrell Mitchell left training early on Tuesday, according to Channel 9 reporter Danny Weidler, but without an obvious injury. South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds suffered a head knock in last week’s win over Manly and he was restricted to light duties on Tuesday. Young winger Jaxson Paulo also copped a head knock in the game. Paulo’s is a little more concerning given he suffered one the week before in NSW Cup as well. He’ll likely sit out this weekend with Josh Mansour returning to the team. Hame Sele is a chance of returning from a rib injury, but he may not squeeze into the squad. Tevita Tatola is in doubt with a hamstring issue while Liam Knight will sit out the week due to concussion.
Last week’s Roosters team: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Lachlan Lam 7. Luke Keary 8. Lindsay Collins 9. Freddy Lussick 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Nat Butcher 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Isaac Liu 14. Drew Hutchison 15. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 16. Fletcher Baker 17. Daniel Suluka-fifita
Team Tips: In a huge boost for the Roosters, Victor Radley will return from an ACL injury this week. Coach Trent Robinson confirmed Radley is “ready to go.” Jake Friend’s return date is still up in the air so Radley will likely come off the bench — to be eased back into game time and also because he can cover hooker if need be. Robinson revealed young gun half Sam Walker was close to making his NRL debut. With Radley returning, it’s unlikely Walker will snag a spot on the bench this week. Angus Crichton returns from a one-match suspension for a crusher tackle and will slot back into the second row with Nat Butcher dropping to the bench. Drew Hutchison and Fletcher Baker are expected to make way on the bench for Butcher and Radley.
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SATURDAY MARCH 27
Canberra Raiders vs Warriors, 3pm at GIO Stadium
Last week’s Raiders team: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Sebastian Kris 4. Curtis Scott 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papalii’i 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Ryan Sutton 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan James
Team Tips: Canberra are hoping to welcome back co-captain Jarrod Croker from a shoulder injury. Coach Ricky Stuart said Croker is “right to go” and “he’s done everything he needed to with his conditioning.” Sebastian Kris will drop out of the side. Hudson Young could be racing the clock after copping a knock to his knee. Stuart said he’ll “let it cool down and see where it’s at.”
Last week’s Warriors team: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) 2. David Fusitu’a 3 Adam Pompey 4 Peta Hiku 5 Ken Maumalo 6 Kodi Nikorima 7 Chanel Harris-Tavita 8 Addin Fonua-Blake 9 Wayde Egan 10 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 11 Eliesa Katoa 12 Bayley Sironen 13 Tohu Harris 14 Jazz Tevaga 15 Ben Murdoch-Masila 16 Leeson Ah Mau 17 Bunty Afoa
Team Tips: Warriors coach Nathan Brown will be forced to reshuffle his side after it was confirmed halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita will be out for three months with a footy injury. Sean O’Sullivan is the likely replacement at No.7. Meanwhile, gun forward Jamayne Taunoa-Brown is sidelined with a three-week ban due to a crusher tackle. Bunty Afoa could be promoted from the bench with Kane Evans a likely option to fill the vacant bench spot. Evans has been held back because he needed some more training into him. “He’s training really well, whether hes ready in one week or four weeks im not sure, but once he gets going hes going to be a great option for us,” Brown said. Addin Fonua-Blake is expected to play despite suffering a cork in his calf last week, while Bayley Sironen is also expected to be fine despite being spotted wearing a sling. Club officials said it was only precautionary.
Brisbane Broncos vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 5.30pm at Suncorp Stadium
Last week’s Broncos team: 1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Xavier Coates 3. Herbie Farnworth 4. Tesi Niu 5. David Mead 6. Anthony Milford 7. Brodie Croft 8. Tevita Pangai Junior 9. Jake Turpin 10. Thomas Flegler 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. John Asiata 15. Rhys Kennedy 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. Ben Te’o
Team Tips:Anthony Milford’s spot could be under serious pressure after the five-eighth had to be switched to the other side of the field because of his poor defensive efforts on Titans forward David Fifita. The performance of halfback Brodie Croft didn’t exactly turn heads, either. Young half Tom Dearden won man of the match in his Queensland Cup game is expected to come into the side.
He and Croft interchanged the No. 7 berth at training on Tuesday and Dearden also played at hooker in training ahead of Cory Paix.Prop Matt Lodge is a chance of returning from a hamstring injury. If he plays, he’ll replace Thomas Flegler, who will drop back to the bench.
Last week’s Bulldogs team: 1. Corey Allan 2. Nick Meaney 3. Will Hopoate 4. Nick Cotric 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6. Jake Averillo 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Ofahiki Ogden 9. Sione Katoa 10. Jack Hetherington 11. Adam Elliott 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Josh Jackson 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Renouf Atoni 16. Corey Waddell 17. Dylan Napa
Team Tips:Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will miss two weeks for a high shot on Penrith’s Nathan Cleary. Tui Katoa will likely come onto the wing to play his second NRL game. Raymond Faitala-Mariner is in doubt after picking up a footy injury in the defeat to the Panthers. If he is unable to play, Corey Waddell will be promoted into the starting side. Joe Stimson was named in the reserves last week and could be the man to come onto the bench, however Dean Britt stated a big claim in NSW Cup on Saturday with 190 running metres and could be rewarded with the NRL bench spot after no Bulldogs forwards made over 100 metres in the NRL game. After being eased back from a foot injury via the bench, Jeremy Marshall-King should slot back to No.9 with Sione Katoa moving back to the bench.
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Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla Sharks, 7.35pm at Bankwest Stadium
Last week’s Eels team: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Tom Opacic 17. Marata Niukore 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Oregon Kaufusi 15. Isaiah Papali’i 16. Will Smith 18. Keegan Hipgrave
Team Tips:Ryan Matterson will likely miss Saturday’s clash. He suffered a nasty head knock last week and was taken from the field. Isaiah Papali’i will likely move to the starting side with Ray Stone coming onto the bench. Marate Niukore was a late change to the centres after Waqa Blake was ruled out with a calf injury. Coach Brad Arthur was impressed with Niukore’s efforts in an unfamiliar position. “He was unreal. He was great and I knew he would be. I had the confidence in him … He’d probably prefer to play in the back row or the middle but he did a good job for us.” If Niukore doesn’t back up in the centres again, exciting 18-year-old Will Penisini could make his NRL debut.
Last week’s Sharks team: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Mawene Hiroti 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Connor Tracey 15. Aiden Tolman 16. Jack Williams 17. Billy Magoulias
Team Tips: Mawene Hiroti could be left out of the side after he was hooked during last Sunday’s game. Connor Tracey took his place in the centres, however coach John Morris said after the match he’ll have to take a look at his options. “Losing Jesse is a big loss. ‘Ma’ has been good, I wouldn’t have given him a go there if I wasn’t confident. We are pretty skinny there. I’ll see how the boys pull up.” Siosifa Talakai won’t be an option, with the utility still about a month away.
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SUNDAY MARCH 28
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers, 4.05pm at McDonald Jones Stadium
Last week’s Knights team: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Starford To’a 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 18. Phoenix Crossland 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Mitchell Barnett 14. Sauaso Sue 13. Connor Watson 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones
Team Tips: Knights coach Adam O’Brien faces a selection headache in the halves — and not the good kind — after Phoenix Crossland copped a two-match ban for a crusher tackle. Kurt Mann was a late scratching from last week’s game as he recovers from a knee injury. Connor Watson was moved to the bench due to his attacking spark. “He worries teams when he comes on with his footwork. Wherever I put that kid he goes out and competes so I don’t know where he will end up next week,” O’Brien said. Watson is an option in the halves, or O’Brien has shared before that he’s been impressed with 19-year-old Simi Sasagi — who could be an option to make his NRL debut.
Last week’s Tigers team: 1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 17. Tommy Talau 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Asu Kepaoa 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Luke Brooks 8. James Tamou 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Luke Garner 13. Alex Twal 14. Moses Mbye 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Stefano Utoikamanu 20. Michael Chee-Kam
Team Tips: The Tigers are in for some big changes after a disappointing performance against the Roosters last week. Their edge defence was a concern and there were some big question marks over Joey Leilua’s efforts in particular and halfback Luke Brooks lacked spark, leaving coach Michael Maguire with some big decisions to make this week. Paul Kent told NRL 360 Leilua is set to be axed by coach Michael Maguire. Luckily they have recruit James Roberts who can come into the backline after sitting out Round 2. Young hooker Jake Simpkin should come into contention after he scored two first-half tries in NSW Cup. Maguire had mentioned his side “weren’t quick enough through the middle”.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans, 6.15pm at Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Last week’s Cowboys team: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Esan Marsters 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8. Francis Molo 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 17. Reuben Cotter 14. Jake Granville 15. Josh Mcguire 16. Corey Jensen 18. Lachlan Burr
Team Tips: Kyle Feldt will miss the next two games after taking the early guilty plea for a dangerous throw. Murray Taulagi played a solid game in the Queensland Cup with 123 run metres, four tackle busts and a linebreak so he could be in the conversation to replace Feldt. However there’s also Ben Hampton who has previously been used on the wing and could be an option.
Last week’s Titans team: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Anthony Don 3. Phillip Sami 4. Patrick Herbert 5. Corey Thompson 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Moeaki Fotuaika 11. Kevin Proctor 12. David Fifita 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Sam Lisone 16. Jaimin Jolliffe 17. Erin Clark
Team Tips: The Titans walked away with no major injury concerns and after bagging their first win of the season, coach Justin Holbrook is expected to stick with the same 1-17.