NRL Preview: Brisbane start Niu, Taupau returns for Sea Eagles & Maumalo boosts Warriors

Zach Holland

We have previewed every game in round seven of the NRL season. 

Thursday, June 25

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs (10:55am)

The Panthers proved they certainly cannot be overlooked this year after they showed their Premiership credentials by putting together an inspirational effort to down Melbourne 21-14 last Friday. They now take on a Rabbitohs side that looks to be finding their groove after back-to-back routs over the Titans and the Warriors. The return of Cody Walker has proven to be a huge spark for Wayne Bennett’s side while Latrell Mitchell looks to be settling in more and more to the full-back role.

Team news: The Panthers remain unchanged from their impressive win over the Storm.

James Roberts is named on the bench in an otherwise unchanged Rabbitohs squad.

Friday, June 26

Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors (9am)

The Warriors conceded seven tries against the Rabbitohs last time out and they now take on a Melbourne side that will be seething following their agonising defeat to Penrith. It was certainly an uncharacteristic performance from the Storm last time out and coach Craig Bellamy will certainly be out to make sure that those kinds of displays are not a common feature throughout the year. The Warriors’ shock decision to sack coach Stephen Kearney leaves a big void so if the Warriors want to take anything away from this one then the defence needs to be much more assured while the likes of Kodi Nikorima will have to find the form that has seen him become one of his side’s most important players in both their wins this year.

Team news: The Melbourne duo of Josh Addo-Carr and Jahrome Hughes return to the starting side.

A huge boost for the Warriors sees Ken Maumalo make a return on the wing while Karl Lawton replaces Wayde Egan (suspended) at hooker. Jack Murchie replaces Eliesa Katoa in the second-row.

Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons (10:55am)

In an absolute thriller of a battle, the Roosters continued their recent win streak after succumbing Parramatta to their first loss this season in what was a high quality match up. Despite being pushed all the way, the reigning champions continue their assault on the league since the restart with four wins in a row and easily look the team that could make it a NRL title three-peat. The Dragons, meanwhile, have given their morale a boost with back-to-back wins over Cronulla and Gold Coast but the standards here are significantly higher and more will certainly be needed against Trent Robinson’s men.

Team news: Despite suffering a head knock against Parramatta, James Tedesco is named to start but will have to pass concussion protocols before taking to the field. Lindsay Collins and Sam Verrills are the new faces on the bench.

Jordan Pereira’s suspension sees Jason Saab named as his wing replacement and Jackson Ford replaces Super League bound James Graham on the bench.

Saturday, June 27

North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights (6am)

After their undefeated streak to start the year came to an end against Melbourne in round five, Newcastle bounced back brilliantly to take a dominant win over Brisbane in round six. The Knights continue their strong start to the year and look a dangerous entity so far this season with Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga starring for Adam O’Brien’s side. The Cowboys were truly dismantled in the first half against the Tigers last week after conceding 34 points in the first 40 minutes. Even though they were able to restrict their opponents to two points and put up 20 of their own in the second half, there still leaves plenty of questions surrounding North Queensland’s defence. The Knights will not be one to answer those queries though and this could be a discouraging affair for the Paul Green’s squad if they cannot put together a vastly improved defensive display.

Team news: The only change for the Cowboys sees Reuben Cotter replace Corey Jensen on the bench.

Newcastle’s teenage sensation Bradman Best has been ruled out after accidentally breaking the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The restrictions had been relaxed on players but Best did not follow the correct process so Enari Tuala is the new name at centre.

Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans (8:30am)

The Broncos are now on the back of four straight defeats since the league’s resumption at the back end of May. Since round three, the Broncos have had to deal with Parramatta, Sydney, Manly and Newcastle which was never going to be easy, but they now have the chance to give their season a kick-start against last placed Gold Coast. The Titans have won two of their last four meetings against Brisbane though and the fact that a crowd of up to 10,000 can now attend following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions mean this Queensland derby may just be that more enticing.

Team news: Brisbane’s Jamayne Isaako makes way for teenager Tesi Niu at full-back and Thomas Flegler and Pat Carrigan are both suspended. Thomas Dearden may also be a late inclusion.

Sam Lisone and Keegan Hipgrave are named to start for the Titans while Dale Copley comes in at centre for the injured Young Tonumaipea (knee).

Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders (10:35am)

The last game on Saturday sees a potential game of the round contender as first placed Parramatta take on Canberra in what could set to be an almighty clash between the pair. The Eels are fresh off their first loss of the year but despite this, they showed plenty of character to take the Roosters all the way in a high-octane affair while the Raiders come into this one on the back of their own loss to Manly. The Raiders sits fifth but need to make some changes offensively as they are ranked ninth in points accumulated and the Eels will need to show they can beat the league’s top teams consistently.

Team news: Nathan Brown received a two-match ban on Tuesday and could be replaced by Marata Niukore at loose forward.

No changes for Canberra despite losing out to Manly last week.

Sunday, June 28

Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks (7:05am)

Even with the loss of Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker throughout the game due to injury, the Sea Eagles showed plenty of determination and grit to come away with the win against Canberra last week. The question now is how Des Hasler’s side cope without two of their most influential players as they reignite an old rivalry with Cronulla who will be looking to find some more consistency and chalk up back-to-back wins following a hard fought victory over Canterbury.

Team news: With Tom Trbojevic (hamstring) and Walker (ankle) both out for Manly, Brendan Elliot moves to full-back and Lachlan Croker comes in at stand-off. However, the Sea Eagles are boosted by the returns of both Jorge Taufua and Martin Taupau while Brad Parker has been named despite suffering a head knock last week.

The only change for Cornulla sees Andrew Fifita selected to start ahead of Braden Hamlin-Uele.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Wests Tigers (9:30am)

There is no question the Tigers were at their absolute best in the first period against North Queensland last week after slicing their way through the Cowboys’ lacklustre defence. However, after surviving a scare in the second half, coach Michael Maguire will no doubt be hoping for a full 80-minute performance against Canterbury. The Bulldogs went down to Cronulla last week but still showed plenty of effort in the defeat with the likes of Kieran Foran, Will Hopoate and Jake Averillo proving how valuable they are to Dean Pay’s side.

Team news: Aiden Tolman is named on the reserves alongside Nick Meaney who could be a late inclusion for the Bulldogs, while Kerrod Holland replaces Christian Crichton (suspended).

The Tigers bring in Tommy Talau, Oliver Clark and Matt Eisenhuth with Robert Jennings (hamstring), Zane Musgrove (foot) and Alex Twal (knee) all out injured.

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