We preview each of the four games over the course of the 17th round of the NRL season.
Manly Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders (Thursday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
The Raiders woes continued last week as a heavy and disappointing defeat to Gold Coast saw them slip down the NRL ladder once again to sit in 13th place with 12 points. There is some comfort though as they only remain two points outside a finals spot and could not have picked a better time to play Manly who will be without influential duo Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans. In contrast, the Sea Eagles sit fifth and will have plenty of momentum coming into this one after condemning Canterbury to an incredible 66-0 loss but without two of their star talents this week it could still prove to be a stiff test.
Team news: With Trbojevic and Cherry-Evans back in Origin camp, Reuben Garrick fills in at full-back while Dylan Walker slots in at half-back and Moses Suli switches to the wing for Manly. Jack Gosiewski nears a return from injury and is included on the extended bench and Cade Cust will start on the interchange.
Canberra’s full-back problems are well documented with Bailey Simonsson (toe) now out and Charnze Nicoll-Kolkstad already out for a significant amount of time so Xavier Savage has been called upon to take the number one spot this week. Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii are back on Origin duty, so Matt Frawley starts at stand-off and Emre Guler fills in at starting prop. Hudson Young has been recalled starts in the second-row with Elliott Whitehead (face and shoulder) out.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v North Queensland Cowboys (Friday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
The Rabbitohs are aiming for a fifth straight win whilst looking to further cement third spot on the ladder. They may be without some key players this week due to State of Origin, but the likes of Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds have all the tools necessary to steer the Bunnies to another victory. The Cowboys are still well within NRL finals contention in 10th place and level on points with Cronulla and Newcastle who sit in eighth and ninth. They will have to shake off a drop in form though and will have every chance here to take a win with South Sydney missing some big offensive pieces on the left-hand side.
Team news: Rabbitohs quintet Latrell Mitchell, Dane Gagai, Cameron Murray, Damien Cook and Jai Arrow are all unavailable due to Origin. Blake Taaffe is the new man at full-back while Braidon Burns takes Gagai’s spot in the centres. Jaydn Su’A is back in the starting second-row and Hame Sele fills in at loose forward. Veteran Benji Marshall starts at hooker in place of Cook.
The Cowboys also lost players due to State of Origin as Valentine Holmes, Francis Molo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow earn Queensland call-ups. Daejern Asi backs up Holmes at full-back while Connolly Lemuelu returns from a thumb injury to fill the void left by Tabuai-Fidow in the centres. Coen Hess starts in the front-row with Tom Gilbert and Lachlan Burr coming off the bench.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters (Saturday, 10:35am, Watch NRL)
Both teams come into this one looking for a big boost in confidence following heavy shutout defeats last week. The Bulldogs just had no answers for Manly who put up 66 points against Trent Barrett’s side while Sydney gave up 46 points against a red-hot Melbourne side with no response in terms of points. The Roosters are now on the back of two straight defeats, and you can imagine how much that does not sit well with coach Trent Robinson who will be looking to light a fire under his side. Meanwhile, with the Bulldogs sitting right at the foot of the ladder, any form of win will do but if that was to happen then there will have to be big improvements in their attack which has failed to connect on many occasions this year and has already seen four games in which they were held to zero points.
Team news: Plenty of changes for Canterbury with Sione Katoa taking over Jeremy Marshall-King (suspension) at hooker, rookie Aaron Schoupp replacing Falakiko Manu at centre and the hard-hitting Dylan Napa coming in for Ava Seumanufagai (suspension). Corey Waddell and Joe Stimson both come in to start in the second-row as Jackson Topine moves to the reserves and Matt Doorey (head knock) sits out.
A big boost for the Roosters sees Victor Radley return from suspension to start at loose forward. Both James Tedesco and Angus Crichton are on New South Wales duty so Joey Many moves to full-back and Isaac Liu reverts from lock to the second-row. Billy Smith is back at centre after an extensive injury lay-off and will play his first game since 2019 while Drew Hutchison is preferred at stand-off over Lachlan Lam who comes off the bench.
Cronulla Sharks v New Zealand Warriors (Sunday, 7:05am, Sky Sports Main Event/Arena or Watch NRL)
A big match-up that could a long way in determining who takes an NRL finals spot at the end of the season as eighth placed Cronulla go head-to-head with the Warriors who sit in 12th place. There is only two points that separate the two teams so a win for either team will be of a huge importance. Both sides will have to shake off disappointing defeats suffered last week though, with the Warriors losing to the Dragons despite leading by 12 with 10 minutes to go while Cronulla’s solid run of form was halted by a shock loss to Brisbane.
Team news: A couple of changes for Cronulla as Matt Moylan is still out with a calf injury so Connor Tracey switches from centre to five-eighth. Will Chambers is back at centre after missing last week to be with his wife who was due to give birth to their third child. After playing at five-eighth last week, Braydon Trindall moves to the interchange while Mawene Hiroti is out of the 17-man squad altogether and sits on the extended bench as back up.
Kodi Nikorima returns from an ankle injury to take his regular number six position due to Chad Townsend sitting out with a shoulder issue. Young gun Reece Walsh is back at full-back, so Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns to the wing. Brisbane recruit Matt Lodge starts in the second-row and pushes Kane Evans to the bench while Jazz Tevaga replaces Tohu Harris (shoulder) at lock while Bayley Sironen and Rocco Berry replace Adam Pompey and Ben Murdoch-Masila at centre and second-row retrospectively.
Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how Tom Burgess, Josh Hodgson, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead and Luke Thompson and all the others are getting on Down Under.