NRL preview: Hall back for the Roosters; no Ponga for the Knights

The 2019 NRL season enters another bye week for a few teams but there still remains a good amount of action to keep us occupied. Once again we take a preview into fixture of the upcoming round.

Thursday 4th July

St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Melbourne Storm (10.50am)

The Dragons were able to find a glimmer of hope to the their season last week after securing a win over an out of sorts North Queensland side. A huge test now lays in front of them in the shape of Melbourne and if St. George want to stay within the top eight race then Paul McGregor’s men may have put forth their best performance of the season if they want to topple the NRL leaders. The Storm have now opened up the biggest lead at the top of the table this season after a vengeful win over the Roosters last week.

It is always going to be difficult to try and contain the forward pack of Melbourne with the likes of the Bromwich brothers, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Brandon Smith and Cameron Smith who provide a deadly combination of power and creativity. However, if the Dragons want to come away with the win then that is what they need to do and will look to Matt Dufty, Jai Field and Mikaele Ravalawa to provide some attacking instinct while Korbin Sims and Cameron McInnes may have to provide a much needed boost in a depleted Dragons forward line.

Team news: The Dragons will be without Origins reps Corey Norman, Ben Hunt, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizzel. This means that both Jai Field and Darren Nicholls will be called up on at the 6 and 7 spots while Korbin Sims, Blake Lawrie and Jeremy Latimore fill the void in the forwards.

Melbourne will be without six key figures as Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr, Christian Welch, Dale Finucane and Felise Kaufusi are all Origin bound. This allows some new faces to make a mark with, Billy Walters starting at stand off and Solomone Kata making his club debut at centre. The trio of Joe Stimson, Brandon Smith and Neslon Asofa-Solomona also come up from the bench to the starting line up. The return of Jahrome Hughes (back) at fullback means youngster Ryan Papenhuyzen goes back to the interchange.

Friday 5th July

Wests Tigers vs Sydney Roosters (10.55am)

The Tigers remain right the mix of for NRL finals rugby, sitting in 9th level with the Sharks and Eels on 16 points. However, consistency has been a factor all season for Michael Maguire’s men and as we come into the last half of the regular season a good run will be just what need to cement a spot in the NRL finals.

We know exactly how dangerous the Roosters can be on any given day and they will always fancy their chances here but are another team feeling the Origin effect. The Tigers may still not want to take things too lightly as the Chooks still have Latrell Mitchell, Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary who are all pretty big handfuls in their own way. The emphasis once again though will be on Luke Brooks, Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah who will all need to provide that much needed attacking spark.

Also, Trent Robinson’s men have struggled as of late, losing four out of their last five games throughout the Origin period and if they want to remain within the top two then the their forwards will need to get back to their destructive best.

Team news: The Tigers have only Moses Mbye missing due to the Origin and the Queensland man will be replaced by Paul Momirovski at centre. Josh Aloiai has overcome at illness and it will mean that Oliver Clark returns to the reserves.

No matter which way you look at it the loss of James Tedesco and Boyd Cordoner leaves a pretty substantial gap and the unavailability of both players means Joseph Manu and Nat Butcher will fill their retrospective slots for the Roosters. There looks to be a good chance that Luke Keary will return from concussion at stand off while Ryan Hall returns on the wing. Also, Jared Waerea Hargreaves looks set to overcome his hamstring injury.

Saturday 6th July

Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors (10.35am)

Plenty of attacking and creative flair will be on show here from both teams and making it a potential treat to watch. However, even though the Warriors have a fine amount of offensive talent in their mix, the problem still seems to lie with chemistry and gathering a sense of consistency. They sit in 12th place at the moment and four points adrift of that decisive 8th spot. The opportunity is still there for Stephen Kearney’s men and although a difficult task lies ahead to keep their season alive but with less than half of the regular season to go the race is now on.

After torrid start to the season, Newcastle now find themselves in 5th place after a great run of form. They sit on 18 points level with both Canberra and Manly and will see this as a perfect opportunity to put the pressure on both teams who face a bye this week. The Knights will be without Kalyn Ponga at fullback for this one with Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson looking to make up the loss of Ponga’s great attacking mindset. The Warriors will definitely need to be assured of themselves defensively here as it has remained an mitigating factor all season and will need players such as Blake Green, Roger Tuivasa Sheck and Ken Nikorima to create the opportunities.

Team news: The Knights will be without Tim Glasby and Daniel Saifiti due to Origin while David Klemmer has been named at loose forward after not being named in the NSW team. But, Tariq Sims’ recent ban could mean that the star prop could yet still be brought up into the Blues line up. They also remain without Edrick Lee (broken arm) but see the return of Daniel Levi from an ankle injury. James Gavet moves in at prop to partner Jacob Saifiti. Other changes see Connor Watson move in at fullback, Kurt Mann to centre and Hymel Hunt on the wing.

Not many changes for the Warriors, with Isaac Luke and Lachlan Burr on the bench and Leivaha Pulu and Nathaniel Roache (knee and out for season) dropped.

Sunday 7th July

Cronulla Sharks vs Brisbane Broncos (7.05am)

What a season it has been for Brisbane and not one in the good sense. The Broncos have probably been one of the big disappointments this season as they sit way down in 14th place with five wins under their belt. It has not been the season of which Anthony Siebold envisioned when taking over the reigns from Wayne Bennent and have seen
several established players under perform when it has mattered most. A youthful contingent yields some positives though as players such as Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs have all made a name for themselves this season and if the Brisbane want to make something of their season then they may have to mature sooner rather later.

The Sharks will be reeling after a shock loss to Canterbury last week, a defeat which certainly set back their top four hopes for the season. It was not exactly the greatest of performances and if the 2016 NRL champions want to stay within the top four mix then they need to be winning games of this regard more often than not.

Team news: Aaron Woods makes a starting return after coming on from the bench last week for Cronulla and Kurt Capewell comes into the second row for NSW rep Wade Graham.

A big reshuffle for Brisbane sees Corey Oates, Joe Ofahengaue, Daniel Fifita and Matt Gillett all called up for Origin duty and Anthony Milford (knee) and Richie Kennar (shoulder) out as well through injury. The loss of these means Jake Turpin is named at stand off and both Xavier Coates and Herbie Fansworth make their debuts on the wings.
The back row sees Alex Glen and Tomas Flegler in the starting 13.