NRL preview: Lussick in for Eels, Brisbane back Kelly & Seumanufagai to start

Round 22 of the NRL season is here so we have previewed each game over the course of the weekend.

Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders (Thursday, 10:55am, Watch NRL)

Sia Soliola in action for Canberra

The Raiders have a spot in the NRL finals right there in the palm of their hand now as they now sit in tied seventh alongside Gold Coast and Newcastle with the win over St George Illawarra their third in four games. However, their play-off credentials will certainly be tested against their opponents this week as they take on the Melbourne juggernaut who extended their win streak to an incredible 17 with a hard-fought win over sixth placed Manly.

Team news: Melbourne welcome back both Felise Kaufusi (suspension) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hamstring) to the match day squad while Tom Eisenhuth and Tepai Moeroa drop down to the extended bench.

Semi Valemei drops out as Canberra winger Bailey Simonsson (toe) returns while Iosia Soliola moves up onto the bench.

St George Illawarra v Penrith Panthers (Friday, 9am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)

Stephen Crichton is back at centre for Penrith

The Dragons’ NRL finals hopes are now hanging by a thread as a fourth straight loss to Canberra saw them drop down to 11th and now sit two points outside the top eight. Now with only four games left, they will have to produce a huge turnaround in form if they want to make it to the play-offs as their run of opponents to the end of the season present a difficult task. Their first of which will be against second placed Penrith who have rediscovered their own form as of late and will be looking to keep ground on top of the table Melbourne whilst trying to keep the third placed Rabbitohs at bay.

Team news: Gerard Beale and Josh Kerr are back in the Dragons squad after serving their COVID biosecurity breach bans. Beale starts at centre while Kerr will come off the interchange. Tyrell Fuimaono starts in the second-row and replaces Tariq Sims (suspended).

Both Kurt Capewell and Api Koroisau will miss out for Penrith after receiving one-game ban following Tuesday’s judiciary hearing so Stephen Crichton comes back in at centre and Mitch Kenny looks like he will fill the void left at hooker.

Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters (Friday, 10:55am, Watch NRL)

Albert Kelly is back for Brisbane

The last time these two teams met Brisbane produced one of the biggest upsets of the season as Kevin Walters’ side came away with an impressive victory against the Roosters and there is every possibility they can do something similar again here. The Broncos performed valiantly and strongly against Penrith and Newcastle despite defeat while their win over rivals North Queensland showed just what they can do when things click. Meanwhile, the Roosters keep pushing on and need to shake off a defeat to Penrith last week if they want to keep pressure on Parramatta in fourth.

Team news: Thomas Flegler is back in the Brisbane front-row while Albert Kelly comes in at scrum-half for the Salford-bound Brodie Croft. Xavier Coates is back on the wing and Selwyn Cobbo fills in for Jesse Arthars at centre. Keenan Palasia (shoulder) is out for rest of the season.

A huge loss for the Roosters sees Angus Crichton miss the next three matches for a crusher tackle charge. Sitili Tupouniua reverts from centre to second-row with Joey Manu moving back to centre and Dale Copley coming onto the wing. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be given a rest this week.

South Sydney v Gold Coast Titans (Saturday, 6am, Watch NRL)

Latrell Mitchell has been in superb form for the Rabbitohs

If the last encounter between these two sides is anything to go by then we are certainly in for a treat. A 40-30 thriller back in round seven saw the Titans give up a 24-10 half-time lead. They look to extend their three-game winning streak and further cement their place in the NRL finals as they sit in tied seventh. The Rabbitohs are aiming to win their tenth straight game after playing some dazzling rugby as of late with the likes of Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker in electric form.

Team news: The Rabbitohs name an unchanged 17-man squad.

Just the one change for the Titans as Tyrone Peachey comes onto the bench for Erin Clark.

North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers (Saturday, 8:30am, Watch NRL)

The Cowboys are without Jason Taumalolo this week

The Tigers have a very slim chance to make the play-offs as they sit four points outside the top eight but will need other teams around them to slip up whilst ending the season against North Queensland, Cronulla, Penrith and Canterbury. The Cowboys will be looking to regain some much-needed confidence as they look to finish the season on a high after losing their last eight straight.

Team news: The trio of Jason Taumalolo (hand), Murray Taulagi (head knock) and Lachlan Burr (head knock) all miss out for the Cowboys with Ben Condon, Ben Hampton and Jake Granville filling the void. Griffin Neame and Jeremiah Nanai will make their NRL debuts off the interchange.

The Tigers name an unchanged 17-man squad.

Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels (Saturday, 10:35am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)

Former Featherstone rop Makahesi Makatoa will make his NRL debut this weekend

A big match-up between two old rivals as race for the top four has certainly heated up over the last couple of weeks. The Sea Eagles will sit level with fourth placed Parramatta with a win here while Brad Arthur’s side will be looking to hold off both Sydney and Manly with a victory themselves. The Eels have lost three in a row and need to find a big boost from somewhere while Des Hasler’s men fought really well against Melbourne but in the end, errors would cost them dearly in the second half.

Team news: Josh Aloiai starts at prop for Manly with Taniela Paseka (ankle) and Toafofoa Sipley (suspended) both out.

Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney (shoulder) is out for rest of the season, so Joey Lussick comes in at dummy half. Oregon Kaufusi has been rested this week, so Isaiah Papali’i shifts to prop and Shaun Lane comes off the bench to start in the second-row. Michael Oldfield is on the wing and Makahesi Makatoa will make his NRL debut off the bench.

New Zealand Warriors v Canterbury Bulldogs (Sunday, 5am, Watch NRL)

Former Leeds prop Ava Seumanufagai will start for Canterbury

Not the biggest of games by any standard as both sides are without the prospect of finals action in the post season so instead you can imagine they will be looking to finish the season on a more positive note. The Warriors have hit some form over the last couple of weeks with wins over the Tigers and the Sharks while Canterbury are pretty much condemned to the wooden spoon this year as wins have just been too hard to come by.

Team news: Warriors duo Kane Evans and Matt Lodge are out after receiving bans at the judiciary. Jackson Frei will finally make his NRL debut after missing last year due to a knee injury and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown is the new man on the interchange.

The Bulldogs lose Dylan Napa and Jack Hetherington for the next couple of matches after being given bans for high tackles made against the Tigers. Loanee Ryan James makes his first Bulldogs start at prop alongside Ava Seumanufagai.

Cronulla Sharks v Newcastle Knights (Sunday, 7:05am, Watch NRL)

Bradman Best has been named to play for the Knights

The final game of the round ends with a huge match up in terms of sealing a place in the NRL finals. The Knights have found some offensive magic as of late and they have now thrusted themselves right back into contention following wins against Canberra and Brisbane to now in tied seventh  and level points with the Raiders and the Titans. However, the Sharks are in a must win situation after dropping back in the race for the top eight as losses to Manly and the Warriors have seen them slide to 10th and two points away from a play-off spot.

Team news: Will Chambers drops out of main 17 with Siosifa Talakai taking his place at centre. A re-shuffle in the forward pack sees Jack Williams move to second-row, Toby Rudolf revert to lock, and Braden Hamlin-Uele come up from the bench to start in the second-row.

Bradman Best has been named to play for the Knights despite a shoulder issue while Jayden Brailey returns at hooker after a week’s rest. Lachlan Fitzgibbon (shoulder) misses out, so Mitch Barnett moves to the back-row and Connor Watson starts at lock.

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