Round 11 of the NRL season gets underway on Thursday, so we have previewed each game over the weekend.
North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights (Thursday, 10:55am, Watch NRL)
The Cowboys were unable to build on their impressive comeback win over Brisbane after being brought back down to earth with a loss to Sydney last week. They now face Newcastle and if they can rediscover the form they showed a few weeks back when they secured three straight wins against the Bulldogs, the Tigers, and the Raiders, then a victory here is certainly there for the taking. The Knights, meanwhile, have lost their touch as of late and are on the back of four straight losses are trying to recapture some form and confidence of their own. Both teams remain level on eight points and sit well within the top eight race, so it makes this match-up even more enticing.
Team news: Coen Hess (head knock) is out for the Cowboys, so Tom Gilbert comes into the front-row.
Hymel Hunt (hamstring) has been sidelined for Newcastle with Brayden Musgrove taking his place on the wing.
New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers (Friday, 9am, Watch NRL)
After two consecutive defeats the Warriors have now dropped outside the top eight and will be looking for a morale boosting win here. The Tigers have found a bit of groove offensively recently with their victory against the Knights their second win in three games and with it they most certainly have regained some confidence of their own as they move within distance of the top eight themselves.
Team news: Marcelo Montoya returns at centre for the Warriors with Rocco Berry (head knock) out. Bayley Sironen’s knee injury means Jack Murchie starts in the back-row while Kane Evans starts at prop.
The Tigers name an unchanged 17-man squad with Adam Doueihi still at centre and Moses Mbye at stand-off.
Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons (Friday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
The final game on Friday gives us a clash between rivals Cronulla and St George Illawarra, both of whom will be looking to return to winning ways sooner rather than later. The Sharks will need to rediscover some form as they look to snap a six-game losing streak while the Dragons have looked a much-improved outfit year as they sit in sixth place but will be searching for some better consistency after losing four of their last five.
Team news: The Sharks name an unchanged 17-man squad. Shaun Johnson (hamstring) has been named on the extended bench so could still be included come matchday.
Plenty of the changes for the Dragons as Tyrell Fuimaono (five weeks), Josh McGuire (five weeks), Mikaele Ravalawa (two weeks) and Tariq Sims (one week) all suspended. Jordan Pereira and Max Feagai take up the vacant wing spots while Bill Burns comes in at centre and Jackson Ford and Poasa Faamausili are the new back-rowers. Matt Dufty (shoulder) is also out so Cody Ramsey shifts to full-back.
Gold Coast Titans v Canterbury Bulldogs (Saturday, 6am, Watch NRL)
At the start of the year the Titans were dubbed as one of the teams to watch and despite their attacking potency being on show on plenty of occasions their defensive resolve is starting to come into question after losing four of their last five to drop out of the top eight. Even though they cannot take this next match-up for granted it could be the morale booster they need though as Canterbury continue to struggle to find a way to win after failing to hold on to a 12-8 lead against Canberra last week.
Team news: Herman Ese’ese (three weeks) and Tyrone Peachey (two weeks) are both suspended so Tino Fa’asuamaleaui moves to loose forward while Moeaki Fotuaika is back in the starting front-row.
Aaron Schoupp will make his debut for Canterbury at centre with Tui Katoa out after being on the end of a high tackle last week. Adam Elliott reverts to the bench as Matt Doorey starts in the second-row while Dylan Napa looks set to return from injury off the interchange.
Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos (Saturday, 8:30am, Watch NRL)
Despite losing so many key players to injury this year, the Roosters still look an impressive outfit with seven out of ten wins so far this year. The inclusion of youngster Sam Walker looks to have proven a masterstroke by coach Trent Robinson and after a comfortable win over the Cowboys last Saturday, the Roosters sit in fifth and are keeping within touching distance of the top four. They now face a Brisbane side still searching for that winning formula after coming off a 44-point loss to Manly last week.
Team news: The Roosters name an unchanged 17-man squad.
Another change in the halves for Brisbane as Albert Kelly is the new man at stand-off for Brisbane with Anthony Milford dropped from the squad altogether. Kobe Hetherington, son of former London Broncos star Jason Hetherington, will make his debut off the bench. David Mead replaces Corey Oates on the wing.
Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm (Saturday, 10:35am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
The Raiders returned to winning ways last week with a tough and gritty comeback win over Canterbury despite finishing the game with 12 men. However, a stiffer test awaits as they take on a Melbourne side scoring points for fun at the moment and with the loss of key trio Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii and Josh Hodgson it makes the task even much harder. They will need every ounce of fight here as the Storm still look as strong as ever, boasting the best attack in the league with 336 points over the course of the first 10 games.
Team news: As Jack Wighton, Josh Hodgson and Josh Papali’i sit out due to suspensions, Sam Williams is the new man at stand-off while Dunamis Lui moves to prop, and Brad Schneider is set to make his NRL debut at hooker. Ryan Sutton (elbow) returns off the bench. Harry Rushton is again named on the extended bench.
No Ryan Papenhuyzen (head knock) for Melbourne with Nicho Hynes retaining his place at full-back. Chris Lewis will slot in at stand-off and Brandon Smith returns to take up the dummy-half role.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers (Sunday, 5am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
This mega showdown has all the hallmarks of being the game of the round as Penrith put their undefeated streak up against Premiership chasing South Sydney. The Rabbitohs have faltered against Melbourne twice already this year but this test presents a whole different challenge as the Panthers have looked infallible this year conceding less than 10 points per game while consistently putting on an attacking clinic. The Bunnies have undoubtedly looked the part this year themselves though with plenty of attacking prowess to match the reigning minor premiership winners.
Team news: Latrell Mitchell’s return at full-back gives the Rabbitohs an untimely boost while Cody Walker shifts back to stand-off and Benji Marshall moves back to the bench. Josh Mansour (hamstring) also looks set to mark his return on the wing.
Kurt Capewell (head knock) is back in the Panthers second-row while Matt Burton retains his spot at centre with Paul Momirovski amongst the extended bench once again.
Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles (Sunday, 7:05am, Watch NRL)
The last game of the 11th round gives us an intriguing clash between Parramatta and a vastly improved Manly side. Earlier on in the season it would not have been a stretch to think that this would easily go in favour of the Eels as the Sea Eagles looked dead in the water. However, the return of a turbocharged Tom Trbojevic has given new life to Des Hasler’s side with Manly moving from near bottom of the ladder to take sit in seventh and overall make this a very enticing fixture. The Eels have looked incredibly solid all year with only one defeat to their name and an unbeaten record at home so far this season.
Team news: Only the one change for Parramatta as former Salford hooker Joey Lussick steps up to the interchange with Ray Stone dropping out.
Kieran Foran (hand) sits out for Manly so Cade Cust is the man to replace him at stand-off.
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