We get our first taste of rugby league action in two months on Thursday as the NRL season gets back underway.
We have a preview of each fixture of round three of the NRL campaign, looking at key points as well as team news.
Thursday, May 28
Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels (10:55am)
Well after a substantial hiatus, the NRL returns with a compelling match up between two of the most intriguing teams in the competition – Brisbane and Parramatta. Before the league’s suspension both teams were flying high after taking two wins from their first two games and now, as we finally come into round three, we could be set for an absolute thriller. The game itself sees plenty of exciting talent to keep an eye on with Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs leading the charge for Anthony Seibold’s men while Dylan Brown and Mitch Moses could be a joy to watch in the Parramatta halves. Also, this game marks the first time the two teams have met since Parramatta laid waste to Brisbane in last year’s play-offs with a 58-0 win.
Team news: Brisbane’s Alex Glenn returns to the second-row while Joe Ofahengaue is back from suspension. David Fifita (knee) and Tevita Pangai Junior (suspension) remain sidelined.
Nathan Brown’s suspension means Marata Niukore is named at lock for Parramatta. Reed Mahoney has been named to play despite breaking his foot in round two.
Friday, May 29
North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans (9am)
The return of the NRL also brings us a Queensland derby between North Queensland and Gold Coast. It seems like a forgotten memory since the Titans last claimed a win in the league, so new coach Justin Holbrook certainly has his work cut out when coming up against a Cowboys side that has not lost against the Titans at Townsville since 2012. If the Titans want to break the hoodoo then all eyes will be on the likes of Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor to bring the best out of each other while looking to big forwards such as Jai Arrow and Moeaki Fotuaika to put them on the front foot in the running game.
Team news: Michael Morgan (shoulder) and Gavin Cooper (calf) are both out for the Cowboys.
The Titans name Jamal Fogarty to make his debut at half-back alongside Taylor while Roberts is selected at full-back. AJ Brimson (back) is sidelined.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs (10:55am)
Well, what a way to welcome back rugby league action with one of the fiercest rivalries in the history of the sport. It was not the best of starts for Sydney after losing their first two games so it will be a huge boost to claim a win over their rivals here while the Bunnies split their first two match ups.
The returning Boyd Cordner will be huge factor for the Roosters in terms of leadership while South Sydney will be hoping Latrell Mitchell can produce the goods at full-back.
Team news: Josh Morris is set to make his debut at centre for the Roosters alongside his brother Brett, while Cordner is set to play his first game of 2020. Mitch Aubusson is out due to personal reasons and Ryan Hall is named among the reserves.
The duo of Alex Johnston and Troy Dargan move into the Rabbitohs’ backline with Cody Walker out.
Saturday, May 30
New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons (6am)
The Warriors have given up so much to be lining up for this match up against the Dragons after relocating form Auckland to New South Wales due to COVID-19 restrictions and were given plenty of praise and support for the whole situation. Their relocation to NSW was a huge reason as to why the season revival was able to go ahead.
Both teams come into this game without a win to their name and both will undoubtedly be looking to give their season a huge kickstart. The Warriors’ injury toll means they have had to seek permission to loan players from other clubs.
Team news: David Fusitu’a and Adam Keighran are out for the Warriors while Kodi Nikorima is named to start at stand-off ahead of young prodigy Chanel Harris-Tavita.
The quartet of Cameron McInnes, Mikaele Ravalawa, Tariq Sims and Korbin Sims make a return from injury for the Dragons.
Cronulla Sharks v Wests Tigers (8:30am)
Despite not claiming a win in the first two rounds and the recent news surrounding young Cronulla centre Bronson Xerri’s failed ASADA test, there still remains plenty of exciting talent in the Sharks’ backline with Ronaldo Mulitalo, Sione Katoa and Jesse Ramien all having the potential for breakout years. The premise for the Tigers will be on the playmaking duties of Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall as they have formed an outstanding partnership over the last few seasons.
Team news: Briton Nikora returns from a shoulder injury for the Sharks, while Matt Moylan could be a late inclusion.
Moses Mbye is named at centre for the Tigers while youngster Harry Grant starts at hooker and Adam Doueihi moves to full-back. Corey Thompson is out.
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders (10:35am)
A replay of last year’s thrilling play-off between the Storm and the Raiders will be the third and final game of Saturday’s list of fixtures. Both Canberra and Melbourne were impressive in taking two wins from two before the competition’s suspension. The fact that both teams come into this game with a largely full-strength squad makes this match up even more enticing. There will plenty of eyes on Canberra’s George Williams as he continues to adjust to the NRL while Melbourne will continue to look at Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster to lead the Victoria club to victory.
Team news: Melbourne’s Brandon Smith makes a return from a facial fracture to be named on bench.
Jordan Rapana is back for Canberra after being named among the reserves. John Bateman remains sidelined after shoulder surgery.
Sunday, May 31
Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights (7:05am)
After a rather inconsistent 2019, both Penrith and Newcastle made impressive and surprising starts and are undefeated coming into round three. This match up itself will be a testing affair for both sides though as the Panthers will be without their key instigator in Nathan Cleary while the Knights are missing superstar full-back Kalyn Ponga as well.
Team news: Cleary’s suspension means that Matt Burton is called up at five-eighth for Penrith, while Kurt Capewell (quad) makes his return from injury.
Ponga is suspended until round four so Tex Hoy is named at full-back. Jayden Brailey (knee) and Mitch Barnett (neck) are both out for Newcastle.
Manly Sea Eagles v Canterbury Bulldogs (9:30am)
The last game of round three comes from Central Coast Stadium as Manly take on Canterbury. The Sea Eagles started the season with a disappointing loss to Melbourne before grinding out a stunning victory over reigning champions Sydney Roosters in round two. The Bulldogs could not manage a win during those first two weeks and even though their defence was rather inspiring, their attack left plenty of unanswered questions. As Keiran Foran recovers from injury, Bulldogs coach Dean Pay will have to look to Lachlan Lewis, Jack Cogger and possibly Brandon Wakeham to work some magic in the halves.
Team news: The duo of Corey Waddell and Taniela Paseka make their way to the Manly bench in the only noteworthy changes for the Sea Eagles.
Foran (shoulder) remains out, with Jack Cogger selected to partner Lachlan Lewis at stand-off instead of Brandon Wakeham.
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