The end of the regular draws closer as we preview every game over the course of round 21 of the NRL season.
Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos (Thursday, 10:55am, Watch NRL)
The Knights blew the NRL finals race wide open following an impressive win over the Raiders last week. The victory sees Newcastle thrust themselves back into play-off conversation into tied seventh and level on 18 points with Gold Coast, Cronulla, Canberra, and St George Illawarra. Now with only five games left, the Knights have every opportunity to end the season strong and claim one of those last two play-off places with their last fixtures against teams outside the top six. The Broncos could present a tough test though as they fought hard against Penrith before dismantling the Cowboys the following round.
Team news: The Knights welcome back Mitchell Pearce (hamstring) as he been selected to start at half-back. Chris Randall is the new man at hooker as Jayden Brailey (rested) sits out.
Brisbane will have to do without star man Kotoni Staggs (MCL) for rest of season with Jesse Arthars now at centre. Jake Turpin (ankle) is out so Danny Levi comes into the starting side at dummy half.
Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons (Friday, 9am, Sky Sports Mix or Watch NRL)
A huge match up in terms of the play-off picture as Canberra and St George Illawarra are in an all-out dogfight alongside three other teams for the last two places in the play-offs. This could be a season-defining game as both sides face a tough run with all their remaining fixtures against teams in the top six. The Raiders will need to shake off a tough loss to Newcastle while the Dragons are fresh off a big defeat to South Sydney but are set to welcome back some star talent, so it all promises to be interesting battle to watch.
Team news: Ryan Sutton is back at lock for Canberra, so Hudson Young moves into the second-row and Corey Harawira-Naera drops to the bench. Matt Timoko takes Sebastian Kris’ (HIA) place at centre.
Dragons captain Ben Hunt (arm) is out so Adam Clune will take his place at scrum-half. There is a huge boost for St George Illawarra though as Jack Bird, Zac Lomax, Josh McGuire, Blake Lawrie and Jack de Belin all return to the starting side after serving COVID breach suspensions. Cody Ramsey (wrist) also comes back into the starting 13.
Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs (Friday, 11:05am, Watch NRL)
There is still plenty to play for here despite both sides already cementing their place in the finals at the end of the season. The Rabbitohs remain one of the most in form teams in the league sitting on the back of an eight-game win streak in third whilst still having a slim chance of claiming top spot as they sit level on points with second place Penrith and only two points behind top of the table Melbourne. Meanwhile, Parramatta will be looking to hold onto fourth place but find themselves in some patchy form after losing their last two.
Team news: Mitch Moses’ return from injury could not come any sooner for the Eels as the 26-year-old is back at half-back. Oregon Kaufusi starts at prop in place of Reagan Campbell-Gillard (groin) and Marata Niukore (knee) has been named on the interchange.
Only one major change for South Sydney as Cameron Murray returns from suspension at loose forward with Jaydn Su’A dropping to the bench.
New Zealand Warriors v Cronulla Sharks (Saturday, 6am, Watch NRL)
The Warriors’ morale will be high coming into this one after breaking their seven-game losing streak last week with a win over the Tigers. They may be pretty much out of finals contention but will still be looking to finish the season strongly as they can cause some disruption of their own to the play-off race when they face a Cronulla side looking to keep pace with the four other teams around in them in eighth place. However, they will need to try re-group following a tough loss to Manly.
Team news: Addin Fonua-Blake (hand) and Matt Lodge (suspension) are both back in the Warriors’ front-row while Taniela Otukolo (knee) has been sidelined so Jazz Tevaga starts at hooker. Josh Curran replaces Eliesa Katoa in the second-row and Chanel Harris-Tavita (pectoral) is back at five-eighth.
Jess Ramien is back at centre for Cronulla while Matt Moylan (calf) has been named on the extended bench and will need to pass a late fitness test to be included on game day.
Sydney Roosters v Penrith Panthers (Saturday, 8:30am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
Despite all their injuries this season Sydney have shown incredible toughness to find themselves in the hunt for a top four finish. Even though they lost Josh Morris to injury during the game, the Roosters were still able to come away with a 28-0 win over Parramatta to move level on points with the Eels in fourth. The Panthers failed in their attempt to take sole possession of top spot after a disappointing 37-10 loss to Melbourne but with star players returning to the mix, they still look ready for another big run in the play-offs.
Team news: Josh Morris (hamstring) is out so Sydney’s new recruit Dale Copley will make his way into the starting side on the wing while Joey Manu reverts back to centre. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been cleared to play after Tuesday’s judiciary hearing.
Paul Momirovski starts at centre for Penrith as Stephen Crichton (suspended) sits out. Api Koroisau and Isaah Yeo are both back at hooker and loose forward respectively while Nathan Cleary has been named on the reserves so he could be a late inclusion. Robert Jennings drops out with Brent Naden moving to the wing and Kurt Capewell moves to centre. Scott Sorenson moves into the second-row.
Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm (Saturday, 10:35am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)
A huge match-up between two of the most in form sides in the league. The Sea Eagles have been on a tear since the return of Tom Trbojevic with the star full-back proving to be the ultimate game changer with his dazzling displays while Melbourne have not lost since a 12-10 defeat to Penrith back in round three. The Storm are set to produce one of the biggest point differentials in recent history with their attack looking electric right now.
Team news: Manly’s Josh Aloiai is back from suspension and will make his 100th NRL appearance. Taniela Paseka stays in the front-row after taking an early guilty plea at Tuesday’s judiciary for a tripping charge.
Felise Kaufusi serves a one-week ban for a high tackle, so Chris Lewis starts in the second-row for Melbourne. Brandon Smith and Nicho Hynes keep their places at hooker and full-back with Harry Grant and Ryan Papenhuyzen starting on the bench once again.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Wests Tigers (Sunday, 5am, Watch NRL)
Both teams are down on their luck at their moment with Canterbury looking more and more likely to finish with the wooden spoon come the end of the season as they now sit six points behind Brisbane with five games to go. Meanwhile, the Tigers need to regain some confidence of their own after letting a 10-point lead slip to lose the Warriors last week.
Team news: Bailey Biondi-Odo is set to make his NRL debut at stand-off for Canterbury with Kyle Flanagan dropping to extended bench and Jake Averillo moving to scrum-half. Jayden Okunbor is out so Falakiko Manu returns to the starting line-up on the wing.
A big loss for the Tigers as Daine Laurie (fractured leg) is out so Moses Mbye fills in at full-back and Michael Chee Kam comes into the squad at centre. James Tamou and Thomas Mikeale return at prop and lock respectively which means Alex Twal and Joe Ofahengaue drop to the bench.
Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys (Sunday, 7:05am, Watch NRL)
After a big win over Canterbury, the Titans are now firmly a part of the race for a spot in the play-offs as they sit in seventh place due to a better points difference. However, this is a Queensland derby and even though North Queensland are not in the picture, you can imagine they will be looking to spoil the Titans’ party with a win here. The Cowboys are on the back of seven straight defeats but have plenty of motivation to snap that here.
Team news: Patrick Herbert is back from suspension at centre and Esan Marsters drops to the extended bench for the Titans. Erin Clark is on the bench with Tyrone Peachey serving a one-game ban for dangerous contact.
Valentine Holmes (shoulder) is back at full-back for North Queensland while Kane Bradley (hand) is out, so Ben Hampton starts at centre. Coen Hess, Heilum Luki and Tom Gilbert all earn call-ups to the starting side.