We’ve previewed every game in round eight of the NRL season, which gets underway on Thursday.
Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs (Thursday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena)
It has been a tough time for Canberra as of late with three straight losses to their name and it does not get much easier here as they face an in-form South Sydney. The Raiders only have one win at home this year, but will no doubt be hoping the Canberra faithful can spur them on to overcome their current slip. The red-hot Rabbitohs, meanwhile, are on the back of six straight wins sitting comfortable inside the top four and boast one of best attacking records in the league this year.
Team news: There is no Jarrod Croker (shoulder) for Canberra so Sebastian Kris moves to centre. Josh Papalii has been rested so Joe Tapine takes his spot on the bench. Bailey Simonsson (head knock) returns on the wing.
The Rabbitohs name an unchanged squad but Tevita Tatola will need to pass concussion protocols before taking the field.
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks (Friday, 9am)
Like Canberra, Cronulla are facing their own rough patch after three straight defeats see them sit in 13th. A combination of injuries, suspensions and a coaching change have made life difficult for the Sharks and now a big test awaits against a Melbourne side that look set for another run at a premiership after winning five of their first seven games.
Team news: Tom Eisenhuth moves to centre for Melbourne as George Jennings (head knock) sits out. Nelson Asofa-Solomona is being rested after showing concussion symptoms.
Both Wade Graham (head knock) and Aiden Tolman (suspension) return for Cronulla while Will Chambers is set to make his debut with Josh Dugan demoted to extended bench outside main 17. Siosifa Talakai (suspended) will miss next four games.
Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans (Friday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena & Mix)
It looks like there has been a changing of the guard in Queensland with Gold Coast getting the better of Brisbane on five of the last seven occasions, including a 28-12 win for the Titans earlier in the season. The Titans put up 30 points against a strong South Sydney side last week and showed just how dangerous they can be despite the come from behind loss while the Broncos continue to struggle after a heavy defeat to Parramatta.
Team news: Brisbane make more changes to the halves as Anthony Milford and Tyson Gamble take the places of Brodie Croft and Tom Dearden. Jesse Arthars is the new man at centre with David Mead dropping out.
Anthony Don (hip) returns on the wing for Gold Coast while Philip Sami moves to centres due to Patrick Herbert’s calf injury. Herman Ese’ese is the new man on the bench.
Penrith Panthers v Manly Sea Eagles (Saturday, 6am)
It is incredible to see what a difference a couple of weeks has made for Manly with the return of Tom Trbojevic injecting some new-found confidence and flair into a side that was looking more like a bottom four team at the start of the year but now after two dominant victories they could be a team to watch out for. However, the sternest of tests awaits as they take on an electric Penrith who have been nothing short of sensational this year and remain undefeated thus far.
Team news: A big boost for Penrith as Api Koroisau (wrist) has been named at hooker.
Manly name an unchanged squad.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Parramatta Eels (Saturday, 8:30am)
The Bulldogs finally got that first win of 2021 last week after seeing off Cronulla in a tight contest. The question now for Trent Barrett and his side is can they build on this? Like Manly, they face a tough opposition as they take on Parramatta. The Eels continue to look strong and after comprehensive win over Brisbane last week they have six wins from seven and look a team that could easily be amongst the top four by the end of the regular season.
Team news: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is on Canterbury’s extended bench despite being hospitalised the night before last week’s game. Chris Smith and Matt Doorey will need to pass concussion protocols.
Ryan Matterson (head knock) has been named to make his comeback from the bench while Will Smith (thumb) sits out and Haze Dunster takes his spot on the bench.
Newcastle Knights v Sydney Roosters (Saturday, 10:35am, Sky Sports Arena)
The return of Kalyn Ponga has certainly added some more firepower for Newcastle as they try to get over a dip in form. However, even the presence of the superstar full-back was not enough to dethrone Penrith last week despite the Knights giving it their all against the Panthers, defensive troubles would be their downfall in the end. There has to be more assurance in that department this week as they face a big challenge in a resilient Sydney who even with injures have shown a never-say-die attitude and look as strong as ever with young halves sensation Sam Walker at the helm.
Team news: Newcastle name an unchanged 17-man squad but Lachlan Fitzgibbon (shoulder) and Tex Hoy (hamstring) are on the extended bench and could be late inclusions.
Roosters full-back James Tedesco has been selected but will be another player that needs to pass concussion protocols beforehand while teenage prodigy Joseph Suaalii is there as a possible cover. Sam Verrills is in as the starting hooker with Ben Marschke on the bench. Siosiua Taukeiaho (ribs) is set to return from the bench.
New Zealand Warriors v North Queensland Cowboys (Sunday, 5:05am)
The Warriors have had to deal with a plethora of injuries as of late, but they continue to battle on and sit just outside the top eight with scalps such as Canberra, St George Illawarra and Gold Coast to their name. This time they go up against a rejuvenated North Queensland where morale is certainly high after three straight wins that also included a win over the Raiders.
Team news: Warriors trio Tohu Harris (head knock), Adam Pompey (ankle) and David Fusitu’a (hamstring) are all set to start. Reece Walsh takes over at stand-off and Ben Murdoch-Masila starts in the second-row.
A huge positive for North Queensland sees Jason Taumalolo (hand) named to return but he must pass a fitness test first.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers (Sunday, 7:05am)
After an impressive four-game win streak, St George Illawarra have seemingly lost some of their spark in the last couple of weeks after suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Warriors and then the Roosters on ANZAC Day. The Dragons’ dominant forwards have been their stars this season as they helped solidify their winning run with a bullish intensity, something that has been missing as of late so their will be plenty of work to do as the Dragons look to rediscover that fire. They have a perfect chance to regain some of that confidence here though as they take on Michael Maguire’s Tigers who need to regain some of their own form after three straight defeats have them sat joint bottom alongside Canterbury and Brisbane with a sole win to their name this year.
Team news: Ben Hunt (broken leg) is back for the Dragons at scrum-half while Jordan Pereira and Mikaele Ravalawa are both suspended. Cody Ramsey and Max Feagai take up the vacant wing spots. Josh Kerr replaces Billy Burns in the second=row.
Joey Leilua (thumb) returns for the Tigers at centre. Alex Twal moves from loose forward to prop with Joe Ofahengaue moving in the opposite direction to 13.