We preview each game set to take place during round 15 of the NRL season.
Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Thursday, 10.50am, Sky Sports)
The Rabbitohs look to be back in form as of late with the return of their lethal backline after game one of Origin. The likes of Latrell Mitchell backed up fantastically well following his New South Wales heroics and it has become very clear how valuable of a player he is as Wayne Bennett’s side push for a top four finish. Meanwhile, the Broncos sit in 15th after a third straight loss by an average of over 40 points and they will certainly be asked plenty of questions by a Souths side boasting plenty of elite attacking talent.
Team news: Winger Xavier Coates is back in the Brisbane starting line-up after a late withdrawal last week due to a hamstring strain. Tesi Niu stays at full-back with Herbie Farnworth reverting back to centre. Thomas Flegler is regains his spot at loose forward.
Origin quartet Jai Arrow, Dane Gagai, Cameron Murray and Damien Cook are back in the Rabbitohs’ starting 13. Benji Marshall drops out of the squad altogether and Braidon Burns, Jacob Host and Hame Sele are back on the bench.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Cronulla Sharks (Friday, 9am, Watch NRL)
After a disappointing 50-18 loss to Manly last week, North Queensland return to Townsville where they will hope their solid home form is enough to take down a Cronulla side full of confidence after three consecutive wins with their most recent coming against the mighty Penrith. The Panthers may have been without key personnel but that will not matter to the Sharks who keep a the top eight within their sights.
Team news: Maroons’ Kyle Feldt returns on the wing for the Cowboys after missing the game against Manly last week. Mitch Dunn is back from suspension in the second row.
Cronulla skipper Wade Graham (head knock) is out so Siosifa Talakai takes his place in the second row.
Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters (Friday, 10:55am, Sky Sports)
If there was a time to play Penrith it certainly would not be now as after two straight losses it looks like the reinforcements have been called in. The Panthers have had to cope without influential players such as Nathan Cleary over the last couple of weeks due to Origin, but with the dynamic half-back set to make his return alongside plenty of other stars, Ivan Cleary’s side will be looking to regain top spot. The Roosters look like they will have it all to do here with injuries and suspensions curtailing their season but even still they have proven to be tough and battling team as they sit in fifth place only two points behind fourth.
Team news: A big boost for Penrith sees Origin representative Cleary back in the fold as well as Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo, Kurt Capewell and Liam Martin. Matt Burton moves to centre and Paul Momirovski drops out altogether.
New South Wales star James Tedesco reclaims the full-back spot while Sam Verrills (eye) looks to make his comeback off the bench for Sydney.
Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors (Saturday, 6am, Watch NRL)
Both these sides will be needing a win here if they want to keep within the top eight race. The Knights sit in 14th spot, two points behind their opponents in 11th. After losing four of their last five, Newcastle continue to struggle without vital players such as Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce but with their impending returns it could be just what the side needs to rejuvenate their season. The Warriors came up against a brick wall in Melbourne last week and have now only won one of their last four but with the return of their own starlet in youngster Reece Walsh it could certainly add some extra flair to their attack.
Team news: Dom Young retains his spot on the wing for Newcastle while Ponga (groin) and Pearce (pectoral) are back in the starting line-up.
Warriors’ young gun Reece Walsh is back from suspension to start at full-back with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck moving back onto the wing. Chanel Harris-Tavita’s potential season-ending pectoral injury means Sean O’Sullivan is given another chance at half-back. No Wayde Egan (head knock) means Jazz Tevaga starts at hooker.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Canberra Raiders (Saturday, 8.30am, Watch NRL)
A win for either one of these teams could go a long way in seeing them secure a Finals spot by the end of the season. The Dragons started off the year so brightly but a mid-season wobble and a poor loss to last placed Canterbury last week have seen hanging onto eighth spot by a thread. The Raiders may feel like they are on a slightly upward trajectory right now as their 38-16 victory over Brisbane has seen them catapult back into playoff contention.
Team news: Zac Lomax could mark his return from a thumb injury after being named on the Dragons’ extended bench.
The Raiders stick with the same 17-man squad with the only changes seeing Ryan Sutton move into the starting side and Sia Soliola drop to the bench.
Melbourne Storm vs Wests Tigers (Saturday, 10.35am, Watch NRL)
The Storm just keep marching on following their win over the Warriors last week and with that they have overtaken Penrith at the top of the ladder. They made light work of Nathan Brown’s side after showing once again their ability to score points for fun with another score of over 40 points. The Tigers were riding high and looking for a third straight win but just did not have an answer for Parramatta in round 14. However, they remain in the hunt for a place in the top eight as they sit 13th and only a couple points behind the Dragons in 8th.
Team news: Forward duo Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Christian Welch are in the Melbourne starting 13 after missing out last week. No Jesse Bromwich for the Storm and Tui Kamikamica is back on the interchange.
Ken Maumalo is set to make his debut for the Tigers on the wing after joining from the Warriors in the same week. Adam Doueihi has not been named after being on the end of a high tackle against Parramatta while Roberts shifts to centre to make way for Maumalo. Moses Mbye is back at stand-off as well.
Sunday 20th June
Parramatta Eels vs Canterbury Bulldogs (Sunday, 5am, Watch NRL)
The Eels stay firmly in third place after a relatively comfortable win over the Tigers last week and they have a chance to take down another rival here when they go up against the Bulldogs. The Doggies may sit right at the bottom of the ladder, but they can still provide a stern test for Parramatta if they look back to last week’s win over the Dragons and come out with a similar kind of intent.
Team news: A big loss for Parramatta sees Maika Sivo sit out due to suspension, so Sean Russell looks set to make his debut on the wing.
The Bulldogs name the same 17-man squad that beat the Dragons on Monday. Nick Meaney stays at fullback while Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is on the extended bench.
Gold Coast Titans vs Manly Sea Eagles (Sunday, 7.05am, Sky Sports)
The Titans need to find a way to change their fortunes and end a three-game losing streak here as another loss makes their task of reaching the top eight much harder. If they want to come away with a victory in this one then they will have to shake off a heart breaking 35-34 loss to the Roosters last week. A match-up against a Tom Trbojevic led Manly side provides big test though and if Justin Holbrook’s side can come away with a win, then it could go a long way in seeing them regain some confidence and push themselves back into a Finals place. The Sea Eagles themselves have four of their last five after a 50-18 win over North Queensland in round 14 and sit comfortably in 6th place.
Team news: Queensland trio Moeaki Fotuaika, David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui all return to the Titans starting line-up while Kevin Proctor (suspended) misses out.
After a week’s rest Tom Trbojevic is back at full-back for Manly so Reuben Garrick reverts to wing and Brad Parker to centres.