Broncos vs Dragons
Starters: Jamayne Isaako, Kodi Nikorima, Alex Glenn.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
Starters: Jordan Pereira.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
Not a whole lot doing here with both teams rolling out their standard #KiwiNRL crews. Brisbane Broncos had a good win over rivals North Queensland Cowboys last week, although wasn't via a huge #KiwiNRL influence other than Jamayne Isaako's strong running game (11runs/122m) and goal-kicking. Kodi Nikorima laid on a try and did his job with the boot, while having no tackle-busts and Alex Glenn was oddly quiet with 4runs/28m in his 80 minutes of action. There is enough firepower in the Broncos to cover over quiet games for this #KiwiNRL trio, but hopefully we see them shine even more as the Broncos find their groove.
Raiders vs Knights
Starters: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana.
Bench/Extended Bench: Siliva Havili, Iosia Soliola/Bailey Simonsson.
Starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Danny Levi, James Gavet.
Bench/Extended Bench: Herman Ese'ese/Mason Lino.
Joseph Tapine is out injured and always seems to get niggly injuries throughout the season. Keep an eye of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback this week as he has been simmering away with low key performances at fullback for Raiders, without exploding and I suspect we'll see him do so against a Knights team that may present a few more opportunities than Melbourne Storm did. Nicoll-Klokstad had 20runs/180m, 6 tackle busts and 2 offloads vs Storm, which appears to be a baseline effort as he establishes himself as an NRL fullback.
Mason Lino is back in the mix for Newcastle after being named on an extended bench. Lino is still just cover at this point, however he's on the cusp and if the Knights struggle to rack up wins, or there is an injury, Lino will sneak in. Danny Levi has started the season and is averaging 57mins/game, but only averages 5runs/48m which given how effective Levi can be out of dummy half, needs a wee increase to help the Knights.
Eels vs Roosters
Starters: Brad Takairangi, Dylan Brown, Marata Niukore.
Bench/Extended Bench: Peni Terepo/Josh Hoffman.
Starters: Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
Bench/Extended Bench: Zane Tetevano, Isaac Liu, Poasa Fa'amausili/Asu Kepaoa
I am officially going full hundies on Marata Niukore being the #KiwiNRL lad that you need to pay closer attention to. Niukore wasn't quite as busy in the win over Bulldogs as he was on round one, but the solid nature of his performance reinforced the great impression from round one and now we are going to see him line up against Boyd Cordner in an enticing test for the youngster.
Peni Terepo makes a return to the Eels extended bench after some off-field dramas, which was a huge bummer as Terepo was a shining light for Parramatta last season along with Niukore. Terepo adds a unique package to the Eels forward pack with his power and mobility combined with slick hands, which may see him as a late inclusion on to the bench.
The Roosters have kept Poasa Fa'amausili on their bench, which is a good sign for the Glenora Bears junior as he hunts consistent game time. While Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (80mins, 22runs/232m) and Sio Siua Taukeiaho (56mins, 14runs/146m) put up great stats last week in the win over Manly Sea Eagles, Fa'aumausili quietly churned out 7runs/70m in just 22mins off the bench.
Sea Eagles vs Warriors
Starters: Martin Taupau.
Bench/Extended Bench: Toafofoa Sipley.
Starters: All but Adam Keighran, Blake Green.
Bench/Extended Bench: All but Karl Lawton.
In that loss to the Chooks, Martin Taupau got through a typically Taupau-ish stat line; 55mins, 21runs/187m, 1 tackle bust, 3 offloads. Keep an eye on Toafofoa Sipley this week as well, given that he comes up against his former club and has been solid to start the season for Manly.
Cowboys vs Sharks
Starters: Te Maire Martin, Jordan Kahu.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Peter Hola.
Starters: Sione Katoa, Sosaia Feki, Shaun Johnson, Briton Nikora.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Braden Hamlin-Uele
Major re-shuffle for North Queensland Cowboys with Te Maire Martin moving to fullback and Jordan Kahu to centre, allowing for young half Jake Clifford to partner Michael Morgan. That's not a great note for neither Martin or Kahu, but could be more a case of needing to fit Clifford into the team as opposed to Martin and Kahu being mediocre; they haven't been super awesome though.
At least they are both still in the team. Martin is likely to be targeted by Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson via their kicking games, presenting Martin with a huge challenge of trying to get kicks on the full and snuff out short kicks. There is also the low key selection of Peter Hola on the extended Cowboys bench and if Hola makes his debut, I'll offer more detail about the 2018 Junior Kiwi forward and Marist Saints junior.
Panthers vs Storm
Starters: Dean Whare, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Sione Katoa, James Fisher-Harris.
Bench/Extended Bench: Moses Leota/Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.
Starters: Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Kenny Bromwich.
Bench/Extended Bench: Brandon Smith/Albert Vete.
There's no shortage of #KiwiNRL funk in this game, although I'm going to put a focus on Brandon Smith and his involvement for the Storm off the bench. Averaging 36mins, Smith has got through a fairly crazy workload given his size and role for Melbourne as he's averaging 11runs/102m and 20 tackles. The size of the Storm forward pack is balanced out by Smith's speed and mobility, which is a great asset to have in the middle stages of the game and the Aotearoa Kiwis hooker continues to impress in a unique role.
Tigers vs Bulldogs
Starters: Esan Marsters, Benji Marshall, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor.
Bench/Extended Bench: Russell Packer, Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee-Kam.
Starters: Reimis Smith, Kieran Foran, Jeremy Marshall-King, Corey Harawira-Naera.
Bench/Extended Bench: Ofahiki Ogden/Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
Another re-shuffle here for the Bulldogs as Corey Harawira-Naera comes into the starting side on an edge and Ofahiki Ogden is finally given a chance this season. How Ogden takes this opportunity could shape the remainder of his season and I'm eager to see what Ogden can do, probably through the middle of the field.
The news isn't so good for Raymond Faitala-Mariner, who is back in reserve grade and unless there is a huge change in fortune, has most likely slid well down the Aotearoa depth chart. Given that Harawira-Naerea replaces Faitala-Mariner in the Bulldogs team this week, tells a Kiwis story in itself as Harawira-Naerea looks to break into the Kiwis team and then we have lads like Marata Niukore and Briton Nikora (Sharks) adding to the already deep pool of Kiwis edge forwards; Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor, Joseph Tapine, Alex Glenn, Kenny Bromwich, Adam Blair, James Fisher-Harris.
Rabbitohs vs Titans
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
Starters: Kevin Proctor.
Bench/Extended Bench: Moeakia Fotuaika.
Nothing doing here, other than Moeakia Fotuaika averaging 7runs/70m in just 25mins so far this season. That's the definition of impact, although the Titans could do better to give Fotuaika more minutes off the bench as he's their most dynamic middle forward.
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Peace and love 27.