Roosters vs Broncos
Starters: Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Isaac Liu.
Bench/Extended Bench: Poasa Fa'amausili/Sitili Tupouniua.
Starters: Jamayne Isaako, Kodi Nikorima, Alex Glenn.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
With Jake Friend out injured, we're getting a decent look at Isaac Liu starting in the middle as Victor Radley shifts to hooker. This won't be permanent, hence we should enjoy the Roosters all #KiwiNRL middle forward trio of Liu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho. This week they come up against the Broncos trio of Mathew Lodge, Joe Ofahengaue and Tevita Pangai Junior, which is an almighty battle and we'll obviously be hoping that the #KiwiNRL lads dominate.
Warriors vs Titans
Starters: All but Blake Green, Karl Lawton.
Bench/Extended Bench: All but Adam Keighran.
Starters: Kevin Proctor.
Bench/Extended Bench: Moeaki Fotuaika.
Aotearoa Warriors can finally contribute to the #KiwiNRL halves mix with Chanel Harris-Tavita coming in for Adam Keighran. This doesn't boost the number of #KiwiNRL halves though as Dylan Brown is out of action for Parramatta Eels and Benji Marshall is out for Wests Tigers. Still cool to have another young #KiwiNRL half break into the league.
Panthers vs Tigers
Starters: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare, Sione Katoa, James Fisher-Harris.
Bench/Extended Bench: Moses Leota/Jarome Luai, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.
Starters: Esan Marsters, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor.
Bench/Extended Bench: Russell Packer, Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee-Kam
Having dived into the lack of dummy half running for Aotearoa Warriors, there's no surprises when we check in with Penrith Panthers and see that Sione Katoa had 1 dummy half run for 4m, in 46mins as the Panthers lost to Melbourne Storm. Wade Egan who comes off the bench for Katoa didn't have any dummy half runs either, hence Penrith struggled and while we have seen how effective Wellington's Katoa can be scootin', he needs to get busy.
The return of Villiame Kikau will hopefully see James Fisher-Harris stay in the middle while he's on the field, after sliding between middle and edge to start the season. Fisher-Harris comes up against Elijah Taylor in the #13 jerseys, although these two are very different in how they go about their work.
Esan Marsters is 3rd equal for total tackle busts and 1st in offloads. Despite losing to the Bulldogs last week, Marsters was his typical monstrous self at centre with 24run/201m, 64 post-contact-metres, 9 tackle busts and 5 offloads.
Sea Eagles vs Rabbitohs
Starters: Martin Taupau.
Bench/Extended Bench: Toafofoa Sipley.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
Toafofoa Sipley is enjoying a decent crack under new coach Des Hasler for Manly Sea Eagles. Against his former club, Sipley had 8runs/85m in 28mins and the he's offering nice cover for when Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau take a spell.
Cowboys vs Raiders
Starters: Te Maire Martin, Jordan Kahu.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Peter Hola.
Starters: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana.
Bench/Extended Bench: Siliva Havili, Iosia Soliola/Joseph Tapine, Bailey Simonsson.
I continue to not be overly excited about Te Maire Martin playing fullback for North Queensland Cowboys, however this now leads to a battle between he and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad this week. Martin was exposed with the finer details of fullback play as he couldn't effectively cover kicks from Shaun Johnson in the loss to Cronulla Sharks and Martin doesn't have the running game to either get a team rolling, or add x-factor in attacking shifts.
Compare that to Nicoll-Klokstad who is flying for the Raiders and scored a nifty double last week in their win over Newcastle Knights. 2nd in tackle busts, Nicoll-Klokstad had 9 tackle busts last week to take him to 21runs/182m and an offload. While a lot will depend on which team goes better in this game, I have a gut feeling that Nicoll-Klokstad is going to show Martin how to play fullback and that may add further vibes of mediocrity to Martin's time with the Cowboys.
Eels vs Sharks
Starters: Brad Takairangi, Marata Niukore.
Bench/Extended Bench: Peni Terepo/Matt McIlwrick.
Starters: Sosaia Feki, Sione Katoa, Shaun Johnson, Briton Nikora.
Bench/Extended Bench: Braden Hamlin-Uele.
Marata Niukore and Briton Nikora are likely to line up on different edges, so we won't see them go head to head, but seeing two of the best #KiwiNRL youngsters in action is mandatory viewing this weekend. Niukore is coming off a fairly quiet game in the loss to Roosters and other than scoring a try vs Cowboys, Nikora wasn't heavily involved either. Ideally that means an explosion for both of them this week and their defensive exploits will be crucial as well given both teams have fairly slick edge attacks.
Storm vs Bulldogs
Starters: Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Kenny Bromwich.
Bench/Extended Bench: Brandon Smith/Albert Vete.
Starters: Reimis Smith, Jeremy Marshall-King, Corey Harawira-Naera.
Bench/Extended Bench: Ofahiki Ogden/Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
Jeremy Marshall-King was solid at hooker in the Bulldogs' win over Tigers last week and offers a very different package to Michael Lichaa who is coming off the bench. Marshall-King played 56mins with 4 dummy half runs for 38m, while Lichaa had no runs out of dummy half in his 26mins.
Corey Harawira-Naera earned a starting role in the Bulldogs re-shuffle and with 11runs/91m, 2 tackle busts in 66mins he wasn't exactly destructive. Harawira-Naera did however chuck out 4 offloads and that funk is going to be required to help break down the Storm's defence.
Knights vs Dragons
Starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Mason Lino, Danny Levi.
Bench/Extended Bench: /Herman Ese'se.
Starters: Jordan Pereira.
Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.
Mason Lino benefits from Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown tinkering with his team to face the Dragons as Kalyn Ponga moves to fullback and Lino into the halves. Keep in mind that Connor Watson is absent via injury at the moment as well, opening the door for Lino to get his first crack in Knights colours.
Although Ponga's experiment as a half appears to be over, he's still going to play a heavy hand in the Knights attack down their left edge. How Lino facilitates that will be super interesting as Lino could either fall back and allow Ponga to be the dominant play-maker on the left, or Lino could take control with an idea to get the footy to Ponga in space.
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Peace and love 27.