#KiwiNRL Encyclopedia: Round Tekau Ma Toru

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Rabbitohs vs Knights

Rabbitohs

Starters: Mawene Hiroti

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Knights

Starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

Bench/Extended Bench: Herman Ese'ese, James Gavet/Mason Lino.

Doc's Word

The arrival of James Roberts doesn't seem to have changed much for Mawene Hiroti, who remains on the wing for the Rabbitohs. Coach Wayne Bennett has named Roberts and Dane Gagai as the centres, allowing for Hiroti to play on the wing and I'm making a habit of zoning in on what Hiroti offers running the footy as he's not required for big metres in this Rabbitohs team. Hiroti had just 8runs/61m in the loss to Eels last weekend and averages 9.7runs/69m which is fairly low for a winger in the NRL and I suspect we will see Hiroti take on slightly more work against a Knights pack that isn't overly mobile.

Tigers vs Raiders

Tigers

Starters: Esan Marsters, Benji Marshall, Ben Matulino.

Bench/Extended Bench: Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee-Kam/Elijah Taylor.

Raiders

Starters: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Bailey Simonsson, Jordan Rapana, Siliva Havili, Joseph Tapine.

Bench/Extended Bench: Iosia Soliola.

Doc's Word

Epic performance from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad last round for Canberra; 25runs/296m, 68pcm, 1 line break, 5 tackle busts. The low key stat for Nicoll-Klokstad though is his dummy half running as his 7 runs out of dummy half came to 77m, which offers an emphatic boost to the Raiders as they work down the field.

Joseph Tapine has been named to start in the middle after playing on an edge last week, swapping with John Bateman who is now named on an edge. Tapine only played 35mins in the win over Bulldogs, his second straight game of 35mins after coming back from injury and Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is clearly easing Tapine back into the grind. Great timing as Tapine will be front and centre for Kiwis and Tigers coach Michael Maguire, while Nicoll-Klokstad and Jordan Rapana will also be eager to make an impression on Maguire.

Warriors vs Storm

Warriors

Starters: All but, Blake Green.

Bench/Extended Bench: All but Lachlan Burr, Karl Lawton/Jackson Frei.

Storm

Starters: Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Kenny Bromwich.

Bench/Extended Bench: Brandon Smith/Albert Vete.

Doc's Word

Despite being one of the smaller fullbacks in the NRL, Jahrome Hughes is among the best in the NRL for chewing through metres and has lovely efficiency to go with it. Hughes averages 13runs/136m which has him 6th in average run metres for fullbacks, but only two other fullbacks in the top-6 average 10m/run or better.

Hughes and the Storm's #KiwiNRL crew are back in Aotearoa, so expect strong performances from them. My focus will be on Nelson Asofa-Solomona who was near his best in their last outing vs Bulldogs with 44mins, 1 try, 17runs/150m, 1 line break, 5 tackle busts, 3 offloads. All of that is well above Asofa-Solomona's averages for 2019 (38mins, 11.6runs/99m, 1.2 tackle busts, 1.4 offloads) and after a slow start to the season, Asofa-Solomona needs to rack up this level of performance more consistently.

Sharks vs Eels

Sharks

Starters: Sosaia Feki, Briton Nikora.

Bench/Extended Bench: Braden Hamlin-Uele/Sione Katoa, Shaun Johnson.

Eels

Starters: Josh Hoffman, Manu Ma'u.

Bench/Extended Bench: Peni Terepo, Marata Niukore/Brad Takairangi.

Doc's Word

Briton Nikora is commanding an Aotearoa Kiwis debut via his work on the right edge for Cronulla Sharks this season and as we near Kiwis footy, I'm intrigued as to how Nikora responds to the little increase in pressure. Nikora could welcome back Shaun Johnson as his right-sided half with Johnson named on an extended bench and what kind of influence Nikora will have lining up against Shaun Lane, adds another wrinkle of funk to this game.

Marata Niukore is again on the bench, setting up an enticing Niukore vs Braden Hamlin-Uele battle. Expect Niukore to play through the middle and the Eels will be well aware of the impact Hamlin-Uele has been offering the Sharks.

Cowboys vs Sea Eagles

Cowboys

Starters: Jason Taumalolo.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Peter Hola, Emry Pere.

Sea Eagles

Starters: Martin Taupau.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

Other than a wee preview of Tonga vs Aotearoa with Jason Taumalolo coming up against Martin Taupau, this isn't a huge #KiwiNRL outing. What I am interested in is Marist Saints junior Peter Hola again named on an extended bench along with fellow Junior Kiwis rep Emry Pere. Hola appears to be next in line and an Origin hangover may open the door for Hola to sneak into the top-17, which I believe will be a crucial #KiwiNRL debut for a talented prospect.

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Broncos vs Titans

Broncos

Starters: Jamayne Isaako, Alex Glenn.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Titans

Starters: Jesse Arthars, Moeaki Fotuaika.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

How do you want to perform coming up against your Tongan OG? Exactly how Moeaki Fotuaika did in Titans loss to Cowboys; 62mins, 20runs/217m, 72pcm, 1 tackle bust, 1 offload. The Titans won't be happy with that loss as they fluffed their opportunities late in the game and now, coming up against their local rivals, they will desperate to make a point. Guys like Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow will lead that vibe, however what Fotuaika does against this stacked Broncos forward pack will be the most interesting aspect. Especially given how Fotuaika responded to the Taumalolo challenge.

Panthers vs Roosters

Panthers

Starters: Jarome Luai, James Fisher-Harris, Sione Katoa, Moses Leota.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Caleb Aekins.

Roosters

Starters: Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Isaac Liu.

Bench/Extended Bench: Zane Tetevano, Sitili Tupouniua/Poasa Fa'amausili.

Doc's Word

Weekly changes are rolled out for Panthers and Sione Katoa drops back to the bench, making way for Wayde Egan. Katoa only played 5mins last round in their win over Sea Eagles as youngster Mitchell Kenny enjoyed the starting minutes and what type of involvment Katoa enjoys in a niggly match up vs Roosters will be a defining moment for Katoa this season - remember he's playing for Tongan selection.

James Fisher-Harris gets another crack in the middle and this offer a lovely battle between Fisher-Harris and Isaac Liu, who starts at lock for Roosters. Of course, the Roosters will also start with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, with Zane Tetevano and Sitili Tupouniua coming off the bench; such depth could provide Fisher-Harris with issues as he's likely to play big minutes after playing 80mins last week. The Panthers will want a massive performance to shake their issues and a post-Origin Roosters team could be up for grabs, much of which starts with how influential Fisher-Harris can be if he's playing 60+ minutes.

Bulldogs vs Dragons

Bulldogs

Starters: Reimis Smith, Kieran Foran, Jeremy Marshall-King, Ofahiki Ogden, Raymond Faitala-Mariner.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Corey Harawira-Naera.

Dragons

Starters: Nada.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Jordan Pereira.

Doc's Word

With a healthy #KiwinRL crew, I've found myself watching a lot of Bulldogs footy this season and there has been a trend of commentators calling for Kieran Foran to step up, take control of the game and lead his team when the game is in the balance. This never happens though and despite an improved performance vs Raiders, we are still a long way from watching Foran tapping into his potential. Foran deserves the benefit of the doubt, although he's not doing enough to demand selection as a Kiwis half and if Shaun Johnson's healthy, then the Johnson/Kodi Nikorima combo is still the best.

This could be the game in which we see Foran thrive. The Bulldogs forward pack will have a target on this Dragons team and while they aren't a varied and skillful enough to contend with the best forward packs, I can see the Bulldogs forwards troubling their opposition here. That will then give Foran momentum and the major positive from the loss to Raiders was that Foran ran 18 times, which is an emphatic improvement on his season average 4.9runs. If Foran’s running the footy, good things will happen and the benchmark for that feels like 10 runs, which requires the forwards rolling down field.

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