#KiwiNRL Encyclopedia: Round Tekau Ma Whitu

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Panthers vs Titans

Panthers

Starters: Dean Whare, Jarome Luai, James Fisher-Harris.

Bench/Extended Bench: Moses Leota.

Titans

Starters: Moeaki Fotuiaka, Kevin Proctor.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Jesse Arthars.

Doc's Word

Dean Whare is back in action for Penrith Panthers, although he's definitely behind Joseph Manu and Esan Marsters in terms of Aotearoa's centre options. First and foremost for Whare is to stay healthy, then his form has to surpass Marsters and Manu - which seems super unlikely. Whare's return came against the Warriors and 11 runs for 65m with 3 offloads was a solid outing for Whare, obviously he'd prefer to have a bigger impact running the footy but those offloads were a major part of what Penrith's footy vs Warriors.

Jesse Arthars has also been dropped, making way for Dale Copley and that signals the end of Arthars' opening stanza to his NRL career. Arthars isn't exactly in the best spot considering the Titans are struggling and they have bigger issues than their young centre, but their most recent loss to Manly Sea Eagles saw Arthars take 6 runs for 34m. Compare that to fellow centre Brian Kelly's 15 runs for 204m and the time has come for Arthars to get back into reserve grade and jack up that confidence.

Knights vs Bulldogs

Knights

Starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Mason Lino, James Gavet, Danny Levi, Herman Ese'ese.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Bulldogs

Starters: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Reimis Smith, Corey Harawira-Naera.

Bench/Extended Bench: Renouf To'omaga, Ofahiki Ogden/Fa'amanu Brown, Jeremy Marshall-King.

Doc's Word

Having sipped a bit of hype around Kieran Foran's steady progression to return to the Kiwis squad, Foran's major weakness has again hindered his influence for the Bulldogs. Another hamstring issue means no Foran this week and the Bulldogs again revert back to their young halves options, sans Fa'amanu Brown. Brandon Wakeham appears to have overtaken Christchurch's Brown in the halves ranks which is a bummer and with Jeremy Marshall-King also in the wider squad (likely on the comeback trail from injury) the #KiwiNRL numbers are down for Bulldogs.

On the other hand, Newcastle Knights could roll out another heavy duty #KiwiNRL crew with their Origin players likely to skip this week. Mason Lino has been named alongside Mitchell Pearce which is a great sign for Lino, but the big test for Lino will come when Kalyn Ponga returns and coach Nathan Brown will have to move Connor Watson somewhere.

Herman Ese'ese and James Gavet are also cluttering the middle forward rank, after solid outings vs Aotearoa Warriors last week. Gavet had 11 runs for 122m (11.09m/run) and Ese'ese also started, churning out 15 runs for 131m (8.73m/run); these two were the leaders of the pack vs Warriors and performed as such.

Rabbitohs vs Sea Eagles

Rabbitohs

Starters: Nada.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Sea Eagles

Starters: Martin Taupau.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

Meh.

Broncos vs Warriors

Broncos

Starters: Alex Glenn.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Jamayne Isaako.

Warriors

Starters: All but Blake Green.

Bench/Extended Bench: All but Lachlan Burr.

Doc’s Word

NRL.com reported that Jamayne Isaako had returned to training after a few weeks absence for personal reasons, the issue now is that the Broncos gave debuts to two rather slick young wingers last round. Xavier Coates was the stand out and is again named on the wing this week, joining Corey Oates as tall, athletic and powerful wingers. Herbie Farnworth also made his debut on the wing, now he's named in the centres to face the Warriors. All of which makes it difficult to see how Isaako can wiggle his way back in, especially now that Anthony Milford is playing fullback; perhaps Isaako could jam fullback and Milford joining Darius Boyd in the halves?

Storm vs Sharks

Storm

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

Bench/Extended Bench: Brandon Smith/Solomone Kata.

Sharks

Starters: Sosaia Feki, Shaun Johnson, Briton Nikora.

Bench/Extended Bench: Braden Hamlin-Uele.

Doc's Word

Brandon Smith may be the craziest NRL player after an almighty performance starting in the middle for Melbourne Storm last week. Smith has spent much of his time at the Storm coming off the bench to play through the middle, as well as stepping up as starting hooker for Aotearoa Kiwis. In 52mins vs Dragons, Smith had 15 runs for 143m and for a bloke of Smith's size, averaging 9.53m/run is beastly and chuck in 32 tackles for good measure.

Storm haven't named Solomone Kata in the top-17 and he's also not named for Easts Tigers either. Kata featured in a Tigers vs Queensland opposed session recently, but along with Justin Olam, neither back up centres are named. Will Chambers may not be a certainty to play after Origin, so Kata may sneak in, although I still have him behind Olam in the Storm depth chart.

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If Shaun Johnson is going to roll out 9 runs for 45m and miss 3 tackles (71.4% tackle efficiency) in many more games, then he's going to quickly fall out of favour in Cronulla. That's Johnson's basement and there is little to suggest that Johnson will continue along that line, but Johnson does have an up and down nature to his work that Sharks fans will need to acquaint themselves with. That is in stark contrast with Braden Hamlin-Uele, who had 12 runs for 153m (12.75m/run) and continues to be a huge factor off the bench for the Sharks.

Roosters vs Cowboys

Roosters

Starters: Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Siosiua Taukeiaho.

Bench/Extended Bench: Isaac Liu, Sitili Tupouniua, Poasa Faamausili.

Cowboys

Starters: Jordan Kahu, Jason Taumalolo.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

Another game at fullback for Joseph Manu, another rather amazing outing. This time around though, in a win over Wests Tigers, Manu only played 46mins and was still hugely efficient with 10 runs for 102, 5 tackle busts and 1 offload. Check these Manu at fullback numbers...

Round 14 vs Bulldogs: 80mins, 2 tries, 24 runs for 299m (12.45m/run), 2 line breaks, 1 try assist, 10 tackle busts.

Round 16 vs Tigers: 46mins, 10 runs for 102m (10.2m/run), 5 tackle busts, 1 offload.

This fixutre also has Siosiua Taukeiaho coming up against Jason Taumalolo in a massive battle of the tokos, although the Roosters forward pack as a whole will lessen the load for Taukeiaho. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is starting and Victor Radley slides to hooker to make way for Jake Friend, which means Isaac Liu is bumped back to the bench and that may be a good option for the Roosters to have Radley targeting Taumalolo; using speed and footwork to tire Taumalolo and also cutting Taumalolo down in defence.

This gives the Roosters a bench of Liu, Angus Crichton, Sitili Tupouniua and Poasa Faamausili. Three #KiwiNRL forwards out of four and there's no Zane Tetevano either, which will be all good considering that Faamausili had 8 runs for 82m (10.25m/run) in 30mins vs Tigers and Tupouniua had 12 runs for 130m in 37mins (10.83m/run) to showcase their impact off the bench.

Tigers vs Eels

Tigers

Starters: Esan Marsters, Benji Marshall, Josh Aloiai.

Bench/Extended Bench: Elijah Taylor, Michael Chee Kam.

Eels

Starters: Brad Takairangi, Dylan Brown, Manu Ma'u.

Bench/Extended Bench: Marata Niukore/Greg Leleisiuao.

Doc's Word

Funky little battle in this game between matua Benji Marshall and youngster Dylan Brown, who is again in the halves for Parramatta Eels. Josh Aloiai is improving nicely under coach Michael Maguire and against that impressive Roosters forward pack, Aloiai was the only Tigers forward to average over 10m/run and he did so with 15 damn runs; 15 runs for 153m @ 10.2m/run.

Parramatta have also named Greg Leleisiuao in their wider squad and I'm eagerly anticipating the debut of Leleisiuao, whenever it comes. Leleisiuao was a two time Junior Kiwis rep in (2016, 2017) and is currently leading the Canterbury Cup in tackle busts, is 4th in linebreaks and 3rd in post contact metres for Wentworthville Magpies. Leleisiuao's chance could come if Blake Ferguson is unable to back up from Origin.

Dragons vs Raiders

Dragons

Starters: Nada

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Raiders

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

Bench/Extended Bench: Siliva Havili, Iosia Soliola.

Doc's Word

Canberra Raiders have had two niggly losses in a row, then came the bye and both losses came with Joseph Tapine starting in the middle. Tapine hasn't really done anything wrong though, other than missing 4 tackles vs Sharks two weeks ago in Raiders team that generally missed a bunch of tackles and then he didn't miss any in the following loss vs Eels.

Tapine has also been solid running the footy; 13 runs for 111m (8.53m/run) vs Sharks and 11 runs for 107m (9.72m/run) vs Eels. Those aren't amazing Tapine numbers, but solid and Tapine has returned from injury recently which needs to be taken into account.

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