#KiwiNRL Encyclopedia: Round Tekau Ma Iwa

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Sharks vs Cowboys

Sharks

Starters: Sosaia Feki, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Briton Nikora.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Sione Katoa.

Cowboys

Starters: Jason Taumalolo.

Bench/Extended Bench: /Peter Hola.

Doc's Word

With Andrew Fifita out of action, Braden Hamlin-Uele gets another opportunity to start in the middle for Cronulla. Despite being back in Aotearoa last week, Hamlin-Uele could quite continue his run of immense performances for the Sharks with 7 runs for 61m in 40 minutes of action. The Sharks didn't get much footy in that game, impacting Hamlin-Uele's stats but the efficiency is what the Glenora Bears junior can improve on this week against Jason Taumalolo's Cowboys.

This game also features Ronaldo Mulitalo on the Sharks wing and Murray Taulagi on the Cowboys wing. Mulitalo was an Ellerslie Eagles junior in Auckland, while Taulagi played rugby union for Otahuhu and both were named in the Queensland Under 20s squad earlier this year. That, along with Taulagi playing for Junior Kangaroos last year suggests that both are more aligned with Australia than Aotearoa. Which is a wee bit awkward and while it's super funky that they are starting on the wing against each other here, neither is really in the #KiwiNRL bracket.

Knights vs Tigers

Knights

Starters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Danny Levi.

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

Tigers

Starters: Esan Marsters, Benji Marshall, Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee-Kam.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

The demise of Russell Packer and Ben Matulino at Wests Tigers has coincided with the rise of Josh Aloiai, who has established himself as a starting middle forward for the Tigers. The Tigers are 2-3 through their last five games and Aloiai is averaging 44mins, 10 runs and 89m this season; not amazing but solid. Suddenly Aloiai is one of the leaders in the forward pack as Michael Maguire leans on younger players and this week they'll come up against a Knights middle forward group of David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti, Tim Glasby, James Gavet and Herman Ese'ese.

That looks like a struggle for the Tigers forward pack and as such it is a fantastic opportunity for Aloiai to match the challenge. Last week in the loss to Canberra Raiders, Aloiai had 7 runs for 59m in 42mins, as well as a try but he will need to offer far greater impact running the footy if he wants to be a factor vs Newcastle.

Rabbitohs vs Dragons

Rabbitohs

Starters: Nada.

Bench/Extended Bench: Tom Amone.

Dragons

Starters: Nada

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

Tom Amone has wiggled into the Rabbitohs top-17 thanks to the absences of Sam and Tom Burgess, both of whom are named on the extended bench this week. Even if the Burgess brothers return, it's highly likely that Amone holds on to his spot and he appears to be in favour with coach Wayne Bennett. Born in Sydney, Amone represented Australian Schoolboys in 2014, then Junior Kiwis in 2016 as a Parramatta Eels junior and also looks be to eligible for Tonga; expect Amone to go down the Tonga route and and further depth to Tonga's middle forward ranks.

Eels vs Warriors

Eels

Starters: Brad Takairangi, Josh Hoffman, Dylan Brown, Marata Niukore, Manu Ma'u.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Warriors

Starters: All but Blake Ayshford, Blake Green.

Bench/Extended Bench: All but Lachlan Burr, Adam Keighran.

Doc's Word

Parramatta Eels got torched by Manly Sea Eagles last round, but an Eels standout was Dylan Brown who offered much of their creative spark. Brown finished with 11 runs for 150, 1 line break, 2 try assists, a tackle bust and an offload, all of which came with far less footy than Mitchell Moses as Brown had 19 touches and 3 kicks to Moses' 51 and 16 kicks. Both halves missed 5 tackles each and any young half like Brown is going to have to endure patches of defensive woes, however there are extremely exciting signs about Brown's upside.

This week Brown comes up against the Warriors, a club that was apparently keen on bringing Brown back to Aotearoa. Having seen Brown lead the Eels attacking funk, the Warriors will have to put Brown under pressure and limit how influential he is, which has me intrigued as to how Brown responds on the field. Marata Niukore is also coming up against his former club and has been named to start on an edge with Shaun Lane out injured.

Titans vs Broncos

Titans

Starters: Kevin Proctor.

Bench/Extended Bench: Moeaki Fotuaika.

Broncos

Starters: Alex Glenn, Jamayne Isaako.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

Gold Coast Titans are in a hole and were touched up by Melbourne Storm last week, despite the efforts of their youngest forward Moeaki Fotuaika. The rest of the Titans forwards should be a wee bit embarrassed that they are shown up by Fotuaika every week and the Tongan international had 13 runs for 132m with 4 tackle busts and 2 offloads in 53mins off the bench. Fotuaika was the only Titans forward to average over 10m/run and he did so against the best team in the NRL.

Storm vs Sea Eagles

Storm

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

Bench/Extended Bench: Brandon Smith.

Sea Eagles

Starters: Martin Taupau.

Bench/Extended Bench: Nada.

Doc's Word

Here's some juicy Storm stats from that win over Titans...

Jahrome Hughes: 9 runs, 57m, 1 line break, 3 try assists, 3 tackle busts, 1 offload.

Jesse Bromwich: 46mins, 10 runs, 68m, 2 offloads.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona: 46mins, 14 runs, 140m, 1 tackle bust, 1 offload.

Kenny Bromwich: 74mins, 8 runs, 74m, 2 offloads.

Brandon Smith: 40mins, 15 runs, 157m, 3 tackle busts.

The Bromwich brothers didn't even need to come close to their best, while Asofa-Solomona and Smith both averaged at least 10m/run on at least 14 runs which is a bit bonkers. This week the Storm forwards come up against a Sea Eagles pack that is riding a wave and whether it's the big boppers, or the battle between Smith and Manase Fainu; this will be mandatory viewing.

Bulldogs vs Roosters

Bulldogs

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

Bench/Extended Bench: Jeremy Marshall-King, Renouf To'omaga/Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Kieran Foran, Ofahiki Ogden.

Roosters

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

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

Doc's Word

The Roosters have again shown how good they are at sharing workloads and easing their players through the season as Joseph Manu got a break last week, while Sitili Tupouniua and Poasa Faamausili plugged holes and now make way for more established forwards. Isaac Liu is one of those who returns this week, starting at lock to allow Victor Radley to slide into hooker and Liu joins a Roosters pack that blew away the Knights last round. All the big names put up big stats, however Tupouniua's 3 runs for 57m in 22mins and Faamausili's 4 runs for 52m in 13mins offer the best examples of how emphatic the Roosters dominance was.

Panthers vs Raiders

Panthers

Starters: Dean Whare, James Fisher-Harris.

Bench/Extended Bench: Jarome Luai.

Raiders

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

Bench/Extended Bench: Siliva Havili.

Doc's Word

Perhaps the most enticing match up this week is Joseph Tapine vs James Fisher-Harris, with the two young Aotearoa forwards likely to get breezed over for the more fancied names in their respective teams. Fisher-Harris has been immense for Penrith all season, more in his workload than his efficiency and last week's win over Dragons was a perfect example of this; 77mins, 21 runs for 166m, 1 try assist, 2 tackle busts and 1 offload.

Fisher-Harris is effectively an 80min middle forward and that's crazy in the NRL, while Tapine is still working his way towards his best work. Tapine played 42mins in the middle last week as Canberra defeated the Tigers and Tapine rolled out a rather standard, but low key solid performance with 10 runs for 93m, a tackle bust and the fastest play-the-ball speed of any Raiders forward. These two #KiwiNRL forwards are at the same stage of their careers but in very different situations with Fisher-Harris becoming a leader in the Panther's pack, while Tapine has great performers around him and simply needs to offer impact in running the footy.

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