A HEALTH CHECK ON YOUR CLUB HEADING INTO THE NRL SEASON RETURN
Nathan Cleary’s two-week ban for his TikTok saga opens the door for young playmaker Matt Burton, while Dylan Edwards (ankle) and Kurt Capewell (quad) are in line for their first appearances of the season. Firebrand forward Jack Hetherington also has a one-game suspension to serve for a high tackle.
All eyes are on the possible return of Kieran Foran (shoulder) and whether Lachlan Lewis or Brandon Wakeham partners him in the halves. Winger Marcelo Montoya was ruled out for up to three months after tearing his hamstring at training, while Joe Stimson (shoulder) and Chris Smith (ACL) are out for the year.
The highly-regarded Harry Grant is set to wear the No.9 after his loan deal arrival from Melbourne. Stars Moses Mbye (knee) and Luke Brooks (calf) are expected to make their season debuts, leaving Jacob Liddle (knee) and Russell Packer (foot) on the long-term injury shelf.
Hooker Reed Mahoney has declared his fitness from a broken foot suffered in round two but concedes, forward Ray Stone is set to play some role against Brisbane on Thursday as he regains full conditioning. Pack leader Nathan Brown will start his two-week suspension for dangerous contact.
Cody Walker will miss the next two matches through suspension which should allow Troy Dargan to make his NRL debut. James Roberts has rejoined the group after a stint in a rehabilitation centre but it’s unclear if he’ll be fit to face Sydney Roosters this Friday. If unavailable, the Rabbitohs would have to further shuffle their backline options.
A knee injury to centre Billy Smith prompted the premiers to recruit former Test and Origin veteran Josh Morris, who will play his first game for the club in round three. Skipper Boyd Cordner was rested for the opening two games of the season but will make his return with hopes he can turn their form around after a winless start.
Jayden Brailey played only two games for Newcastle before he went down with an ACL injury, prompting the Knights to lure veteran Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough south. Star fullback Kalyn Ponga will miss round three through suspension with teenager Tex Hoy set to make his NRL debut at No.1.
The one team set to return from the shutdown with more injuries than they entered it. Jazz Tevaga, Leeson Ah Mau and Adam Keighran have all been injured in the past fortnight, with the latter two out for the season. Gerard Beale will return from a knee injury, but Taane Milne, Bunty Afoa, Jackson Frei and Nathaniel Roache all remain out. Have been given the OK from the NRL to loan players because of their injury woes.
One of the big winners from the break. To go with the beneficial draw, they also welcome young guns Bronson Xerri and Briton Nikora back from shoulder injuries. Matt Moylan will also return at fullback from a calf injury, while Josh Dugan should beat a knee problem to come back into the centres. Chad Townsend is also expected to play through a broken thumb.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Get some big ins with captain Cameron McInnes set to return at hooker after missing the start of the year. Korbin Sims is also back from his broken arm after expecting to miss months of football, while his brother Tariq returns from suspension.
John Bateman’s long-term future with the Raiders remains unclear but the English forward should be fit for the Raiders’ trip to Melbourne on Saturday after shoulder surgery. Young backrower Hudson Young is suspended until round six while Jordan Rapana has returned to the club after a brief stint in Japanese rugby.
Get bench forward Taniela Paseka back from an ankle injury suffered in the NRL Nines with the big prop ready to push for a return in the 17. Fellow middle Jack Gosiewski is still out with a back injury, while Manase Fainu remains both stood down and injured.
Representative forward Joe Ofahengaue is available after serving a two-match ban in the opening rounds for an off-field indiscretion in January. His return will be welcome with David Fifita recovering from knee surgery and Tevita Pangai Jnr suspended. Brodie Croft and Alex Glenn should be fit to play Parramatta on Thursday while Matt Lodge is pushing to complete a remarkable recovery from a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.
AJ Brimson is out until at least August after a stress fracture in his back developed into a full fracture. Forwards Shannon Boyd and Kevin Proctor are back on deck while Tyrone Roberts is set to replace Brimson at fullback with recruit Jamal Fogarty to partner Ash Taylor in the halves. English international Kallum Watkins’ stint in Australia is over after he returned to his homeland in the break.
Tui Kamikamica should be right to play despite an ongoing back issue while Nelson Asofa-Solomona is also expected to line-up against Canberra after overcoming a hamstring niggle. Sandor Earl is battling the same complaint and not looking likely to play. Utility Brandon Smith is also fit after recovering from the facial fracture sustained in the All Stars’ game which sidelined him for the opening rounds.
North Queensland have one major concern with captain Michael Morgan sidelined until at least round seven after undergoing shoulder surgery in April. Youngster Jake Clifford will most likely come into the Cowboys’ team, partnering Scott Drinkwater in the halves.