Canberra will have to try and shore up their NRL finals hopes without Jack Wighton, with the five-eighth set to miss the crucial clash with Canterbury.
Wighton tweaked his hamstring at training on Friday and will not be risked against the Bulldogs on Sunday, with reserve half Matt Frawley to fill in.
The injury leaves Wighton – who moves to South Sydney from next season – racing the clock to be fit for what could be his final game in Canberra for the Raiders next Saturday night against Brisbane.
Again admitting the Raiders haven’t played good football since their round-20 bye, coach Ricky Stuart insisted effort isn’t the issue – despite his team being thoroughly dismantled in a 48-2 thumping by Melbourne last weekend.
A loss against Canterbury would leave the sixth-placed Raiders extremely vulnerable to missing the top eight, with games to come against in-form Brisbane and Cronulla.
Canberra regain veteran Jarrod Croker in the centres days after he announced his retirement for the end of the season, and are hoping he can steady their side much like he did when deployed for their 20-14 win at the Broncos in round six.
Brisbane captain Adam Reynolds will miss the NRL round 26 clash with Canberra with a calf injury and is set to be replaced at halfback by Jock Madden.
The Broncos confirmed on Saturday that their skipper sustained the injury at Friday’s training session. “Adam was sore in his calf after yesterday’s training session at Red Hill,” Broncos high performance chief Dave Ballard said.
“At this stage of the season we will take a cautious approach and have Adam work through his rehab over the coming week. He will miss the game in Canberra before we look to the Storm game the following Thursday.”
Storm star Ryan Papenhuyzen appears certain to make his NRL return next round after an encouraging comeback in the Queensland Cup.
“Paps will play another week up in the Queensland cup, he’s now played one and a half games (since his injury),” Melbourne football manager Frank Ponissi told SEN Radio. “If he gets another 80 minutes under his belt this week up there, he’ll come in contention for the following week against the Titans.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle will give Jackson Hastings every possible to chance to prove his fitness for Sunday’s crunch clash with South Sydney after scans revealed his syndesmosis injury was not as serious as first feared.
Hastings is racing the clock to play with former Dragons playmaker Adam Clune on standby to play his first NRL match since the final round of last year.
He is set to start in the halves if Hastings cannot bounce back after injuring his ankle during Sunday’s 42-6 win over Canterbury. Hastings’ season looked like it was going to be ended early by a hip-drop tackle for the second year in a row but scans revealed it was only a low-grade syndesmosis injury.
Bulldogs forward Jacob Preston was charged over the incident and has accepted a ban of two matches, instead of risking a third, after being charged with grade-three dangerous contact.
Clune made a return from injury in the NSW Cup on the weekend and coach Adam O’Brien said he was confident he could step up on Sunday, if needed, at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The incident continued Hastings’ unlucky run of form with hip-drop tackles; he missed the end of last season after Brisbane forward Patrick Carrigan broke his fibula with a similar shot.
“Cluney’s quick, he gets around the park, he’s really decisive,” said five-eighth Tyson Gamble. “If he is my halfback, I’m looking forward to playing with him. I trained with him a lot in the pre-season, he’s played a lot of NRL so I think he slots in nicely if he does have to come into the team.”
The Knights get centre Bradman Best back after he missed the emphatic win over Canterbury with a groin problem.
Titans star David Fifita (shoulder charge) and Raiders veteran Jordan Rapana (tripping) have opted not to risk a two-game ban by challenging the judiciary and will cop a $3000 fine.
Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak ($1000 for dangerous contact), Tigers forward Alex Seyfarth ($750 for a high tackle), Rabbitohs duo Lachlan Ilias ($1000 for tripping) and Damien Cook ($750 for a dangerous throw), Eels prop Wiremu Greig ($1000 for dangerous contact), Raiders centre Matt Timoko ($750 for a high tackle) and Manly rookie Dean Matterson ($1000 for a high tackle) were fined for minor offences.
Odds: Cowboys $1.58, Sharks $2.40 – odds via PlayUp
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Murray Taulagi 4. Peta Hiku 5. Semi Valemei 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Jason Taumalolo 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Jake Granville 15. Coen Hess 16. Heilum Luki 17. Griffin Neame 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 19. Zac Laybutt 20. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 21. Robert Derby 22. James Tamou
Maroons forward Jeremiah Nanai will make a return after a month out with a shoulder injury after North Queensland had the bye last round. Coen Hess drops back to the bench.
James Tamou has been named in the reserves after a lengthy spell out with a foot problem.
Sharks: 1. Connor Tracey 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Braydon Trindall 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Braden Hamlin-Uele 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Jack Williams 15. Royce Hunt 16. Thomas Hazleton 17. Matt Moylan 18. Mawene Hiroti 19. Tuku Hau Tapuha 20. Jesse Colquhoun 21. Kayal Iro 22. Jayden Berrell
Thomas Hazelton (concussion) missed the win over the Titans and is right to return while fellow prop Oregon Kaufusi (finger) is still out.
Odds: Warriors $1.25, Sea Eagles $4 – odds via PlayUp
Warriors: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Luke Metcalf 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Bunty Afoa 11. Jackson Ford 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tohu Harris 14. Dylan Walker 15. Jazz Tevaga 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Josh Curran 18. Tom Ale 20. Taine Tuaupiki 21. Freddy Lussick 22. Edward Kosi 23. Ronald Volkman
Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is back after sitting out the win over the Tigers with a concussion so rookie Taine Tuaupiki drops out.
Wayde Egan is a maybe this weekend after he was sent to hospital with a throat injury from a tackle on Stefano Utoikamanu while Bunty Afoa replaces Mitch Barnett (knee).
Veteran winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak ($1000 for dangerous contact) has been fined.
Sea Eagles: 1. Reuben Garrick 2. Jason Saab 3. Morgan Harper 4. Tolutau Koula 5. Ray Tuaimalo-Vaega 6. Josh Schuster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Toafofoa Sipley 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Sean Keppie 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Jakob Arthur 15. Dean Matterson 16. Aaron Woods 17. Ethan Bullemor 18. Gordon Chan Kum Tong 19 Ben Condon 20. Samuela Fainu 21. Austin Dias 22. Jamie Humphreys
Brad Parker and Ben Trbojevic copped head knocks in the loss to Penrith and are out this weekend with Morgan Harper and Kelma Tuilagi replacing them in the starting side with Jake Arthur onto the interchange while winger Christian Tuipulotu suffered a knee injury but is set to play.
Rookie forward Dean Matterson ($1000 for a high tackle) was fined for a shot on Liam Martin.
Odds: Eels $2.25, Roosters $1.65 – odds via PlayUp
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Sean Russell 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Dylan Brown 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. J’maine Hopgood 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Luca Moretti 15. Ryan Matterson 16. Wiremu Greig 17. Brendan Hands 18. Makahesi Makatoa 19. Waqa Blake 20. Ofahiki Ogden 21. Ky Rodwell 22. Jack Murchie
The loss of halfback Mitchell Moses for the rest of the year with a fractured eye socket virtually cruels Parra’s chances of doing any damage even if they make the finals. Daejarn Asi will switch to the halves from centre with Maika Sivo returning from suspension on the wing and Bailey Simonsson shuffling in a spot.
Front-rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard also is back from a ban but Shaun Lane (elbow) is not yet right to return. Andrew Davey is out with a head knock.
Big prop Wiremu Greig ($1000 for dangerous contact) was charged but is free to play.
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Billy Smith 4. Joseph Manu 5. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 6. Luke Keary 7. Drew Hutchison 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Siua Wong 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley 14. Sandon Smith 15. Fletcher Baker 16. Terrell May 17. Angus Crichton 18. Sam Walker 19. Dylan Napa 20. Corey Allen 21. Fetalaiga Pauga 22. Nathan Brown
Sam Walker made his return from a knee injury in the NSW Cup on Sunday but Drew Hutchison is set to remain in the No.7 jersey after strong recent form. Walker is named in the reserves.
Angus Crichton is back after two months out with a knee injury, replacing Dylan Napa in the pack while Joey Manu will be monitored after injuring his ankle in the victory over the Dolphins.
Odds: Tigers $1.38, Dolphins $3 – odds via PlayUp
Tigers: 1. Jahream Bula 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Starford To’a 4. Asu Kepaoa 5. Junior Tupou 6. Daine Laurie
7. Luke Brooks 9. Apisai Koroisau 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 14. Jake Simpkin 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. John Bateman 13. Fonua Pole 15. Alex Seyfarth 16. Alex Twal 17. Shawn Blore 18. Justin Matamua 19. Aitasi James 20. Triston Reilly 21. Josh Feledy 22. Kit Laulilii
Stefano Utoikamanu avoided judiciary trouble for raising his forearm in the incident which led to Wayde Egan being hospitalised.
Tigers forward Alex Seyfarth ($750 for a high tackle) was charged by the match review committee.
With Luke Brooks sidelined with a calf complaint, Api Koroisau trained at halfback with Jake Simpkin set to take over duties at hooker.
Dolphins: 1. Kodi Nikorima 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Jack Bostock 4. Robert Jennings 5. Tesi Niu 6. Isaiya Katoa 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Harrison Graham 10. Herman Ese’ese 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Euan Aitken 13. Mark Nicholls 14. JJ Collins 15. Josh Kerr 16. Anthony Milford 17. Jarrod Wallace 18. Trai Fuller 19. Max Plath 20. Poasa Faamausili 21. Mason Teague 22. Valynce Te Whare
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Connelly Lemuelu and Kenny Bromwich suffered head knocks in the loss to the Roosters and have been ruled out, as has Jeremy Marshall-King due to shoulder surgery.
Euan Aitken (knee) is right to play after a couple of weeks out and is returning at second row instead of centre while Felise Kaufusi is in doubt with a hamstring complaint.
Ray Stone was charged with a high tackle from the loss to the Roosters and accepted a two-game ban instead of a $3000 fine as he’s going to be out with a foot injury.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett said fullback Trai Fuller, named in jersey No.18, would make his NRL debut.
Odds: Titans $7.75, Panthers $1.08 – odds via PlayUp
Titans: 19. AJ Brimson 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Brian Kelly 4. Aaron Schoupp 5. Phillip Sami 6. Jayden Campbell 7. Thomas Weaver 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Chris Randall 10. Jaimin Jolliffe 11. David Fifita 12. Klese Haas 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 14. Kruise Leeming 15. Isaac Liu 16. Joe Stimson 17. Jacob Alick 1. Keano Kini 18. Iszac Fa’asumaleaui 20. Tony Francis 21. Jo Vuna 22. Josiah Pahulu
AJ Brimson will return from his rib injury and has been named on the extended bench. Keaon Kini was named at fullback but is now on the reserves bench with Jayden Campbell switching to five-eighth for veteran Kieran Foran (sternum).
Debutant Thomas Weaver is the other playmaker with Tanah Boyd out for the rest of the year with a shoulder problem.
Moeaki Fotuaika is back after a one-game ban for a high tackle. David Fifita will pay $3000 instead of challenging the judiciary, copping the fine rather than risking a two-match ban.
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Soni Luke 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Matt Eisenhuth 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Jack Cogger 19. Luke Garner 20. Zac Hosking 21. Thomas Jenkins 22. Spencer Leniu
Jarome Luai (illness) and Mitch Kenny were late scratchings before the win over Manly so Jack Cogger and debutant Luke Sommerton have made way this round. Tyrone Peachey is back from suspension at centre with Zac Hosking surprisingly relegated to the reserves.
Spencer Leniu is a chance to return from a knee injury after being named in the reserves.
Odds: Dragons $5.25, Storm $1.16 – odds via PlayUp
Dragons: 1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Talatau Amone 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Billy Burns 12. Dan Russell 13. Michael Molo 14. Connor Muhleisen 15. Ryan Couchman 16. Ben Murdoch-Masila 17. Zane Musgrove 18. Toby Couchman 19. Sione Finau 20. Jaiyden Hunt 21. Paul Turner 22. Max Feagai
Zac Lomax (shoulder) is a maybe this weekend, as is prop Francis Molo (head knock) but both have been named to play.
Storm: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Reimis Smith 3. Marion Seve 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Harry Grant 10. Christian Welch 11. Trent Loiero 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Josh King 14. Bronson Garlick 15. Tom Eisenhuth 16. Tepai Moeroa 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 18. Alec MacDonald 19. William Warbrick 20. Jonah Pezet 21. Tariq Sims 22. Tyran Wishart
Ryan Papenhuyzen continued his comeback from a fractured kneecap with a second strong performance in the Queensland Cup but the Storm will give him a third run with Sunshine Coast before making his return to NRL level.
Rookie winger Will Wabrick (neck) is on the reserves after Reimis Smith stepped in for him in the win over Canberra on Sunday.
Odds: Knights $2.12, Rabbitohs $1.72 – odds via PlayUp
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Tyson Gamble 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Phoenix Crossland 10. Leo Thompson 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Adam Elliott 14. Kurt Mann 15. Daniel Saifiti 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Mathew Croker 18. Dylan Lucas 19. Enari Tuala 20. Adam Clune 21. Brodie Jones 22. Jack Johns
Jackson Hastings is rated a small chance of playing this weekend due to his syndesmosis injury and coach Adam O’Brien said Adam Clune was his likely replacement at halfback and he’s been named in the reserves. He could also switch Phoenix Crossland from hooker and promote utility Kurt Mann to the starting side.
Bradman Best (groin) returns at centre with Enari Tuala dropping out.
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Jai Arrow 9. Damien Cook 10. Shaquai Mitchell 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jacob Host 13. Cameron Murray 14. Tallis Duncan 15. Michael Chee Kam 16. Siliva Havili 17. Davvy Moale 18. Tyrone Munro 19. Hame Sele 20. Peter Mamouzelos 21. Tevita Tatola 22. Dean Hawkins
Bench forward Jed Cartwright is out again with a back injury while Michael Chee-Kam replacing Ben Lovett on the bench is the only change from the team which beat the Dragons.
Lachlan Ilias ($1000 for tripping) and Damien Cook ($750 for a dangerous throw) are free to play.
Odds: Raiders $1.34, Bulldogs $3.25 – odds via PlayUp
Raiders: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. Albert Hopoate 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Nick Cotric
6. Jack Wighton 19. Matt Frawley 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Horsburgh 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. James Schiller 17. Ata Mariota 18. Trey Mooney 20. Ethan Strange 21. Brad Morkos 22. Adrian Trevilyan
Jordan Rapana was charged with tripping from the loss to Melbourne and runs the risk of a two-game ban if he challenges the judiciary instead of copping a $3000 fine while centre Matt Timoko ($750 for a high tackle) was also cited.
Retiring centre Jarrod Croker, who has been out for a fortnight with a hamstring problem, will return, pushing debutant Ethan Strange out.
Jack Wighton is out with a hamstring strain, replaced by Matt Frawley.
Bulldogs: 1. Jake Averillo 2. Blake Wilson 3. Jacob Kiraz 4. Braidon Burns 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Matt Burton 7. Toby Sexton 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Liam Knight 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Corey Waddell 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Kyle Flanagan 15. Luke Thompson 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17. Tevita Pangai jnr 19. Harrison Edwards 20. Kurtis Morrin 21. Jayden Okunbor 22. Hayze Perham 23. Reece Hoffman
English forward Luke Thompson got through his first NRL match of the season after a lengthy spell out with a foot injury in the loss to Newcastle in the only bright note for the beaten Bulldogs.
Jacob Preston has been banned two weeks for his hip-drop tackle on Jackson Hastings. Ryan Sutton returns from a neck injury at lock while Corey Waddell will start in Preston’s second-row spot.
Bye – Broncos