Penrith will roll the dice on five-eighth Jarome Luai‘s shoulder injury in Friday night’s preliminary final against Melbourne.
Luai is set to play after he pulled up well from a full-contact opposed session on Wednesday in a major boost to the Panthers’ chances with coach Ivan Cleary confirming on Thursday morning that the Samoan international was good to go.
“We’ve seen a lot of guys at this club do some pretty amazing things,” the coach said on Thursday. “From the moment we got the information the medical staff were very confident.
“He’s just put his head down, worked very hard and ticked every box every week. We just had to get to the game, which we’ve been able to do. It’s all systems go.”
Halves partner Nathan Cleary had already been cleared after suffering a finger injury in a training incident earlier in the week.
Panthers officials sent Cleary to hospital for precautionary scans but they cleared the 25-year-old of any significant injury.
After dislocating his shoulder four weeks ago against Parramatta, Luai has been named at five-eighth with Jack Cogger on the interchange.
Luai and Cleary have won 83 of 94 games they have started together in the halves since their days in U20s, having combined for both Penrith and NSW State of Origin.
Centre Izack Tago has also overcome a pectoral injury to be named ahead of Luke Garner.
Storm half Jahrome Hughes is pushing to make a return from a calf injury in the preliminary final showdown with Penrith but and Xavier Coates (ankle) is out again. They each sat out Friday night’s 18-13 semi-final thriller against the Sydney Roosters.
Hughes trained at AAMI Park on Thursday before Melbourne fly north for Friday night’s clash with the Panthers at Accor Stadium. “We’ll have to see how he pulls up but he got through most of it (the training) so we’re really confident he’ll be OK,” coach Craig Bellamy said.
“He didn’t do all of it but we didn’t plan for him to do all of it, either. All of it we planned for him to do he did.”
The Warriors and Broncos have no injury concerns for the their grand final qualifier at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Star half Shaun Johnson is on light training duties again after making it through the semi-final win over Newcastle unscathed when he made a comeback from a calf problem.
The NRL has dropped leading referee Ashley Klein after he received criticism for two pivotal calls in Melbourne’s semi-final defeat of the Sydney Roosters. He will not preside over either of the preliminary finals this week but has been listed as the bunker official for Brisbane’s match against the Warriors on Saturday.
Gerard Sutton will referee the Broncos vs Warriors game after Klein’s demotion while Adam Gee, who is now the favourite to control the Grand Final, will be the whistleblower for the Panthers vs Storm clash.
Odds: Panthers $1.18, Storm $4.85, courtesy of PlayUp
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Izack Tago 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. Jack Cogger 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Luke Garner 18. Tyrone Peachey 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. Zac Hosking 21. Luke Sommerton 22. Thomas Jenkins
Jarome Luai (shoulder) making a return with coach Ivan Cleary confirming on Thursday morning that he’s in with Jack Cogger on the bench.
Nathan Cleary picked up a finger injury at training but he will be able to take on the Storm.
Young centre Izack Tago (pectoral) missed the qualifying final win over the Warriors but he has been named to replace Luke Garner out wide with the ex-Wests Tigers utility back on the interchange.
Zac Hosking and Tyrone Peachey have been relegated to the reserves.
Storm: 1. Nick Meaney 2. William Warbrick 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Reimis Smith 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. Tyran Wishart 15. Tom Eisenhuth 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Tariq Sims 18. Grant Anderson 19. Bronson Garlick 20. Sualauvi Faalogo 21. Tepai Moeroa 22. Chris Lewis
Kiwi half Jahrome Hughes (calf) is considered likely to play but Maroons winger Xavier Coates (ankle) and centre Young Tonumaipea (head wound) are still sidelined.
Tyran Wishart returns to the interchange with Hughes back, meaning Bronson Garlick is in the reserves.
Fiji prop Tui Kamikamica will need to pass the concussion protocols to play after copping a head knock late in the win over the Roosters.
Odds: Broncos $1.27, Warriors $3.80, courtesy of PlayUp
Broncos: 1. Reece Walsh 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Selwyn Cobbo 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Tyson Smoothy 15. Brendan Piakura 16. Kobe Hetherington 17. Keenan Palasia 18. Corey Oates 19. Martin Taupau 20. Corey Jensen 21. Jock Madden 22. Tristan Sailor
Kevin Walters’ side is injury free so he is rolling out the same 17 who thrashed Melbourne in the first match of the finals.
Warriors: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Jackson Ford 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tohu Harris 14. Dylan Walker 15. Jazz Tevaga 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Josh Curran 18. Freddy Lussick 20. Taine Tuaupiki 21. Bunty Afoa 22. Ali Leiataua 23. Edward Kosi
Shaun Johnson will be on limited training duties but is a near certainty to play. Josh Curran dislocated his finger and Marate Niukore copped a bump to his knee in the win over Newcastle but they are good to go.