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NRL Week 2 Trial Team Lists: Dogs pull Crichton selection surprise, banned prop allowed to play, Raiders make Savage call

20th February, 2024
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20th February, 2024
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Canterbury coach Cameron Ciraldo has given the biggest indication yet star off-season recruit Stephen Crichton will start the 2024 NRL season in the centres.

Crichton, who moved to Belmore after winning three straight premierships with Penrith, was tipped to make the switch to fullback after arriving at the Bulldogs.

The Samoan international, however, was named at centre for Friday’s trial against Cronulla, with Blake Taaffe getting the nod in the No.1 jersey.

Bronson Xerri is Canterbury’s other centre with backrower Viliame Kikau also set to get a hit-out after missing most of last season.

Bronson Xerri. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Cronulla will trot out their near strongest team with prop Toby Rudolf set to get valuable minutes under his belt at Belmore Oval as he recovers from a recurring toe issue. 

Elsewhere, Ryan Papenhuyzen will be given another chance to prove his fitness after being named to start for Melbourne, who take on Newcastle in Fiji on Saturday.

Nick Meaney starts in the centres for the Storm while Newcastle resisted the temptation of naming hooker Jayden Brailey as he recovers from a knee injury.

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The Dolphins and Warriors are both at near full strength for Saturday’s meeting in Auckland, while St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan will persist with using Zac Lomax on the wing.

The Dragons play the Wests Tigers on Saturday in Mudgee where PNG international Justin Olam is set to debut for Benji Marshall‘s side. 

In Sunday’s games, Canberra will try Albert Hopoate at fullback with Xavier Savage again picked on the wing for their clash with North Queensland in Queanbeyan. 

Meanwhile, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has named a full-strength team to face the Gold Coast, who will deploy AJ Brimson at centre in their clash in Ipswich.

All four of the NRL’s Las Vegas-bound teams – Manly, Brisbane, South Sydney and the Roosters – have put out depleted squads full of youngsters and state cup players for this weekend’s trials.  

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Banned prop Toafofoa Sipley is eligible to play for Manly because his three-game ban from last week’s crusher tackle only counts for NRL games.

Troubled forward Josh Schuster‘s run with injury cost him a spot on the plane to the US. Facing a potentially career-defining 2024 campaign, Schuster has not played in either of the Sea Eagles’ trials after an off-season plagued by calf issues, a broken finger and a bout of chickenpox. 

The Sea Eagles have opted to take a “conservative approach” with Schuster’s calf recovery, opting to leave the 22-year-old at home for their round one NRL clash against South Sydney in the US on March 3.

Manly coach Anthony Seibold said the move would allow Schuster, who will switch to the back row this season, to get himself right to play in the club’s round two meeting with the Sydney Roosters. 

“The medical staff has said that due to ongoing tightness … we’re not comfortable having him return to play and that we want to take a more conservative approach,” Seibold said in a statement on Tuesday. “Josh is only 21 days post initial calf strain, so we won’t take him to Las Vegas.”

The Sea Eagles are confident of having journeyman prop Matt Lodge back by round eight at the latest. Lodge suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury at the back end of last season.

Week 2 trial teams

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All times in AEDT.

Friday, February 23: Rabbitohs v Roosters, 6pm at Belmore Sports Ground

Rabbitohs: 1. Braidon Burns 2. Leon Te Hau 3. Adam Christensen 4. Leonard Skelton 5. Jude Saldanha 6. Bayleigh Bentley-Hape 7. Jarrett Subloo 8. Brock Gray 9. Ryan Gray 10. Yileen Gordon 11. Maila Aluni-Chanfoon 12. Nicholas Halalilo 13. Matthew French 14. CJ Mundine 15. Cade Maloney 16. Chase Chapman 17. Tyson Hodge 18. Kaylen Miller 19. Noah Reed 20. Louis Grossemy 21. Aiden Doolan.

Braidon Burns gets a run at fullback after making his club return in the Charity Shield win while 36-year-old former first-grader Yileen Gordon will start at prop.

Roosters: 1. Callum Gromek 2. Alexander Young 3. Kyron Fekitoa 4. Ethan Clark-Wood 5. Turoa Williams 6. Coby Thomas 7. Joseph Whitikama Temara Taipari 8. Xavier Va’a 9. Tyler Moriarty 10. Dylan Napa 11. Corey Ross 12. Meli Nasau 13. Salesi Foketi 14. Benaiah Ioelu 15. Tayson Fakaosi 16. Zac Saddler 17. Taylor Losalu 18. Harrison McKeon 19. Sione Vaenuku 20. Alan Holten 21. Emery Jolliffe 22. Michael Coleman.

With the first-choice team off to Las Vegas, veteran prop Dylan Napa is the only player with NRL experience in the squad which also features Dominic Young’s younger brother Alex Young on the wing.

Friday, February 23: Sharks v Bulldogs, 8pm at Belmore Sports Ground

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Sharks: 1. William Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Braydon Trindall 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Oregon Kaufusi 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Royce Hunt 11. Briton Nikora 12. Teig Wilton 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Jack Williams 15. Jesse Colquhoun 16. Toby Rudolf 17. Thomas Hazelton 18. Tuku Hau Tapuha 19. Mawene Hiroti 20. Kayal Iro 21. Billy Burns 22. Daniel Atkinson 23. Jayden Berrell 24. Niwhai Puru.

Will Kennedy is back at fullback after a hamstring injury ended his season a month out from the finals last year. Nicho Hynes and Braydon Trindall are back after representing the Indigenous All Stars last Friday.

Bulldogs: 1. Blake Taaffe 2. Blake Wilson 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Matt Burton 7. Drew Hutchison 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Poasa Faamausili 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Jacob Preston 13. Jaeman Salmon 14. Kurt Mann 15. Samuel Hughes 16. Josh Curran 17. Kurtis Morrin 19. Kitione Kautoga 20. Eli Clark 21. Toby Sexton 22. Jeral Skelton 23. Joash Papali’i 24. Bailey Hayward 25. Bailey Biondi-Odo.

Stephen Crichton will make his club debut at centre with Blake Taaffe preferred at fullback. Viliame Kikau is another high-profile Bulldog off the leash for the first time in 2024. Jaeman Salmon will start at lock while Drew Hutchison has got his nose in front of Toby Sexton for the halves gig alongside Matt Burton.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 15: Stephen Crichton looks on during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm at Belmore Sports Ground on February 15, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Bulldogs recruit Stephen Crichton. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Saturday, February 24: Storm v Knights, 1:45pm at Churchill Park, Lautoka

Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. William Warbrick 3. Reimis Smith 4. Nick Meaney 5. Xavier Coates 6. Jonah Pezet 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Harry Grant 10. Josh King 11. Kane Bradley 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Trent Loiero 14. Christian Welch 15. Joe Chan 16. Tristan Powell 17. Tyran Wishart 18. Keagan Russell-Smith 19. Dean Ieremia 20. Shawn Blore 21. Bronson Garlick 22. Young Tonumaipea 23. Lazarus Vaalepu 24. Jack Howarth.

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Five-eighth Cameron Munster will be rested for the second straight trial while Will Warbrick, Xavier Coates, Harry Grant, Tui Kamikamica and Nick Meaney are among the big names playing this weekend.

Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Enari Tuala 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. Dylan Lucas 13. Adam Elliott 14. Jack Cogger 15. Daniel Saifiti 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Kai Pearce-Paul 18. Thomas Cant 19. Riley Jones 20. David Armstrong 21. Will Pryce 22. Jed Cartwright 23. Brodie Jones 24. Thomas Jenkins 25. Fletcher Sharpe 26. Laitia Moceidreke 27. Fletcher Myers.

Jayden Brailey (hamstring) is out with Phoenix Crossland getting another run at hooker. Jackson Hastings and Tyson Gamble look like they will start Round 1 in the halves, with Jack Cogger on the bench.

Saturday, February 24: Warriors v Dolphins, 3:45pm at Go Media Stadium

Warriors: 1. Taine Tuaupiki 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Luke Metcalf 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Jackson Ford 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Tohu Harris 14. Freddy Lussick 15. Marata Niukore 16. Jazz Tevaga 17. Bunty Afoa 18. Dylan Walker 20. Tom Ale 21. Ali Leiataua 22. Adam Pompey 23. Te Maire Martin 24. Chanel Harris-Tavita 25. Jacob Laban.

Shaun Johnson is back from an ankle injury at training and will partner Luke Metcalf in the halves. Taine Tuaupiki will again line up at fullback with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (hamstring) doubtful.

Dolphins: 1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Tesi Niu 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Jack Bostock 6. Isaiya Katoa 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Thomas Flegler 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Euan Aitken 13. Tom Gilbert 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Valynce Te Whare 16. Jake Averillo 17. Kurt Donoghoe 18. Josh Kerr 19. Ray Stone 20. Kenny Bromwich 21. Connelly Lemuelu 22. Kodi Nikorima 23. Oryn Keeley 24. Jarrod Wallace.

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Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will start at fullback and is likely to switch with centre Herbie Farnworth mid-game again. Captain Jesse Bromwich returns at prop while Ray Stone (toe) is due to play. 

Saturday, February 24: Sea Eagles v Broncos, 5:55pm at 4 Pines Park

Sea Eagles: 1. Bailey Hodgson 2. Max Lehmann 3. Cameron Brown 4. Clayton Faulalo 5. Watson Heleta 6. Jamie Humphreys 7. Brandon Wakeham 8. Toafofoa Sipley 9. Gordon Chan Kum Tong 10. Aitasi James 11. Brad Parker 12. Ben Condon 13. Dean Matterson 14. Kobe Rugless 15. Austin Dias 16. Jacob Sykes 17. James Uesele 18. Caleb Navale 19. Tylor Bunting.

Banned prop Toafofoa Sipley is eligible to play because his three-game ban from last week’s crusher tackle only counts for NRL games. Former centre Brad Parker will pack down in the second row.

Broncos: 1. Creedence Toia 2. Sione Hopoate 3. Delouise Hoeter 4. Ethan Quai-Ward 5. Jordan Pereira 6. Joshua Rogers 7. Kurt Falls 8. Bailey Butler 9. Blake Mozer 10. Benjamin Te Kura 11. Jaiyden Hunt 12. Ethan O’neill 13. Rory Ferguson 14. Joseph Tomane 15. Joshua Stuckey 16. Cooper Page-Wilson 17. Joshua Patston 18. Kalolo Saitaua 19. Cory Paix.

Delouise Hoeter will captain an inexperienced side missing the NRL stars who will feature in Vegas.

Saturday, February 24, Dragons v Wests Tigers, 8:05pm at Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee

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Dragons: 1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Zac Lomax 3. Moses Suli 4. Jack Bird 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Tom Eisenhuth 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Jack de Belin 14. Jesse Marschke 15. Viliami Fifita 16. Ben Murdoch-Masila 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 18. Michael Molo 19. Connor Muhleisen 20. Christian Tuipulotu 21. Mathew Feagai 22. Sione Finau 23. Max Feagai 24. Toby Couchman.

Ex-Canterbury forward Raymond Faitala-Mariner will make his St George Illawarra debut off the bench.

Tigers: 1. Jahream Bula 2. Charlie Staines 3. Justin Olam 4. Starford To’a 5. Junior Tupou 6. Jayden Sullivan 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Asu Kepaoa 13. Alex Seyfarth 14. Lachlan Galvin 15. Alex Twal 16. Fonua Pole 17. Samuela Fainu 18. Sione Fainu 19. Jake Simpkin 20. Heath Mason 21. Alexander Lobb 22. Navren Willett 23. Sione Latoa-vaihu 24. Solomon Alaimalo.

Ex-Storm centre Justin Olam will make his first Wests Tigers appearance while forwards Alex Twal and Justin Matamua will also have their first hit-out after being rested last weekend in the win over the Warriors.

Sunday, February 25: World Club Challenge – Wigan v Penrith, 7am at DW Stadium, Wigan

Warriors: Ex-Bulldogs prop Luke Thompson (concussion) is out but Harry Smith is free to feature in Wigan’s World Club Challenge clash against Penrith after escaping a ban for his tip tackle on Castleford’s Luke Hooley in the Super League.

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Wigan are seeking to make it back-to-back wins for English clubs in the one-off match between the NRL and Super League premiers, after St Helens beat Penrith 13-12 at BlueBet Stadium last year.

Smith, 24, was sent to the sin bin following Friday’s incident, but received a Grade B charge because the match review panel found “the unnatural actions of the tackled player significantly contributed to the outcome of the tackle”.

Panthers: Squad yet to be announced. Jarome Luai is out despite recently talking up his chances of an early return from a shoulder injury. Jack Cole will partner Nathan Cleary in the halves.

Sunday, February 25: Raiders v Cowboys, 3pm at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan

Raiders: 1. Albert Hopoate 2. Utuloa Asouma 3. Matthew Timoko 4. James Schiller 5. Xavier Savage 6. Kaeo Weekes 7. Ethan Strange 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Danny Levi 10. Emre Guler 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Morgan Smithies 14. Tom Starling 15. Nick Cotric 16. Trey Mooney 17. Jed Stuart 18. Chevy Stewart 19. Adam Cook 20. Peter Hola 21. Mitch Henderson 22. Zac Hosking 23. Simi Sasagi 24. Pasami Saulo.

Kaeo Weekes and Ethan Strange are in a halves shootout for the chance to partner Jamal Fogarty in Round 1. Joseph Tapine will be rested after representing the Maori last weekend. Ex-Panthers forward Zac Hosking will play his first match for the Raiders.

Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Zac Laybutt 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Jason Taumalolo 11. Heilum Luki 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Jake Granville 15. Griffin Neame 16. Coen Hess 17. Sam McIntyre 18. Thomas Mikaele 19. Tomas Chester 20. Semi Valemei 21. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 22. Jack Gosiewski 23. Jake Clifford.

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Todd Payten is giving Jason Taumalolo, Scott Drinkwater, Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Tom Dearden, Chad Townsend and Jeremiah Nanai their first hit-out after fielding a young line-up in last week’s loss to Brisbane.

Sunday, February 25: Titans v Eels, 5pm at North Ipswich Reserve, Ipswich

Titans: 1. Keano Kini 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Brian Kelly 4. AJ Brimson 5. Phillip Sami 6. Kieran Foran 7. Tanah Boyd 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Sam Verrills 10. Keenan Palasia 11. Klese Haas 12. Beau Fermor 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 14. Chris Randall 15. Jaimin Jolliffe 16. Erin Clark 17. Jacob Alick 18. Joe Stimson 19. Harley Smith-Shields 20. Jojo Fifita 21. Thomas Weaver 22. Jaylan De Groot 23. Josiah Pahulu.

AJ Brimson will start at centre even though Jayden Campbell is out with a knee injury. Kieran Foran, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Tanah Boyd, and Moeaki Fotuaika are also in action for the first time in 2024. Star forward David Fifita (pectoral) will be out in Round 1.

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Sean Russell 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. J’maine Hopgood 14. Brendan Hands 15. Wiremu Greig 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Kelma Tuilagi 18. Ryan Matterson 19. Morgan Harper 20. Haze Dunster 21. Daejarn Asi 22. Blaize Talagi.

J’maine Hopgood returns from Indigenous All Stars duty at lock, Clint Gutherson is over a knee injury while Mitch Moses, Dylan Brown, Maika Sivo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo are back after being rested last week.

With AAP

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