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NRL Round 1 Team Lists: New faces galore as coaches spring surprise selections, Luai in, Munster doubtful, Crichton snubbed

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5th March, 2024
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The NRL’s Las Vegas double-header has kicked off the season, now the focus turns to the other six matches to complete a unique opening round with teams now announced for the remaining fixtures.

Cameron Munster is in doubt to play in Melbourne’s NRL round-one showdown with defending premiers Penrith as he struggles to overcome a troublesome groin issue. The five-eighth is touch and go for Friday with Jonah Pezet on standby.

He has been unable to train fully since re-injuring his groin when he slipped in the shower while the Storm were in Fiji for a pre-season clash with Newcastle last month.

“I was looking good for the Fiji game and then I slipped in the shower so it wasn’t ideal,” Munster said.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“It’s a frustrating injury but I’m doing everything I can to get it right.”

Melbourne big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona is sidelined with a hamstring issue.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is confident five-eighth Jarome Luai will take on the Storm after sitting out the World Club Challenge final due to his off-season shoulder surgery.

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“He is doing really well, at this stage we expect him to play,” Cleary said on Monday.

Mitch Kenny will be suspended for the first game of Penrith’s premiership defence after the NRL finalised its investigation into his Boxing Day social media post.

Kenny was handed a breach notice by the NRL earlier this month after posting to his Instagram story on December 27 that a “couple of Boxing Day lines have got me in troubleeee (sic)”.

Kenny has been replaced by rookie Luke Sommerton. Scott Sorensen is out with a knee complaint.

Knights hooker Jayden Brailey missed the trials with a minor hamstring complaint as he makes a comeback from another serious knee injury and won’t suit up against the Raiders on Thursday with Phoenix Crossland to take over in the No.9 jersey.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart will entrust one-gamer Ethan Strange to fill the void left by club icon Jack Wighton after naming the teenager to play at five-eighth for the Raiders’ season-opening trip to Newcastle.

Wighton’s exit to South Sydney over the off-season created a two-way shootout to plug the No.6 role for the Green Machine, with 19-year-old Strange beating Kaeo Weekes to the starting spot.

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Stuart will also deploy English import Morgan Smithies at lock and Danny Levi at hooker.

Canterbury recruit Stephen Crichton‘s desire to play fullback has been snubbed by coach Cameron Ciraldo with Blake Taaffe getting the nod ahead of him for their clash with the Eels.

Parramatta will be without Maika Sivo to start the NRL season, with the Eels winger copping a three-game ban.

The Fijian flyer was hit with a grade-two careless high-tackle charge following their trial win over the Gold Coast.

Canberra youngster Ethan Strange has won the race to play five-eighth while Sharks half Nicho Hynes (thigh) should be fine for Round 1.

Des Hasler has pulled a surprise for the Gold Coast’s season opener at home to St George Illawarra by naming Chris Randall at hooker ahead of Sam Verrills.

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St George Illawarra forwards Jacob Liddle and Blake Lawrie, who failed to finish their trial win over Wests Tigers, due to rib cartilage damage and a low-grade hamstring injury have been named to play.

Star Dolphins centre Herbie Farnworth limped off the training field last Tuesday with a knee injury but is right to play. He will line up at centre with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow at fullback.

Wayne Bennett has made two other big selection calls with centre Tesi Niu and five-eighth Kodi Nikorima getting the nod for Sunday’s clash with North Queensland.

Niu edged out speedster Jake Averillo who was recruited from Canterbury on a three-year deal after losing eight kilograms in the off-season and performing strongly in both trials.

Nikorima, who played multiple positions in 2023, has been preferred to 20-year-old five-eighth Isaiya Katoa, who featured 22 times last year. Utility Max Plath has won a spot in the 17 to play against the Cowboys where he will likely come off bench.

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Cowboys forward Coen Hess is also out for the year after tearing his ACL in their trial win over Canberra in Queanbeyan. Veteran Kyle Feldt has beaten Fijian ace Semi Valemei to a wing spot. 

Newcastle vs Canberra at McDonald Jones Stadium: 8pm, Thursday March 7

Odds: Knights $1.44, Raiders $2.80 – odds via PlayUp

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. Jed Cartwright 19. Thomas Jenkins 20. Will Pryce 21. Brodie Jones 22. Thomas Cant

Jayden Brailey missed the trials with a minor hamstring complaint as he makes a comeback from another serious knee injury and will not suit up against the Raiders. Phoenix Crossland will again deputise in the No.9 jersey.

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Dylan Lucas has got the nod for a second row spot with English recruit Kai Pearce-Paul on the interchange along with ex-Panthers playmaker Jack Cogger with incumbents Jackson Hastings and Tyson Gamble remaining the halves. 

Raiders: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Albert Hopoate 5. Xavier Savage 6. Ethan Strange 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Danny Levi 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Zac Hosking 13. Morgan Smithies 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Ata Mariota 17. Pasami Saulo 18. Kaeo Weekes 19. Simi Sasagi 20. Zac Woolford 21. James Schiller 22. Trey Mooney

Rising star Ethan Strange has edged out Manly recruit Kaeo Weekes for Jack Wighton’s old five-eighth spot. Both had their moments in Sunday’s trial loss to the Cowboys.

With Seb Kris suspended, Jordan Rapana will be at fullback and Xavier Savage is on the wing. English recruit Morgan Smithies will make his NRL debut at lock with Corey Horsburgh serving a ban from last season with ex-Panthers forward Zac Hosking starting in the second row. Danny Levi has been named at hooker with Tom Starling on the bench. Zac Woolford (concussion) was available for Round 1 but not picked.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

NZ Warriors vs Cronulla at Go Media Stadium: 6pm, Friday March 8

Odds: Warriors $1.55, Sharks $2.45 – odds via PlayUp

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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. Tom Ale 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Dylan Walker 18. Adam Pompey 20. Jazz Tevaga 21. Te Maire Martin 22. Ali Leiataua 23. Jacob Laban

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has slotted in well at centre in the pre-season and halfback Shaun Johnson made a return from a calf injury.

But even though Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (hamstring) is out, RTS will not be switched to fullback with Taine Tuaupiki getting the start. Luke Metcalf has beaten Te Maire Martin to be Johnson’s halves partner.

Kurt Capewell has crossed the ditch to add starch to the pack while utility back Chanel Harris-Tavita and Jazz Tevaga have missed out on the 17.

Uncapped Warriors rookie Zyon Maiu’u was sent off for his high tackle that floored Wests Tigers centre Declan Casey in the trials and copped a four-game ban with a guilty plea.

Sharks: 1. Will 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. Dale Finucane 15. Jack Williams 16. Toby Rudolf 17. Thomas Hazelton 18. Kayal Iro 19. Tuku Hau Tapuha 20. Daniel Atkinson 21. Mawene Hiroti 22. Jayden Berrell

Nicho Hynes was rested for the trial win over Canterbury with a thigh problem but is be right for Round 1 while Dale Finucane (calf) is also confident of tackling the Warriors.

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Braden Hamlin-Uele is out with a knee complaint.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 31: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm passes the ball during the round 27 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on August 31, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Ryan Papenhuyzen. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Melbourne vs Penrith at AAMI Park: 8.05pm, Friday March 8

Odds: Storm $2.15, Panthers $1.71 – odds via PlayUp

Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Will Warbrick 3. Reimis Smith 4. Nick Meaney 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Harry Grant 10. Josh King 11. Joe Chan 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Trent Loiero 14. Tyran Wishart 15. Christian Welch 16. Chris Lewis 17. Alec MacDonald 18. Shawn Blore 19. Kane Bradley 20. Jonah Pezet 21. Marion Seve 22. Sualauvi Faalogo

Cameron Munster could be a late scratching for the Storm’s showdown with Penrith after slipping in the shower and aggravating a calf injury. The five-eighth is touch and go for Friday with Jonah Pezet on standby.

Ryan Papenhuyzen pushed hard to play in Round 1 with impressive trial form and coach Craig Bellamy has rewarded the fullback with Nick Meaney switching to centre to replace Justin Olam. 

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Ex-Tigers forward Shawn Blore has bolstered the pack depth as part of the swap deal which sent Olam to Wests but is in the reserves.

Melbourne big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona is sidelined with a hamstring issue.

Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Izack Tago 4. Taylan May 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Luke Sommerton 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Luke Garner 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Liam Henry 17. Matt Eisenhuth 18. Daine Laurie 19. Soni Luke 20. Brad Schneider 21. Preston Riki 22. Mavrik Geyer

Jarome Luai looks set to be right for the start of the season after recovering from the shoulder injury he carried into last year’s Grand Final which ruled him out of the World Club Challenge final loss to Wigan.

Mitch Kenny will be suspended for the first game of Penrith’s premiership defence after the NRL finalised its investigation into his Boxing Day social media post.

Kenny was handed a breach notice by the NRL last month after posting to his Instagram story on December 27 that a “couple of Boxing Day lines have got me in troubleeee (sic)”.

Soni Luke, Penrith’s back-up hooker last season, is on the reserves list with rookie Luke Sommerton getting the rake’s spot.

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Taylan May has won the race to replace Stephen Crichton at centre while winger Sunia Turuva suffered a knee injury against Wigan but is confident of being fit for Round 1.

Scott Sorensen is out with a knee injury.

Parramatta vs Canterbury at CommBank Stadium: 5.30pm, Saturday March 9

Odds: Eels $1.44, Bulldogs $2.80 – odds via PlayUp

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Morgan Harper 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. Ryan Matterson 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Kelma Tuilagi 18. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Daejarn Asi 20. Luca Moretti 21. Makahesi Makatoa 22. Blaize Talagi

Ryan Matterson (back) and Bailey Simonsson (hamstring) failed to finish the trial win over the Titans. Matterson was more of a precaution but Simonsson is under a cloud for Round 1.

Fijian winger Maika Sivo has copped a three-game ban for a hit on AJ Brimson in the second trial so Simonsson switches to the flank and Manly recruit Morgan Harper will start in the centres. Young forward Wiremu Greig is out with a hamstring strain.

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Bulldogs: 1. Blake Taaffe 2. Blake Wilson 3. Jacob Kiraz 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. Bronson Xerri 20. Toby Sexton 21. Jake Turpin 22. Connor Tracey 23. Kitione Kautoga

Panthers star Stephen Crichton will start in the centres even though he switched to Canterbury looking to nail down the fullback spot.

Former Sharks young gun Bronson Xerri will have to wait another week at least to resurrect his career as the other centre with Jacob Kiraz getting the nod ahead of him. Blake Taaffe struggled at fullback in the trial loss to Cronulla while Drew Hutchison did not have much impact at halfback but have kept their spots.

Gold Coast vs St George Illawarra at Cbus Super Stadium: 5.30pm, Saturday March 8

Odds: Titans $1.50, Dragons $2.60 – odds via PlayUp

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. Chris Randall 10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 11. Klese Haas 12. Beau Fermor 13. Keenan Palasia 14. Sam Verrills 15. Isaac Liu 16. Erin Clark 17. Jaimin Jolliffe 18. Joe Stimson 19. Jojo Fifita 20. Jacob Alick 21. Harley Smith-Shields 22. Josiah Pahulu

David Fifita is out of the start of the season due to surgery for a pectoral tear suffered late last year while Jayden Campbell (knee) will also not be back until Round 3.

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Kieran Foran was rested from the trials and will partner Tanah Boyd in the halves. AJ Brimson will stick to centre with Keano Kini at fullback for Campbell.

Klese Haas has beaten Jacob Alick for a back-row position to partner Beau Fermor, who returned from an ACL tear in the trials that kept him out of the entire 2023 season.

MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24: Kyle Flanagan of the Dragons passes during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers at Glen Willow Sporting Complex on February 24, 2024 in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Kyle Flanagan passes in Mudgee. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

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. Connor Muhleisen 15. Michael Molo 16. Viliami Fifita 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 18. Ben Murdoch-Masila 19. Christian Tuipulotu 20. Jesse Marschke 21. Ryan Couchman 22. Mathew Feagai

Kyle Flanagan will start at five-eighth following Junior Amone being stood down due to being found guilty of assault. Canterbury second-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Storm veteran Tom Eisenhuth will bolster the pack.

A late acquisition from the Cowboys in the pre-season, Luciano Leilua will miss the opening round due to a suspension for a drink-driving charge in Townsville.  

Jack Bird returns to centre from the pack, pushing Zac Lomax to the wing.

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St George Illawarra forwards Jacob Liddle and Blake Lawrie, failed to finish their trial win over Wests Tigers. Lawrie suffered rib cartilage damage and has been named to play but Liddle picked up a low-grade hamstring injury and is also on track to suit up with Connor Muhleisen the back-up on the bench.

Dolphins vs North Queensland at Suncorp Stadium: 4.05pm, Sunday March 10

Odds: Dolphins $2.70, Cowboys $1.47 – odds via PlayUp

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

Wayne Bennett has made two big selection calls with centre Tesi Niu and No.6 Kodi Nikorima getting the nod for Sunday’s NRL round-one clash with North Queensland.

Niu edged out speedster Jake Averillo who was recruited from Canterbury on a three-year deal after losing eight kilograms in the off-season and performing strongly in both trials.

Veteran Nikorima, who played multiple positions in 2023, has been preferred to 20-year-old five-eighth Isaiya Katoa, who featured 22 times last year.

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Utility Max Plath has won a spot in the 17 to play against the Cowboys where he will likely come off bench.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow starts at centre with Herbie Farnworth to make his club debut in the centres.

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. Sam McIntyre 17. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 18. Tomas Chester 19. Thomas Mikaele 20. Semi Valemei 21. Jack Gosiewski 22. Jake Clifford

Luciano Leilua has departed for the Dragons and Coen Hess is out for the season with a knee injury but the Cowboys have plenty of forward depth.

Zac Laybutt gets the centre berth left vacant by Peta Hiku’s switch to the Super League. Reuben Cotter sat out All-Stars due to a few recent concussions but is not considered in doubt for Round 1.

Cowboys veteran Kyle Feldt has beaten Fijian ace Semi Valemei to a wing spot. 

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 09: West Tigers assistant coach Benji Marshall looks on ahead of the NRL trial match between New Zealand Warriors and Wests Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium on February 09, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Benji Marshall. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Bye – Wests Tigers

Tigers: Former Raiders playmaker Aiden Sezer was brilliant in his first trial for the club and looks set to partner Jayden Sullivan in the halves.

Justin Olam gives the young team a much-needed jolt of experience and impact out wide after David Nofoaluma made his controversial abrupt exit in the off-season after a clash with new coach Benji Marshall.

Round 2 predicted team

1 Jahream Bula
2 Junior Tupou
3 Starford To’a
4 Justin Olam
5 Charlie Staines
6 Jayden Sullivan
7 Aidan Sezer
8 David Klemmer
9 Api Koroisau
10 Stefano Utoikamanu
11 Isaiah Papali’i
12 John Bateman
13 Fonua Pole
Interchange
14 Jake Simpkin
15 Asu Kepaoa
16 Alex Twal
17 Alex Seyfarth

Other squad members: Adam Doueihi (injured), Brent Naden, David Nofoaluma, Josh Feledy, Lachlan Galvin, Latu Fainu, Solomon Alaimalo, Brandon Tumeth, Justin Matamua, Kit Laulili, Samuela Fainu, Tallyn Da Silva, Sione Fainu, Jordan Miller

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