NRL 2024 Pre-Season Challenge Week 2

Big Pete

Big Pete

International Captain
Mar 12, 2008
31,497
24,002
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Sydney Roosters
Belmore Sports Ground, Friday 23 February 2024
Kick Off: 5:00pm (AEST)


SOUTH SYDNEY 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

SYDNEY 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

Cronulla Sharks vs. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Belmore Sports Ground, Friday 23 February 2024
Kick Off: 7:00pm (AEST)


CRONULLA 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 25. Kade Dykes 26. Chris Vea'ila

CANTEBURY BANKSTOWN 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

Melbourne Storm vs. Newcastle Knights
Churchill Park (Fiji), Saturday 24 February 2024
Kick Off: 1:45pm


MELBOURNE 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 25. Treigh Stewart 26. Chris Lewis 27. Marion Seve 28. Coby Williamson

NEWCASTLE 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

Warriors vs. Dolphins
Go Media Stadium, Saturday 24 February 2024
Kick Off: 2:45pm (AEST)


NZ 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 26. Moala Graham-Taufa 27. Leka Halasima 28. Setu Tu

THE 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 25. Trai Fuller

Manly Sea Eagles vs. Brisbane Broncos
4 Pines Park, Saturday 24 February 2024
Kick Off: 4:55pm (AEST)


MANLY 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

BRISBANE 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

St George Illawarra Dragons vs. Wests Tigers
Glen Willow Regional Stadium (Mudgee), Saturday 24 February 2024
Kick Off: 7:05pm (AEST)


ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 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 25. Ryan Couchman 26. Dan Russell

WESTS 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 25. Tony Sukkar 26. Justin Matamua

Canberra Raiders vs. North Queensland Cowboys
Seiffart Oval (Quenbeyan), Sunday 25 February 2024
Kick Off: 2:00pm


CANBERRA 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 25. Ata Mariota 26. Hohepa Puru 27. Zac Woolford

NORTH QLD 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

Gold Coast Titans vs. Parramatta Eels
North Ipswich Reserve, Sunday 25 February 2024
Kick Off: 4:00pm (AEST)


GOLD COAST 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

PARRAMATTA EELS

1. Clinton 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
 
Rabbitohs - I find it odd that the only NRL player they've named is Leon Te Hau. I know they have a few unavailabilities, but how bad is their situation exactly? Let's have a look: Wighton (suspended), Graham (sternum), Munro (shoulder), Suluka-Fifita (knee), Lovett (knee) are all out and Walker (calf) is touch and go, but that still leaves 27 other players, who am I missing? I don't know why they were so desperate to get Gagai cleared when they have Te Hau there - that's a vote of no confidence if I've seen one. How did they swing that with the NRL? Did they give Gagai that last spot? Or did they show the NRL brass some footage of Te Hau and that was enough? I've barely seen Leon but I am a stickler for this whole squad system. In other words:

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I can answer that question, clearly and emphatically yes. I just wish the Bunnies put more of their NRL players up for this, but I hope the NSW Cup players put on a good show and set themselves for a big season. An 18th team is imminent, clubs are going to need depth and clubs value NSW/QLD Cup players.

Roosters - I can spot a few NRL players/juniors so that's something at least. The Roosters have only announced 26 players in their NRL squad and with injuries/suspensions it appears they're taking every fit player they can. I'm curious to see how they fit those other three spots before Round 1 and will be keen to see how Va'a goes.

Sharks - Not a lot to report. Finucane still hasn't recovered from his bicep injury and Hamlin-Uele is set to miss a chunk of football with a knee injury, otherwise their 1-17 looks settled. It's just a question of whether these players have hit their ceiling and if some of them can overcome their plateau.

Bulldogs - No Kiraz, Perham, Tracey, Samrani, Oloapu, Patolo, Knight, Sutton, Turpin, Topine or Montgomery with Faamausilli, Morrin, Clark, Papalii and Hayward skipping the cue. It looks like they're close to finalising their Round 1 team, rolling with the same spine as the Melbourne trial. The front row appears to be their biggest issue right now and it seems like a case of it is what it is. I wonder if we'll see Viliame Kikau or Josh Curran line-up there at some point?

Storm - Sproj pointed it out, but alongside the omissions of Munster and Asofa-Solomona, Sua Fa'alogo appears to be missing as well. I haven't heard any injury news but I presume he must be carrying a niggle because I'd be shocked if Bellamy rated Stewart higher. Then again, I'm shocked that Howarth finds himself behind Kane Bradley. Howarth maybe one of the longest NRL apprenticeships I've seen. That's good for Kane and I'll be curious to see how he plays after another pre-season with the Storm, he could be that Hoffman/Proctor type backrow they value.

Outside of looking skinny in a few areas, it appears they're getting ready for the next generation. Both Munster and Hughes turn 30 this year and while Pezet and Russell-Smith are still colts, you'd still want to get a few games into them, so it'll be interesting to see how they transition from that 2020 premiership year moving forward.

Knights - I wonder if they'll make this their new home ground? Newcastle caught fire at the back end of the season, so it looks like they've stuck with as many combinations as possible. I'm interested to see how their right wings perform, Armstrong was impressive in that earlier trial and Newcastle rely on their wingers to spark their team. Both Pearce-Paul and Pryce will be in action as well, if Newcastle are to find another level, these two will have to offer a point of difference. I'm not an avid ESL watcher, so I'm keeping an open mind.

Warriors - I'm not a huge gambler so don't read into this as an endorsement, but I was surprised they were below so many other teams in the market. I guess it goes to show how apprehensive the bookies are when the Warriors can add players the calibre of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kurt Capewell to their roster after making the Top 4 and not be considered among the favourites. I'm curious to see how well Tuivasa-Sheck and Johnson combine and just how comfortable they look out there. By rights, they should be in the thick of this premiership race.

Dolphins - They seemed really frustrated against the Titans and only got on top of them late. It'll be interesting to see if they can do the same to the Warriors here and really make a fist of things. They're looking pretty settled at this rate, it's just a matter of finalising that centre combination and sorting out that bench formation. It seemed like they were toying with Averillo as a five-eighth/centre and Te Whare as a backrow/centre along with Niu and Herbie shifting to fullback.

Manly - So let's see: Hodgson, Humphreys, Sipley, Chan Kum Tong, James, Parker, Condon, Matterson with Faulolo joining the NRL squad next year. It's a fair representation and Parker comes as something of a surprise considering how long he's been a fixture in that 17. I know he was converting to

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Tolutau Koula 4. Reuben Garrick 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Luke Brooks 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Josh Aloiai 11. Haumole Ola'kauatu 12. Ben Trbojevic 13. Jake Trbojevic

14. Karl Lawton 15. Ethan Bullemor 16. Corey Waddell 17. Nathan Brown

18. Tommy Talau 19. Raymond Vaega 20. Jakob Arthur 21. Zac Fulton 22. Aaron Woods

Something along those lines? With Talau potentially shifting Garrick to the wing or that bench formation shifting up.

Brisbane - Touched on the Broncos on the main board, but I'm surprised that Patston was relagated to the bench after he stepped in for Piakura. They still have a couple of spots up for grabs and you'd have to think one of those will go to an edge, so I'll be curious to see who steps up here and whether it'll even come down to this trial game.

It's another big game for Mozer as well. Hopefully him and Falls have worked on their communication and can get the team around the park better than what they did against the Seagulls. If he can live up to the hype, the Broncos will be in pretty good hands when Reynolds retires.

Dragons - It appears at least for now the Dylan Egan bandwagon has been halted. I'd imagine with Leilua's return imminent they weren't going to go out on a limb and will just give everybody an opportunity to improve on what they served up at the Charity Shield. I don't think they were dreadful for the Dragons, it was just a couple of key moments where the support arrived late or the kick went too long. Now that they've got some match fitness, may as well give them another opportunity and make some decisions afterwards. Everyone would have seen the video, everyone would be aware on what they need to work on. Are they coachable, or is it time to cut bait? This is what we'll find out against the Tigers.

Tigers - For mine the shock winners of the weekend. Granted, they had a one man advantage for the majority of the game, still it was a nice way to instill some confidence into the team. They'll need plenty of it with so many new faces and so many young players making their way into the side. It appears that Benji is sending the squad a message by including Heath Mason, Navren Willett & Sione Latoa-Vaihu. They had their moments in that Warriors trial and with a couple of spaces open in the NRL squad, Benji isn't afraid to reward form. I was disappointed by the Tigers last season and only saw glimpses of what I thought they were capable of, really hoping Benji can hit the ground running.

Canberra - I thought they were impressive against the Eels and I get the feeling the Raiders will shock a few fans, myself included. It'll largely come down to how well their young spine players acclimitise to first grade and how much the forwards can assert themselves. I didn't think Canberra have had a particularly great couple of years but they've made the finals and didn't look out of place either time. Still, it does seem concerning that we don't seem to have a clear answer on the fullback or five eighth situation. Stewart didn't really impress and appears like he needs another pre-season or two before he's ready. Five-eighth appears to be between Weekes and Strange and it remains to be seen who will get the first crack. I'd lean towards Strange but would have to get a better look.

Cowboys - There was some speculation around who'd replace Hiku in the centres with Vailea coming over from the Warriors. However it appears Laybutt as held onto the position. I'm curious to see what you make of him @Wolfie, he seems like your type of effort player who makes those around them look better. No real surprises or bolters for the side, I'll be curious to see how their edge backrows perform. Both of them hold the key and after injury disrupted seasons, I'm sure they'll be looking to assert themselves.

Titans - It's going to be tough without Fifita, so much of their set plays rely on his lines. Still they have a handy replacement in Fermor. I'm keen to see their defensive performance after what they served up against the Dolphins. They really frustrated them out of the game and that's always been the achilles heel of the Titans. They'll get a pretty good work-out from the Eels who ask plenty of questions. I also wonder how long Weaver can be kept out of the NRL for.

Eels - I thought they did well to go 12-12 last year despite all the off-field drama and distractions. Things could have gone pear shaped in a hurry, but they were able to lock down Moses and gain some stability moving forward. However the side is beginning to get up there in age and it's going to be tough to reverse this downward trend they're currently on. I just need to see if there's enough fire in the belly and how some of their younger chargers perform. Can Brown, Penisini, Russell, Hands, Greig and Talagi step up and help inspire the older heads?
 
@Big Pete I do like Laybutt. As you say, he makes others look better. You know what you will get with him, reliable, does the little things you want players to do and I think he's actually got a fair bit of ability tbh. Be interesting to see if he can nail down a starting spot.
 
The Bulldogs NSW Cup side

1. Joash Papalii 2. Jeral Skelton 3. Hayze Perham 4. Reece Hoffman 5. Jordan Samrani 6. Bailey Biondi Odo 7. Toby Sexton 8. Jack Todd 9. Bailey Hayward 10. Liam Knight 11. Kitione Kautoga 12. Harry Hayes 13. Harrison Edwards

14. Khaled Rajeb 15. Lipoi Hopoi 16. Joseph O'Neill 17. Lachlan Vale 18. Trent Peterson 19. Cody Fuz

Interesting to note the NRL contingent and which players will be backing up from the NRL trial. There's a lot of Jersey Flegg graduates, so it's going to be a litmus test for their development pathway system.

Turpin must have picked up an injury as well. He'd be a real asset to the team and I don't think the Hayward move is long term.
 
Rabbitohs - I find it odd that the only NRL player they've named is Leon Te Hau. I know they have a few unavailabilities, but how bad is their situation exactly? Let's have a look: Wighton (suspended), Graham (sternum), Munro (shoulder), Suluka-Fifita (knee), Lovett (knee) are all out and Walker (calf) is touch and go, but that still leaves 27 other players, who am I missing? I don't know why they were so desperate to get Gagai cleared when they have Te Hau there - that's a vote of no confidence if I've seen one. How did they swing that with the NRL? Did they give Gagai that last spot? Or did they show the NRL brass some footage of Te Hau and that was enough? I've barely seen Leon but I am a stickler for this whole squad system. In other words:

wp-1646849145941.gif


I can answer that question, clearly and emphatically yes. I just wish the Bunnies put more of their NRL players up for this, but I hope the NSW Cup players put on a good show and set themselves for a big season. An 18th team is imminent, clubs are going to need depth and clubs value NSW/QLD Cup players.

Roosters - I can spot a few NRL players/juniors so that's something at least. The Roosters have only announced 26 players in their NRL squad and with injuries/suspensions it appears they're taking every fit player they can. I'm curious to see how they fit those other three spots before Round 1 and will be keen to see how Va'a goes.

Sharks - Not a lot to report. Finucane still hasn't recovered from his bicep injury and Hamlin-Uele is set to miss a chunk of football with a knee injury, otherwise their 1-17 looks settled. It's just a question of whether these players have hit their ceiling and if some of them can overcome their plateau.

Bulldogs - No Kiraz, Perham, Tracey, Samrani, Oloapu, Patolo, Knight, Sutton, Turpin, Topine or Montgomery with Faamausilli, Morrin, Clark, Papalii and Hayward skipping the cue. It looks like they're close to finalising their Round 1 team, rolling with the same spine as the Melbourne trial. The front row appears to be their biggest issue right now and it seems like a case of it is what it is. I wonder if we'll see Viliame Kikau or Josh Curran line-up there at some point?

Storm - Sproj pointed it out, but alongside the omissions of Munster and Asofa-Solomona, Sua Fa'alogo appears to be missing as well. I haven't heard any injury news but I presume he must be carrying a niggle because I'd be shocked if Bellamy rated Stewart higher. Then again, I'm shocked that Howarth finds himself behind Kane Bradley. Howarth maybe one of the longest NRL apprenticeships I've seen. That's good for Kane and I'll be curious to see how he plays after another pre-season with the Storm, he could be that Hoffman/Proctor type backrow they value.

Outside of looking skinny in a few areas, it appears they're getting ready for the next generation. Both Munster and Hughes turn 30 this year and while Pezet and Russell-Smith are still colts, you'd still want to get a few games into them, so it'll be interesting to see how they transition from that 2020 premiership year moving forward.

Knights - I wonder if they'll make this their new home ground? Newcastle caught fire at the back end of the season, so it looks like they've stuck with as many combinations as possible. I'm interested to see how their right wings perform, Armstrong was impressive in that earlier trial and Newcastle rely on their wingers to spark their team. Both Pearce-Paul and Pryce will be in action as well, if Newcastle are to find another level, these two will have to offer a point of difference. I'm not an avid ESL watcher, so I'm keeping an open mind.

Warriors - I'm not a huge gambler so don't read into this as an endorsement, but I was surprised they were below so many other teams in the market. I guess it goes to show how apprehensive the bookies are when the Warriors can add players the calibre of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kurt Capewell to their roster after making the Top 4 and not be considered among the favourites. I'm curious to see how well Tuivasa-Sheck and Johnson combine and just how comfortable they look out there. By rights, they should be in the thick of this premiership race.

Dolphins - They seemed really frustrated against the Titans and only got on top of them late. It'll be interesting to see if they can do the same to the Warriors here and really make a fist of things. They're looking pretty settled at this rate, it's just a matter of finalising that centre combination and sorting out that bench formation. It seemed like they were toying with Averillo as a five-eighth/centre and Te Whare as a backrow/centre along with Niu and Herbie shifting to fullback.

Manly - So let's see: Hodgson, Humphreys, Sipley, Chan Kum Tong, James, Parker, Condon, Matterson with Faulolo joining the NRL squad next year. It's a fair representation and Parker comes as something of a surprise considering how long he's been a fixture in that 17. I know he was converting to

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Tolutau Koula 4. Reuben Garrick 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Luke Brooks 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Josh Aloiai 11. Haumole Ola'kauatu 12. Ben Trbojevic 13. Jake Trbojevic

14. Karl Lawton 15. Ethan Bullemor 16. Corey Waddell 17. Nathan Brown

18. Tommy Talau 19. Raymond Vaega 20. Jakob Arthur 21. Zac Fulton 22. Aaron Woods

Something along those lines? With Talau potentially shifting Garrick to the wing or that bench formation shifting up.

Brisbane - Touched on the Broncos on the main board, but I'm surprised that Patston was relagated to the bench after he stepped in for Piakura. They still have a couple of spots up for grabs and you'd have to think one of those will go to an edge, so I'll be curious to see who steps up here and whether it'll even come down to this trial game.

It's another big game for Mozer as well. Hopefully him and Falls have worked on their communication and can get the team around the park better than what they did against the Seagulls. If he can live up to the hype, the Broncos will be in pretty good hands when Reynolds retires.

Dragons - It appears at least for now the Dylan Egan bandwagon has been halted. I'd imagine with Leilua's return imminent they weren't going to go out on a limb and will just give everybody an opportunity to improve on what they served up at the Charity Shield. I don't think they were dreadful for the Dragons, it was just a couple of key moments where the support arrived late or the kick went too long. Now that they've got some match fitness, may as well give them another opportunity and make some decisions afterwards. Everyone would have seen the video, everyone would be aware on what they need to work on. Are they coachable, or is it time to cut bait? This is what we'll find out against the Tigers.

Tigers - For mine the shock winners of the weekend. Granted, they had a one man advantage for the majority of the game, still it was a nice way to instill some confidence into the team. They'll need plenty of it with so many new faces and so many young players making their way into the side. It appears that Benji is sending the squad a message by including Heath Mason, Navren Willett & Sione Latoa-Vaihu. They had their moments in that Warriors trial and with a couple of spaces open in the NRL squad, Benji isn't afraid to reward form. I was disappointed by the Tigers last season and only saw glimpses of what I thought they were capable of, really hoping Benji can hit the ground running.

Canberra - I thought they were impressive against the Eels and I get the feeling the Raiders will shock a few fans, myself included. It'll largely come down to how well their young spine players acclimitise to first grade and how much the forwards can assert themselves. I didn't think Canberra have had a particularly great couple of years but they've made the finals and didn't look out of place either time. Still, it does seem concerning that we don't seem to have a clear answer on the fullback or five eighth situation. Stewart didn't really impress and appears like he needs another pre-season or two before he's ready. Five-eighth appears to be between Weekes and Strange and it remains to be seen who will get the first crack. I'd lean towards Strange but would have to get a better look.

Cowboys - There was some speculation around who'd replace Hiku in the centres with Vailea coming over from the Warriors. However it appears Laybutt as held onto the position. I'm curious to see what you make of him @Wolfie, he seems like your type of effort player who makes those around them look better. No real surprises or bolters for the side, I'll be curious to see how their edge backrows perform. Both of them hold the key and after injury disrupted seasons, I'm sure they'll be looking to assert themselves.

Titans - It's going to be tough without Fifita, so much of their set plays rely on his lines. Still they have a handy replacement in Fermor. I'm keen to see their defensive performance after what they served up against the Dolphins. They really frustrated them out of the game and that's always been the achilles heel of the Titans. They'll get a pretty good work-out from the Eels who ask plenty of questions. I also wonder how long Weaver can be kept out of the NRL for.

Eels - I thought they did well to go 12-12 last year despite all the off-field drama and distractions. Things could have gone pear shaped in a hurry, but they were able to lock down Moses and gain some stability moving forward. However the side is beginning to get up there in age and it's going to be tough to reverse this downward trend they're currently on. I just need to see if there's enough fire in the belly and how some of their younger chargers perform. Can Brown, Penisini, Russell, Hands, Greig and Talagi step up and help inspire the older heads?

I wonder what the deal with Howarth is. He did seem to have a couple of dumb moments in the All Stars but you would think he would have cracked that Storm side by now. Like if he isn't making the side now...will he ever?
 
I wonder what the deal with Howarth is. He did seem to have a couple of dumb moments in the All Stars but you would think he would have cracked that Storm side by now. Like if he isn't making the side now...will he ever?
Was meant to be the next big thing like 3 years ago and he isnt sniffing first grade. Must be something really wrong or the hype was overboard. He and Piakura are similar in they were highly touted. Howarth was actually more hyped I believe.
 
Was meant to be the next big thing like 3 years ago and he isnt sniffing first grade. Must be something really wrong or the hype was overboard. He and Piakura are similar in they were highly touted. Howarth was actually more hyped I believe.

And it isn’t like the Storm have gun second rowers or even centres in his way either. Just so strange.
 
Feldt picked over Valemei. Expect a bounce back year. Apparently they have changed their defensive schemes on the edge. Laybutt should help over Hiku. Townsend better pull his finger out of his ass and put his body in front instead of moonwalking every set
 
Rabbitohs - I find it odd that the only NRL player they've named is Leon Te Hau. I know they have a few unavailabilities, but how bad is their situation exactly? Let's have a look: Wighton (suspended), Graham (sternum), Munro (shoulder), Suluka-Fifita (knee), Lovett (knee) are all out and Walker (calf) is touch and go, but that still leaves 27 other players, who am I missing? I don't know why they were so desperate to get Gagai cleared when they have Te Hau there - that's a vote of no confidence if I've seen one. How did they swing that with the NRL? Did they give Gagai that last spot? Or did they show the NRL brass some footage of Te Hau and that was enough? I've barely seen Leon but I am a stickler for this whole squad system. In other words:

wp-1646849145941.gif


I can answer that question, clearly and emphatically yes. I just wish the Bunnies put more of their NRL players up for this, but I hope the NSW Cup players put on a good show and set themselves for a big season. An 18th team is imminent, clubs are going to need depth and clubs value NSW/QLD Cup players.

Roosters - I can spot a few NRL players/juniors so that's something at least. The Roosters have only announced 26 players in their NRL squad and with injuries/suspensions it appears they're taking every fit player they can. I'm curious to see how they fit those other three spots before Round 1 and will be keen to see how Va'a goes.

Sharks - Not a lot to report. Finucane still hasn't recovered from his bicep injury and Hamlin-Uele is set to miss a chunk of football with a knee injury, otherwise their 1-17 looks settled. It's just a question of whether these players have hit their ceiling and if some of them can overcome their plateau.

Bulldogs - No Kiraz, Perham, Tracey, Samrani, Oloapu, Patolo, Knight, Sutton, Turpin, Topine or Montgomery with Faamausilli, Morrin, Clark, Papalii and Hayward skipping the cue. It looks like they're close to finalising their Round 1 team, rolling with the same spine as the Melbourne trial. The front row appears to be their biggest issue right now and it seems like a case of it is what it is. I wonder if we'll see Viliame Kikau or Josh Curran line-up there at some point?

Storm - Sproj pointed it out, but alongside the omissions of Munster and Asofa-Solomona, Sua Fa'alogo appears to be missing as well. I haven't heard any injury news but I presume he must be carrying a niggle because I'd be shocked if Bellamy rated Stewart higher. Then again, I'm shocked that Howarth finds himself behind Kane Bradley. Howarth maybe one of the longest NRL apprenticeships I've seen. That's good for Kane and I'll be curious to see how he plays after another pre-season with the Storm, he could be that Hoffman/Proctor type backrow they value.

Outside of looking skinny in a few areas, it appears they're getting ready for the next generation. Both Munster and Hughes turn 30 this year and while Pezet and Russell-Smith are still colts, you'd still want to get a few games into them, so it'll be interesting to see how they transition from that 2020 premiership year moving forward.

Knights - I wonder if they'll make this their new home ground? Newcastle caught fire at the back end of the season, so it looks like they've stuck with as many combinations as possible. I'm interested to see how their right wings perform, Armstrong was impressive in that earlier trial and Newcastle rely on their wingers to spark their team. Both Pearce-Paul and Pryce will be in action as well, if Newcastle are to find another level, these two will have to offer a point of difference. I'm not an avid ESL watcher, so I'm keeping an open mind.

Warriors - I'm not a huge gambler so don't read into this as an endorsement, but I was surprised they were below so many other teams in the market. I guess it goes to show how apprehensive the bookies are when the Warriors can add players the calibre of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kurt Capewell to their roster after making the Top 4 and not be considered among the favourites. I'm curious to see how well Tuivasa-Sheck and Johnson combine and just how comfortable they look out there. By rights, they should be in the thick of this premiership race.

Dolphins - They seemed really frustrated against the Titans and only got on top of them late. It'll be interesting to see if they can do the same to the Warriors here and really make a fist of things. They're looking pretty settled at this rate, it's just a matter of finalising that centre combination and sorting out that bench formation. It seemed like they were toying with Averillo as a five-eighth/centre and Te Whare as a backrow/centre along with Niu and Herbie shifting to fullback.

Manly - So let's see: Hodgson, Humphreys, Sipley, Chan Kum Tong, James, Parker, Condon, Matterson with Faulolo joining the NRL squad next year. It's a fair representation and Parker comes as something of a surprise considering how long he's been a fixture in that 17. I know he was converting to

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Tolutau Koula 4. Reuben Garrick 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Luke Brooks 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Josh Aloiai 11. Haumole Ola'kauatu 12. Ben Trbojevic 13. Jake Trbojevic

14. Karl Lawton 15. Ethan Bullemor 16. Corey Waddell 17. Nathan Brown

18. Tommy Talau 19. Raymond Vaega 20. Jakob Arthur 21. Zac Fulton 22. Aaron Woods

Something along those lines? With Talau potentially shifting Garrick to the wing or that bench formation shifting up.

Brisbane - Touched on the Broncos on the main board, but I'm surprised that Patston was relagated to the bench after he stepped in for Piakura. They still have a couple of spots up for grabs and you'd have to think one of those will go to an edge, so I'll be curious to see who steps up here and whether it'll even come down to this trial game.

It's another big game for Mozer as well. Hopefully him and Falls have worked on their communication and can get the team around the park better than what they did against the Seagulls. If he can live up to the hype, the Broncos will be in pretty good hands when Reynolds retires.

Dragons - It appears at least for now the Dylan Egan bandwagon has been halted. I'd imagine with Leilua's return imminent they weren't going to go out on a limb and will just give everybody an opportunity to improve on what they served up at the Charity Shield. I don't think they were dreadful for the Dragons, it was just a couple of key moments where the support arrived late or the kick went too long. Now that they've got some match fitness, may as well give them another opportunity and make some decisions afterwards. Everyone would have seen the video, everyone would be aware on what they need to work on. Are they coachable, or is it time to cut bait? This is what we'll find out against the Tigers.

Tigers - For mine the shock winners of the weekend. Granted, they had a one man advantage for the majority of the game, still it was a nice way to instill some confidence into the team. They'll need plenty of it with so many new faces and so many young players making their way into the side. It appears that Benji is sending the squad a message by including Heath Mason, Navren Willett & Sione Latoa-Vaihu. They had their moments in that Warriors trial and with a couple of spaces open in the NRL squad, Benji isn't afraid to reward form. I was disappointed by the Tigers last season and only saw glimpses of what I thought they were capable of, really hoping Benji can hit the ground running.

Canberra - I thought they were impressive against the Eels and I get the feeling the Raiders will shock a few fans, myself included. It'll largely come down to how well their young spine players acclimitise to first grade and how much the forwards can assert themselves. I didn't think Canberra have had a particularly great couple of years but they've made the finals and didn't look out of place either time. Still, it does seem concerning that we don't seem to have a clear answer on the fullback or five eighth situation. Stewart didn't really impress and appears like he needs another pre-season or two before he's ready. Five-eighth appears to be between Weekes and Strange and it remains to be seen who will get the first crack. I'd lean towards Strange but would have to get a better look.

Cowboys - There was some speculation around who'd replace Hiku in the centres with Vailea coming over from the Warriors. However it appears Laybutt as held onto the position. I'm curious to see what you make of him @Wolfie, he seems like your type of effort player who makes those around them look better. No real surprises or bolters for the side, I'll be curious to see how their edge backrows perform. Both of them hold the key and after injury disrupted seasons, I'm sure they'll be looking to assert themselves.

Titans - It's going to be tough without Fifita, so much of their set plays rely on his lines. Still they have a handy replacement in Fermor. I'm keen to see their defensive performance after what they served up against the Dolphins. They really frustrated them out of the game and that's always been the achilles heel of the Titans. They'll get a pretty good work-out from the Eels who ask plenty of questions. I also wonder how long Weaver can be kept out of the NRL for.

Eels - I thought they did well to go 12-12 last year despite all the off-field drama and distractions. Things could have gone pear shaped in a hurry, but they were able to lock down Moses and gain some stability moving forward. However the side is beginning to get up there in age and it's going to be tough to reverse this downward trend they're currently on. I just need to see if there's enough fire in the belly and how some of their younger chargers perform. Can Brown, Penisini, Russell, Hands, Greig and Talagi step up and help inspire the older heads?

Just want to say mate, thats an excellent analysis.
 
Was meant to be the next big thing like 3 years ago and he isnt sniffing first grade. Must be something really wrong or the hype was overboard. He and Piakura are similar in they were highly touted. Howarth was actually more hyped I believe.

I rated them the two best back rowers in 2019- they’re very similar, both played Meninga, Queensland Under 18- Piakura starting and Howarth on the bench and by October Australian second row. Howarth was MOTM.

For me the mystery started in 21, they took Howarth away from the Tigers where he’d played all his football and put him in the centres at Falcons.

Qld kept picking him in 2022 in the second row even though he hadn’t played there in two years by now.

He’s played 36 Cup games now from 21. He certainly improved and showed glimpses last season in games. Certainly his best year and it was at second row. He consistently played 80 minutes.

The whole centre development thing is a mystery.
 
I rated them the two best back rowers in 2019- they’re very similar, both played Meninga, Queensland Under 18- Piakura starting and Howarth on the bench and by October Australian second row. Howarth was MOTM.

For me the mystery started in 21, they took Howarth away from the Tigers where he’d played all his football and put him in the centres at Falcons.

Qld kept picking him in 2022 in the second row even though he hadn’t played there in two years by now.

He’s played 36 Cup games now from 21. He certainly improved and showed glimpses last season in games. Certainly his best year and it was at second row. He consistently played 80 minutes.

The whole centre development thing is a mystery.
I thought he was always going to be a 2nd rower. Not big enough? Maybe thats why they are pushing the center thing.
 
I thought he was always going to be a 2nd rower. Not big enough? Maybe thats why they are pushing the center thing.

Howarth is a pretty big boy, size would not be an issue.
 
I thought he was always going to be a 2nd rower. Not big enough? Maybe thats why they are pushing the center thing.

His first 10 Cup games were all at centre and I never understood it. They play him now in the second row and have since halfway through 22.
 
And it isn’t like the Storm have gun second rowers or even centres in his way either. Just so strange.

Howarth was given the most un-Storm-like contract I ever saw during Bellamy's tenure.

Howarth had some interest from rivals and the Storm panicked ... Giving a kid who hadn't played NRL a long term 500k per year contract
 
Howarth was given the most un-Storm-like contract I ever saw during Bellamy's tenure.

Howarth had some interest from rivals and the Storm panicked ... Giving a kid who hadn't played NRL a long term 500k per year contract

No they didn't. Howarth's deal is very similar to the Piakura 2021 deal. Howarth was just over five years not three.
 
Blake Taafe having an absolute shocker in this trial
 
Iro reminding me so much of Val Holmes with how he runs... looks a decent size as well... think last year he might've been a bit too small to be getting a call up to first grade, but looks like he could handle it this year
 

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