The Sharks could be forced into a major spine shake-up after fullback Connor Tracey suffered a knee injury.
Coach Craig Fitzgibbon has limited options with Will Kennedy and Kade Dykes already sidelined so may have no other choice but to move reigning Dally M medallist Nicho Hynes.
Meanwhile, Knights coach Adam O’Brien is expecting a double boost ahead of Sunday’s elimination final with Kalyn Ponga and Jackson Hastings set to return.
Trent Robinson has given an update on Joey Manu and Daniel Tupou’s return dates for the Roosters and Broncos coach Kevin Walters has declared Adam Reynolds and Pat Carrigan will play.
The Warriors have hosed down rumours around Tohu Harris’ fitness and Storm coach Craig Bellamy
Read on for foxsports.com.au’s Team Tips ahead of week one of finals.
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Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm, 7.50pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium
Last week’s Broncos team: 1. Tristan Sailor 2. Corey Oates 3. Jesse Arthars 4. Delouise Hoeter 5. Jordan Pereira 6. Joshua Rogers 7. Jock Madden 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Tyson Smoothy 10. Corey Jensen 11. Brendan Piakura 12. Jordan Riki 13. Keenan Palasia 14. Blake Mozer 15. Cory Paix 16. Xavier Willison 17. Martin Taupau
Team Tips: All of the Broncos’ big guns will return for this blockbuster qualifying final, including skipper Adam Reynolds and workhorse lock Pat Carrigan. The pair have missed the last two games with respective calf and foot injuries but Walters declared on the weekend: “They’ll be playing next week, don’t you worry about that.” Reynolds will slot back in at halfback with Jock Madden dropping out and Carrigan will start at lock, forcing Keenan Palasia to the bench. Reece Walsh, Selwyn Cobbo, Kotoni Staggs, Herbie Farnworth, EzraMam, Billy Walters, Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell will all return after enjoying a well-deserved rest last week. But Walters is expected to make a huge call on veteran winger Corey Oates with News Corp reporting he will be dropped from the wing with Jesse Arthars set to take his spot. Brendan Piakura received three charges from last week’s loss but all carry a monetary fine so he is available for selection, while Xavier Willison is looking at some time on the sideline after suffering a suspected syndesmosis injury.
Last week’s Storm team: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 5. Reimis Smith 3. Justin Olam 4. Young Tonumaipea 18. Grant Anderson 6. Jayden Nikorima 7. Tyran Wishart 8. Tariq Sims 9. Bronson Garlick 10. Tepai Moeroa 11. Chris Lewis 17. Jack Haworth 13. Josh King 14. Sualauvi Faalogo 15. Alec MacDonald 16. Aaron Pene 19. Joe Chan
Team Tips: The big news out of the Storm is that coach Craig Bellamy revealed he is “reasonably confident” that star halfback Jahrome Hughes will play after suffering a knee injury in Round 26. He will be a straight swap for Tyran Wishart. Harry Grant will “definitely play”, according to Bellamy, after picking up a shoulder injury in the same game. Expect Grant to be named at No.9 but he may drop back to the bench with Bronson Garlick starting as was the case in Round’s 24 and 26. Cameron Munster, Christian Welch, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and rest of Melbourne’s rested players will also return. But all eyes will be on the No.1 come 4pm on Tuesday as Bellamy faces a huge call on his fullback. Nick Meaney has done an outstanding job all season, but Ryan Papenhuyzen is two games into his return from a knee injury and got through 77 minutes at fullback last week. However, The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield explained both players will be on the field at the same time.
“My mail is that Bellamy wants to reward Nick Meaney for an absolutely outstanding season at Melbourne Storm,” he said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“Papenhuyzen will be chosen in jersey 14, I know that for a fact. When he comes on, he won’t come on as a half, he won’t come on at fullback.
“I’m told the plan is to play him as an extra half, they will take probably a lock forward off… he will just be sniffing the football while he’s on the field.
“It’s sort of unorthodox, but you will see him around every play the ball.”
YOUNG LANDS ALL-TIME CIRCUS DOUBLE | 00:34
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors, 4pm AEST at BlueBet Stadium
Last week’s Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 19. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jack Cogger 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Luke Sommerton 10. James Fisher-Harris 21. Luke Garner 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 3. Tyrone Peachey 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Zac Hosking
Team Tips: The Panthers were the only club in the top four to run out close to a full-strength squad last week so no major changes are expected. However workhorse second-rower Scott Sorensen and hooker Mitch Kenny are expected to return from their leg injuries. Kenny will be named at No.9 with Luke Sommerton, who picked up a shoulder injury, will drop out. Sorensen will start in the second row, pushing Luke Garner out of the side. Izack Tago only played 60 minutes in his return from a leg injury but coach Ivan Cleary confirmedafterwards that was always part of the plan. No sign of star five-eighth Jarome Luai yet, who isn’t due back from a shoulder injury until week three of finals.
Last week’s Warriors team:1. Taine Tuaupiki 2. Edward Kosi 3. Rocco Berry 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Ronald Volkman 8. Bunty Afoa 9. Freddy Lussick 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Josh Curran 12. Marata Niukore 13. Dylan Walker 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Tom Ale 18. Kalani Going 23. Paul Roache
Team Tips: In a major boost for the Warriors, coach Andrew Wesbter has confirmed skipper Tohu Harris will play despite reports he was in doubt for week one of finals due to a back injury. Luke Metcalf will miss the rest of the season after suffering a hamstring injury, meaning Te Maire Martin will partner Shaun Johnson in the halves. Meanwhile, all of the Warriors’ rested stars will be back in deck including Johnson, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Addin Fonua-Blake, after a week off to rest.
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SEND OFF sinks Raiders home final hopes | 00:40
Cronulla Sharks vs Sydney Roosters, 7.50pm AEST at PointsBet Stadium
Last week’s Sharks team: 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 Hazelton 20. Oregon Kaufusi
Team Tips: The Sharks will be sweating on the availability of fullback Connor Tracey, who failed to finish Sunday’s game due to a knee injury. Tracey revealed after the game that the doctor told him it’s a “little sprain of the joint” and is hopeful it’s “nothing too serious.” It’s a major worry though for coach Craig Fitzgibbon given his fullback stocks are so slim. First-choice fullback Will Kennedy is still sidelined with a hamstring injury and second-choice Kade Dykes has been out all season with a ruptured ACL. Fitzgibbon shut down questions in his post-game press conference about the possibility of moving reigning Dally M medallist Nicho Hynes to fullback and refused to give anything away on who he might turn to if Tracey is unavailable. Hynes is an option, which would see Braydon Trindall shift to halfback Matt Moylan recalled at five-eighth. Moylan also has over 100 game’s of experience at fullback. Alternatively, there’s two-game rookie Daniel Atkinson, who played a bit of fullback in NSW Cup this season. Atkinson made his NRL debut with the Storm in 2021 and joined the Sharks this season. The only NRL time he’s gotten this year is two minutes in Round 15 after he was activated as 18th man. Other than fullback, the side is expected to stay the same for this elimination final against the Roosters.
Last week’s Roosters team:1. James Tedesco 5. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 3. Billy Smith 18. Corey Allan 21. Fetalaiga Pauga 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 15. Egan Butcher 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Siua Wong 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley 8. Fletcher Baker 14. Sandon Smith 16. Terrell May 17. Angus Crichton
Team Tips: After scraping into the finals, the Roosters are set to receive a major boost with the return of Joey Manu from a hamstring injury. The star centre suffered the injury in Round 26 and missed last weekend. But coach Trent Robinson confirmed Manu will be named on Tuesday and aid he’s “confident enough he’ll get back there by the end of the week.” Manu will replace Corey Allan. Fetalaiga Pauga will remain on the flank though after Robinson confirmed Daniel Tupou won’t return from the knee injury that saw him be a late scratching ahead of last weekend’s game. There were no injury concerns to come out of the Roosters’ win over the Rabbitohs and no other players are expected back.
Knights ride into finals with ninth win | 02:03
Newcastle Knights vs Canberra Raiders, 4.05pm AEST at McDonald Jones Stadium
Last week’s Knights team: 1. Lachlan Miller 2. Dominic Young 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Tyson Gamble 7. Adam Clune 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Fa’amanu Brown 16. Jack Hetherington 11. Dylan Lucas 12. Brodie Jones 13. Adam Elliott 14. Riley Jones 15. Daniel Saifiti 17. Mathew Croker 19. Oryn Keeley
Team Tips: In some great news for the Knights, coach Adam O’Brien said he’s “confident” both Kalyn Ponga and Jackson Hastings will return from respective shoulder and ankle injuries. “Looking at them when we left the other day to come down here, I was quite confident they’d be a part of it,” O’Brien said after the Knights’ win over the Dragons. Ponga copped a knock in Round 26 and it was revealed that he suffered a high-grade AC joint injury. But after sitting last weekend out, the superstar No.1 is expected to play in Sunday’s elimination final. Ponga will be a straight swap for Lachie Miller. Hastings has missed the last three weeks with a syndesmosis injury and will come in for handy back-up half Adam Clune. Rested players Dane Gagai, Phoenix Crossland and Tyson Frizell will be back on deck, while Lachaln Fitzgibbon (shoulder) and Kurt Mann (sternum) are also a chance of returning. Adam Elliott was charged for a careless high tackle in last week’s win but can escape with a fine if he enters an early guilty plea.
Last week’s Raiders team: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. Sebastian Kris 3. Jack Wighton 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Nick Cotric 6. Matt Frawley 7. Jamal Fogarty 15. Ata Mariota 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 17. Hohepa Puru 8. Emre Guler 14. Tom Starling 18. Pasami Saulo 20. Trey Mooney
Team Tips: Expect Sebastian Kris to spend some time on the sideline after being sent off on Sunday for a dangerous tackle. Coach Ricky Stuart will likely turn to Albert Hopoate to fill Kris’ spot on the wing. Stuart has been experimenting with Matt Frawley at five-eighth and Jack Wighton in the centres and despite batting away any questions about the positional switches he indicated that he is happy and will stick with it despite the Raiders losing their last two games. Youngsters Hohepa Puru and Trey Mooney did an admirable job and are expected to retain their spot in the 17.