Warriors halfback and Dally M favourite Shaun Johnson has been ruled out of his side’s qualifying final clash against the Panthers with a calf injury.
Penrith is sweating on the fitness of centre Izack Tago, who has reportedly suffered a pec injury.
The Raiders are expected to target Kalyn Ponga after it was revealed the superstar fullback is returning ahead of schedule from a shoulder injury.
The Sharks, meanwhile, could rush in William Kennedy with Connor Tracey racing the clock to be fit for week one of the finals
Read on for all the latest team news in our NRL Early Mail
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Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm, 7.50pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium
Broncos team: 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
Players cut:20. Corey Jensen 21. Jock Madden 22. Tristan Sailor
Early Mail: Kevin Walters pulled a selection shock by dropping veteran Corey Oates in favour of Jesse Arthurs. Broncos great and director Darren Lockyer said the decision came down to mobility. “Remember, he’s just come back, he hasn’t had a lot of luck with injuries this year, so he hasn’t really had a lot of continuous football,” Lockyer said on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER. “I think what it comes down to is mobility. Corey brings the ball back well, but (the Storm have) got a couple of big, mobile wingers … and maybe in the last couple of weeks there would have been a few moments where they thought Jesse was just a bit more nimble or quicker to the situation, quicker to defuse the situation.” Locyer said Walters said defence had also played a major part in the call. “I think Kevvie’s mentality is not about what happens in attack; it’s more about what happens defensively. Like I said, there’s a couple of big, quick wingers there at the Storm and maybe Kev just thinks there’s a bit more mobility with Jesse.”
Storm team: 1. Nick Meaney 2. William Warbrick 3. Marion Seve 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Xavier Coates 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. Bronson Garlick 15. Tom Eisenhuth 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 19. Tariq Sims 21. Reimis Smith
Players cut: 18. Tyran Wishart 20. Tepai Moeroa 22. Grant Anderson
Early Mail: To come.
Broncos welcome back 10 stars for Storm! | 01:50
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors, 4pm AEST at BlueBet Stadium
Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jack Cogger 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Zac Hosking 18. Jaeman Salmon 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. Luke Sommerton 21. Luke Garner 22. Thomas Jenkins
Early Mail:Izack Tago is in doubt with a pectoral injury. It is the same injury which caused him to miss a number of weeks earlier this season.
Warriors team: 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. Tom Ale 23. Edward Kosi
Early Mail:Shaun Johnson has been sensationally ruled out of the Warriors final against Penrith with a calf injury. Johnson had been on light training duties after picking up the injury earlier in the week. “No, I’m not playing,” Johnson told reporters at Sydney airport. Coach Andrew Webster said they just didn’t want to risk further injury by playing Johnson against the Panthers. “He hurt his calf, we thought he was going to be OK. He trained yesterday but he pulled up too sore. Any finals game is important but when it’s a soft tissue injury, you just can’t risk it,” he said. Ronald Volkman looks set to replace the Dally M favourite.
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 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Kayal Iro 19. Daniel Atkinson 20. Jesse Colquhoun 21. William Kennedy 22. Matt Moylan
Early Mail: The Sharks are “sitting on the fence” over the fitness of Connor Tracey with the Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio revealing Will Kennedy could be parachuted into the team at fullback. Tracey has been named to start against the Roosters but is battling a knee injury sustained in Round 27. Should Tracey be ruled out, it could mean a shock early return for Kennedy who was slated to make his comeback from a hamstring injury in the second week of finals, should the Sharks progress. Fellow Daily Telegraph journalist Michael Carayannis told NRL 360 who will play fullback is “still a bit up in the air,” but revealed there’s “slight confidence” Tracey may be cleared to play. “Connor Tracey completed some of the session today, Will Kennedy completed about half the session so they’re going to give Tracey up to captain’s run,” he said. “They’ve got the day off tomorrow so there is a slight confidence Connor Tracey will play and Will Kennedy is progressing nicely as well.”
Roosters team: 1. James Tedesco 2. Fetalaiga Pauga 3. Billy Smith 4. Joseph Manu 5. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Fletcher Baker 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Siua Wong 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley 14. Sandon Smith 15. Egan Butcher 16. Terrell May 17. Angus Crichton 18. Drew Hutchison 19. Naufahu Whyte 20. Corey Allan 21. Jaxson Paulo 22. Dylan Napa
Early Mail: To come.
Ponga “won’t be at 100%” for finals | 01:40
Newcastle Knights vs Canberra Raiders, 4.05pm AEST at McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights team: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 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. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Adam Elliott 14. Kurt Mann 15. Daniel Saifiti 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Mathew Croker 18. Adam Clune 19. Lachlan Miller 20. Dylan Lucas 21. Enari Tuala 22. Brodie Jones
Early Mail: All eyes will be on Kalyn Ponga with the superstar fullback battling a shoulder injury. It’s been revealed the Newcastle playmaker will come back from a high grade AC joint injury to face the Raiders a week ahead of the regular recovery period. Ponga injured his shoulder against the Sharks in Round 26 and it will be exactly 14 days when he returns for the club’s first home final in 2006. “There is no doubt in the world he won’t be 100 per cent for this game. He will require pain killing injections, he’ll have strapping and padding on his shoulder,” Dave Riccio said on NRL 360. “Similar injuries this year were Brent Naden and Jeremiah Nanai, both missed three matches. Kalyn is certainly coming back quicker than what others have… he won’t be at 100 per cent.” Paul Crawley said he expected the Raiders to target Ponga. “I’ll be shocked if the Raiders don’t go out and go straight after him, bomb him and put as much kick pressure on as you can and just really try and rattle his cage,” he said on NRL360.
Raiders team: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. James Schiller 3. Jack Wighton 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Nick Cotric 6. Matt Frawley 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Ata Mariota 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Hohepa Puru 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Trey Mooney 18. Jarrod Croker 19. Albert Hopoate 20. Danny Levi 21. Ethan Strange 22. Xavier Savage
Early Mail: To come.