NRL teams Round 10: Early Mail for Magic Round, predicted changes at every club
Souths coach Jason Demetriou has handed under-fire star Cody Walker the extra responsibility of captaincy following an injury setback for Cam Murray. Will the move work to reignite the team?
Coach Jason Demetriou has charged under-fire five-eighth Cody Walker with igniting South Sydney’s season after being named captain in the wake of Cameron Murray’s shock injury revelation.
Fresh from being carved up by former skipper Adam Reynolds and the Broncos, the ninth-placed Rabbitohs find themselves in desperate need of leadership for Saturday’s Magic Round clash against the Warriors, with fears Murray could be ruled out for up to a month with a neck and right shoulder injury.
The loss of their inspirational skipper comes as their marquee man, injured fullback Latrell Mitchell, is set to head to the US in a bid to overcome hamstring issues that have plagued him since his move to Redfern.
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Murray sat out training on Monday and was sent for scans on Tuesday morning. He is expected to miss three to four weeks.
Rabbitohs sources are adamant the injury was not the result of the dangerous throw tackle by Manly’s Karl Lawton a fortnight ago, for which the Sea Eagles forward was sent off and suspended for four games.
In Murray’s absence, Demetriou has named Jai Arrow at lock and elevated Jacob Host into the back row alongside Keaon Koloamatangi.
Walker, meanwhile, was chosen ahead of hooker Damien Cook to lead Souths against the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium, having already led the Bunnies nine times in his 151-game NRL career — eight games during 2019 and once last year.
“Cody leads by example and I think the captaincy will bring out the best in him,” said former Indigenous coach, Laurie Daley, who named the mercurial half his skipper for the 2019 and 2021 All Stars games.
“He realises he needs to lift, like the other players, and this is something he will cherish.
“He is a leader by his actions and he will rally the troops. Cody will try and get the best out of his team.”
Helping the Rabbitohs’ cause is a soft upcoming draw with games against the Warriors, Raiders, Tigers, Titans and Dragons, before a bye round.
Souths don’t play a top eight side until July.
Walker has endured a challenging season since former halves partner Reynolds departed for the Broncos, admitting last month he needed to “pick up” his performances. Last week police cleared him in an investigation into an incident outside a Terrigal Hotel.
Murray may struggle to return in time for the June 8 State of Origin opener in Sydney. His looming withdrawal is unfortunate for the Blues but NSW coach Brad Fittler has strong depth in his back row with Koloamatangi, Angus Crichton, Isaah Yeo, Jake Trbojevic, Victor Radley, Liam Martin and Tyson Frizell all options.
Murray underwent the same off-season surgery as Blues teammate Nathan Cleary, but his injury has progressively worsened over the opening nine rounds.
NRL Physio Brien Seeney on Tuesday afternoon said on Twitter that Murray’s injury was “likely to be related to a disc/nerve issue in neck causing pain into shoulder/arm. If confirmed can be a tricky recovery process, tough to accelerate.”
Souths have endured an inconsistent start to this season – winning four from nine games.
SWITCH FOR HYNES
Dally M contender Nicho Hynes has shifted to fullback to cover for the loss of suspended Sharks star Will Kennedy.
Hynes has proven his adaptability over the past two seasons and the transition from half to fullback is likely with promising halfback Braydon Trindall preparing to take over the reins in the seven jumper.
The Sharks backline overhaul will also include Connor Tracey shifting to centre for the suspended Jesse Ramien with Ronaldo Mulitalo (flu) set to return on the wing after missing last week’s win over the Warriors.
TOHU SET FOR RETURN
Warriors coach Nathan Brown is sticking with besieged half Shaun Johnson while banking on the return of a former Kiwi international to resurrect the club’s fortunes.
Johnson has come under heavy fire following the Warriors embarrassing defeat to a 12-man Sharks side last Sunday.
The experienced half was unable to build pressure on a committed Cronulla side, yet Brown has picked Johnson for the Warriors Magic Round clash with the Rabbitohs on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Tohu Harris will play his first game in 10-months.
Harris, 30, required a knee reconstruction after collapsing in round 18 last season.
MANLY STAR SITS AGAIN
Giant forward Haumole Olakau’atu will return for Manly’s big match against Brisbane in Magic Round – but his young superstar teammate Josh Schuster will be missing.
Olakau’atu has overcome a bout of flu which kept him out of last Saturday’s win over Wests Tigers and will be named when coach Des Hasler announces his side at 4pm on Tuesday.
Manly fans hoping that Olakau’atu and Schuster would return together for the Broncos will be disappointed.
Schuster reinjured a calf and will remain sidelined for one to two weeks.
Olakau’atu was regularly tested and did not have Covid.
Manly will leave for Brisbane on Wednesday before completing a captain’s run on Thursday ahead of Friday night’s important game at Suncorp Stadium.
The Sea Eagles are preparing for heavy conditions given the substantial rainfall currently hitting Brisbane.
STORM DIG DEEP INTO ROSTER
Marion Seve is set to come into the Melbourne side for their blockbuster against Penrith at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night after the Storm were granted an exemption by the NRL.
Seve is on a development contract with the Storm but the club requested dispensation to select him this week following an injury crisis that has tested their backline depth.
Seve is expected to come straight into the centres to replace Reimis Smith, who suffered a pectoral injury at the weekend. The Samoan international is no stranger to the NRL — he has played 21 games for the Storm over the past four seasons.
BOOST FOR BRONCOS
The Broncos have received a boost with Kurt Capewell and Payne Haas set to be cleared for Friday night’s clash against Manly at Suncorp Stadium.
The key duo missed last week’s 32-12 defeat of the Rabbitohs due to injury but both ran with the Broncos at training on Tuesday.
Capewell showed no ill-effects from a neck injury, running strongly in the back row, while Haas was wearing a red no-contact bib to protect the shoulder injury he suffered against the Bulldogs three weeks ago.
Haas may yet require a fitness test to face the Sea Eagles but the one certainty is Capewell will be on deck to press his Queensland selection claims for Origin I.
Rookie back-rower TC Robati is set to make way for Capewell, while Rhys Kennedy is tipped to be relegated if Haas is cleared.
HOLBROOK GOES BACK TO THE FUTURE AT TITANS
Justin Holbrook is set to shake up the terrible Titans by recalling fullback Jayden Campbell for Saturday’s Magic Round clash with the Dragons.
After a shocking 44-16 loss to the Roosters, Holbrook is reverting to his first-choice spine and will recall Campbell at No. 1 and shift AJ Brimson back to five-eighth.
Campbell has missed the past six weeks after suffering a rib injury against the Raiders in round 3. He has been overlooked for NRL selection the past three rounds.
Veteran forward Kevin Proctor (shoulder) is expected to miss the game while centre Patrick Herbert is also in doubt.
Winger Phil Sami will return from a knee injury, but Holbrook doesn’t have many options to spark his team out of the form slump which has seen the Titans fall into the bottom four.
The Titans have a 2-7 record after nine rounds and desperately need to beat the Dragons to stay in finals contention.
SHARKS COP DOUBLE BACKLINE BLOW
Cronulla’s backline will need an overhaul with fullback Will Kennedy facing a maximum three matches on the sideline, or two matches with an early guilty plea for his high shot on Warriors fullback Reece Walsh.
Kennedy was sent off for his swinging arm that clipped Walsh in Cronulla’s gutsy win over the Warriors on Sunday.
Fellow Shark Jesse Ramien is facing a longer stint out – hit with a three-match ban with an early guilty plea, or four should he challenge the ruling and fail at the judiciary, for his high shot that concussed Warriors centre Euan Aitken.
ROOSTERS A MUDDLE IN THEIR MIDDLE
Sydney Roosters prop Lindsay Collins will miss Sunday’s Magic Round blockbuster against Parramatta after being suspended for a high tackle on Gold Coast winger Corey Thompson.
Trent Robinson is likely to turn to Siosiua Taukeiaho or Fletcher Baker, with the coach trying both players at starting prop at different stages in the season. Daniel Suluka-Fifita is poised to come onto the bench.
The Tricolours are sweating on the fitness of Connor Watson (throat) after luckless hooker Sam Verrills suffered a serious collarbone injury on the weekend. North Sydney Bears hooker Ben Marschke is also an option after the Roosters immediately moved on young rake Freddy Lussick to the Warriors.
EELS HOPE TO WELCOME BACK NIUKORE, RUSSELL
An injury-decimated Eels could welcome back utility Marata Niukore, which will help replenish outside back stocks. Niukore was sidelined indefinitely after aggravating a right hamstring complaint back in round six against the Tigers.
Sean Russell made a successful return from a punctured lung through NSW Cup. Brad Arthur had planned to ease Russell back with 60 minutes, but the 19-year-old played the entire match after an untimely sin bin to winger Matthew Komolafe.
Powerhouse winger Maiko Sivo (ACL) and centre Waqa Blake (knee) are not expected to return for another month.
TIGERS HOPEFUL ON LEILUA
At the Tigers, Leilua is a chance of taking the field against future club North Queensland next weekend, putting him on a collision course with Jeremiah Nanai and Heilum Luki, the two rising stars he will battle for a starting edge spot next season.
While Leilua is likely to line-up directly against Dolphins bound Tom Gilbert on the right edge, Sunday’s clash is a chance for the 25-year-old to make an early impression on his 2023 coach, Todd Payten.
The initial diagnosis for Leilua’s injury, suffered against St George Illawarra, was two weeks out. But medical staff rate Leilua as a chance to take on the Cowboys.
The eight-day turn around into the Cowboys clash will give winger Ken Maumalo and forward Thomas Mikaele a chance of lining-up on Sunday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Both players failed on-field HIA assessments and did not return against the Sea Eagles.
Centre James Roberts had successful surgery late last month after ongoing back issues. There was talk the former NSW Blues speedster could be staring down the barrel of a medical retirement.
But senior Tigers staff told News Corp that Roberts is expected back on the training paddock in the next month and should be available for the side’s push for a finals berth.
NIKORIMA FAST-TRACKED INTO BUNNIES SIDE
– Michael Carayannis
Kodi Nikorima is expected to play against his former club the Warriors just days after securing a release to join South Sydney.
Nikorima will be a Rabbitoh until at least the end of the season after agreeing to a mid-year switch to join South Sydney. It won’t take long for the Kiwi international to extract revenge against his old club with the Rabbitohs taking on the Warriors on Saturday as part of Magic Round in Brisbane.
He passed his medical with the Rabbitohs on Wednesday.
Unlike some mid-season trades, the Warriors did not put in a clause which would restrict Nikorima from lining up against his former side. His departure frees up about $300,000 in cap space for the Warriors.
South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou is likely to name Nikorima as part of his squad on Tuesday. Nikorima’s deal is just for the rest of the season but includes an option in his favour to extend his stint at the Rabbitohs by 12 months.
South Sydney have bought him as cover and to help alleviate pressure on halves Cody Walker and Lachlan Ilias. The club still considers emerging hooker Peter Mamouzelos as the back-up option should anything happen to Damien Cook.
The option gives both parties a chance to see if the relationship is worth extending beyond this year and allows Nikorima a chance to live in Sydney.
The Dolphins have expressed an interest in luring the 28-year-old to be part of their inaugural squad.
Nikorima was off-contract at season’s end with the Warriors and indicated he was not going to extend his stay with the club when they return to Auckland next year.
The Warriors have made a few acquisitions of their own with Roosters duo Freddy Lussick and Ronald Volkman joining the club.
Lussick, a hooker, is signed until the end of the season while young half Volkman was already joining the Warriors on a three year deal from next season but that move has been fast-tracked.
BULLDOGS v KNIGHTS
Friday, 6pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Bulldogs: No changes are expected at the Bulldogs despite a loss to the Raiders.
Knights: Plenty of movement expected at Newcastle as they look to break a poor run of form, with a stack of back-row options returning.
Mitchell Barnett returns from a lengthy suspension, while Kurt Mann is also due back either this week or next from an ankle injury.
It’ll be a toss up as to which of the two start in the 13 jumper when both are available.
Tyson Frizell is also expected to return from illness to start in the back-row alongside Lachlan Fitzgibbon who came back against the Cowboys.
Jirah Momoisea is also due back in the next week or two to bolster the back-row depth, however should Brodie Jones take his part in the game he’s likely to be the preferred bench option.
Sauaso Sue is due back from a concussion and would also join the bench.
Edrick Lee suffered a concussion and will need to pass protocols on a quick turnaround.
Jack Johns suffered a suspected broken arm, but is likely to have been dropped regardless.
It remains to be seen whether Adam Clune and Jake Clifford are recalled for new halves pairing of Tex Hoy and Phoenix Crossland, with fitness also being a consideration.
The likes of Johns, Mathew Croker and Pasami Saulo are expected to drop out of the side.
SEA EAGLES v BRONCOS
Friday, 8.05pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Sea Eagles: Josh Schuster is not expected to return from a calf injury that saw him scratched late from the win over the Tigers. Better news on Haumole Olakau’atu who is expected to return from illness and would start in the back-row. Ben Trbojevic or Ethan Bullemor will replace Schuster with Trbojevic likely to start at centre, in place of Morgan Harper if Hasler opts for Bullemor.
Broncos: Payne Haas is expected to return at prop after missing the win over South Sydney with an AC joint injury, as is Kurt Capewell who missed the match with a neck injury.
This would see Corey Jensen and TC Robati drop to the bench.
Jake Turpin is due back having missed action with a neck injury, but due to Brisbane’s strong form he’ll struggle to crack the 17.
WARRIORS v RABBITOHS
Saturday, 3pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Warriors: Marcelo Montoya is due back from suspension and is likely to come in on the wing in place of either Adam Pompey, or Viliame Vailea, should Pompey move to centre.
Euan Aitken will have to pass concussion protocols to take his part in the game, with a six-day turnaround not helping his chances.
If unavailable, Bayley Sironen would likely come into the side and start in the back-row, while Tohu Harris is also closing in on his first game of the season.
Chanel Harris-Tavita will return in coming rounds but is expected to be given one more week.
Rabbitohs: Despite a poor showing against the Broncos, no major changes are expected at South Sydney.
Tom Burgess missed the clash with a back complaint, while Hame Sele was also unavailable due to a calf niggle.
Both are strong chances to return for Magic Round.
TITANS v DRAGONS
Saturday, 5.30pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Titans: Tuesday afternoon will be a big watch at the Titans to see whether Justin Holbrook opts for another shake-up of the side.
The likes of Phillip Sami and Jayden Campbell are waiting in the wings and will be huge considerations for returns.
Aside from David Fifita, they don’t have any major players returning from injury or suspension to bolster the struggling squad.
Dragons: No major changes expected, with Anthony Griffin making the big call to start Talatau Amone in the halves against Melbourne, with Jack Bird moving to the back-row.
George Burgess was dropped in Round 9 and played NSW Cup.
Francis Molo was placed on report for a late tackle, with any possible charges yet to be laid.
STORM v PANTHERS
Saturday, 7.45pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Storm: Ryan Papenhuyzen failed to finish the game due to a low grade hamstring strain.
He’s in major doubt for Magic Round, with Nick Meaney to shift to fullback if unavailable, and Dean Ieremia to come onto the wing in his place.
Reimis Smith suffered a suspected pectoral injury and faces a stint on the sidelines, there’s a number of options to replace him at centre depending on which way Craig Bellamy opts to go.
Panthers: The only expected change would be Scott Sorensen replacing Jaeman Salmon on the bench having missed the shock loss to the Eels due to illness.
Taylan May will retain his place on the left wing, with Brian To’o playing in the more unfamiliar right wing position.
SHARKS v RAIDERS
Sunday, 1.50pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Sharks: Will Kennedy is expected to miss matches after the high shot on Reece Walsh that saw him sent off against the Warriors.
Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon has a few options to replace him. One will be to shift Nicho Hynes to fullback, bringing Braydon Trindall in the halves. However he’ll be reluctant to break up the successful partnership with Matt Moylan.
Jesse Ramien also faces a stint on the sidelines for his high shot, with Connor Tracey likely to play centre, and Ronaldo Mulitalo returning on the wing.
Raiders: Jarrod Croker suffered a potentially serious shoulder injury in his first game of the season.
The severity is unknown at this stage, with scans to confirm the damage on Monday, but he’s likely to miss the clash with Cronulla.
Semi Valemei would likely return to the side at centre, however Seb Kris is another option for coach Ricky Stuart.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstadd suffered a serious cork and failed to finish the game against the Bulldogs. He’s in some doubt but should be cleared to play.
If unavailable, Jordan Rapana would play fullback, with Xavier Savage likely to slot in on the wing.
ROOSTERS v EELS
Sunday, 4.05pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Roosters: Sam Verrills is a good man out of luck having suffered a suspected fractured collarbone in the win over the Titans.
His injury coincides with the expected return of Connor Watson who will deputise at hooker, whether he or Drew Hutchinson starts for the first 20 minutes remains to be seen.
Lindsay Collins is facing a one to two week suspension for a high tackle, Sio Siua Taukehiaho would likely start at prop in his place.
Nat Butcher started on the edge in place of Sitili Tupouniua, who came off the bench. Given the big win, this may be the preferred play going forward, however Trent Robinson has shown a tendency to shake up his starting back-rowers this season.
Eels: Sean Russell scored a try two minutes into his return to footy in NSW Cup following a Round 1 rib/lung injury.
He’s a strong chance to return on the wing in place of Hayze Perham in what would be the only change to the side.
TIGERS v COWBOYS
Sunday, 6.25pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Tigers: Ken Maumalo played just two minutes before a concussion saw him miss the remainder of the loss to Manly.
The extended turnaround will give him a chance to face the Cowboys in Magic Round, but he’s in major doubt.
Thomas Mikaele is in the same boat and will need to pass protocols to take his part in the match.
David Nofoaluma is expected to return from a concussion of his own and will slot straight back in on the wing.
Luciano Leilua is bidding to return from a hamstring injury but is expected to be given one more week to get himself right to play.
If he did return, he’d start in the back-row with Alex Seyfarth dropping to the bench.
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Cowboys: No changes expected to the flying North Queensland outfit.
A shout out to Todd Payten who allowed his side to run out 1-17 against Newcastle in a rare occurrence to his game day side.
Originally published as NRL teams Round 10: Early Mail for Magic Round, predicted changes at every club