The battle to replace Cameron Smith at hooker for Melbourne will come to a head this weekend when the Storm takes on the Newcastle Knights in Albury on Saturday.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Harry Grant has been named to start in the no. 9 jersey with Brandon Smith preferred on the bench.
The Maroons legend’s absence has seen the Storm elevate Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane to captaincy roles for the 2021 season. A strong performance from Grant will solidify his place in a new era at the hooker position for the Storm.
The match will be Melbourne’s only full hit-out ahead of their NRL opener and was last week moved from Casey Fields to Albury after the Knights refused to travel to Melbourne.
Every NRL club will have their final hit out ahead of their opening round clashes in three weeks.
All teams will be hoping to glean some information from the third trial match of the preseason with a mix of rising stars and household names looking to build some match fitness ahead of round 1.
Fans will also get a chance to see Roosters’ prodigy Joseph Suaalii in action for the first time with the youngster named at centre in the Roosters’ reserve grade side, North Sydney Bears, to take on Canberra in Queanbeyan.
Canberra Raiders vs Sydney Roosters – Saturday 4pm (AEDT), Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan
Raiders (squad): Caleb Aekins, Elijah Anderson, Adam Cook, Matt Frawley, Emre Guler, Siliva Havili, Josh Hodgson, Albert Hopoate, Corey Horsburgh, Ryan James, Seb Kris, Dunamis Lui, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Kai O’Donnell, Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana, Harry Rushton, Curtis Scott, Harley Smith-Shields, Bailey Simonsson, Sia Soliola, Tom Starling, Ryan Sutton, Joseph Tapine, Leo Thompson, Matt Timoko, Semi Valemei, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton, George Williams, Sam Williams, Hudson Young
Analysis: The Raiders nearly went all the way last year without inspirational hooker Josh Hodgson. The English rake returns from that devastating knee injury he suffered last July. Bailey Simonsson has been named in a strong sign he has recovered from the leg injury he suffered in the pre-season. All eyes on new recruit Ryan James. James has been struck down by injuries the last two seasons and will get his chance to impress against a tough Roosters pack.
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Brett Morris, 6. Lachlan Lam, 7. Drew Hutchison, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Jake Friend, 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11. Angus Crichton, 12. Sitili Tupouniua, 13. Isaac Liu. Interchange: 14. Nat Butcher, 15. Adam Keighran, 16. Daniel Saluka-Fifita, 17. Lindsay Collins, 18. Matt Ikuvalu, 19. Egan Butcher, 20. Sam Walker, 21. Freddy Lussick.
Analysis: Lachlan Lam and Drew Hutchison will form a new halves partnership in the absence of Luke Keary who has a hamstring injury. Several Roosters stars will play for the first time this preseason, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Isaac Liu all named. Victor Radley and Sam Verrills won’t play until round one and will continue resting from knee injuries.
Melbourne Storm vs Newcastle Knights – Saturday 5:30pm (AEDT), Albury Sports Ground, Albury
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Dean Ieremia, 3. Reimis Smith, 4. Justin Olam, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich (c), 9. Harry Grant, 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane (c). Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Christian Welch, 16. Tui Kamikamica, 17. Tom Eisenhuth
Analysis: Highly-rated Victorian junior Dean Iermia gets a chance at Suliasi Vunivalu’s vacant wing spot after Brenko Lee was ruled out with a hamstring problem. Lee is expected to play round one but Reimis Smith will cover for him at centre in the club’s lone full hit-out.
Knights: 1. Tex Hoy, 2. Starford To’a, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Gehamat Shibasaki, 6. Phoenix Crossland, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Connor Watson. Interchange: 14. Chris Randall, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Sauaso Sue, 17. Josh King. Extended Bench: 18. Simi Sasagi, 19. Brodie Jones, 20. Mat Croker, 21. Brayden Musgrove, 22. Pasami Saulo, 23. Dominic Young.
Analysis: Mitchell Pearce will return after a thumb injury, signing a one-year extension and losing the captaincy. The halfback has heard plenty of noise during the offseason and has a chance to change the narrative with his play on the field. Kurt Mann won’t play for the Knights because of personal commitments and Edrick Lee will be miss the match and the first few rounds with a foot problem.
Gold Coast Titans vs Warriors – Saturday 5:50pm (AEDT), Oakes Oval, Lismore
Titans: 1. AJ Brimson, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Brian Kelly, 4. Patrick Herbert, 5. Corey Thompson, 6. Ash Taylor, 7. Jamal Fogarty, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Moeaki Fotuaika, 11. David Fifita, 12. Kevin Proctor, 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Interchange: Phillip Sami, Tyrone Peachey, Sam Lisone, Jaimin Jolliffe, Beau Fermor, Sam Stone, Tanah Boyd, Treymain Spry, Greg Marzhew, Erin Clark, Jai Whitbread, Toby Sexton
Analysis: The Titans will get a gauge on how their new forward pack will go with star recruits David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui to start. After being injured during the 2020 Origin series, AJ Brimson will play at fullback.
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2. Ken Maumalo, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Peta Hiku, 14. Marcelo Montoya, 6 Kodi Nikorima, 20. Sean O’Sullivan, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 9. Wayde Egan, 10. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, 21. Josh Curran, 12. Bayley Sironen, 13. Tohu Harris. Interchange: 5. Adam Pompey, 11 Ben Murdoch Masila, 15. Kane Evans, 17. Rocco Berry, 18. Paul Turner, 23. Hayze Perham, 25. Jazz Tevaga, 26. Jack Murchie, 27. Bunty Afoa, 28 Leeson Ah Mau.
Analysis: Star signings Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila are both named to play with the latter to start off the bench. Sean O’Sullivan will play at halfback with Chanel Harris-Tavita out with a minor quad strain.
Cronulla Sharks vs Canterbury Bulldogs -Saturday 6pm (AEDT), Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 9. Blayke Brailey, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Billy Magoulias. Interchange: 14. Connor Tracey, 15. Jack Williams, 16. Teig Wilton, 17. Andrew Fifita, 18. Luke Metcalf, 19. Mawene Hiroti, 20. Braydon Trindall, 21. Nene Macdonald.
Analysis: Matt Moylan will take the field for the first time since August last year alongside halfback Chad Townsend. Aiden Tolman and Toby Rudolf are out with minor leg injuries but are expected to be fit for round 1.
Bulldogs (squad): Corey Allan, Renouf Atoni, Bailey Biondi-Odo, Dean Britt, Declan Casey, Nick Cotric, Brad Deitz, Matt Doorey, Adam Elliott, Kyle Flanagan, Jack Hetherington, Will Hopoate, Josh Jackson, Sione Katoa, Tui Katoa, Lachlan Lewis, Falakiko Manu, Nick Meaney, Ofahiki Ogden, Aaron Schoupp, Ava Seumanufagai, Chris Smith, Joe Stimson, Jackson Topine, Corey Waddell, Brandon Wakeham, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Analysis: Canterbury coach Trent Barrett will be forced to play his second choice five-eighth in Brandon Wakeham with Jake Averillo out with an injured elbow. Jeremy Marshall-King, who had been training all summer at hooker, is also unavailable. Star signings Nick Cotric and Kyle Flanagan are among those named to play.
Dragons vs South Sydney – Saturday 6:30pm (AEDT), Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee
Dragons (squad): Daniel Alvaro, Jack Bird, Adam Clune, Matt Dufty, Kaide Ellis, Poasa Faamausili, Max Feagai, Jackson Ford, Tyrell Fuimaono, Ben Hunt, Jaiyden Hunt, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Zac Lomax, Andrew McCullough, Trent Merrin, Corey Norman, Jordan Pereira, Cody Ramsey, Mikaele Ravalawa, Tariq Sims, Jayden Sullivan, Paul Vaughan, Brayden Wiliame.
Analysis: Corey Norman will line up for the Dragons as he prepares to appeal his NRL breach notice. Adam Clune and Jayden Sullivan set to get some time in the halves while with Jack Bird set to play in the centres.
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell, 2. Jaxson Paulo, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Campbell Graham, 5. Alex Johnston, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds (c), 8. Thomas Burgess, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Junior Tatola, 11. Keaon Koloamatangi, 12. Jacob Host, 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Blake Taaffe, 15. Josh Mansour, 16. Tautau Moga, 17. Steven Marsters, 18. Troy Dargan, 19. Hame Sele, 20. Benji Marshall, 21. Mark Nicholls, 22. Dean Hawkins, 23. Patrick Mago, 24. Jai Arrow, 25. Joshua Cook.
Analysis: The Rabbitohs will play a lot of their big names for this final trial. Star recruits Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds and Cameron Murray are all named to start. Jai Arrow, Josh Mansour and Benji Marshall will come off an extended bench for the clash.
Penrith vs Parramatta, Saturday 7:30pm (AEDT) Panthers stadium
Panthers (squad): Api Koroisau, Brian To’o, Charlie Staines, Dylan Edwards, Isaah Yeo, James Fisher-Harris, Jarome Luai, J’maine Hopgood, Kurt Capewell, Liam Martin, Matt Burton, Matt Eisenhuth, Moses Leota, Nathan Cleary, Paul Momirovski, Spencer Leniu, Stephen Crichton, Tyrone May, Viliame Kikau
Analysis: Stephen Crichton only rated a 50/50 chance to play due to a minor foot injury. There will be plenty of eyes on Charlie Staines on the right edge. Matt Burton is named along with Paul Momirovski and Tyrone May who are battling it out to replace Brent Naden at right centre over the opening four rounds.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Tom Opacic, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Mitch Moses, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. Oregon Kaufusi, 15. Isaiah Papali’i, 16. Keegan Hipgrave, 17. Marata Niukore
Ananlysis: Nathanial Roache, Ray Stone, Bryce Cartwright, Michael Oldfield and Caleb Tohi are all unavailable through injury. Apart from that the Eels have named a close to full strength line-up. Tom Opacic gets his chance to lock down a spot in the centres in the absence of Michael Jennings, while new recruit Keegan Hipgrave has been named to start off the bench.
Brisbane vs Cowboys -Saturday 7pm (AEST), Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
Broncos: 1. Jamayne Isaako, 2. Xavier Coates, 3. Jesse Arthars, 4. Tesi Niu, 5. David Mead, 6. Brodie Croft, 7. Tom Dearden, 8. Patrick Carrigan, 9. Jake Turpin, 10. Matt Lodge, 11. Alex Glenn, 12. Jordan Riki, 13. Tevita Pangai Jnr. Interchange: 14. John Asiata, 15. Thomas Flegler, 16. Corey Oates, 17. Ben Te’o, 18. Cory Paix, 19. Tyson Gamble, 20. Richard Kennar
Analysis: Anthony Milford is still out with a broken hand which sees Brodie Croft partner Tom Dearden in the halves. Croft is starting at No.6, maybe Walters sees something there to have him playing wider off the ruck. After shaky last start, Tesi Niu gets another crack at replacing Kotoni Staggs at right centre.
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Michael Morgan (c), 7. Jake Clifford, 8. Francis Molo, 9. Reece Robson, 13. Jason Taumalolo (c), 11. Mitch Dunn, 12. Coen Hess, 21. Reuben Cotter. Interchange: 14. Jake Granville, 15. Lachlan Burr, 16. Peter Hola, 17. Corey Jensen, 18. Shane Wright, 19. Ben Hampton, 20. Murray Taulagi, 22. Esan Marsters
Analysis: Cowboys coach Todd Payten has moved Valentine Holmes to the wing starting Scott Drinkwater at fullback against Brisbane. Jordan McLean and Josh McGuire are both out with hamstring injuries, with Jason Taumalolo shifting to prop and Reuben Cotter to lock.
Wests Tigers vs Manly – Sunday 5pm (AEDT), Leichhardt Oval
Wests Tigers: 1. Daine Laurie, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. James Roberts, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. AJ Kepaoa, 6. Jock Madden, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. James Tamou (c), 9. Jacob Liddle, 10. Joe Ofahengaue, 11. Luke Garner, 12. Luciano Leilua, 13. Alex Twal. Interchange: 14. Tommy Talau, 15. Reece Hoffman, 16. Adam Doueihi, 17. Stefano Utoikamanu, 18. Jake Simpkin, 19. Alex Seyfarth, 20. Tuki Simpkins, 21. Michael Chee Kam, 22. Kelma Tuilagi, 23. Zane Musgrove, 24. Russell Packer, 25. Thomas Mikaele, 26. Tyronne Roberts-Davis
Analysis: New signing James Roberts joins Joey Leilua in what could be deemed as the most destructive centre pairing in the game. Moses Mbye’s hamstring injury gives Daine Laurie a chance at fullback, while Jock Madden joins Luke Brooks in the halves with Adam Doueihi to come off the bench.
Sea Eagles: 1. Morgan Harper, 2. Christian Tuipulotu, 3. Brad Parker, 4. Moses Suli, 5. Reuben Garrick, 6. Josh Schuster, 7. Kaeo Weekes, 8. Taniela Paseka, 9. Cade Cust, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Jack Gosiewski, 12. Curtis Sironen, 13. Morgan Boyle. Interchange: 14. Tevita Funa, 15. Josh Aloiai, 16. Sean Keppie, 17. Toafofoa Sipley, 18. Andrew Davey, 19. Jack Birt, 20. Ben Trbojevic, 21. Tolu Koula, 22. Zac Saddler, 23. Daniel Ala, 24. Sione Fainu, 25. Dylan Smith, 26. Alec Tuitavake, 27. Jonah Palota Kopa, 28. Zane Harris
Analysis: Morgan Harper replaces the injured Tom Trbojevic at fullback. Josh Schuster is among the other young guns getting their chance in the backline this week with Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran to rest.