2018 PREVIEW 🔍 Perennial underachievers? Our fifteenth preview is here. Andrew Ferguson assesses whe...
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After 106 years, Sunday's match at Mudgee will be the final instalment of a concept which has unfortunately became an embarrassment in recent years, with Brad Fittler struggling to even name 17 players for this weekend's clash. This is proven by the squad named by Fittler on Monday, which included fringe first-graders such as Hame Sele, Pauli Pauli and Jake Marketo, reflecting the critical attitude of many NRL coaches towards the fixture. Luckily for Fittler, Penrith coach Anthony Griffin was more lenient with releasing his players, with five Panthers chosen for the City side (Matt Moylan, Tyrone Peachey, Bryce Cartwright, Nathan Cleary and James Tamou). Peachey and Moylan are part of an exciting back five for city, including Clinton Gutherson, Nathan Ross and Josh Addo-Carr.
Meanwhile, Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon has named a strong line-up, with his forward pack in particular looking threatening. In-form Dragons teammates Paul Vaughan and Jack de Belin will be looking to impress NSW Origin Coach Laurie Daley, with the pair touted as possibilities of earning their debuts in the Origin arena. They are joined by Dale Finucane, Mitchell Aubusson and Kyle Turner up front. Titan Tyrone Roberts is recalled to the squad for the first time since 2014, rewarded for his stellar form in an injury-riddled Gold Coast side.
Who to watch: His chances of claiming a spot in the halves for the Blues this year may be slim, yet Cody Walker has been one of the form players in the NRL this year. Walker is second for try assists with ten and leads the competition for line breaks with eleven, proving that his speed and creativity could be a real threat on Sunday afternoon.
For City, hooker Cameron McInnes has enjoyed an impressive start to his new life at the Dragons. McInnes has proven a rock in defence for the St. George side, averaging a tackle efficiency rate of 97%. However, McInnes' input is not just limited to this aspect of the game, rather he has also improved significantly in attack in 2017, with four try assists already this season compared to the one he managed in 21 games last year with the Rabbitohs.
The favourite: Country are slight favourites for the victory.
1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Euan Aitken 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Brian Kelly 6. Cody Walker 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Dale Finucane 9. Damien Cook 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Mitchell Aubusson 12. Kyle Turner 13. Jack de Belin 14. Connor Watson 15. Matt Prior 16. Tariq Sims 17. Adam Elliot 18. Daniel Alvaro
1. Matt Moylan 2. Clint Gutherson 3. Nathan Ross 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Bryce Cartwright 7. Chad Townsend 8. James Tamou 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Gallen 11. Curtis Sironen 12. David Gower 13. Hame Sele 14. Joseph Paulo 15. Nathan Cleary 16. Pauli Pauli 17. Jake Marketo