TRANS-TASMAN PREVIEWS | We've got a look over and made our picks for the opening night of the rep ro...
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Round 24 kicks off with a Friday double as usual. Melbourne host the
Dragons in Victoria while Souths are against the Cowboys at ANZ.
Storm are the side worst impacted by injury this week - Justin O'Neill (back, season) and Cooper Cronk (ankle, Round 26) are both out, as is Atelea Vea. Troy Thompson, Sisa Waqa and Rory Kostjasyn return. The Dragons welcome back Mark Gasnier to an otherwise unchanged side, with Kyle Stanley maintaining the number 18 jersey on an extended bench.
Unfortunately for fans of the Rabbitohs and Cowboys, Channel 9 and WIN Television will be carrying the other match, but the delayed telecast of this one won't detract from the importance to both sides' top eight & top four aspirations. The Rabbitohs are unchanged in this game where the retiring Luke Stuart will be farewelled in style - South Sydney allowing all members of all NRL clubs free entry to the game as a tribute. The Cowboys have named an extended bench with Aaron Payne returning to starting hooker and James Segeyaro and Joel Riethmuller named on the interchange.
Saturday takes us to a battle of the also-rans - the Gold Coast Titans welcome back Anthony Laffranchi after he missed the side's loss to Melbourne. The side is otherwise unchanged, with Clinton Toopi appearing on a 5-man interchange. Their opponents Canberra have big trouble, with fullback Josh Dugan and interchange player Josh Miller both ruled out. David Milne returns to first grade at fullback. Joe Picker returns to the bench along with brother Michael, who replaced him before kickoff in last weekend's big loss to the Rabbitohs. Jarrad Kennedy will also travel with the side as 18th man.
Another battle of also-rans on Saturday night sees the Roosters host Cronulla and for the home side, Nate Myles and Todd Carney will remain on the sideline, as will Frank-Paul Nuuasuala. Tom Symonds, Tinirau Arona and Boyd Cordner fill the gap, while Shaun Kenny-Dowall returns after being a late omission in the side's shock win over the Dragons on Sunday. Cronulla have rung in the changes after last night's fifth successive loss at the hands of Canterbury. Out are Jayson Bukuya (injured), Ben Pomeroy and Ricky Leutele - in are Johnny Mannah, Matt Wright and Tyson Frizell. Albert Kelly remains out of the squad after Paul Aiton replaced him in the lead-up to last night's game.
Penrith welcome back Travis Burns and Shane Elford at the expense of Harry Seijka for this weekend's clash with the finals-bound Warriors. The Warriors welcome back Elijah Taylor and Lance Hohaia, with Pita Godinet (dropped) and Ukuma Ta'ai (suspended) out.
Sunday afternoon and two (hopefully) sunny afternoon clash await. At Brookvale, the Sea Eagles are without Will Hopoate - but are able to replace one Blues winger with another, David Williams returning in the number five jersey. The Sea Eagles are otherwise unchanged, while Canterbury have dropped Mickey Paea, Ben Roberts and Corey Payne back to NSW Cup, Joel Romelo returning on the bench in place of Trent Cutler, and David Stagg and Kris Keating retaining their positions after successfully returning from injury last night.
At the SFS, it's crunch time for both the Tigers and Eels as each team tries to avoid dreaded tags - for the Tigers they don't want to slip to 9th, while the Eels don't want the wooden spoon. The Tigers are much the same as their side which defeated Penrith on Friday, while the Eels welcome back late omission Justin Poore from a virus. Ryan Morgan returns to first grade after Jordan Atkins sustained an injury.
Up the F3 to Newcastle we go on Monday - an unchanged Newcastle side will host Brisbane, who for the second successive week will be missing Ben Hannant and Jharal Yow Yeh.
For the full team lists for all matches in all grades - get This Weekend's Teams here!