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Around the Grounds - Team News Round 26
We've bundled up all the big changes into one convenient article. Here's how the weekend ahead shapes up...
The battle for eighth position is on, and in Channel 9's live Friday night match the Knights have retained rookie youngster Siuatonga Likiliki in the centres in place of the injured Keith Lulia, while Adam MacDougall returns for what could be his final game if the home side can't produce a win over the Rabbitohs, and Matt Hilder is back on the bench after missing last Saturday with a concussion. The Bunnies have lost Greg Inglis until the start of 2012 but they have named John Sutton and Nathan Merritt to return, whilst retaining James Roberts on an extended bench.
With many fans trekking up the F3, it's important to remember St George Illawarra will host Penrith in a vital clash down the F6. For the Dragons, the same side as last week has been named, with Kyle Stanley omitted from an extended bench and Adam Cuthbertson, excluded before Sunday's win over the Warriors, returns. The Panthers lose the experience of Petero Civoniceva and Trent Waterhouse for the upcoming clash, meaning the veteran pair have played their last game for the club. The news isn't all bad, with Luke Lewis returning to boost the underachieving club in the final round.
The last Super Saturday of the year starts in Auckland, where the Warriors and Cowboys will be pressing to avoid 7th spot. For the home side Ukuma Ta'ai and Alehana Mara are back into the side, with Elijah Taylor relegated to the Vulcans NSW Cup side, and Aaron Heremaia out with a hand injury until the second week of the finals series. For the Cowboys Cory Paterson is again available, a handy addition to an extended bench following the sad news for the side that Tariq Sims will miss months with a broken leg.
The next key battle of the final round is for the wooden spoon - where the Titans and Eels duke it out for last place. Gold Coast have no changes from the side defeated by the Tigers last night, while Parramatta also will take in their defeated lineup from Friday's golden point thriller against the Roosters. There is a question mark over Tim Mannah's fitness as he battles to overcome a hamstring strain.
At Toyota Stadium on Saturday night, the Wests Tigers will be playing for fourth position when they face the struggling Cronulla Sharks. Both sides have opted for an extended bench with otherwise unchanged starting lineups - the Sharks including Taulima Tautai and Ben Pomeroy on the interchange, the Tigers welcoming Mark Flanagan & Ben Murdoch-Masila back in place of Todd Payten.
The final day of the premiership comes around on Sunday - and it starts with a farewell to three of the NRL's warhorses. Bulldogs' captain Andrew Ryan, utility forward Michael Hodgson and Raiders' captain Alan Tongue all playing what is likely to be their final game on Sunday. Hodgson is the only change to the Canterbury side which sees injured pair Grant Millington and Greg Eastwood both sitting out the remainder of the season. Canberra retain the same lineup from last week's nailbiting loss to Penrith aside from the omission of the suspended Joel Thompson. Josh Dugan and Dane Tilse both came through their returns from injury at the weekend unscathed and take their place in the lineup.
Now to the big one! Brisbane host Manly and the home side are unchanged ahead of the upcoming celebrations for Darren Lockyers "final home game" at Suncorp Stadium (although he will play at the venue again the following week to open the finals). Manly have a bevvy of changes owing to Friday night's spiteful clash which saw Brett Stewart, Darcy Lussick and Kieran Foran all suspended. The club has named Glenn Stewart at lock despite the fiery number 13 being referred straight to the judiciary following his fight with Melbourne's Adam Blair. The Sea Eagles will also miss David Williams following his season-ending neck injury. The new faces for the visitors include Vic Mauro, Terrence Seuseu, Will Hopoate, Daniel Harrison and Michael Oldfield. A six man bench has been named to cover for the likely omission of Glenn Stewart.
The season finishes on Sunday night at the SFS, where the low-flying Roosters will be gunning for their fourth consecutive win... against minor premiers the Melbourne Storm. The Tricolours will be without Shaun Kenny-Dowall who sustained a groin injury at the weekend, while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Perrett re-enter the lineup, the former on an extended five-man bench. For the Storm, key playmaker Cooper Cronk returns, with suspended trio Adam Blair, Sisa Waqa and Sika Manu making way for Cronk, Atelea Vea and Adam Woolnough.
Get your fix of teams right here - find out your lineup for the weekend in TEAMS - September 2-4.