GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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There will be no sign of Johnathon Thurston for the North Queensland Cowboys in their final hit out of season 2006 at home to the Parramatta Eels on Friday night. Club captain Travis Norton has been named on a five man bench as the Cowboys look to end their season on a high.
Tim Smith returns for Parramatta against the Cowboys this weekend since breaking his collarbone at home to Newcastle two months ago. He replaces New Zealander Jeremy Smith who broke his hand in the side?s heavy loss to Brisbane at home on Sunday. In a small change, Wade McKinnon will start at fullback with inform Luke Burt moving back to a five man bench.
The Sharks have named centre Ben Pomeroy in their side against Canberra on Saturday night. This is despite the fact that he will confront the judiciary tonight charged with a grade one contrary conduct charge for his involvement with the brawl against the Dragons that threatened to spill on to the hill.
Canberra will be without inspirational playmaker Jason Smith for their last game of the regular season against Cronulla. Smith, who was injured in the side?s close loss to the Storm last Saturday, has been ruled out with a knee injured. Todd Carney moves to the five-eighth position with rookie William Zillman coming on to the interchange bench as the super-sub.
Melbourne is unchanged for their clash with Manly at Olympic Park on Saturday night. The Storm will be presented with the JJ Giltinan as the first placed team in the regular season. Jake Webster is once again unlucky to miss out on the starting side and sits on an extended six man bench and will most likely drop off it by kick off.
Manly have named halfback Matt Orford and State of Origin representative Anthony Watmough in their side to play the Storm despite under injury clouds following the Sea Eagles? one point victory over the Bulldogs on Friday night. Captain Ben Kennedy has not been named in the side and will be given another week to recuperate before the finals start on September 8.
St George Illawarra will play halfback Mathew Head in Premier League once again for their clash with the Roosters at the historic SCG. Head asked coach Nathan Brown last weekend for match practice to play in reserves, as he was being rested that week from First Grade. The Dragons welcome back Justin Poore from suspension following a high tackle on Chris Armit from the Bulldogs two weeks earlier. Roosters? coach Ricky Stuart will coach Sydney for the last time in his five-year presence after he was shown the door with still one year on his contract remaining. Coach Stuart has made just one to change to the side which was humiliated by the Warriors in Auckland last weekend with Charlie Tonga coming on to the run on side with David Shillington dropping back to the bench. The match will see halfback Josh Lewis play for the first time against his former club, with whom he won a Jersey Flegg Grand Final last year.
Brisbane is unchanged for their last regular home game of the season against the Warriors. It will be prop Shane Webcke?s last home game of his career, as he hangs up the boots on what has been an illustrious career which has included many Origins, Grand Final victories and Internationals. A win for the Broncos could all but secure a home final in the first week of the playoffs, something which has been achieved for the last two years straight.
The Warriors will be wondering what could have been if not for their salary cap disgrace earlier this season, as they were deducted four compettion points for their breaches. Had they not been deducted these points, they would currently sit in seventh position breathing down the neck of St George Illawarra. The Warriors have named an unchanged line-up for the clash with Steve Price returning to the state where he grew up.
Penrith captain Craig Gower returns to his side for their last encounter of 2006, just one week too late for the captain. Had he had have played last weekend, it could have been a whole different story as the Panthers needed a win to stay in touch with the top eight. They play the second placed Bulldogs, with crowd favourite Preston Campbell playing his last game for the Panthers before moving to the new Gold Coast Titans franchise.
Nick Kouparitsas comes on to the Bulldogs bench to replace the injured Brad Morrin who dislocated his kneecap in his side?s close loss to Manly last weekend. It will be just the last game before they welcome back representative Willie Mason.
The Tigers return to their spiritual home, Leichardt Oval, for their last match in season 2006. The reigning premiers will take on historical rivals South Sydney, in what will be captain Scott Prince?s last match before moving to the Gold Coast next season.
South Sydney have named normal hooker Trent Young in the number six role for the injured Todd Polglase. It will be the last game before we see a new look South Sydney side next season with the new buys of Dean Widders, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell and Nigel Vagana to join the club.
Newcastle has the bye this weekend leading in to the finals with Andrew Johns due back next weekend from his two week contrary conduct suspension. However, having the bye in the week leading in to the finals has been a bad omen for clubs over the past few years.