Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Rankin ranked the best since Freddy?
A busy last couple days around the NRL traps starting with a good news story on the Gold Coast. Yesterday Roosters and Panthers legend Brad Fittler declared that schoolboy Titan signing Jordan Rankin would one day represent Australia.
Rankin, at 16 years and 239 days old, became the League's youngest ever halfback to debut in first grade when he took the field in Monday night's match against Newcastle on the Gold Coast.
Pressure aside, Fittler should know, the former Australian Schoolboy graduated straight into the big league before becoming the youngest ever State of Origin player and Kangaroos tourist when just 18 years of age.
Player movements and rumours
In player movement news, the Dragons have secured the signature of Raiders backrower Neville Costigan for two years. The news follows a premature announcement from the Dragons media office which declared Broncos centre Darius Boyd had agreed to terms with Saints. Another announcement to confirm Boyd's intentions is expected in the coming days. In other news, speculation is rife that veteran backrower Tonie Carroll will also follow Broncos coach Wayne Bennett to the Dragons.
Meanwhile, Penrith forward Frank Pritchard continues to be linked to a number of clubs, most recently European Super League champions Leeds Rhinos. Panthers boss Mick Leary and Pritchard's agent, David Riolo, have been busy hosing down speculation. When asked about reports in the UK's Guardian, Leary said: "All I can say is that Frank Pritchard is under contract to Penrith and won't be going anywhere."
Adding to the rumour mill are reports that Storm sensation Greg Inglis is considering a managerial switch to the controversial 'Team Khoder'. The news has fuelled speculation that Inglis may join Sonny Bill Williams in France. Inglis is currently managed by Allan Gainey and contracted to the Storm for another two years. But when asked by Brisbane's Courier Mail last night about a possible switch to Khoder Nasser, Inglis said: "I have talked about it, yes."
Injuries, judiciary, replacements and comebacks
On the injury front, the Sydney Roosters are set to be without skipper Craig Fitzgibbon for Friday night's clash against the Melbourne Storm. The Roosters will also be without winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall who suffered a knee injury, while hooker Riley Brown has been dropped and replaced by Storm utility James Aubusson. Prop forward Mark O'Meley is expected to make his return from injury. The Storm also have injury concerns of their own. Storm wingers Steve Turner and Anthony Quinn are in doubt but should play.
Hoping to make a return this weekend is Scott Prince, but the Titans halfback has been advised to delay his return from a broken arm for one more week. Speculation abounds that Prince will defy the doctor's order and play. Pending confirmation, the injury ravaged Titans have named Nathan Friend at halfback. Five eighth Mat Rogers will make a return from suspension. Prop Michael Henderson has been ruled out due to an ongoing shoulder problem, Gavin Cooper will take his place.
Meanwhile, North Queensland Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston is still struggling to make his return against Gold Coast on Saturday night. The champion halfback has been named to lead the Cowboys, despite doubts over a knee injury that required surgery.
As reported during the week, Brisbane fullback Karmichael Hunt has been ruled out of Friday night's Broncos v Dragons clash. After suffering a strained calf muscle against the Warriors last weekend, Hunt will be replaced by Denan Kemp. Reece Robinson will take Kemp's spot on the wing. Lock Tonie Carroll has also been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Latest news is that forward Greg Eastwood is also injured with a neck injury and will be replaced by Derrick Watkins on the Broncos bench. Centre Justin Hodges is still suspended. Prop forward Ben Hannant is in doubt but is expected to play.
Meanwhile, the Dragons will be without star five eighth Jamie Soward (back) and fullback Brett Morris (shoulder). Jason Nightingale is likely to switch from wing to fullback while Wendell Sailor comes into the side as winger to front up against his former club. Mid-season recruit Ben Rogers has been named as Soward's replacement and will play his first NRL game since round four, when he was playing for South Sydney.
Wests Tigers are hoping to welcome back skipper Brett Hodgson at full-back following a calf injury, but have a number of players under an injury cloud heading into Monday night's clash with the Parramatta Eels. Keith Galloway (toe), Robbie Farah (ankle) and Bryce Gibbs (hamstring) remain in doubt. Chris Lawrence (quad) and Dene Halatau (shoulder) had cortisone injections this week. Wests Tigers will definitely be without prop Todd Payten who was banned for three-matches following a dangerous throw charge on Dragons centre Matt Cooper last weekend.
In other news, Newcastle Knights centre Adam MacDougall will miss this Sunday's clash with Canberra after entering early guilty pleas for two charges arising out of Monday's win over Gold Coast. MacDougall was placed twice on report within a couple of minutes, firstly for a head slam and then for a dangerous throw. Keith Lulia is the likely replacement for MacDougall. Fullback Wes Naiqama has been ruled out, failing in his bid to make a comeback from a broken foot. Jesse Royal (knee) and Danny Wicks (ankle) are likely to wait at least another week to make their returns.