NRL Grand Final week begins
3 hours ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Titans and Rabbitohs meet with both sides facing three straight losses.
Saturday evening at Robina sets the scene for the Gold Coast Titans to host the South Sydney Rabbitohs in what should be a high-scoring clash. With just two points separating the two teams on the ladder, there is a lot to play for, especially with the top eight so heavily congested. Three straight losses is the consequence for whichever side comes out of the game worse off.
The home side, like practically all NRL teams so far in 2023, have enjoyed/suffered through a mixed bag of results in the first half of the season. The Titans have pulled off a handful of superb wins, but they have also had their fair share of disappointing losses. Topping the lot have been their past two matches - going down to Newcastle and Canterbury-Bankstown in successive weeks, just as the Gold Coast were starting to show some promise.
The Titans enjoyed a bye last week, giving them plenty of time to reflect on their back to back losses in rounds 11 and 12. A bizarre streak came to an end just the week before, with the Titans finishing a game with a score that was not equal to 26 for the first time since round six. For the Titans to get their season back on track this weekend, their defence is going to need to be top notch.
Both Origin stars David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui have been named to back up from their efforts in Maroon on Wednesday - however whether they end up running out for the Gold Coast remains to be seen. Kieran Foran is out due to ligament issues, causing a significant backline shuffle. Jayden Campbell goes into the halves, with Keano Kini set to start at fullback for the first time in his NRL career. Sam Verrills and Iszac Fa'asuamaleaui are both back on the bench, while Alofiana Khan-Pereira retakes his spot on the wing.
South Sydney have had a rocky couple of weeks. After an impressive winning streak catapulted them into serious premiership contention - not to mention first on the ladder - Souths have had significantly less to cheer about over the past two rounds. A massively disappointing 36-16 defeat to the struggling Eels in round 12 was seen as a one off by Rabbitohs fans, but unfortunately for them that doesn't seem to be the case.
Up against Canberra last week without their Origin stars, Souths seemed in control early on. But the Raiders ended up too strong, overpowering them, and causing the Rabbitohs' second straight defeat, 33-26. Unfortunately for Souths, an injury to Latrell Mitchell means that Blake Taaffe will again line up at fullback this weekend.
Cameron Murray and Jai Arrow have both been named to back up from Origin for Souths - Liam Knight and Tallis Duncan are the men who make way. Campbell Graham has been named in the centres despite injury concerns, forcing Jed Cartwright out of the 17. Richie Kennar replaces Taane Milne on the wing.
Souths have won their past seven matches against the Gold Coast.
Last meeting: Round 14 2022 - Titans 16 Rabbitohs 30
Who to watch: Sam Verrills will make just his third appearance in the NRL for a club other than the Roosters when he comes off the bench for the Gold Coast this weekend. Suffering an injury back in round two, the hooker will be looking to work his way back into the starting number nine jersey for the Titans. The 24 year old has just hit 50 first grade appearances, and he'll look to keep building his game at the Titans, surrounded by other competitive hookers Chris Randall and Kruise Leeming.
Having played 80 minutes (and in some cases, over 80 minutes) in every game of the Rabbitohs 2023 season so far, Lachlan Ilias is an integral part of this South Sydney side. The halfback is playing just his second full season of first grade football - he made his debut less than two years ago. With his experience and confidence growing, whether that be on the field for Souths or representing Greece at the World Cup in England, Ilias's game is only going to keep evolving as the Rabbitohs establish themselves in the post-Reynolds era.
Favourite: South Sydney are favoured to triumph away from home.
My tip: The class of the Rabbitohs should shine through, even without their Origin stars. South Sydney by 14.
1. Keano Kini 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Phillip Sami 4. Aaron Schoupp 5. Jojo Fifita 6. Jayden Campbell 7. Tanah Boyd 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Chris Randall 17. Iszac Fa'asumaleaui 12. Joe Stimson 13. Isaac Liu 10. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 14. Sam Verrills 15. Erin Clark 19. Brian Kelly
1. Blake Taaffe 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Richard Kennar 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Hame Sele 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jacob Host 14. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 15. Michael Chee Kam 16. Shaq Mitchell 17. Daniel Suluka-Fifita 18. Taane Milne
Referees: Liam Kennedy; Sideline Officials: Jon Stone, Jarrod Cole; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;