NRL Round 2 Early Mail: Predicted team changes for upcoming round

The Dragons are set to roll out a new-look playmaking partnership for their season-opener, while a Cronulla veteran will fight a charge at the judiciary. Plus all the KFC SuperCoach news.

Cronulla veteran Wade Graham will front the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night in a bid to have a reckless charge for a high shot on South Sydney forward Davvy Moale downgraded, and could walk away with a fine.

While Graham is in danger of being wiped out for a month if the panel rejects his plea of not guilty to the grade one reckless charge, a successful night at the judiciary could mean a punishment as little as a $1,000 fine.

The backrower, who was sinbinned over the incident in the 68th minute of Saturday’s loss to the Bunnies, has pleaded guilty to a careless high tackle instead.

Graham’s legal team will be allowed to propose a grading to go with the guilty plea, and seek an early plea discount on the charge, at the panel on Tuesday night.

It means, if Graham nominates a guilty charge for a grade three careless high tackle, and it’s accepted by the panel, he would only miss two matches with the discount.

A grade two guilty plea, with the discount, carries a one-week ban.

The 32-year old could escape with as little as a $1,000 fine if he opts to plead guilty to a grade one careless high tackle, and it’s accepted by the panel.

He was initially facing a three-week suspension with an early plea to the reckless charge.

Any suspension would leave Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon needing to fill Graham’s spot on the bench.

Forward Royce Hunt is unlikely to be available due to an elbow injury, opening the door for youngster Thomas Hazelton to get a call-up against Parramatta.

Canberra winger Jordan Rapana has accepted a three-week ban for a grade one shoulder charge on North Queensland’s Scott Drinkwater. It was Rapana’s third similar offence.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is again scrambling to fill a hole in his side’s backline.

Stuart is likely to turn to James Schiller or Semi Valemei to replace Rapana, while veteran Jarrod Croker is also an option. But opting for Croker would likely force centre Harley Smith Shields out to the wing. All three played for the Raiders in their 16-10 NSW Cup against Parramatta.

Rapana’s untimely suspension comes after a jaw injury sidelined fullback Xavier Savage before round one, forcing Stuart to move centre Seb Kris into the no.1 jumper.


– Brent Read

Jayden Sullivan is set to partner St George Illawarra captain Ben Hunt in the halves as the embattled Dragons prepare to open their season against the Gold Coast Titans this weekend.

The Dragons had the bye in the opening round, giving coach Anthony Griffin an additional week to finalise his team.

News Corp understands that Sullivan is now favourite to play five-eighth, with Jack Bird in the back row in a major surprise ahead of the team being named on Tuesday.

The Dragons are also pushing the NRL for some clarity around Talatau Amone, who has applied for a clearance to play this weekend after being stood down under the game’s no fault stand down policy.

Amone’s matter has been moved to the local court, meaning he is no longer facing 12 years or more in jail.

That leaves his future in the hands of NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo, who has discretionary powers at his disposal.


—Michael Carayannis and Brent Read

Matt Lodge will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair a badly damaged face as the Roosters’ horror start to the season goes from bad to worse.

Lodge will spend an extended stint on the sidelines to repair a facial fracture as he joins the Roosters’ growing casualty ward.

It is unclear how many games he will miss until he goes under the knife. Roosters teammate Joey Manu missed the opening clash of the season because of a facial fracture he suffered at training early last month. Manu would have missed about six matches because of the injury.

Lodge, Victor Radley (concussion) and Brandon Smith (ribs) all struggled at times during the surprise loss to the Dolphins. Lodge and Radley failed concussion tests.

Veteran prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves missed the clash because of a hamstring injury but the club are hopeful he will be back in time to play the Warriors on Saturday. Sitili Tupouniua (knee) and Angus Crichton (personal leave) and Connor Watson (knee) are still missing long-term.


—Dean Ritchie

South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell is being monitored for a knee injury with club management becoming increasingly confident he won’t miss a game.

The Rabbitohs’ revealed on Sunday that Mitchell doesn’t require a scan after damaging his knee against Cronulla on Saturday night.

While reluctant to categorically declare Mitchell available, Souths officials are optimistic he will be available for Thursday night’s big game against premiers Penrith at BlueBet Stadium.

Mitchell injured his PCL before halftime against the Sharks but played on after the injury was strapped.

The news comes as Storm coach Craig Bellamy revealed champion five-eighth Cameron Munster could be missing for between two to four weeks.


—Peter Badel

The Broncos have received a huge boost with star recruit Reece Walsh getting the green light to return from injury for Brisbane’s derby blockbuster against the Cowboys this Friday night.

Walsh missed Brisbane’s epic 13-12 defeat of Penrith in the season opener due to a fractured cheekbone but coach Kevin Walters confirmed his gun fullback will be on deck for their round 2 clash at Suncorp Stadium.

The former Warriors whizkid will slot straight into the Broncos’ No.1 jumper, with Selwyn Cobbo to return to the right wing at the expense of Jesse Arthars after the Queensland Origin star filled in at fullback against the Panthers.



8pm Thursday at BlueBet Stadium

Panthers: Scott Sorenson suffered a HIA in the shock loss to Brisbane.

He’ll need to pass concussion protocols to take his place on the bench against the Rabbitohs.

Soni Luke played just 26 minutes, making an immediate impact with a try off the bench.

After missing both pre-season trials, he’ll increase his minutes game-by-game, eating into the time of Mitch Kenny who will continue to start at hooker.

Rabbitohs: Latrell Mitchell suffered a PCL injury in the win over the Sharks. He doesn’t require scans and is set to play.

Blake Taaffe is on standby should Mitchell miss any games and would also kick goals.

Playing off the bench, Jai Arrow suffered a hamstring injury and failed to finish the game, putting him in major doubt for round 2.

Tavita Tatola failed an early HIA and must pass concussion protocols to take his place up front.

Davvy Moale started in round one, pushing Tom Burgess to the bench, while Michael Chee-Kam started on the edge in place of Arrow, a forced moved due to South Sydney’s injury crisis through their middle.

Taane Milne returns from suspension and is likely to play off the bench and be injected in the forward pack, while Hame Sele and Jacob Host are also chances to return from injuries.


6pm Friday at CommBank Stadium

Eels: A late scratching in round 1, Bailey Simonsson is pushing for a comeback in place of Isaac Lumelume. Returning for his first NRL game since suffering an ACL injury, Josh Hodgson played the full 84 minutes in the golden point loss to Melbourne.

Sharks: All eyes are on the looming return of Nicho Hynes, he’s pushing to return from a calf injury and will replace Braydon Trindall at halfback if cleared.

Jack Williams failed a HIA in the loss to the Rabbitohs. If unavailable, the club will be hoping Royce Hunt is cleared to return from an elbow injury.

Wade Graham is facing three weeks on the sideline for a high contact charge, or four weeks if he fights and loses.

Briton Nikora is facing a fine if he takes the early guilty plea for his charge against South Sydney, or two games if he fights and loses.

Tom Hazelton is the likely bench forward replacement if required.


8.05pm Friday at Suncorp Stadium

Broncos: Reece Walsh has been cleared to return from a fractured eye socket.

He will come in at fullback for Selwyn Cobbo, who returns to the wing with Jesse Arthars dropping out. No other changes are expected following the upset win over the Panthers.

Cowboys: No changes expected following a one point win over the Raiders.


3pm Saturday at Allianz Stadium

Roosters: Matt Lodge has been sent for surgery on a facial fracture and is out indefinitely. Victor Radley failed a HIA in the stunning upset loss to the Dolphins and must pass concussion protocols to take his place against the Warriors, but the six day turnaround won’t do him any favours.

Jared Waerea-Hargeaves is an outside chance to return from a hamstring injury up front, while Joey Manu is also nearing a return from a facial fracture.

Drew Hutchinson started at centre on game day, pushing Corey Allan to the bench.

Impressive rookie Josh Wong is a chance to play off the bench if required.

Egan Butcher was placed on report for a dangerous tackle that saw him sin-binned in the loss.

Warriors: No major changes expected for the Warriors, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak a late scratching on the wing in the win over the Knights.

If cleared to return, he’d replace Edward Kosi.

Jazz Tevaga is expected to miss another week with injury.



5.30pm Saturday at Kayo Stadium

Dolphins: Herman Ese’ese dropped out of the 17 in the upset win over the Roosters, with Connelly Lemuele impressing with a try in his place.

No changes are expected to the 17.

Raiders: Jordan Rapana faces a three-game suspension with an early guilty plea for a shoulder charge, with James Schiller or Albert Hopoate to replace him on the wing.

Josh Papali’i is a strong chance to return from a calf injury at prop, pushing Joe Tapine to lock and Corey Harawira-Naera to the bench.


7.35pm Saturday at AAMI Park

Storm: Cameron Munster faces 2-4 weeks on the sideline with a compound fracture of the finger that he remarkably played through in the win over the Eels.

Tyran Wishart is likely to come into the side at five-eighth, while promising rookie Jonah Pezet is an outside chance to be promoted into the team for his NRL debut.

Xavier Coates is expected to miss two weeks with a shoulder injury, adding to the backline injury woes.

Pending injury returns, Grant Anderson is in line to come into the side on the wing.

Tom Eisenhuth and Tariq Sims are both due back from injury in the next fortnight.

Bulldogs: Luke Thompson will miss an extended period with an ankle injury sustained at training on Tuesday.

Andrew Davey missed selection due to head knocks, but may return in coming weeks.

Star rookie Karl Oloapu dominated in NSW Cup on the weekend and will heap pressure on halfback Kyle Flanagan in coming weeks.


4.05pm Sunday at Leichhardt Oval

Tigers: Shawn Blore left the field early in the loss to the Titans with a HIA and must pass concussion protocols to take his place.

Star recruit John Bateman is likely to join the team for his club debut, but may be eased in from the bench.

Ken Maumalo will also push to return from a knee injury and would likely replace Charlie Staines if cleared.

Knights: Tyson Frizell failed a HIA in the loss to the Warriors and must pass concussion protocols to take his place on the edge against the Tigers.

Kalyn Ponga also copped a knock to the head, but returned to the field and will be fine for round 2.

Greg Marzhew is a chance to return from a hip pointer injury on the wing, if cleared he’d replace Hymel Hunt on the left wing.

Dane Gagai is also a decent chance to return from a hamstring injury and would replace Enari Tuala at right centre.

Adam Elliott will start for the Knights in coming rounds as he returns from a pre-season injury niggle.

Rookie Krystian Mapapalangi is recovering from a shoulder injury and faces an extended period on the sidelines.


6.15pm Sunday at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Dragons: The major concerns for the Dragons ahead of their first game of the season are Jack Bird (knee) and Jack de Belin (calf) who are expected to take their places in the second-row. Jayden Sullivan is likely to be given the nod at five-eighth with Moses Mbye to play as the bench utility.

Titans: Beau Fermor suffered a devastating ACL injury last week that ended his season, with Joe Stimson starting on the edge in his place.

As a result, David Fifita switched sides to the left edge outside Kieran Foran, who himself failed to finish the match against the Tigers with a suspected PCL injury.

In severe doubt for the clash with the Dragons, Foran would be replaced by Toby Sexton in the halves.

Tino Fa’asuamaleaui was placed on report in the victory.

BYE: Sea Eagles

Originally published as NRL Round 2 Early Mail: Predicted team changes for upcoming round NRL Round 2 Early Mail: Predicted team changes for upcoming round

Ryan Sederquist

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