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Cleary defends resting team of stars, Latrell sits out training, Broncos swing axe

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has defended his decision to roll out a virtual reserve-grade side for Saturday’s final round against North Queensland in Townsville, which is great news for the Cowboys who need to win to avoid finishing fourth.

After celebrating the minor premiership with a thumping win over the Warriors on Friday night, he will rest a dozen stars while his son, star halfback Nathan Cleary, is also serving the final match of his spear tackle suspension.

Not playing up north will be a team of 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Taylan May 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Api Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo and bench forward Spencer Leniu.

Martin has been listed in the reserves with Jaeman Salmon while Koroisau (ankle) and Leniu (shoulder) have minor injuries.

Sean O’Sullivan and Kurt Falls will line up in the halves with Mitch Kenny and Scott Sorensen in the pack with fringe first-graders like Robert Jennings, Charlie Staines, Matt Eisenhuth, J’maine Hopgood and Sunia Turuva to form the rest of the squad with players called up from the NSW Cup.

Given the arduous toll that State of Origin and suspensions have taken on his team in 2022, Cleary has opted to go with a cautious approach for their final game of the regular season. “There’s a good argument, there are pluses for both I reckon,” Cleary said. “In many respects, since round 12 our team has been disrupted but we’ve been able to get on track and win games.

“There’s always a risk and that lands on my doorstep, I’m sure we’ll go OK. I feel at this time this is the best option for us to prepare for the first week of the finals.”

Souths will keep Damien Cook in COVID-19 isolation after he tested positive on Saturday for Friday’s stoush with Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium even if the government reduces the quarantine period from seven to five days.

Latrell Mitchell missed training on Tuesday, leading to suggestions he would not be playing but skipper Cameron Murray said the star fullback was just taking a day off.

Roosters prop Lindsay Collins has been banned for four weeks for his hip-drop tackle on Tom Eisenhuth, which has ruled the Storm forward out for the rest of the year.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Lindsay Collins of the Roosters looks on during the round 15 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Sydney Roosters at CommBank Stadium, on June 18, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Lindsay Collins. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters dumped rookie five-eighth Ezra Mam for Tyson Gamble among a raft of changes and recalled Maroons winger Selwyn Cobbo after he was rested due to the fatigue of a busy season for last week’s 53-6 thumping at the hands of Parramatta.

Pat Carrigan is also back from a four-game ban as the Broncos need to thrash the Dragons on Saturday to overcome a 43-point differential or hope Canberra lose to the Wests Tigers on Sunday to steal eighth spot from the Raiders.

Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard has pleaded not guilty to a dangerous contact charge for an incident involving Thomas Flegler and will front the judiciary on Tuesday night but is only facing a fine of $1500 if unsuccessful.

Titans centre Brian Kelly copped a four-game ban for the spear tackle on Dominic Young which led to his send-off on Sunday while Wests Tigers centre Asu Kepaoa is out of the clash with Canberra for his high shot against the Dragons which led to Zac Lomax’s match-winning penalty.

Round 25 Teams


Eels vs Storm, 7.50pm at CommBank Stadium

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore 18. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Bryce Cartwright 21. Sean Russell 22. Ky Rodwell

Parramatta will be at full strength with no changes for the showdown for fourth after the Broncos barely left them with a bruise in last week’s 53-6 cakewalk.

Storm: 1. Nick Meaney 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Harry Grant 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Josh King 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Trent Loiero 17. Chris Lewis 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Cooper Johns 20. Alec MacDonald 21. Jordan Grant 22. Jack Howarth

Nelson Asofa-Solomona has again avoided suspension, copping a $3000 fine for his fifth charge of the season at the judiciary. Fellow forward Tom Eisenhuth is out for the rest of the season after suffering an ankle injury in Lindsay Collins’ hip-drop tackle last Friday. Chris Lewis replaces Eisenhuth on the bench.


Bulldogs vs Sea Eagles, 6pm at Accor Stadium

Bulldogs: 1. Jake Averillo 2. Jacob Kiraz 3. Aaron Schoupp 4. Braidon Burns 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Matt Burton 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Max King 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Corey Waddell 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Josh Jackson 14. Zach Dockar-Clay 15. Joe Stimson 16. Chris Patolo 17. Tevita Pangai Junior 19. Declan Casey 20. Bailey Biondi-Odo 21. Jackson Topine 22. Paul Alamoti 23. Luke Thompson

Luke Thompson is available for selection and in the reserves after serving his seven-day COVID-19 isolation. Second-rower Corey Waddell returns from suspension while Tevita Pangai jnr is back on the interchange after a one-week stint in the NSW Cup.

Sea Eagles: 1. Kaeo Weekes 2. Ray Tuaimalo-Vaega 3. Brad Parker 4. Tolutau Koula 5. Christian Tuipulotu 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Toafofoa Sipley 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Andrew Davey 13. Dylan Walker 14. Ben Trbojevic 15. Josh Schuster 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. Kurt De Luis 18. James Roumanos 19. Zac Fulton 20. Jacob Sykes 21. Jamie Humphreys 22. Gordon Chan Kum Tong

Kaeo Weekes gets a start at fullback while Andrew Davey will bolster the pack with Des Hasler running out of troops for the final match of a disappointing campaign. Josh Aloiai has been dropped.

Roosters vs Rabbitohs, 7.55pm at Allianz Stadium

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Paul Momirovski 3. Drew Hutchison 4. Joseph Manu 5. Joseph Suaalii 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Matthew Lodge 11. Angus Crichton 12. Nat Butcher 13. Siosiua Taukeiaho 14. Connor Watson 15. Egan Butcher 16. Fletcher Baker 17. Terrell May 18. Adam Keighran 19. Ben Thomas 20. Kevin Naiqama 21. Oliver Gildart 22. Siua Wong

Lindsay Collins has been banned four games for his hip-drop tackle and will only play again this year if the Roosters make the Grand Final. Victor Radley (concussion) and Daniel Tupou (groin) are sitting this one out to be ready for the finals. Paul Momirovski has rejoined the starting side while Fletcher Baker and Terrell May are new faces on the interchange.

Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Jaxson Paulo 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Siliva Havili 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Peter Mamouzelos 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Hame Sele 17. Michael Chee Kam 18. Blake Taaffe 19. Kodi Nikorima 20. Davvy Moale 21. Richard Kennar 22. Josh Mansour

Damien Cook is set to stay on the sidelines after testing positive to COVID-19 last Saturday with Siliva Havili to remain at hooker. Tevita Tatola will need to pass the concussion protocols to suit up at prop. Latrell Mitchell missed training on Tuesday, leading to suggestions he would not be playing but skipper Cameron Murray said the star fullback was just taking a day off. Campbell Graham is out with a minor injury, replaced by Jaxson Paulo.


Warriors vs Titans, 3pm at Mt Smart Stadium

Warriors: 1. Reece Walsh 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Jesse Arthars 4. Rocco Berry 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Tohu Harris 11. Euan Aitken 12. Josh Curran 13. Bunty Afoa 14. Freddy Lussick 15. Ben Murdoch-Masila 16. Eliesa Katoa 17. Tom Ale 18. Jack Murchie 20. Daejarn Asi 21. Adam Pompey 22. Edward Kosi 23. Jackson Frei

A calf strain means Shaun Johnson could be out of action for the last clash of the year back at Auckland but he has been named at halfback. Euan Aitken will return after missing the loss to Penrith due to personal reasons. Wayde Egan (back spasms) and Marcelo Montoya (knee contusion) were late injury withdrawals but will return while centre Jesse Arthars (thigh) is back after a month out.

Titans: 1. Jayden Campbell 2. Greg Marzhew 3. Sosefo Fifita 4. Phillip Sami 5. Corey Thompson 6. AJ Brimson 7. Tanah Boyd 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Sam McIntyre 10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 12. Beau Fermor 13. Isaac Liu 14. Paul Turner 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. Jaimin Jolliffe 17. Klese Haas 18. Jarrod Wallace 19. Tony Francis 20. Toby Sexton 21. Jamayne Isaako 22. Sam Lisone

Brian Kelly is out for four matches into next season for his spear tackle on Dominic Young so Phil Sami will replace him in the centres after getting over his head knock.

Dragons vs Broncos, 5.30pm at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Dragons: 1. Cody Ramsey 2. Tyrell Sloan 3. Mathew Feagai 4. Zac Lomax 5. Tautau Moga 6. Talatau Amone 7. Ben Hunt 8. Jack de Belin 9. Jayden Sullivan 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Josh Mcguire 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Jack Bird 14. Tyrell Fuimaono 15. Jaiyden Hunt 16. Jackson Ford 17. Aaron Woods 18. Jack Gosiewski 19. Andrew McCullough 20. Poasa Faamausili 21. Joshua Coric 22. Josh Kerr

Veteran prop Josh McGuire will play his last game in the NRL before heading to the Super League to finish his career in a Dragons team expected to be unchanged after getting out of jail against the Tigers. Veteran hooker Andrew McCullough was named in the reserves as he tries to return from a knee problem.

Broncos: 1. Te Maire Martin 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Delouise Hoeter 5. Selwyn Cobbo 6. Tyson Gamble 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Billy Walters 15. Keenan Palasia 16. Corey Jensen 17. Zac Hosking 18. Tesi Niu 19. Jordan Pereira 20. Cory Paix 21. Ezra Mam 22. Rhys Kennedy

Kevin Walters was furious with his team’s capitulation against Parramatta and has made several changes. Pat Carrigan returns from a costly four-game ban as the Broncos try to pull off a mathematical miracle to make the finals. Adam Reynolds, who failed an HIA early in the loss to the Eels, is due to play, as is Tom Flegler (throat).

Tyson Gamble will replace Ezra Mam at five-eighth while Herbie Farnworth will not make an early return from a bicep injury and fellow centre Brenko Lee has again been hobbled by a hamstring problem. Lock Kobe Hetheringto is also out due to a concussion.

Cowboys vs Panthers, 7.35pm at QCB Stadium

Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Jake Granville 15. Tom Gilbert 16. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 17. Griffin Neame 18. Brendan Elliot 19. Riley Price 20. Connelly Lemuelu 21. Tom Dearden 22. Ben Condon

Tom Dearden (ruptured testicle) may return at five-eighth after being listed in the reserves while prop Coen Hess will miss the match due to his high tackle ban. 

Panthers: 1. Charlie Staines 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Robert Jennings 4. Thomas Jenkins 5. Christian Crichton 6. Kurt Falls 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Lindsay Smith 9. Mitch Kenny 10. Matt Eisenhuth 11. Chris Smith 12. Scott Sorensen 13. J’maine Hopgood 14. Soni Luke 15. Eddie Blacker 16. Liam Henry 17. Jack Cole 18. Mavrik Geyer 19. Preston Riki 20. Ativalu Lisati 21. Liam Martin 22. Jaeman Salmon

Ivan Cleary will rest most of his first-choice line-up, which is great news for the Cowboys, who need to win to avoid dropping to fourth spot. Mitch Kenny will captain the depleted team. Liam Martin and Jaeman Salmon are listed among the reserves and could be late inclusions.


Knights vs Sharks, 2pm at McDonald Jones Stadium

Knights: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Edrick Lee 3. Dane Gagai 4. Krystian Mapapalangi 5. Dominic Young 6. Phoenix Crossland 7. Adam Clune 8. David Klemmer 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Brodie Jones 13. Mathew Croker 14. Chris Randall 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Jack Johns 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Ben Talty 20. Enari Tuala 21. Jirah Momoisea 22. Hymel Hunt

Experienced duo Mitch Barnett (thumb) and Kurt Mann (thigh) are still out while Anthony Milford has been replaced by Phoenix Crossland at five-eighth.  

Sharks: 1. Lachlan Miller 2. Matt Ikuvalu 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Royce Hunt 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Teig Wilton 15. Braydon Trindall 16. Aiden Tolman 17. Andrew Fifita 18. Luke Metcalf 19. Jesse Colquhoun 20. Mawene Hiroti 21. Kayal Iro 22. Dale Finucane

Connor Tracey (concussion) and Kade Dykes (calf) are still out but Dale Finucane (ribs) could be a late inclusion.

Tigers v Raiders, 4.05pm at Leichhardt Oval

Tigers: 1. Daine Laurie 2. Brent Naden 3. Starford To’a 4. Luke Garner 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Jock Madden 8. James Tamou 9. Jake Simpkin 10. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Thomas Freebairn 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Fa’amanu Brown 14. Fonua Pole 15. Zane Musgrove 16. Tyrone Peachey 17. Austin Dias 18. Jacob Liddle 19. Junior Pauga 20. James Roberts 21. Henry O’Kane 22. Brandon Mansfield

Luke Brooks is still out with a calf problem while James Tamou controversially returns from his downgraded ban for what is likely the last match of his NRL career. 

Raiders: 1. Xavier Savage 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papalii 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Adam Elliott 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Corey Harawira-Naera 18. Albert Hopoate 19. Ata Mariota 20. Matt Frawley 21. Peter Hola 22. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Former NSW winger Nick Cotric (groin) is replacing Albert Hopoate in the only expected change to the team which thumped Manly.

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