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Opacic hopeful of shaking off hamstring, Tatola avoids ban, Panthers switch

Tom Opacic has downplayed the severity of the hamstring injury that forced him out of Parramatta’s resounding semi-final win, saying he would have finished the game had the result been in the balance.

Opacic was one of four first-half tryscorers for the Eels but came off as the hour-mark approached and was Parramatta’s only injury concern from the 40-4 defeat of Canberra. The centre’s left hamstring has been on ice since Friday’s game but he was expected to train on Monday afternoon after reporting no soreness ahead of the session.

The 28-year-old has no history of hamstring injuries and is hopeful of lining up against his former club North Queensland in Friday night’s preliminary final. “I’ll be doing my best to get out there. It’s not a game I want to miss, that’s for sure,” he told reporters.

Opacic said there was no specific moment that led to the injury and that he would have played through the pain had his side not had their commanding 28-4 lead at the time. “I didn’t feel a pop or a pull or anything it just got tighter as I kept running,” he said.

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Eels utility Marata Niukore slotted into the left centre spot when Opacic left the field, and scored two late tries. Niukore started last season in the centres for the Eels and appears the most obvious choice if Opacic is ruled out.

The Cowboys are well rested after having the week off following their 93-minute extra-time epic against the Sharks.

Souths forward Tevita Tatola is free to play in Saturday’s showdown with Penrith despite his chicken wing tackle on Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo.

Tatola twisted Mulitalo’s arm into a dangerous position midway through the second half of the Rabbitohs’ 38-12 semi-final defeat of Cronulla on Saturday night.

The prop was placed on report but was permitted to stay on the field. A trainer attended to Mulitalo after the tackle but he too remained in play.

For his grade one dangerous contact charge, Tatola has accepted a $1800 fine.

A suspension would have given the Rabbitohs cause for concern, given they are already missing front-rower Thomas Burgess, who is this weekend serving the second game of his two-match suspension for his high tackle on James Tedesco.

Teams will be officially announced at 4pm AEST on Tuesday.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 16: Tom Opacic of the Eels is attended to by the team trainer during the NRL Semi Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canberra Raiders at CommBank Stadium on September 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)


Preliminary Final: (3) Cowboys vs (4) Eels 7.50pm at QCB Stadium

Cowboys: Ready and raring to go after a week off. Todd Payten has no injury concerns in his team and is likely to field the same line-up which just got home against the Sharks.

Eels: Experienced centre Tom Opacic (hamstring) is coach Brad Arthur’s only concern but the former Cowboy is confident of being right. Bryce Cartwright or Nathan Brown could be recalled to the bench with Marata Niukore going to centre if Opacic is out.


Preliminary Final: (1) Panthers vs (7) Rabbitohs, 7.50pm at Accor Stadium

Panthers: Rookie winger Taylan May will serve his one-match ban – no, not the two-game suspension for assault which was controversially delayed until next year – the one he received for a high tackle on Eels centre Will Penisini. Charlie Staines is May’s likely replacement on the wing. Origin hooker Api Koroisau could again start from the bench with Mitch Kenny in the run-on side.

Rabbitohs: With prop Tevita Tatola (chicken wing fine) free to play, the Bunnies are likely to be unchanged from the team which thrashed the Sharks on Saturday. Utility forward Siliva Havili has a calf concern and winger Alex Johnston has a hip problem but both are likely to suit up.

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