The NRL Fantasy talking points to come from this week’s NRL’s trial game team lists.
The Storm have named a near full-strength side for the World Club Challenge against Leeds, with Tim Glasby taking the starting front row spot vacated by new Cowboy Jordan McLean and Ryan Hoffman is back in the second row after switching clubs with Warriors-bound Tohu Harris. Young hooker Brandon Smith is the first name on the bench but it shouldn’t really spook Fantasy coaches about Cameron Smith’s 80-minute prospects for the season proper, while Brodie Croft has the halfback spot as expected with Ryley Jacks in jersey 21. Christian Welch will return from the knee injury that ended his 2017 season via the bench.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors have rested their biggest stars for Saturday afternoon’s game against Melbourne’s B team, with Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green, Tohu Harris and Issac Luke sitting it out. They’ve also named a squad rather than a starting line-up, but popular Fantasy cheapie Peta Hiku should get a run in the centres after impressing coach Stephen Kearney at training.
The Bulldogs have named a strong starting side with Moses Mbye and Kieran Foran joining Matt Frawley and Michael Lichaa in the spine. Aaron Woods (hamstring) and Aiden Tolman are both missing from the pack and will presumably replace Lachlan Burr and Danny Fualalo when fit, although it’s a good sign for Raymond Faitala-Mariner’s Fantasy prospects that he’s been named in the No.12 jersey.
Another team that has named a squad rather than a team line-up, meaning we’re no closer to knowing whether Craig Garvey or Siliva Havili will get the starting hooker spot. The Raiders have named a strong side so whoever does start against the Bulldogs is likely to be the frontrunner for round one – although the game itself is likely to be a play-off between the pair.
With Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Waqa Blake among those in the casualty ward at Penrith there are a couple of new faces in the backline including wingers Christian Crichton and Maika Sivo, but the real Fantasy news is the presence of Viliame Kikau in the back row. He’s replacing Corey Harawira-Naera who could be back for the start of the season but could be set for solid minutes even if he ends up on the bench. Wayde Egan starts at hooker with Peter Wallace rested, while James Maloney will join Nathan Cleary in the halves for the first time.
Manly Sea Eagles
Most of Manly’s big names have been rested, including Fantasy guns Daly Cherry-Evans, Jake and Tom Trbojevic and Martin Taupau. Even new five-eighth Lachlan Croker is missing Saturday’s clash with Cronulla. Hard to read too much into this side.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Several big names are missing for Souths including Angus Crichton, Sam Burgess, Dane Gagai, Adam Reynolds, young gun Cameron Murray and the still-not-100-per-cent-fit Greg Inglis. Damien Cook appears to have the edge for the starting hooker role as expected but his rival Robbie Farah will also start against Wigan in the halves, alongside potential long-term bench utility Adam Doueihi. Tom and George Burgess will both play and could be ones to watch in action against their countrymen – with George especially starting very cheap in Fantasy this season.
With Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford rested young gun Jamayne Isaako gets another run at fullback, where he played in another trial last week, while fellow round one hopeful Tom Opacic joins James Roberts in the centres with Jack Bird set to be sidelined for the start of the season. Matt Lodge starts at prop as expected, while Corey Oates has been granted his wish of shifting to the forward pack but he’ll do it from the bench after being named in jersey 21.
Gold Coast Titans
Bryce Cartwright gets his first start at lock for his new club, albeit in an under-strength Titans side. Fellow new faces Brendan Elliot and Brenko Lee also start, with Kane Elgey to partner Alex Brimson in the halves. There is no sign of Fantasy favourite and Cartwright’s rival for lock Jai Arrow, but he’s still likely to start somewhere in the pack come round one.
Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sharks – Team lists still to come for these clubs
Parramatta Eels, Newcastle Knights – No trials this week