Eye of the Tiger on Origin
Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah could not ask for a better stage to push his claim to resurrect his short-lived Origin career than when he plays his 150th NRL game at the SFS on Friday night against the co-competition leading Broncos.
With Origin game one just five weeks away today (May 25) Farah, 27, made it clear to Blues coach Ricky Stuart and the other panel members as a guest on the One HD NRL show One Week At A Time this week that he would love a second chance after he was dropped following his only two NSW appearances in 2009.
Farah, one of the leading contenders for hooker, along with arch rival Bulldog Michael Ennis, impressed panel members Stuart and former QLD Origin player Ben Ikin when he talked of his passion for Origin which started as a young child.
"I remember being that excited at school the morning of the game," Farah said. "I was only six or seven but I couldn't wait to watch it."
Twenty years and 149 NRL games later and Farah's passion for the Blues has not waned; nor his determination to earn a shot at redemption.
The Wests Tigers/Broncos clash and Sea Eagles/Panthers battle at Brookvale Oval on Good Friday night kick-off Round 7's "feast of football" for the Easter/ ANZAC long weekend.
Wests Tigers, who have struggled to field the same team for consecutive weeks, will welcome back four players from injury - fullback Wade McKinnon, winger Beau Ryan, prop Keith Galloway and back-rower Liam Fulton - while Chris Heighington remains in doubt as he contests the grading of a high tackle charge.
The Broncos, who have won five consecutive matches, have made only one change with the inclusion of Ben Hunt on the bench.
In the other Good Friday game, Manly have again named Brett Stewart to start at fullback, but Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said he won't play unless he's fully recovered from his hamstring problem. Stewart has missed the past three weeks, but young gun Will Hopoate has done an outstanding job switching from the wing to fullback in his absence.
Saturday's "footy feast" serves up the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs in a Round 2 rematch at ANZ Stadium, and Sharks and Cowboys at Toyota Stadium.
South Sydney have dumped Rhys Wesser and Fetuli Talanoa, after their performances in Monday's loss to the Dragons. One of the game's most anticipated young talents, James Roberts, 18, will debut at fullback in place of Wesser, 32. Talanoa paid the price for five errors and bench player Chris McQueen will start in his place on the wing.
Suspended backrower Eddy Pettybourne returns from injury to Souths, who lost their last encounter with the Bulldogs five weeks ago. Josh Morris is set to make his return for the Bulldogs at centre after missing the past five weeks with a knee injury, with Tim Lafai making way.
In the other match, the Cowboys have added forwards James Tamou and Gavin Cooper, who missed last round due to suspension, to a six-man interchange bench that will be reduced to four.
Easter Sunday will be celebrated at Canberra Stadium with a family fun day for the Raiders clash with the Knights; while the Eels will take on the Titans at Parramatta Stadium.
A desperate Raiders, chasing their second win of the season, have named an unchanged line-up with injured trio Alan Tongue, Josh Dugan and Matt Orford not selected, although likely to face a fitness test later in the week.
The Titans have named an unchanged side, only adding forward Sam Tagataese on a five-man bench. Luke Bailey will celebrate his 200th NRL game.
In the other match, Luke Burt will return to the fullback role in place of suspended Eels star Jarryd Hayne; Jordan Atkins returns from a minor leg injury on the wing to play against his
former side; and Carl Webb, who missed the Bulldogs match last Friday, is on the five-man interchange bench (one to be omitted).
Monday will feature the traditional ANZAC Day clash between the Dragons and Roosters at the SFS, while the Storm will play the Warriors at Melbourne's AAMI Park.
Dragons prop Michael Weyman will return to the starting line-up; while Roosters captain Braith Anasta will continue to start at five-eighth in place of suspended star player Todd Carney.
In the other match, Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman and second rower Ukuma Ta'ai return from injury while halfback Brett Seymour earns a recall at halfback. The Storm have named an unchanged line-up.