Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos at Sydney Football Stadium, Friday night, September 23
The Broncos were dealt a hammer blow on Wednesday morning when captain Darren Lockyer ruled himself out of Friday night’s preliminary final against Manly following surgery on his depressed cheekbone fracture. Lockyer made the call after flying to Sydney by helicopter. The Broncos have yet to name his replacement although talented utility Matt Gillett has been mentioned as a possible substitute. Rookie Corey Norman, who filled in for Lockyer on three occasions this season, is another option.
In the four games Lockyer has missed this season, the Broncos lost to Melbourne and Manly but they defeated Canberra and Parramatta. Coach Anthony Griffin will also make the choice for captain between regular stand-in Corey Parker and second-rower Sam Thaiday, who has been named as club captain for 2012. Thaiday returns this week from a two-game suspension. Manly have named the same 17 that defeated North Queensland 42-8 in their qualifying final a fortnight ago. Back-rower Glenn Stewart will serve the final game of his three-match ban.
IN: Sam Thaiday, TBA
OUT: Darren Lockyer, David Hala
Melbourne Storm v Warriors at AAMI Park, Saturday night, September 24
Melbourne and the Warriors have made only minor changes to their line-ups for Saturday night’s preliminary final at AAMI Park. Utility Rory Kostjasyn, who was a late withdrawal from the Storm’s team that played Newcastle in a qualifying final due to a hamstring strain, returns for Atelea Vea. Warriors coach Ivan Cleary has recalled promising rookie Elijah Taylor for Ukuma Ta’ai.
IN: Rory Kostjasyn
OUT: Atelea Vea
IN: Elijah Taylor
OUT: Ukuma Ta'ai