Scout Report: Round 25 teams wrap
All the team changes and NRL Fantasy news heading into the penultimate round of the Telstra Premiership regular season.
Broncos: Tevita Pangai Junior (hamstring) is out, with Jaydn Su'A joining the bench, while David Mead is on standby for Jordan Kahu who is battling a groin injury. Anthony Milford's 70 against the Dragons made him the most in-form Fantasy scorer at the Broncos in the past few weeks, and while he's hardly the most consistent option around he could be a wildcard with winnable matches against the Eels and the injury-wrecked Cowboys coming up.
Eels: Bevan French (hamstring) and Manu Ma'u (suspension) are out with Will Smith and Kenny Edwards moving into the starting side and David Gower and Frank Pritchard added to the bench. Cameron King's scores have been steadily building of late and he made 53 last week in what was his fourth straight 80-minute effort. Nathan Brown is a captaincy contender after averaging 63 in his last five games, and after making 57 tackles and 75 points in Parramatta's last loss to Newcastle he could have an equally busy night in defence in Brisbane.
Raiders: No changes for Canberra. Backline stars Jordan Rapana, Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker and Joey Leilua all remain erratic Fantasy scorers - all four scored pretty well in Canberra's win over the Warriors a fortnight ago but were below par in last week's loss to Penrith. They are favoured to be on the winning side this week at least.
Knights: Plenty of changes here with Sione Mata'utia (concussion), Brock Lamb (knee) and Luke Yates (ankle) out, with Nathan Ross making a surprise return to the side along with young half Jack Cogger and bench forward Mickey Paea. Jamie Buhrer starts in the back row with Danny Levi at hooker. Lachlan Fitzgibbon has quickly joined the ranks of high-scoring Fantasy back-rowers, making 60, 68 and 90 in the past three weeks. He played the full 80 minutes in two of those games, although his scores have been inflated with tries in all three. Dane Gagai's run of big scores came to an end at the hands of Melbourne last week and he could struggle for attacking opportunities again if the Raiders dominate here.
Wests Tigers: Elijah Taylor (shoulder) and Joel Edwards are out, with Matt McIlwrick starting at hooker and Bayley Sironen and Jack Littlejohn joining the side. James Tedesco remains remarkably consistent, while several Fantasy coaches will be looking to upgrade Alex Twal who has never really been at the keeper level despite a strong start to his Tigers career.
Cowboys: Antonio Winterstein and Shaun Fensom return, with Kalyn Ponga and Enari Tuala dropping out, but Lachlan Coote and Gavin Cooper could also be back after being named on the extended bench. With North Queensland's season just about on the line against a tricky but beatable opponent, it's yet another occasion when the Cowboys will be expecting a big game from Jason Taumalolo. He's made 30 tackles and seven tackle breaks in both the last two weeks.
Titans: Jarryd Hayne and Jarrod Wallace are back from injury, with Ryan James (shoulder) and John Olive (elbow) dropping out. Agnatius Paasi and Max King return to the starting side. All eyes will be on how Hayne performs in the first game of the post-Neil Henry era. Nathan Peats has now strung together three straight 50+ scores for the first time this year.
Bulldogs: Unchanged. Moses Mbye made three try assists in his 55 against the Sea Eagles and could have another big performance against the Titans.
Storm: Cooper Cronk's return bumps out Brodie Croft in the only change to Melbourne's 17 this week. Cameron Smith had a 10-minute rest on the bench at the end of last week's game and still scored 60, while Cameron Munster had an unusualy quiet game despite the big win over Newcastle for 31 points. After Origin duo Cronk and Tim Glasby were rested last week there could be speculation that more Origin stars get rested against Souths.
Rabbitohs: Sam Burgess is back but Alex Johnston is out, with Bryson Goodwin named at fullback, Roberts Jennings on the wing, Zane Musgrove making way for Burgess and Jack Gosiewski dropping off the bench. Johnston had averaged 70 in the past three weeks before picking up a hamstring injury. Cameron Murray smashed out 84 points last week from his first 80-minute NRL game at lock, including a try and 47 tackles, while Damien Cooker is averaging 65 from his past three games.
Sharks: No changes. Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita had been been below their best recently but bounced back at the business end of the Fantasy season with 73 points each in last week's win over the Cowboys.
Roosters: Unchanged. Mitchell Pearce and Jake Friend are both averaging 60 points from their past three games while Mitchell Aubusson is actually still scoring pretty well despite being stuck in the centres. With his season average staying just above 40 this year, even though he's played six games at centre and one off the bench, is it finally time to put the Mitchell Aubusson Rule ("Never buy Mitchell Aubusson") to bed?
Warriors: Shaun Johnson is back, along with Ben Matulino and bench forward Isaiah Papalii. Jacob Lillyman (biceps) is out along with Tevita Satae and Mason Lino. Johnson's match fitness will obviously be an issue but if you're looking to make a surprise change in your head-to-head final, bringing in a halfback with an average score of 58 isn't the worst move. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is coming off a season-high 68 and scoring well at the right of the year, while Simon Mannering is coming off an even better 74.
Sea Eagles: No changes. Daly Cherry-Evans was way below his best after struggling with the flu last week and will surely improve on his 28 points, while Jake Trbojevic (74) and Martin Taupau (59) both impressed last week and should do so again with Manly's finals chances on the line.
Panthers: Matt Moylan is again out of the Penrith side with Tyrone May to fill in at five-eighth, while Peter Wallace is back at hooker. Nathan Cleary keeps producing the goods with a 66 last round to follow up the previous week's 92, and Josh Mansour is in hot form after scores of 76 and 71. He's still good value at $378,000 (cheaper than the likes of Dylan Edwards, who's also been consistent lately) and could be a secret weapon at the back in the final rounds of Fantasy.
Dragons: Euan Aitken is out again with a shoulder injury, with Nene Macdonald returning to the backline, while Hame Sele replaces Will Matthews on the bench. Nothing particularly new here Fantasy-wise, with Cameron McInnes, Jack de Belin and Paul Vaughan still close to must-have status.