NRL Fantasy coaches have been given the biggest clues yet about how the NRL teams will line up in round one with this week's trial game team lists.
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Billy Slater will miss the Cameron Smith-Johnathan Thurston testimonial game as a precaution after hurting his shoulder in last week's World Club Challenge win, but otherwise the Storm have named a strong side. Suliasi Vunivalu is the other big name missing from the starting side with Jahrome Hughes and Young Tonumaipea joining the backline. Nelson Asofa-Solomona impressed last week but remains an impact man off the bench with Tim Glasby and Ryan Hoffman seemingly locked in as starters this season. Brodie Croft took a big jump in Fantasy ownership after an excellent game against Leeds.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys look full strength this week with Jordan McLean joining an otherwise settled starting line-up, Ben Hampton the bench utility and Te Maire Martin the 19th man. Fantasy-wise all eyes will be on co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott on Friday night against the reigning premiers and whether Taumalolo is as dominant as he was last season now that he has the help of Scott and McLean.
Anthony Milford returns from his shoulder injury via the bench, with Sam Scarlett getting a run in the No.6 jersey, while Jamayne Isaako starts at fullback and Jonus Pearson, Tom Opacic and Todd Murphy get a run in the starting side with Darius Boyd (hamstring), Jack Bird (shoulder) and Andrew McCullough (knee) sidelined. Only Bird is expected to miss the start of the season, with Isaako (on the wing) and Opacic likely to keep their spots for round one. Matt Lodge was strong last week and has a starting spot wrapped up at prop.
Gold Coast Titans
With Fantasy prospect Jai Arrow out with broken ribs, Bryce Cartwright starts at lock, with Ryan James in the second row and Leilani Latu and Max King in the front row. Cartwright and Latu are the popular Fantasy prospects here, and could make an impact against a Warriors outift not renowned for their defence.
New Zealand Warriors
Blake Green joins Shaun Johnson in the halves and Tohu Harris and Adam Blair get their first starts in Warriors colours, with Simon Mannering and Issac Luke named on the bench. Blake Ayshford started in the centres with Solomone Kata last Saturday but makes way for Fantasy cash cow Peta Hiku this week.
Another strong line-up here for Penrith with Josh Mansour, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Peter Wallace all returning. Fantasy cheapies Dean Whare (centre) and Viliame Kikau (second row) both start, although Waqa Blake and Corey Harawira-Naera will come back from shoulder surgeries via the bench and could both move into the starting side by round one.
Canterbury-Bankstown's top 17 is largely taking the week off with a host of young guns getting a run. If anything, selection in this week's trial side is probably a sign a player won't be there in Dean Pay's round one line-up, with Greg Eastwood the only member of the starting 13 who played any role in last weekend's win over Canberra.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly are close to full strength with Lachlan Croker getting his first run alongside Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves, Matthew Wright filling in for the injured Dylan Walker at centre, Addin Fonua-Blake replacing the injured Darcy Lussick at prop and Martin Taupau, Apisai Koroisau and Tom and Jake Trbojevic all returning to the side. Fonua-Blake could be value early in the season with Lussick to miss about a month while new signing Joel Thompson will start in the second row.
James Tedesco and Cooper Cronk will line up for their new club against Manly but the main Fantasy interest is in the pack, with Sio Siua Taukeiaho starting at prop (and potentially kicking goals) with Isaac Liu starting at lock. Boyd Cordner is sitting out the game and will presumably bump Ryan Matterson out of the starting side and young gun Nat Butcher off the bench when he returns.
Lock Mitch Barnett will sit out the game with a shoulder injury, allowing Herman Ese'ese to start in the 13, but otherwise the Knights look full strength with Connor Watson and Mitchell Pearce in the halves, Slade Griffin starting at hooker with Danny Levi to make an impact off the bench, Sione Mata'utia and Tautau Moga in the centres and Jacob Lillyman and Aidan Guerra joining the starting pack. Young gun Lachlan Fitzgibbon holds a starting spot ahead of Jamie Buhrer.
Some interesting omissions in this team, primarily the absence of popular Fantasy cash cow Taane Milne from the starting side. He'll be on the bench in jersey 18, with Kevin Naiqama and Esan Marsters preferred in the centres, while Corey Thompson has grabbed the fullback position with Tuimoala Lolohea to play for the Western Suburbs Magpies Intrust Super Premiership team this week. It could be a case of coach Ivan Cleary just taking a look at his backline options but all eyes will be on Milne in particular leading into the round one team lists.
This looks a lot like a round one Parramatta side with Jarryd Hayne in the centres, Daniel Alvaro starting at prop and Brad Takairangi starting in the second row in an otherwise familiar line-up. Bevan French is at fullback this week but will presumably bump Josh Hoffman or Kirisome Auva'a off the wing when Clint Gutherson returns around round three. New prop Kane Evans will come off the bench.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Dane Gagai gets his first start in South Sydney colours with Cody Walker, John Sutton and Sam Burgess all returning to the starting side. Adam Reynolds, Greg Inglis, Angus Crichton and Cameron Murray will sit out the Charity Shield with niggling injuries with Inglis still in some doubt for round one. Promising youngster Adam Doueihi will start at halfback in Reynolds' absence, while Robbie Farah is named in the No.14 jersey and looks on track for a bench spot going forward – weakening the chances of Damien Cook playing 80 minutes at hooker.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have just named a squad for the Charity Shield but there are plenty of big names in there, with Jack de Belin, Ben Hunt, James Graham, Gareth Widdop and Paul Vaughan all set to play. Euan Aitken came off the bench last week with Tm Lafai and Kurt Mann starting in the centres so it'll be interesting to see if that remains the case against Souths, while Luciano Leilua will become a popular Fantasy buy if he keeps a starting spot in the second row.
Sharks – Still to be named
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