Late Mail: Round 1 - Austin to start, Sezer on bench
The 2018 Telstra Premiership has finally arrived. Here is the late mail from each of the opening round matches.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos, 8.05pm (AEDT) Thursday, Jubilee Oval
Dragons: Hame Sele and Zac Lomax have been omitted from the Dragons final 17 with Jeremy Latimore will start off the bench. Centre Euan Aitken has shaken off shoulder and hamstring issues in time for the season opener. Matt Dufty will start at fullback in jersey 18 as the club retires the No.1 this week as tribute to club legend Graeme Langlands. Blake Lawrie and Josh Kerr had previously been dropped off the extended bench.
Dragons: 18 Matthew Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin
Interchange: 14 Luciano Leilua, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 19 Jeremy Latimore
Broncos: Despite hooker Andrew McCullough (ACL) being named to start, he will come off the bench with Tevita Pangai Jnr moving to the run-on side and Sam Thaiday to spend the opening salvos at dummy-half. Sam Tagataese and Tom Opacic were omitted from the side. Jonus Peason and George Fai had earlier dropped off the extended bench.
1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 10 Samuel Thaiday, 14 Tevita Pangai Jnr, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Josh McGuire
Interchange: 9 Andrew McCullough, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 Jaydn Su'a
Newcastle Knights v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, 6pm Friday AEDT, McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights: The Knights will start 1-17, with winger Ken Sio and prop Jacob Saifiti the last two men to drop off the bench. Brock Lamb will come off the bench so that Connor Watson can be used either as injury cover or to spell starting dummy-half Slade Griffin. Nathan Brown has made the cuts to his squad, omitting Daniel Levi and Luke Yates.
1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3 Sione Mata'utia, 4 Tautau Moga, 5 Nathan Ross, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Herman Ese'ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Jacob Lillyman, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Mitchell Barnett
Interchange: 14 Brock Lamb, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Daniel Saifiti
Sea Eagles: Manly will start 1-17, with Bradley Parker and Lloyd Perrett the final two men to drop out of the squad. With prop Darcy Lussick (ankle) to miss a few weeks, Addin-Fonua Blake is elevated to the starting side. Kelepi Tanginoa makes his club debut as the only specialist middle forward on the bench. Jackson Hastings and Jack Gosiewski were both omitted from Manly's squad by coach Trent Barrett 24 hours prior to kick-off.
1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Matthew Wright, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Akuila Uate, 6 Lachlan Croker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Apisai Koroisau, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14 Lewis Brown, 15 Shaun Lane, 16 Frank Winterstein, 17 Kelepi Tanginoa
North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, 7.05pm (8.05pm AEDT) Friday, 1300SMILES Stadium
Cowboys: As expected, Michael Morgan won't play for the Cowboys in their clash with Cronulla. Te Maire Martin will start at five-eighth. Ben Hampton is replacing the injured Lachlan Coote (hamstring) at fullback. No.20 Francis Molo and No.21 Enari Tuala had earlier dropped off the bench.
1 Ben Hampton, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O'Neill, 4 Javid Bowen, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 14 Te Maire Martin, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 15 Coen Hess, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 John Asiata, 18 Corey Jensen
Sharks: Luke Lewis won't play and Paul Gallen will start off the interchange bench for the Sharks. Lewis has rolled his ankle during Cronulla's captain's run, with Kurt Capewell to start in No.18. Jason Bukuya (No.14) will start in place of Gallen. Winger Sione Katoa will make his NRL debut
1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Sione Katoa, 6 Matthew Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matthew Prior, 18 Kurt Capewell, 12 Wade Graham, 14 Jayson Bukuya
Interchange: 13 Paul Gallen (c), 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17 Joseph Paulo.
Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters, 4.30pm Saturday AEDT, ANZ Stadium
Wests Tigers: Josh Reynolds is out with a hamstring injury, with Benji Marshall to start in his Tigers return. Matt McIlwrick comes onto the bench. Matthew Eisenhuth is promoted to the starting prop spot with Ben Matulino shifting to the bench. Tim Grant drops off the extended bench. Backline duo David Nofoaluma and Taane Milne have been dropped out of the Tigers squad after having been in the initial 21. Benji Marshall is now a confirmed starter despite struggling with a calf issue. Tui Lolohea has shrugged off pre-season weight issues to take his place at fullback. The pressure will be on wingers Corey Thompson and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to keep David Nofoaluma in reserve grade.
1 Tuimoala Lolohea, 2 Corey Thompson, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 14 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Pita Godinet, 17 Matthew Eisenhuth, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Elijah Taylor
Interchange: 10 Ben Matulino, 15 Alex Twal, 16 Michael Chee Kam, 18 Matt McIlwrick.
Roosters: Ryan Matterson is a surprise late inclusion to start in the back-row. Boyd Cordner is shifted to the bench. Luke Keary has been left out of the Roosters 19-man squad that will be cut to 17 an hour prior to kick-off. Lindsay Collins is the other player to be left out. The Keary decision comes after coach Trent Robinson confirmed the five-eighth was no longer suffering ongoing headaches as a result of a broken jaw suffered in pre-season. A return in round two is still considered likely.
1 James Tedesco, 5 Blake Ferguson, 4 Joseph Manu, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 2 Daniel Tupou, 6 Mitchell Cornish, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 16 Ryan Matterson, 12 Mitchell Aubusson, 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange: 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 14 Dylan Napa, 15 Zane Tetevano, 17 Victor Radley
South Sydney Rabbitohs v New Zealand Warriors, 4pm (7pm AEDT) Saturday, Perth Stadium
Rabbitohs: Robbie Farah is one of two players left out of the 19-man squad that will be used to find the final 17 that will take on the Warriors. Captain Greg Inglis is set to play his first NRL game in 12 months after getting through the Charity Shield unscathed. Tyrell Fuimaono and Adam Doueihi have both been dropped from the extended bench as Souths finalise their side.
1 Alex Johnston, 2 Richie Kennar, 3 Dane Gagai, 4 Greg Inglis (c), 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 Mark Nicholls, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14 Cameron Murray, 16 George Burgess, 17 Tevita Tatola, 20 Hymel Hunt.
Warriors: The Warriors are 1-17 with Jazz Tevaga and Anthony Gelling dropping off the bench prior to kick-off. Mason Lino and Agnatius Paasi have been dropped off the Warriors bench 24 hours out from kick-off. Utility Sam Cook will make his NRL debut off the bench after beating Jazz Tevaga and Mason Lino to the utility role. Shaun Johnson is in no doubt after eye surgery late in the pre-season. Simon Mannering will miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury, creating chances Ligi Sao and Isaiah Papali'i.
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2 David Fusitua, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 James Gavet, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Adam Blair, 11 Isaiah Papali'i, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Ligi Sao
Interchange: 14 Sam Cook, 15 Leivaha Pulu, 16 Sam Lisone, 17 Bunty Afoa
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm, 6.05pm (9.05pm AEDT) Saturday, Perth Stadium
Bulldogs: Canterbury are 1-17. Greg Eastwood has put his heart scare in the rear-view mirror with a pair of strong trial performances. Jeremy Marshall-King has beaten Nu Brown for the bench utility role.
1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Matthew Frawley, 7 Kieran Foran, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Joshua Jackson (c), 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Danny Fualalo
Interchange: 14 Adam Elliott, 15 Aiden Tolman, 16 Greg Eastwood, 17 Jeremy Marshall-King
Storm: Former Bulldog Sam Kasiano replaces Joe Stimson on the bench. With no Billy Slater or Jahrome Hughes (both shoulder), Cameron Munster returns to fullback meaning a relatively inexperienced halves pairing of Ryley Jacks and Brodie Croft. Christian Welch returned strongly in the trials from a long lay-off following a knee reconstruction.
1 Cameron Munster, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Ryley Jacks, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Tim Glasby, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Christian Welch, 20 Sam Kasiano
Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels, 4.10pm Sunday, Panthers Stadium
Panthers: Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (ankle) will play despite being in an ankle brace as recently as two weeks ago. Viliame Kikau and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have been relegated to the bench in a late switch which means Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris have been elevated to the run-on side. Tim Browne and Jarome Luai had already been dropped from the bench 24 hours before kick-off.
1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Tyrone Peachey, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Peter Wallace (c), 16 Moses Leota, 17 James Fisher-Harris, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 Trent Merrin
Interchange: 14 Corey Harawira-Naera, 15 Sam McKendry, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau
Eels: Brad Arthur has gone with his selected 1-17 line-up. That means a four-forward bench strategy, although Brad Takairangi can fill in if needed in the backs. Will Smith and Kenny Edwards have been omitted. David Gower and Kaysa Pritchard had already been cut from the Eels extended bench.
1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Jarryd Hayne, 5 Kirisome Auva'a, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Manu Ma'u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Nathan Brown
Interchange: 14 Beau Scott (c), 15 Brad Takairangi, 16 Suaia Matagi, 17 Kane Evans
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders, 5.30pm (6.30 AEDT) Sunday, Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: Coach Garth Brennan has stuck with the decision to move captain Ryan James to an edge despite a few props being unavailable. Anthony Don has overcome a shoulder injury ahead of schedule to start the season. Jai Whitbread and Aj Brimson drop off the extended bench.
1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 Kane Elgey, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jai Arrow, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Leilani Latu, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Ryan James (c), 13 Bryce Cartwright
Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Max King, 16 Will Matthews, 17 Morgan Boyle.
Raiders: Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has made two late changes to his starting side, with Blake Austin to start in place of Aiden Sezer and Iosia Soliola in the run-on side at the expense of Junior Paulo. The big question over how to replace hooker Josh Hodgson (ACL) has yet to be answered. Siliva Havili will start the match at hooker.
1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 14 Blake Austin, 7 Sam Williams, 17 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Josh Papalii, 12 Joseph Tapine, 13 Elliott Whitehead
Interchange: 6 Aiden Sezer, 8 Junior Paulo, 15 Luke Bateman, 16 Dunamis Lui.