Depleted Manly recall Hastings but Suli debut in doubt
Jackson Hastings has been recalled to injury-ravaged Manly's match-day squad for Sunday's clash with the Roosters, a fortnight after the young playmaker was banished from their first-grade ranks by coach Trent Barrett.
Hastings has been named on an extended bench in the No.19 jersey after a horrific injury toll left the Sea Eagles with just 21 fit players available for selection and Suli has been called into their backline despite not yet being a member of their full-time NRL squad.
While Barrett has backtracked on suggestions Hastings would see out the year in reserve grade following personality clashes with senior players, chiefly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans, former NSW representative Dylan Walker has been named in the No.6 jersey following Lachlan Croker's season-ending ACL rupture.
Hastings did not train with the NRL squad on Tuesday morning, which suggests he is unlikely to make the final cut for Sunday's match-day 17.
Suli has been named to make his Manly debut in the centres after he had his contract terminated by Wests Tigers and Canterbury earlier this year, however the Sea Eagles have had a request for him to play on his development contract rejected by the NRL.
Manly must register Suli on a full-time NRL contract before he is able to take the field on Sunday.
Under the game's new rules around 30-man squads, dispensation around development players can only be granted if there is no other player in a club's first-grade ranks able to play his position.
Manly back-rower Joel Thompson said Hastings had done well to cope with the external pressure recently.
"No one wants to see players that come under pressure from media and different stuff like that. Myself and other players made sure we got in touch with him and made sure he was OK," he said
"He will come out of it. He'll be fine and he'll learn a lot from it. We back Baz. He's a really good coach, he's a good person. It came back to his decision, it wasn't the players', and he came out publicly and said that.
"(Barrett) thought it was the best thing for him (Hastings). He's only a young guy, he's got a long way in his career so to be named again it's shown that he's made steps in the way that the coaches want. If he plays for us on Sunday, he's a professional and a professional will get on with the job and we need to get a win to turn this around."
Elsewhere the Bulldogs' own team sheet has provided plenty of intrigue around hooker Michael Lichaa, who has been named in the starting side despite reports he did not fly with the team to Brisbane to prepare for Thursday's game.
Veteran forward Greg Eastwood has been dropped by Dean Pay as Canterbury scramble to turnaround a 2-6 start to the year, with ex-Raiders prop Clay Priest replacing the former Kiwi international on the bench.
Brisbane's star hooker Anthony McCullough is on track to return just two weeks after suffering a fractured elbow that was expected to rule him out for another month.
He replaces injured Queensland rep Josh McGuire (Achilles) with Todd Murphy also included in the Broncos' 21-man squad as cover.
Across the ditch Warriors hooker Issac Luke was initially expected to be out for a month with a knee injury in last week's heavy Anzac Day loss to Melbourne, however he has trained this week and been named to take on Wests Tigers this Saturday.
Luke is considered long odds to take his place at Mt Smart Stadium, with back-up rakes Karl Lawton and Sam Cook carried on the bench as Jazz Tevaga is out with a shoulder issue.
The Warriors also welcome back Test stars Tohu Harris (concussion), Shaun Johnson (groin) and Solomone Kata (ankle).
Valentine Holmes has reclaimed the Sharks No.1 jersey after Josh Dugan's foot injury ruled the NSW regular out for 4-6 weeks, while Wade Graham (hamstring) will need to pass a fitness test to take his place against the Eels.
Parramatta will be without key middle forward Nathan Brown (ankle), but Tepai Moerea has recovered from concussion to replace Tony Williams (ACL) in the back row.