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NRL Fantasy teams analysis: Round 24

It's the penultimate round of the NRL Fantasy season, with grand final qualifiers taking place in head-to-head leagues and the overall points race coming down to the wire.

This week's NRL Fantasy news

Cowboys v Bulldogs, Thursday 7.50pm at 1300Smiles Stadium

Cowboys: No changes for North Queensland, who are "retiring" Matt Scott's No.8 jersey for this round. Jason Taumalolo was immediately back to his best in his return from a foot injury last week, scoring 79. Michael Morgan also turned back the clock with 73 in the win over Penrith but remains a gamble at this point in the season.

Bulldogs: Jayden Okunbor is back in the top grade, replacing the suspended Reimis Smith on the wing. Aiden Tolman now has five straight scores above 50, while Josh Jackson has four – including an excellent 69-point effort in last week's win over Parramatta.

Warriors v Rabbitohs, Friday 8pm local (6pm AET) at Mt Smart Stadium

Warriors: Kodi Nikorima starts with Chanel Harris-Tavita going back to the bench, and Ligi Sao replaces Blake Ayshford on the interchange. After three quiet weeks Roger Tuivasa-Sheck produced a trademark attacking performance with 76 points in a loss to Cronulla, including nine tackle busts, a try save and a try assist. Jazz Tevaga (63) also got through plenty of work.

Rabbitohs: Sam Burgess is back, bumping Tevita Tatola to the bench, while Alex Johnston finally returns and replaces the suspended James Roberts with Campbell Graham named at centre. Ethan Lowe and Kyle Turner return on the interchange, and Dean Britt, Tom Amone and Bailey Sironen drop out of the 17. Damien Cook was the best of the main captaincy options last round, scoring 80 in a sublime display against Brisbane, while Cameron Murray managed just 37 in 65 minutes (including -14 in demerits). Adam Reynolds (40) had just 151 kick metres last week – by far his fewest in any game this season. 

Broncos v Eels, Friday 7.55pm at Suncorp Stadium

Broncos: No changes for Brisbane. David Fifita scored two terrific tries to join the NRL Fantasy 100 club last round, overshadowing Payne Haas (57), Matt Lodge (55) and Anthony Milford (33) in the close loss to Souths.

Eels: Blake Ferguson is back, moving Brad Takairangi to the bench, while Nathan Brown has copped a suspension. Marata Niukore starts at lock with Peni Terepo joining the interhcange and Tepai Moeroa named 18th man. Manu Ma'u's dream Fantasy form continued with 66 points against the Bulldogs to take his five-game average to 67 – among the best in the league. Mitchell Moses "only" scored 50 in that shock loss to Canterbury.

David Fifita raises the bat

Knights v Titans, Saturday 3pm at McDonald Jones Stadium

Knights: Connor Watson is fit again and starting at hooker, with Danny Levi (rib) out of the side. It was no surprise to see the ever-reliable David Klemmer (53) be the only Newcastle player to pass 50 points in Saturday's heavy loss to the Tigers. Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga both scored 32 last round and will be expected to get back amongst the points on Old Boys Day against the wooden-spooners.

Titans: Mitch Rein is suspended with Nathan Peats returning to hooker, Jai Arrow going to lock and Jarrod Wallace starting at prop. Will Matthews joins the bench. After back-to-back 50s Jai Arrow misfired with 35 in 48 minutes in last week's loss to Melbourne. Nathan Peats scored 40 in his new lock role but could get a monster tackle count again in Rein's absence.

Big guns fail to fire

Sea Eagles v Storm, Saturday 5.30pm at Lottoland

Sea Eagles: Joel Thompson (broken arm) is replaced by Curtis Sironen. Tom Trbojevic was worryingly quiet with just 22 points last round and could struggle to pile on the points against the league's best defensive team. However he was one of eight Sea Eagles (including Jake Trbojevic, Addin Fonua-Blake, Daly Cherry-Evans, and Martin Taupau) to score above 50 in the extra-time win over the Storm in round 19.

Storm: Will Chambers returns for Curtis Scott, and Tino Faasuamaleaui replaces Tui Kamikamica on the bench. Ryan Papenhuyzen keeps the fullback spot with Jahrome Hughes at halfback and Brodie Croft among the reserves. Papenhuyzen has scored 71, 45, 83 and 67 in his four 80-minute games this season. Cameron Munster didn't live up to expectations with a solid but unspectacular 40 against the Titans on Sunday, but he has shown he can go large against top-eight opponents (including 94 against Souths three weeks ago). Cameron Smith didn't post a massive score the last time these teams met but averages more than 66 in games against Manly.

Roosters v Panthers, Saturday 7.35pm at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Roosters: Latrell Mitchell returns for Billy Smith in the centres while Boyd Cordner is some chance of playing after being included on the bench. James Tedesco is coming off back-to-back scores in the mid-70s and could go huge again here, having also scored a couple of 90s in the last six weeks.

Panthers: Isaah Yeo is out, with James Fisher-Harris moving to lock and Moses Leota starting at prop. Jarome Luai and Billy Burns join the interchange with Wade Egan dropping out. Young forwards Mitch Kenny (64) and Liam Martin (61) were Penrith's best Fantasy scorers last week with James Fisher-Harris (46) and Brian To'o (43) both solid. Fisher-Harris played 55 minutes against the Cowboys – his first non-80-minute game since round 19 and the first time he'd played less than 69 minutes since round 12.

Sharks v Raiders, Sunday 2pm at PointsBet Stadium

Sharks: Sosaia Feki (groin) and Jack Williams (ankle) are out injured, with Sione Katoa on the wing and Jayson Bukuya on the bench. Andrew Fifita seemed to have well and truly shaken off his injury issues with 72 points off the bench against the Warriors, while Briton Nikora (66), Josh Dugan (60), Bronson Xerri (59) and Shaun Johnson (54) all got amongst the points.

Raiders: Joey Leilua's suspension means Bailey Simonsson returns to the backline and Siliva Havili is added to the bench. Josh Papali now has six straight scores above 50, with a three-game average of 62. Jack Wighton recovered well from his 21 against Melbourne to score 52 against Manly last week.

Damien Cook joins Inside The NRL

Dragons v Wests Tigers, Sunday 4.05pm at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Dragons: Patrick Kaufusi replaces Jacob Host on the bench, while Ben Hunt is among the reserves and could be a late inclusion. Cameron McInnes scored 73 last week, which matches his three-game average and five-game average. He's a definite captaincy option.  

Wests Tigers: The Tigers have named the same 17 they did last week, with Josh Reynolds included in the starting team and Matt Eisenhuth on the bench – after the pair swapped on game day. Luke Brooks was sensational against Newcastle with 95 points to take his average score past 50 for the first time since round 13. His recent scores are 64, 61, 56 and 95. David Nofoaluma (86), Luke Garner (76), Eisenhuth (59), Ryan Matterson (58) and Benji Marshall (58) also cashed in during the Tigers' tryfest.

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