The head-to-head NRL Fantasy finals have arrived! Payne Haas is back but Latrell Mitchell has joined a star-studded casualty ward as Fantasy coaches weigh up whether to use those crucial final few trades.
Round 17 team news
Broncos v Panthers, Thursday 7.50pm at Suncorp Stadium
Broncos: Payne Haas returns from suspension and is a straight swap for the suspended Joe Ofahengaue while Corey Oates replaces Jordan Kahu in the backline, Issac Luke returns at hooker, Cory Paix shifts to the bench and Brodie Croft drops out.
David Fifita (65) picked up another trademark tackle-busting try last week, Kotoni Staggs (46) scored his second try in as many weeks and Pat Carrigan (62) is getting through so much work that a score in the low 60s seems underwhelming by his standards.
Panthers: Isaah Yeo (head knock) is out but Viliame Kikau returns, while dual-position 2RF/CTR option Kurt Capewell is back from injury via the bench. Moses Leota joins the starting pack with Tyrone May going to the interchange. Api Koroisau could return after being included in the reserves.
Nathan Cleary (92) made a season-high 29 tackles against the Tigers and showed he can produce a monster score even without significant attacking stats, and he'll be a popular captaincy choice against a struggling Brisbane outfit. Jarome Luai (62) remains a hold for those who have still got him after he grabbed another try, an assist and five tackle breaks last week.
Knights v Sharks, Friday 6pm at McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights: Mitch Barnett is named despite copping a sternum injury last week while Phoenix Crossland replaces Chris Randall on the bench and Brodie Jones is in for the suspended Pasami Saulo. Randall was a late inclusion last week and could be again after being named in the reserves.
Kurt Mann (62) continues to score well at hooker while Mitchell Pearce (53) has lifted his output since Blake Green's injury. While Kalyn Ponga has been the Knights' best Fantasy scorer this year with a 60-point average, David Klemmer (59 last week) isn't far behind and is averaging 62 in his past three games.
Sharks: Centres Josh Dugan (knee) and Jesse Ramien (head knock) are both named despite injury concerns, Chad Townsend's return bumps Connor Tracey to the bench while Andrew Fifita drops out of the 17.
Aaron Woods is coming off scores of 53 and 60 and is potentially a cut-price, point-of-difference option at $599k, although beware he still averages in the low 40s for the season.
Rabbitohs v Storm, Friday 7.55pm at ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: Latrell Mitchell (ruptured hamstring) is out for the season and is a sell. Alex Johnston replaces him at fullback, while Dane Gagai returns at centre for Steven Marsters.
South Sydney's shellacking of the Eels resulted in bumper scores for Adam Reynolds (88), Cody Walker (63) and Campbell Graham (61) while Damien Cook (60) comes at an affordable $765k if you're on the hunt for a new gun scorer.
Storm: With Marion Seve (ACL) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (calf) out Brenko Lee joins the Storm backline with Isaac Lumelume on the wing, Chris Lewis starts in the back row and Ryley Jacks joins the interchange.
Ryan Papenhuyzen (55) produced three try assists in last week's win over Manly and has four scores above 50 in his past five games. Meanwhile Cameron Munster (38) was a little underwhelming in his return from injury. Munster was averaging 57.5 through six rounds this season but hasn't scored above 57 since then.
Storm's ACL fears for Seve confirmed
Bulldogs v Titans, Saturday 3pm at ANZ Stadium
Bulldogs: Jake Averillo and Luke Thompson return on the bench in place of Sione Katoa and Dean Britt.
After three tryless games Raymond Faitala-Mariner (67) crossed for his fifth try of the season against Canberra. Meanwhile rookie Matt Doorey's Fantasy prospects look grim with just 14 points from 38 minutes off the bench last round.
Titans: Moeaki Fotuaika returns via the bench in place of Jai Whitbread. AJ Brimson (63) is proving a superb late-season buy, as is Tyrone Peachey (66) who scored his first try of the season against the Dragons last week. He is at lock again but Jai Arrow is close to returning after being named in the reserves.
Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers, Saturday 5.30pm at Lottoland
Sea Eagles: Abbas Miski replaces Reuben Garrick (shoulder) on the wing, Jack Gosiewski replaces Joel Thompson (ankle, season) in the second row and Corey Waddell joins the bench.
Daly Cherry-Evans (50) remains fairly fixture-proof with another solid score despite Manly being on the wrong end of a one-sided result against Melbourne, with Jake Trbojevic (45) and Marty Taupau (44) both a little below par in that match.
Wests Tigers: Tommy Talau has been dropped after scoring zero Fantasy points last week, with AJ Kepaoa taking his place on the wing. Josh Aloiai returns at prop, Matt Eisenhuth goes to the bench and Shawn Blore drops out.
Matt Eisenhuth (56) made the most of his start in the front row last week, outscoring Alex Twal (50) whose minutes have dipped since his return from injury. Harry Grant (47) may get less game time in the final rounds as the Tigers look to the future, with Jacob Liddle to wear the No.9 when Grant returns to Melbourne at the end of the season.
George Williams joins Inside The NRL
Raiders v Roosters, Saturday 7.35pm at GIO Stadium
Raiders: Corey Harawira-Naera returns in place of Matthew Timoko while Josh Papalii and Siliva Havili are named to start with Dunamis Lui and Tom Starling returning to the bench.
Jack Wighton (79) has scored four tries in his past two games and Starling (66) also grabbed a double in the win over the Bulldogs. John Bateman (64) has been a strong scorer since his return this year with an average just under 62.
Roosters: The big names are returning for the Roosters. Luke Keary and Boyd Cordner are back in the starting side, Drew Hutchison is out and Nat Butcher is benched, while superstar signing Sonny Bill Williams is named on the interchange. Poasa Faamausili drops out, while Angus Crichton and Mitchell Aubusson are among the reserves.
After a few quiet weeks James Tedesco (112) exploded into action with the best Fantasy score of his career and his second ton of the season – including a try, a try save, five try assists and a dozen tackle breaks. Nat Butcher (72) has had a golden run in the side and picked up his first try of the year but reverts to the bench this week.
Warriors v Eels, Sunday 4.05pm at Central Coast Stadium
Warriors: Loan players George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro aren't permitted to play against Parramatta and are replaced by Gerrard Beale and Josh Curran while Jack Murchie replaces the injured Eliesa Katoa (hand) in the second row and Isaiah Papali'i joins the bench.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (93) was enormous in last week's stunning win over Newcastle, while Jazz Tevaga (59) scored well again and Tohu Harris (41) didn't get his usual tackle count due to the Warriors' domination of possession.
Eels: Dylan Brown (ankle) is replaced by Jai Field at five-eighth while Marata Niukore replaces Andrew Davey on the bench.
Despite being on the wrong end of a heavy loss last week tackle-hungry forwards Nathan Brown (59), Ryan Matterson (54) and Reed Mahoney (51) all scored well, while almost 500 kick metres helped Mitch Moses to 50 points.
‘Embarrassing’ loss forces Eels to reassess
Cowboys v Dragons, Sunday 6.30pm at Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Cowboys: North Queensland's three most popular Fantasy players Jason Taumalolo, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Ben Hampton all sat out last week's match and while Taumalolo remains sidelined with a calf injury Tabuai-Fidow returns from a minor hamstring injury on the wing.
Michael Morgan (calf) and Coen Hess (suspension) are out with Scott Drinkwater moving to five-eighth and Val Holmes to fullback while Gavin Cooper starts in the back row. Esan Marsters replaces Connelly Lemuelu at centre, Jake Clifford starts at halfback and Daejarn Asi bumps Jake Granville off the bench.
Dragons: Tyrell Fuimaono replaces Trent Merrin on the bench. It was the McInnes and Hunt show once again last week, with Cameron McInnes (59) rock solid as usual while Ben Hunt (52) only spent three minutes on the bench in the end after being subbed off (and quickly back on) with bench hooker Billy Brittain suffering a head knock soon after taking the field.
The risk remains that Brittain, who keeps his bench spot, takes more minutes off Hunt in future weeks. Zac Lomax is the ideal trade target for those selling Latrell Mitchell but he doesn't come cheap at $604k.