St George Illawarra's finals hopes are on life support after a four-game losing streak and things don't get any easier this week when they confront a Penrith side slowly rediscovering their mojo.
The 11th-placed Dragons haven't won since Paul Vaughan's barbecue and while the guilty parties have now served their suspensions having all those players back on deck is unlikely to be enough to turn things around.
Anthony Griffin's side have a tough run home and would have to produce one of the great form reversals of all time to make the eight given they are now two points adrift of the three-way tie for the final two finals spots.
Penrith won't be conceding the minor premiership just yet but their immediate focus will be keeping their nose in front of South Sydney who are relegated to third only by points differential.
The two sides meet in round 23 so the Panthers will be keen to take care of business against St George Illawarra and head into that vital clash on even terms with the Rabbitohs.
Match: Dragons v Panthers
Round 22 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Dragons: St George Illawarra will start 1-17 with Matt Dufty the 18th man.
All players have now served their bans for biosecurity breaches arising from the gathering at Paul Vaughan's home in July.
Gerard Beale comes into the centres in place of Cody Ramsey, who required dental surgery after a collision with teammate Andrew McCullough last weekend.
Poasa Faamausili and Jayden Sullivan were the first two players cut from the squad 24 hours before kick-off.
Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa has scored seven tries in five games at Suncorp Stadium.
Panthers: Nathan Cleary is back for the Panthers, prompting a major reshuffle. Stephen Crichton moves to the wing and Matt Burton into the centres.
Api Koroisau was found guilty at the judiciary on a contrary conduct charge and has been suspended for one game with Mitch Kenny named to start in his place. Jaeman Salmon has joined the bench and Taylan May will be the 18th man.
Charlie Staines dropped out of the team on Thursday. New recruit Tevita Pangai jnr took leave last week for personal reasons and will not make his club debut this week. He came out of the squad 24 hours before kick-off along with Staines.
Paul Momirovski (HIA) and Brent Naden (hamstring) got through a final training run on Thursday and will play.
The Panthers have won their past three games against the Dragons.
Match: Dragons v Panthers
Round 22 -
Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Jack BirdFullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Mathew FeagaiWinger for Panthers is number 3 Stephen Crichton
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Gerard BealeCentre for Panthers is number 4 Paul Momirovski
Centre for Dragons is number 4 Zac LomaxCentre for Panthers is number 6 Matt Burton
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele RavalawaWinger for Panthers is number 5 Brent Naden
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey NormanFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 21 Nathan Cleary
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Adam CluneHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Jarome Luai
Prop for Dragons is number 8 Blake LawrieProp for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Andrew McCulloughHooker for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
Prop for Dragons is number 10 Josh McGuireProp for Panthers is number 10 Matthew Eisenhuth
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Billy Burns2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tyrell Fuimaono2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
Lock for Dragons is number 13 Jack De BelinLock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Talatau AmoneInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Jackson FordInterchange for Panthers is number 16 J'maine Hopgood
Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Josh KerrInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Izack Tago
Interchange for Dragons is number 17 Kaide EllisInterchange for Panthers is number 19 Jaeman Salmon
Reserve for Dragons is number 18 Matt DuftyReserve for Panthers is number 20 Taylan May
- Referee: Ben Cummins
- Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
- Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall
Adam Clune v Jarome Luai: Standing in for your side's best player is daunting a the best of times but the degree of difficulty increases for Adam Clune who must get the better Blues playmaker Jarome Luai if the Dragons are to have any hope of springing an upset. Luai also has something to prove having seen his form dip in the absence of Penrtih and NSW partner in crime Nathan Cleary but his pedigree and early season form suggest a big game is likely to be lurking just around the corner.
Both sides' kickers will have to be on their toes because St George Illawarra and Penrith have proven themselves the class of the competition when it comes to charge-downs. The Dragons are No.1 with nine while the Panthers are a clear No.2 with seven. Viliame Kikau is tied for the individual lead with three alongside Tariq Sims, who won't be around to hound the Panthers kickers as he serves a suspension. No doubt the likes of Blake Lawrie and Jack de Belin will be deployed to take over Sims' role as chief harasser.
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