Celebrating the contributions made by the past, present and emerging First Nations’ people, the eight matches played over the weekend should provide plenty of highlights for the NRL’s Indigenous Round.
TIGERS V COWBOYS – THURSDAY, 7.50PM – LEICHARDT OVAL
After stunning many with a series of hard-fought wins in the early rounds, a run of three straight losses has brought the Tigers back among the NRL playing field. Boosted by the return of co-captain Russell Packer, the joint venture will be keen to extend their run of 6 wins from 7 matches played against North Queensland at Leichardt Oval. Coming away with a desperately needed victory in regional NSW last Friday, the Cowboys will be hoping to go back-to-back during the regular season for the first time in close to 10 months. With a controversial incident occurring in the lead-up to Thursday’s match, the headline grabbing moment may galvanise or break the side’s chance of leaving Sydney with two points.
KNIGHTS V PANTHERS – FRIDAY, 6.00PM – MCDONALD JONES STADIUM
Struggling in the absence of Mitchell Pearce last week, the Knights will be determined to start strongly after a dismal opening against South Sydney saw the side playing from behind all game. Responding to the 36-18 loss, coach Nathan Brown has made a number of changes with Brock Lamb, Danny Levi, Josh King and Luke Yates all recalled to the top squad. Blown off the park in the opening 40 minutes in Bathurst, a valiant fight back wasn’t enough to save the Panthers in a match resulting in further additions to the injury list. Recalling rookie prop Kaide Ellis and set to debut Samoan international Jarome Luai, further changes are likely with Trent Merrin and Isaah Yeo in doubt for Friday’s clash.
BULLDOGS V EELS – FRIDAY, 7.55PM – ANZ STADIUM
Suffering an agonising loss in Brisbane last Thursday, the Bulldogs will be hopeful that locking horns with their historic rivals brings about the change needed to keep pace with the other 15 clubs. In the only change from the side that went down 22-20, Renouf To’omaga has been selected ahead of Clay Priest to make his NRL debut off the bench. Coming home late to flatter the scoreboard in an otherwise patchy showing against the Sharks, the Eels will approach Friday’s clash as a must-win if they are to have any chance of featuring beyond Round 25. With Kaysa Prichard and Tim Mannah unavailable, a reshuffle sees utility Will Smith start at hooker, while Tongan prop Siosaia Vave earns his first start in the top grade this season.
WARRIORS V ROOSTERS – SATURDAY, 3.00PM – MT. SMART STADIUM
Bouncing back from a horror ANZAC Day showing to play with the flair and intensity that has come to be associated with the Warriors in 2018, the New Zealand outfit will be intent on replicating their brilliant Easter showing over the Roosters with Mason Lino named to replace Shaun Johnson at halfback. Coming away with a narrow victory last Sunday, the Roosters have struggled to leave a lasting impact so far this year with both of their big-name recruits yet to deliver upon expectation. With young gun Victor Radley out suspended after failing to overturn a high tackle charge at the judiciary, expect Nat Butcher or Frank-Paul Nu’uausala to come into the side.
STORM V TITANS – SATURDAY, 5.30PM – SUNCORP STADIUM
Taught a lesson by the Dragons at Kogarah, the reigning champions will be hopeful of accounting for their lowly opponents as they stare down the prospect of a testing representative period without having accrued enough competition points compared with past years. Back from injury, Curtis Scott will be looking to push his case for a representative debut alongside NSW certainty Josh Addo-Carr. Coming into the contest off the back of four consecutive losses, 19-year-old playmaker AJ Brimson is set to debut in the halves, while coach Garth Brennan will be wishing that his side can replicate the high-scoring shock win over the Storm in the corresponding fixture twelve months ago.
SEA EAGLES V BRONCOS – SATURDAY, 7.35PM – SUNCORP STADIUM
Heading to Queensland for a ‘home’ match, the unchanged Sea Eagles have been much improved over the past fortnight, but crucially remain anchored towards the bottom of the ladder. Leaving it until the death against Canterbury, the Broncos have begun to produce the results expected of them at the beginning of the season, but from the brilliance displayed by the club at their best, the form shown in 2018 suggests the side is yet to hit their straps. Shifting Jack Bird into the centres and Kodi Nikorima back to starting halfback, expect Wayne Bennett to make further changes just before kick-off.
RABBITOHS V DRAGONS – SUNDAY, 2.00PM – ANZ STADIUM
Racking up the points and bolstered by the return of enforcer Sam Burgess, the Rabbitohs will be intent on improving their defence against the competition heavyweights. With the 2014 Clive Churchill medallist returning, coach Anthony Seibold has pushed Cameron Murray back to the bench at the expense of Adam Doueihi. Leaving few doubts over their credentials as premiership favourites with an emphatic win over Melbourne, the Dragons will be eager to follow up their strong form against a South Sydney outfit that threatened the Red V when they last met. Benefitting from consistency in the playing roster, Zac Lomax is set to become the latest NRL debutant as Paul McGregor continues his contingency preparation in the lead up to State of Origin.
RAIDERS V SHARKS – SUNDAY, 4.10PM – GIO STADIUM
Fighting back from a woeful beginning to 2018, the Raiders have the chance to level their win-loss record against their spirited foes from recent seasons. With Parramatta-bound prop Junior Paulo out of action for the next two months, Charlie Gubb will return to the NRL after spending the past few weeks with Mounties. After a worrying start to 2018, the Sharks have looked impressive with three straight wins instilling plenty of confidence in the side’s ability to perform without several of their best players. With Paul Gallen set to return after a month on the sidelines, second rower Jack Williams is set to make his first appearance in first grade off the bench.