A TOTAL of nine pre-season matches take place this weekend and each of them will have a huge bearing on SuperCoach 2018.
WORLD CLUB CHALLENGE
STORM V LEEDS RHINOS
8pm AEDT Friday at AAMI Park
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith 15. Nelson Asofa Solomona 16. Kenny Bromwich 17. Christian Welch 18. Joe Stimson 19. Young Tonumaipea 20. Tui Kamikamica 21. Ryley Jacks
Analysis: The Storm have named a near full-strength team. The only player to miss out is Sam Kasiano after the 35th most popular player in SuperCoach suffered a minor ankle injury last week. He will be right for round one.
The match is our first real glimpse of the Storm since the exit of Cooper Cronk (last week's trial was a fan lockout). How heir apparent Brodie Croft links with the team will have a massive bearing on whether SuperCoaches take punts on attacking Melbourne players Billy Slater, Josh Addo-Carr, Suliasi Vunivalu and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Bounce back candidate Jesse Bromwich is another player to watch, with SuperCoaches keen to assess his involvement and minutes without the departed Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean. Cameron Smith plays his first match since the World Cup but don't expect huge minutes as back-up Brandon Smith has been named on the bench.
Cameron Munster will be up for a big game following recent negative headlines. He has dropped from 33rd to 42nd in the SuperCoach rankings over the last fortnight and his value as a POD has therefore soared.
WARRIORS V STORM
1pm AEDT (3pm local) Saturday at Rotorua Stadium
Warriors: Bunty Afoa, Blake Ayshford, Sam Cook, David Fusitu'a, Anthony Gelling, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Peta Hiku, Ata Hingano, Solomone Kata, Mason Lino, Sam Lisone, Matiu Love-Henry, Ken Maumalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Agnatius Paasi, Hayze Perham, Chris Satae, Isaiah Papali'i, Leivaha Pulu, Ligi Sao, Leiws Soosema, Jazz Tevaga, Albert Vete
Analysis: No Shaun Johnson, Blake Green, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke or Tohu Harris for the Warriors. But new recruit Peta Hiku, the 17th most popular player in SuperCoach, makes his club debut. Fingers crossed he plays close to the action at centre, not wing, while the absence of RTS may see the former Panther play plenty of fullback.
Storm: To come
DRAGONS V HULL
5.30pm AEDT Saturday at ANZ Stadium
Dragons: Leeson Ah Mau, Euan Aitken, Mitch Allgood, Matt Dufty, Jai Field, Reuben Garrick, James Graham, Jacob Host, Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr, Tim Lafai, Jeremy Latimore, Blake Lawrie, Luciano Leilua, Zac Lomax, Kurt Mann, Cameron McInnes, Darren Nicholls, Jason Nightingale, Reece Robson, Hame Sele, Tariq Sims, Paul Vaughan, Gareth Widdop (c)
Analysis: Coach Paul McGregor has named a strong squad with Nene Macdonald, Tyson Frizell and Jack De Belin the only top liners to miss out. The Dragons feature two of the hottest cheapies in the game in Zac Lomax (19th most popular) and Luciano Leilua (12th most popular).
Lomax can play his way into a round one spot with a brilliant showing either at centre, wing or fullback. Likewise, the match is also our first chance to assess where Leilua stands in the left edge back row pecking order alongside the likes of Tariq Sims.
Paul Vaughan is a regression candidate following a career year and the arrival of star recruit James Graham. Also keep an eye on the dynamic between Gareth Widdop and star recruit Ben Hunt. Widdop will likely play a less dominant role, which doesn't bode well for SuperCoach following his best ever statistical year.
BULLDOGS V RAIDERS
6pm AEDT (5pm local) Saturday at Sunshine Coast Stadium
Bulldogs: 1. Moses Mbye 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. William Hopoate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Matt Frawley 7. Kieran Foran 8. Lachlan Burr 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Danny Fualalo. Interchange: 14. Jack Nelsen 15. Greg Eastwood 16. Adam Elliott 17. Jeremy Marshall-King 19. Francis Tualau 20. Tom Carr 21. Josh Cleeland 22. Jarred Anderson 23. Asipeli Fine 24. Josh Bergamin 25. Lachlan Lewis 26. Kerrod Holland 27. Zac Woolford 28. Rhyse Martin 29. Jayden Okunbor 30. Ofahiki Ogden 31. Renouf To'omaga 32. John Olive
Analysis: Coach Dean Pay has named a new-look spine with Moses Mbye to play fullback, Kieran Foran at halfback, Matt Frawley at five-eighth and Michael Lichaa at hooker. Mbye may pique some interest as POD if he has a blinder, while Lichaa may also enter the discussion as an alternative for Cameron Smith if the new coach delivers on his promise to let his No. 9 off the leash with his running game, something Lichaa was basically banned from under Des Hasler last year.
Will Hopoate will play centre this year, which rules him out for SuperCoach. Adam Elliott has been mentioned as a POD following speculation he would start at lock, but Danny Fualalo earns the No. 13. Star recruit Aaron Woods (hamstring soreness) has been rested.
Raiders: Brad Abbey, Blake Austin, Luke Bateman, Shannon Boyd, Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker, Craig Garvey, Charlie Gubb, Emre Guler, Siliva Havili, Royce Hunt, Liam Knight, Sebastian Kris, Joey Leilua, Dunamis Lui, Makahesi Makatoa, Jack Murchie, Josh Papalii, Junior Paulo, Paul Roache, Jordan Rapana, Aidan Sezer, Sia Soliola, Joe Tapine, Elliott, Whitehead, Jack Wighton, Sam Williams
Analysis: Siliva Havili and Craig Garvey have both been named as they contest the No. 9 jumper, with mail out of Canberra suggesting Havili is ahead in the pecking order. There has been a huge SuperCoach swing off Garvey and onto Havili in the last fortnight - Havili has increased from 44th to 29th in the rankings and Garvey has dropped from 11th to 15th.
Jarrod Croker is the most popular centre/wing in SuperCoach this year and 31 per cent of SuperCoaches hope he gets through unscathed. Joey Leilua, Josh Papalii and Jordan Rapana were banished to Canberra's "Fat Club" upon returning to pre-season and all sit at under 10 per cent ownership. However, the trio are SuperCoach studs when fit and all can surge into SuperCoach contention by displaying some serious game and maybe an ab or six. Note, by our reckoning the Raiders have the easiest opening draw of any team.
PANTHERS V ROOSTERS
7.10pm AEDT Saturday at Panthers Stadium
Panthers: Dylan Edwards, Christian Crichton, Tyrone Peachey, Dean Whare, Maika Sivo, James Maloney, Nathan Cleary, James Tamou, Wayde Egan, Tim Browne, Isaah Yeo, Viliame Kikau, Trent Merrin, Sam McKendry, Nick Lui-Toso, James Fisher-Harris, Jack Hetherington, Corey Waddell, Kaide Ellis, Moses Leota, Sione Katoa, Jarome Luai, Tom Eisenhuth, Caleb Aekins, Liam Martin, Adam Keighran
Analysis: There are so many SuperCoach questions to be answered so let's just list them. Will Nathan Cleary get less ball with James Maloney in the side? Will Cleary or Maloney kick goals? Will Tyrone "Glue Hands" Peachey play inside our man Josh Mansour, the 14th most popular player? Is Trent Merrin fit? And is he primed to return to his glory days as a SuperCoach gun?
Who is the big winner in the cheapie range from Bryce Cartwright's exit - Viliame Kikau, James Fisher-Harris, Sam McKendry and/or Moses Leota? Who scores a round one backline spot following the injury to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak? Names mentioned by the Panthers include Christian Crichton, Maika Sivo, Caleb Aekins and Tom Eisenhuth, although out-of-favour Peachey is also an option.
Roosters: (Squad) Nat Butcher, Mitch Cornish, Josh Curran, Poasa Faamausili, Blake Ferguson, Lachlan Lam, Bernard Lewis, Jake Lewis, Isaac Liu, Josh Mantellato, Joseph Manu, Dean Matterson, Ryan Matterson, Paul Momirovski, Dylan Napa, Nick O'Meley, Sean O'Sullivan, Reuben Porter, Victor Radley, Reece Robinson, Luke Sharpe, Chris Smith, Zane Tetevano, Ben Thomas, Eloni Vunakece, Mitch Williams
Analysis: Cooper Cronk headlines a long list of stars missing for the match, including a sick James Tedesco, co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend, Latrell Mitchell and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Regular starters Blake Ferguson, Isaac Liu, Ryan Matterson, Joseph Manu and Dylan Napa all get a run, while Reece Robinson also makes his first appearance for the club in his return from rugby union
SHARKS V SEA EAGLES
7.30pm AEDT Saturday at Southern Cross Stadium
Sharks: To come
Sea Eagles: 1. Matthew Wright 2. Brad Parker 3. Tom Wright 4. Brian Kelly 5. Jonathan Wright 6. Jackson Hastings 7. Cade Cust 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Darcy Lussick (c) 11. Jack Gosiewski 12. Frank Winterstein 13. Kelepi Tanginoa. Interchange: 14. Shaun Lane 15. Lewis Brown 16. Lloyd Perrett 17. Toafofoa Sipley 19. Jade Anderson 20. Taniela Paseka 23. Peter Schuster 24. Joey Lussick
Analysis: Coach Trent Barrett has opted to rest the bulk of his NRL side including captain Daly Cherry-Evans and World Cup players Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic, Martin Taupau, Apisai Koroisau and Akuila Uate. Our man Lachlan Croker also sits out after being assured the five-eighth spot for round one, so lock him in as a cheapie.
The player to watch is centre Tom Wright, who isn't too far from a first grade spot with Dylan Walker out for the opening rounds and Jorge Taufua not named for the trial as he eases back from an ACL injury.
RABBITOHS V WIGAN
7.45pm AEDT Saturday at ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Richie Kennar 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Robert Jennings 5. Campbell Graham 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Robbie Farah 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Tyrell Fuimaono 12. Dean Britt 13. Jason Clark. Interchange: 14. Connor Tracey 15. Lucky Ta'avale 16. George Burgess 17. Junior Tatola 18. Mawene Hiroti 19. Braidon Burns 20. Jacob Gagan 21. Siosifa Talakai 22. Billy Brittain
Analysis: Coach Anthony Seibold has rested the bulk of his big-name stars including Angus Crichton, Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai. The game looms as a shootout for the two wing spots with all four contenders named. Of those, three sit in the borderline cheapie range - Richie Kennar ($239,600), Hymel Hunt ($284,000) and Campbell Graham ($207,700).
Cheapie option Adam Doueihi has been named at five-eighth and is seemingly out of contention for a centre or wing spot, with the coach suggesting he'll play a bench utility role in round one. Robbie Farah has been named in the halves, adding weight to Seibold's suggestions Damien Cook will play as the sole hooker this year.
BRONCOS V TITANS
8pm AEDT (7pm local) at Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba
Broncos: 1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Jonus Pearson 3. James Roberts 4. Tom Opacic 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Sam Scarlett 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matt Lodge 9. Todd Murphy 10. Sam Thaiday (c) 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Tevita Pangai Jnr. Interchange: 14. Sam Tagataese 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Korbin Sims 17. David Fifita 18. Gehamat Shibasaki 19. George Fai 20. Shaun Nona 21. Corey Oates. Coach: Kurt Richards
Analysis: Plenty of cheapie action to monitor with Matt Lodge, the fifth most popular player in SuperCoach, to start at prop, as foreshadowed by coach Wayne Bennett way back in November. Jamayne Isaako can lock in a round one wing spot with a strong performance, provided Corey Oates fires in the back row. Oates told the club website this week: "I am sort of trying to get back in there (the forwards) and see if I have still got it. I have been enjoying it a lot. We will just see how it goes in the trials."
Notably, 18-year-old sensation Payne Haas has missed the squad despite being best on ground in last week's trial. Big guns Anthony Milford, Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire sit out.
Titans: 1. Brendan Elliot 2. Tyronne Roberts-Davis 3. Kiah Cooper 4. Brenko Lee 5. Phillip Sami 6. Kane Elgey 7. Alexander Brimson 8. Leilani Latu 9. Karl Lawton 10. Jai Whitbread
11. Joe Greenwood 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Bryce Cartwright. Interchange: 14. Dale Copley 15. Tony Matautia 16. Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Max King 18. Apiata Noema 19. Jamal Fogarty 20. Blake Leary 21. Cheyne Whitlaw 22. Chris Law 23. Justin Tavae
Analysis: SuperCoaches get their first look at buy of the year Bryce Cartwright in a Gold Coast jersey. It's also our first look at Cartwright in a "roving" lock role, which sounds promising for SuperCoach in terms of attacking stats, even if game time is reduced.
Fellow former Panther Leilani Latu also plays his first match for the Titans, where he'll start the year as top prop and he is therefore the 15th most popular player. On the cheapie front, Phillip Sami gets the chance to press for a round one wing spot with Anthony Don (shoulder) likely out for the first fortnight.
COWBOYS V WESTS TIGERS
8.30pm AEDT (7.30pm local) Saturday at Barlow Park Cairns
Cowboys: 1. Ben Hampton 2. Gideon Gela-Mosby 3. Javid Bowen 4. Shaun Hudson 5. Enari Tuala 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Johnathan Thurston (c) 8. Scott Bolton 9. Jake Granville 10. Matt Scott (c) 11. Ethan Lowe 12. Coen Hess 13. John Asiata. Interchange: 14. Kyle Laybutt 15. Jake Clifford 16. Mitch Dunn 17. Shane Wright 18. Corey Jensen 19. Sam Hoare 20. Emry Pere 21. Francis Molo 22. Carlin Anderson.
Analysis: SuperCoaches get their first look at Johnathan Thurston in eight months as he returns from a shoulder injury. Thurston's ownership has dropped by four per cent over the last two weeks as SuperCoaches flock to Mitchell Moses, but that trend will reverse if Thurston puts in a blinder.
Fullback Lachlan Coote (hamstring) is sidelined while Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, Jordan McLean, Justin O'Neill, Gavin Cooper, cheapie option Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett and Kyle Feldt all miss out.
Tigers: Alex Twal, Bayley Sironen, Ben Matulino, Chris Lawrence, Chris McQueen, Corey Thompson, David Nofoaluma, Elijah Taylor, Esan Marsters, Jacob Liddle, JJ Felise, Josh Aloiai, Josh Reynolds, Kevin Naiqama, Luke Brooks, Mahe Fonua, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Matt Eisenhuth, Matt McIlwrick, Michael Chee Kam, Pita Godinet, Robbie Rochow, Russell Packer, Sam McIntyre, Sauaso Sue, Taane Milne, Thomas Mikaele Tim Grant, Tuimoala Lolohea, Tyson Gamble
Analysis: Benji Marshall is the only player from the NRL side to not been named. All other new recruits including Ben Matulino, Chris McQueen, Corey Thompson, Josh Reynolds, Mahe Fonua, Pita Godinet, Robbie Rochow, Russell Packer, Taane Milne and Tyson Gamble will feature.
The Tigers are by far the most open side for round one and plenty will hinge on trial form. SuperCoaches have their fingers crossed for big games from backline cheapie prospects Taane Milne and Mahe Fonua. Ben Matulino is a bounce back candidate. Tuimoala Lolohea will play fullback with Kevin Naiqama and Thompson also trialling in the role.
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