NRL finals fates hinge on fitness as stars sidelined
Jul 10, 2023
The final week of the NRL regular season is set to be dominated by questions over fitness and suspension, with Newcastle captain Kalyn Ponga sidelined by injury and Sydney Roosters star Joey Manu racing the clock.
Ponga picked up a shoulder problem in Sunday's win over Cronulla, although the Knights remain confident he will be fit to fire in September.
The fullback won't be risked heading into the final round as Newcastle face St George Illawarra on Saturday with a home final already guaranteed.
Halfback Jackson Hastings may be given a further week off by Newcastle as he battles back from a knee issue.
The Roosters will give Manu every chance to take the field in their do-or-die match against South Sydney on Friday after he limped out of their win over Wests Tigers with a hamstring issue.
The Warriors' outlook on captain Tohu Harris (back) is less than positive, with his return date unclear.
The Kiwi club will also be without five-eighth Luke Metcalf (hamstring) for their final-round match against the Dolphins.
Every NRL club is facing headaches surrounding injury or suspension heading into the final round of the year.
Penrith, who face North Queensland on Saturday, will be without Jarome Luai (shoulder) and could rest more of their stars depending on the outcome of first-placed Brisbane's match against Melbourne on Thursday.
Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs is suspended, halfback Adam Reynolds (calf) won't play and lock Patrick Carrigan (foot) won't feature until the first week of finals.
The Broncos may also rest Payne Haas as they seek to wrap up the minor premiership which in turn may lead Penrith to giving key players a week off ahead of the finals.
Melbourne will be without Jahrome Hughes as they seek to leapfrog the Warriors into third, while hooker Harry Grant struggled with a shoulder injury in Saturday's win over Gold Coast.
Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves accepted a three-game ban for striking and will fight a dangerous contact charge at the judiciary on Tuesday.
The Rabbitohs will be without fullback Latrell Mitchell and prop Tom Burgess through suspension.
Canberra, meanwhile, are set to fight Corey Horsburgh's shoulder-charge ban in a bid for him to face Cronulla on Sunday with their finals hopes potentially on the line.
Raiders duo Jamal Fogarty (eye) and Josh Papali'i (arm) are also awaiting the results of scans.
The Sharks, who are assured of a place in the top eight, rested Nicho Hynes (quad) for Sunday's loss to Newcastle and could be tempted to keep him on ice again.
North Queensland, who need results to go their way to make the top eight, said last week Jeremiah Nanai and Semi Valemei would be touch-and-go to take the field against the Panthers.
ROUND 27 SELECTION CONCERNS
1. BRISBANE - Adam Reynolds, Patrick Carrigan, Kotoni Staggs (banned)
2. PENRITH - Jarome Luai, Izack Tago, Mitch Kenny
3. WARRIORS - Tohu Harris, Luke Metcalf
4. MELBOURNE - Jahrome Hughes, Harry Grant
5. NEWCASTLE - Kalyn Ponga, Jackson Hastings
6. CRONULLA - Nicho Hynes
7. CANBERRA - Corey Horsburgh (banned - contesting), Jamal Fogarty, Josh Papali'i
8. SOUTHS - Latrell Mitchell, Tom Burgess (both banned)
9. COWBOYS - Jeremiah Nanai, Semi Valemei, Valentine Holmes (banned)
10. ROOSTERS - Joey Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (banned - contesting)