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NRL 2002 round one teams predicted

The countdown to round one is now down to its finals days with game-day line-ups starting to take shape for the March 10 kick-off.  

Gold Coast and the Warriors were disadvantaged when their match in the second week of the trials was called off due to the wet weather in South-East Queensland, robbing them of a chance to try new combinations before the season proper.

Shaun Johnson was due to play his first match in Warriors colours since 2018 while new Titans captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Jayden Campbell, AJ Brimson and Toby Sexton were also due to make their first appearance for 2022.

Melbourne have received a stroke of good luck after injuries and suspensions have cut a swathe through their squad with Brandon Smith now available after the All Stars game was included in his ban, meaning he is available for their road clash with the Wests Tigers.

Round 1 fixtures

Thursday, March 10: Penrith Panthers vs Manly Sea Eagles at Bluebet Stadium, 8.05pm AEDT

Friday, March 11: Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks at GIO Stadium, 6pm AEDT
Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium, 7.05pm (8.05pm AEDT)

Saturday, March 12: Sydney Roosters vs Newcastle Knights at Sydney Cricket Ground, 3pm AEDT
Warriors vs St George Illawarra Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 4.30pm (5.30pm AEDT)
Wests Tigers vs Melbourne Storm at CommBank Stadium, 7.35pm AEDT

Sunday, March 13: Parramatta Eels vs Gold Coast Titans at CommBank Stadium, 4.05pm AEDT
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 5.15pm (6.15pm AEDT)

Team by team, here is how each team is expected to line up for their season opener. 

Broncos

Key spots to unlock:  Tesi Niu’s hamstring injury means Kevin Walters needs to find a new fullback with David Mead, Selwyn Cobbo, Jamayne Isaako and Herbie Farnworth the main options. Brenko Lee’s arrival at centre means Farnworth is probably the best bet for the No.1 jersey although Cobbo had a run at the back in the trial loss to the Cowboys with Farnworth unavailable due to COVID protocols.

Five-eighth continues to be a problem area – Tyson Gamble, Billy Walters, Albert Kelly and rookie Ezra Mam were given a run in the trials but there is still no standout to partner marquee recruit Adam Reynolds in the halves. Kelly missed the 26-6 defeat to North Queensland in Mackay due to COVID protocols.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Herbie Farnworth
2. Corey Oates
3. Kotoni Staggs
4. Brenko Lee
5. Selwyn Cobbo
6. Tyson Gamble
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Payne Haas
9. Jake Turpin
10. Patrick Carrigan
11. Jordan Riki
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Kobe Hetherington

Interchange:
14. Rhys Kennedy
15. Corey Jensen
16. Ryan James
17. TC Robati
18. Billy Walters

Others: Thomas Flegler (suspended until Round 3), Brendan Piakura (suspended until Round 2), Jordan Pereira, Jesse Arthars, Jamayne Isaako, Albert Kelly, Brenko Lee, Ezra Mam, David Mead, Corey Paix, Keenan Palasia

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 28: Tevita Pangai Junior of the Bulldogs is tackled by Siosifa Talakai of the Sharks during the NRL Trial Match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Canterbury Bulldogs at PointsBet Stadium on February 28, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Bulldogs

Key spots to unlock:  Halfback is likely to go to Jake Averillo even though his performances were modes against Newcastle and Cronulla with Kyle Flanagan out of favour and not getting much game time. 

Tevita Pangai jnr is free to play in Round 1 after escaping a ban for two incidents which led to him being placed on report and eventually sin-binned against the Sharks.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Matt Dufty
2. Corey Allan
3. Aaron Schoupp
4. Brent Naden
5. Josh Addo-Carr
6. Matt Burton
7. Jake Averillo
8. Luke Thompson
9. Jeremy Marshall-King
10. Paul Vaughan
11. Tevita Pangai jnr
12. Jack Hetherington
13. Josh Jackson

Interchange:
14. Bailey Biondi-Odo
15. Max King
16. Corey Waddell
17. Ava Seumanufagai
18. Kyle Flanagan

Others: Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Paul Alamoti, Jayden Okunbor, Josh Cook, Matt Doorey, Tui Katoa, Chris Patolo, Braidon Burns, Jackson Topine, Joe Stimson, Brandon Wakeham

Cowboys

Key spots to unlock: There was not much to be gleaned from the first trial against Souths with Todd Payten trotting out an inexperienced squad. 

Veteran recruit Chad Townsend will be halfback for Round 1 and after Tom Dearden and Scott Drinkwater had shared five-eighth duties in the trial win over Brisbane, coach Todd Payten has a choice to make there.

Payten said he was happy with how each player went against the Broncos but had not made a decision.

Second-rower is another area up for grabs and Connelly Lemuelu made a successful transition in the trials so he could pip young gun Heilum Luki for a starting berth. Veteran forward Lachlan Burr has retired on the eve of the season due to a hip problem.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow played strongly at fullback with Valentine Holmes looking dynamic at centre – both players have the talent to make the most of their new positions.

Jason Taumalolo was rested from the trials but a certain starter in Round 1 against the Dogs.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Peta Hiku
4. Valentine Holmes
5. Murray Tualagi
6. Scott Drinkwater
7. Chad Townsend
8. Jordan McLean
9. Reece Robson
10. Coen Hess
11. Mitchell Dunn
12. Heilum Luki
13. Jason Taumalolo

Interchange:
14. Reuben Cotter
15. Connelly Lemuelu
16. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
17. Jake Granville
18. Tom Dearden

Others: Daejarn Asi, Kane Bradley, Tom Gilbert, Ben Condon, Ben Hampton, Laitia Moceidreke, Jeremiah Nanai, Griffin Neame, Emry Pere

Dragons

Key spots to unlock: Tyrell Fuimaono joins Josh McGuire on the suspended list but St George Illawarra have plenty of forward depth.

Tyrell Sloan outshone Cody Ramsey in the trials for the fullback jersey left vacant by Matt Dufty’s switch to the Bulldogs so the Indigenous All Stars representative is likely to get the gig.

Max Feagai is out for a lengthy stint with a knee problem. Jack Bird is making a good fist of his back-row switch while Jayden Sullivan’s recent hamstring woes mean Junior Amone will partner Ben Hunt in the halves.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Tyrell Sloan
2. Cody Ramsey
3. Zac Lomax
4. Moses Suli
5. Mikaele Ravalawa
6. Junior Amone
7. Ben Hunt
8. Josh Kerr
9. Andrew McCullough
10. Jack de Belin
11. Jack Bird
12. Jaydn Su’A
13. Tariq Sims

Interchange:
14. Moses Mbye
15. Francis Molo
16. Jackson Ford
17. Blake Lawrie
18. Poasa Faamausili

Others: Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh McGuire (suspended), Aaron Woods, Jack Gosiewski, Jayden Sullivan, Daniel Alvaro, Billy Burns, Mat Feagai, Max Feagai, Jaiyden Hunt, George Burgess

Eels

Key spots to unlock: Bailey Simonsson will be on one wing after switching from Canberra while Haze Dunster’s season-ending knee injury in the first trial against the Dragons means Sean Russell is likely to beat Solomone Naiduki for the other flank. 

Reed Mahoney made a successful comeback from shoulder surgery which means Ray Stone will be his back-up off the bench and veteran recruit Mitch Rein probably won’t be needed in the round-one squad.

The Eels were slick in the wet as they flogged an under-strength Panthers side to round out their pre-season.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Clint Gutherson
2. Bailey Simonsson
3. Will Penisini
4. Waqa Blake
5. Sean Russell
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
9. Reed Mahoney
10. Junior Paulo
11. Shaun Lane
12. Ryan Matterson
13. Nathan Brown

Interchange:
14. Isaiah Papali’i
15. Ray Stone
16. Oregon Kaufusi
17. Bryce Cartwright
18. Makahesi Makatoa

Others: Marata Niukore (suspended until Round 2), Jakob Arthur, Wiremu Greig, Haze Dunster, David Hollis, Solomone Naiduki, Tom Opacic, Hayze Perham, Maika Sivo, Mitch Rein

Knights

Key spots to unlock: The new halves combination of Jake Clifford and Adam Clune displayed some potential in the trials while Kurt Mann slotted in well to his new position at lock. 

Jayden Brailey’s pre-season Achilles tear means Chris Randall is likely to be the first-choice hooker with Mann switching to dummy-half when needed.

Bradman Best copped a bump to his knee in the second trial against Melbourne but should be right for the clash with the Roosters.

Hymel Hunt’s knee injury opens the door for Dominic Young on the wing.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Enari Tuala
3. Dane Gagai
4. Bradman Best
5. Dominic Young
6. Jake Clifford
7. Adam Clune
8. David Klemmer
9. Chris Randall
10. Daniel Saifiti
11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
12. Tyson Frizell
13. Kurt Mann

Interchange:
14. Mitchell Barnett
15. Jacob Saifiti
16. Sauaso Sue
17. Brodie Jones
18. Phoenix Crossland

Others: Bailey Hodgson, Jack Johns, Jacob Kiraz, Jirah Momoisea, Brayden Musgrove, Simi Sasagi, Pasami Saulo, Starford To’a, Hymel Hunt, Jayden Brailey

Panthers

Key spots to unlock: Izack Tago and Robert Jennings are vying for the centre berth alongside Stephen Crichton, who will come back in from the wing from the team which won the grand final last year.

Nathan Cleary is optimistic that his shoulder will be good to go for their season opener against Manly after surgery a few days after he was lofting the premiership trophy. Sean O’Sullivan will slot in at halfback if the co-captain is kept in cotton wool.

Mavrik Geyer dislocated his elbow in the second trial loss to the Eels but was probably a long shot to make the game-day squad for the Thursday stoush with Manly.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Dylan Edwards
2. Charlie Staines
3. Stephen Crichton
4. Izack Tago
5. Brian To’o
6. Jarome Luai
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Moses Leota
9. Apisai Koroisau
10. James Fisher-Harris
11. Viliame Kikau
12. Liam Martin
13. Isaah Yeo

Interchange:
14. Mitch Kenny
15. Spencer Leniu
16. Matt Eisenhuth
17. Scott Sorensen
18. J’maine Hopgood

Others: Eddie Blacker, Kurt Falls, Robert Jennings, Taylan May, Sean O’Sullivan, Lindsay Smith, Jaeman Salmon, Chris Smith 

Rabbitohs

Key spots to unlock: Lachlan Ilias will get first crack at replacing Adam Reynolds at halfback after showing some good signs, particularly with his kicking game, in the Charity Shield loss to the Dragons.. 

Blake Taaffe is set to continue filling in at fullback for suspended star Latrell Mitchell while Jaxson Paulo has moved closer to the action at centre and appears certain to replace Dane Gagai after the veteran returned to Newcastle. 

Round 1 predicted team

1. Blake Taaffe
2. Alex Johnston
3. Jaxson Paulo
4. Campbell Graham
5. Josh Mansour
6. Cody Walker
7. Lachlan Ilias
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Tevita Tatola
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jai Arrow
13. Cameron Murray

Interchange:
14. Hame Sele
15. Jacob Host
16. Liam Knight
17. Thomas Burgess
18. Siliva Havili

Others: Latrell Mitchell (suspended until Round 2), Taane Milne, Michael Chee Kam, Jed Cartwright, Peter Mamouzelos, Zane Bijorac, Terrell Kalo Kalo, Davvy Moale, Isaiah Tass

Raiders

Key spots to unlock: Jarrod Croker made a very encouraging return after stem-cell surgery on his knee in the off-season, which will temper Ricky Stuart’s concerns at centre with Harley Smith-Shields out for the year with a torn ACL. 

Rising star Xavier Savage’s superb display at fullback in the trials mean he needs to be in the backline, probably on the wing with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in the No.1 jersey or CNK could be switched to centre.

Nicoll-Klokstad’s preparations for the season opener against Cronulla have been hampered after the Raiders announced he has tested positive to COVID-19 and had to isolate from their second trial along with Jordan Rapana, Sam Williams and Matt Frawley.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
2. Nick Cotric
3. Jarrod Croker
4. Seb Kris
5. Xavier Savage
6. Jack Wighton
7. Jamal Fogarty
8. Josh Papalii
9. Josh Hodgson
10. Corey Horsburgh
11. Hudson Young
12. Elliott Whitehead
13. Joseph Tapine

Interchange:
14. Tom Starling
15. Corey Harawira-Naera
16. Adam Elliott
17. Ryan Sutton
18. Matthew Timoko

Others: Jordan Rapana (suspended), Emre Guler, Matt Frawley, Albert Hopoate, Peter Hola, Trey Mooney, Harry Rushton, Brad Schneider, Harley Smith-Shields,, Semi Valemei, Sam Williams

Roosters

Key spots to unlock: Luke Keary is confident of making his return from his ACL tear for round one but coach Trent Robinson is yet to give him the green light. Keary and captain James Tedesco were rested for the trials.

Such is their depth, there are going to be some regular first-graders not making the cut for round one with the likes of Drew Hutchison and Adam Keighran potentially being squeezed out by the return of versatile utility Connor Watson from Newcastle.

Sam Walker copped a couple of knocks in the trial loss to the Wests Tigers but is fine for the SCG clash with the Knights.

Round 1 predicted team

1. James Tedesco
2. Daniel Tupou
3. Joseph Suaalii
4. Joseph Manu
5. Paul Momirovski
6. Luke Keary
7. Sam Walker
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9. Ben Marschke
10. Siosiua Taukeiaho
11. Sitili Tupouniua
12. Angus Crichton
13. Victor Radley

Interchange:
14. Connor Watson
15. Fletcher Baker
16. Lindsay Collins
17. Nat Butcher
18. Drew Hutchison

Others: Sam Verrills (suspended until Round 2), Renouf Atoni, Egan Butcher, Moala Graham-Taufa, Lachlan Lam, Adam Keighran, Freddy Lussick, Billy Smith, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Tuku Hau Tapuha, Ben Thomas, Naufahu Whyte

Luke Keary flashes a smile

Luke Keary (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Sea Eagles

Key spots to unlock: Josh Schuster’s pre-season surgery on his ankle means Manly have a second-row slot up for grabs. Broncos recruit Ethan Bullemore and versatile former Warriors forward Karl Lawton are the frontrunners to partner Haumole Olakau’atu in the back row.  

Olakau’atu hurt his elbow in the trial against Canberra but coach Des Hasler is confident the second-rower, along with prop Martin Taupau (back) and bench utility Dylan Walker (leg) would be OK for the Panthers assignment.

Young centre Tolutau Koula showed in the trials that he is a player of the future with his blistering speed.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Tom Trbojevic
2. Jason Saab
3. Brad Parker
4. Morgan Harper
5. Reuben Garrick
6. Kieran Foran
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Taniela Paseka
9. Lachlan Croker
10. Martin Taupau
11. Ethan Bullemor
12. Haumole Olakau’atu
13. Jake Trbojevic

Interchange:
14. Dylan Walker
15. Karl Lawton
16. Toff Sipley
17. Sean Keppie
18. Tolutau Koula

Others: Josh Aloiai (suspended), Josh Schuster, Morgan Boyle, Andrew Davey, Sione Fainu, Jorge Taufua, Ben Trbojevic, Christian Tuipulotu, Alec Tu’itavake

Sharks

Key spots to unlock: Matt Moylan will partner Nicho Hynes in the halves ahead of Braydon Trindall, who will miss the first two rounds due to a high-tackle ban in their first trial against Penrith.

Hynes starred in the 30-6 cakewalk against Cantebury but Wade Graham suffered an ankle injury and is no certainty to start the season.

Cameron McInnes has a knee problem so won’t be sighted until Round 3 while young forward Franklin Pele, who was probably unlikely to make the bench, is out of the selection equation for Round 1 due to a shoulder charge against the Panthers.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Will Kennedy
2. Sione Katoa
3. Connor Tracey
4. Jesse Ramien
5. Ronaldo Mulitalo
6. Matt Moylan
7. Nicho Hynes
8. Toby Rudolf
9. Blayke Brailey
10. Braden Hamlin-Uele
11. Briton Nikora
12. Wade Graham
13. Dale Finucane

Interchange:
14. Aiden Tolman
15. Andrew Fifita
16. Siosifa Talakai
17. Teig Wilton
18. Matt Ikuvalu

Others: Braydon Trindall, Franklin Pele (suspended) Jayden Berrell, Mawene Hiroti, Royce Hunt, Luke Metcalf, Lachlan Miller, Jensen Taumoepeau, Jack Williams

Storm

Key spots to unlock:  No Munster, Grant or Lewis for round one and a cloud hanging over Tui Kamikamika (stood down while facing assault charges) means plenty of headaches for Craig Bellamy on top of the off-season exits of Dale Finucane, Nicho Hynes and Josh Addo-Carr. At least Nelson Asofa-Solomona is now eligible to play again after sorting out his COVID-19 requirements with the Victorian government.

Ryan Papenhuyzen is no certainty for kick-off due to a foot/ankle concern and Cooper Johns is out for 4-6 weeks after damaging his shoulder in their second trials against the Knights.

Winger Xavier Coates (concussion) was another casualty against Newcastle but should be fine for Round 1.

The NRL’s decision to allow Brandon Smith to use the All Stars for his ban means he will be a welcome addition to their line-up against the Tigers and could be used at hooker with Tyran Wishart coming off the bench with Jayden Nikorima or Nick Meaney to get a start in the halves.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Ryan Papenhuyzen
2. Xavier Coates
3. Reimis Smith
4. Justin Olam
5. George Jennings
6. Nick Meaney
7. Jahrome Hughes
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Brandon Smith
10. Christian Welch
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. Kenny Bromwich
13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Interchange:
14. Tyran Wishart
15. Trent Loiero
16. Nick Meaney
17. Tepai Moeroa
18. Thomas Eisenhuth

Others: Harry Grant, Chris Lewis, Cameron Munster (all suspended until Round 2), Tui Kamikamica (stood down), Cooper Johns, Jordan Grant, Jack Howarth, Dean Ieremia, Josh King, Jonah Pezet, William Warbrick

Tigers

Key spots to unlock: Shawn Blore’s pre-season ACL tear only adds to the pain of Michael Maguire’s attempts to rebuild the team this season with Adam Doueihi and Tommy Talau still months away from returning from the same injury.

Jackson Hastings is set to suit up alongside Luke Brooks despite Jock Madden impressing when he was given a run in the halves in the second trial win over the Roosters. 

Jacob Liddle’s knee injury means Jake Simpkin is likely to inherit the No.9 jersey.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Daine Laurie
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Starford Toa
4. Oliver Gildart
5. Ken Maumalo
6. Jackson Hastings
7. Luke Brooks
8. James Tamou
9. Jake Simpkin
10. Stefano Utoikamanu
11. Luke Garner 
12. Luciano Leilua
13. Alex Twal

Interchange:
14. Tyrone Peachey
15. Thomas Mikaele
16. Kelma Tuilagi
17. Joe Ofahengaue
18. Zane Musgrove

Others: Adam Doueihi, Reece Hoffman, William Kei, Asu Kepaoa, Jacob Liddle, Jock Madden, Alex Seyfarth, Tuki Simpkins, Junior Tupou, Tommy Talau, Shawn Blore

Titans

Key spots to unlock:  Toby Sexton, entrusted to replace Raiders recruit Jamal Fogarty at halfback, put in a strong showing in their only trial against Brisbane, as did Tanah Boyd, who looks certain to be in the dummy-half rotation with Erin Clark.

David Fifita is right for Round 1 after a heavy knock in the All Stars.

Justin Holbrook was due to miss the trial at Redcliffe against the Warriors after he tested positive to COVID-19 but the match was cancelled anyway due to wet weather, robbing the team of a second pre-season hit-out. Titans captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Jayden Campbell, AJ Brimson and Toby Sexton had been due to make their first appearance for 2022 after sitting out the first trial.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Jayden Campbell
2. Phillip Sami
3. Patrick Herbert
4. Brian Kelly
5. Corey Thompson
6. AJ Brimson
7. Toby Sexton
8. Moeaki Fotuaika
9. Erin Clark
10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
11. David Fifita
12. Beau Fermor
13. Isaac Liu

Interchange:
14. Tanah Boyd
15. Jarrod Wallace
16. Kevin Proctor
17. Jaimin Jolliffe
18. Sam Lisone

Others: Will Smith, Herman Ese’ese, Sosefo Fifita, Alofi’ana Khan-Pereira, Esan Marsters, Sam McIntyre, Greg Marzhew, Paul Turner, Joseph Vuna

Warriors

Key spots to unlock: With Reece Walsh suspended for the first round, Chanel Harris-Tavita looks set to fill in at fullback with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak remaining on a wing. 

Warriors coach Nathan Brown has indicated Shaun Johnson will be the starting halfback with Kodi Nikorima odds-on to partner him at five-eighth due to his solid defence and kicking game. 

Like the Titans, they are entering the season with only one trial under their belt after their pre-season clash was washed out.

Round 1 predicted team

1. Chanel Harris-Tavita
2. Marcelo Montoya
3. Adam Pompey
4. Rocco Berry
5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
6. Kodi Nikorima
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Addin Fonua-Blake
9. Wayde Egan
10. Bunty Afoa
11. Euan Aitken
12. Josh Curran
13. Jazz Tevaga

Interchange:
14. Ash Taylor
15. Aaron Pene
16. Eliesa Katoa
17. Ben Murdoch-Masila
18. Bailey Sironen

Others: Matt Lodge, Reece Walsh (suspended until Round 2), Tohu Harris, Edward Kosi, Jesse Arthars, Jack Murchie, Taniela Otukolo, Iliesa Ratuva, Pride Petterson-Robati, Viliami Vailea



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