A host of NRL stars will make their first appearances for the year this weekend, with several selection battles still to unfold in the final trial matches.
Clubs have their final hit-out in the second week of the $100,000 Pre-season Challenge, before the season starts on March 2.
The NRL on Tuesday night adjusted the kick-off times to Saturdays matches due to extreme weather being forecast.
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“The decision was made due to player safety concerns around the forecasted heat and humidity in regional NSW and Western Sydney,” an NRL statement said.
But all nine games – including the World Club Challenge and the Charity Shield – will still go ahead.
Read on for the team selection analysis of every club after most coaches opted to pick close to their strongest side.
Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels, 5:55pm AEDT at Industree Group Stadium, Gosford
Knights team: 1. Lachlan Miller 2. Greg Marzhew 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Dominic Young 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Leo Thompson 16. Adam Elliott 17. Jack Johns 18. Tyson Gamble 19. Hymel Hunt 20. Krystian Mapapalangi 21. Bailey Hodgson 22. Brodie Jones 23. Dylan Lucas 24. Adam Clune
Analysis: The Knights have named Kalyn Ponga for his first game in the halves alongside Tigers recruit Jackson Hastings.
Lachie Miller, who only joined the club a few weeks ago from Cronulla, will fill the void left by Ponga at the back and wear the No. 1 jersey.
Another recruit in former Raiders star Adam Elliott will make his club debut off the bench, with coach Adam O’Brien naming a near full-strength side to face the Eels.
Eels team: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Isaac Lumelume 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Zac Cini 5. Sean Russell 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Matt Doorey 13. J’maine Hopgood 14. Jakob Arthur 15. Jack Murchie 16. Makahesi Makatoa 17. Wiremu Greig 18. Jordan Rankin 19. Ofahiki Ogden 20. Jirah Momoisea 21. Ky Rodwell 22. Toni Mataele 23. Matthew Komolafe 24. Jayden Yates
Analysis: Grand final stars Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Junior Paulo and Dylan Brown will all make their first appearance in 2023.
Sean Russell impressed last week and has kept his spot in the starting side, moving from fullback to the wing.
Recruits J’maine Hopgood (Panthers) and Jack Murchie (Warriors) will both make their club debuts.
Roosters get high-scoring win over Storm | 00:59
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Sydney Roosters v Manly Sea Eagles, 8pm AEDT at Industree Group Stadium, Gosford
Roosters team: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Joseph Suaalii 4. Corey Allan 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Drew Hutchison 7. Sam Walker 8. Lindsay Collins 9. Brandon Smith 10. Matthew Lodge 11. Egan Butcher 12. Egan Butcher 13. Victor Radley 14. Terrell May 15. Naufahu Whyte 16. Jake Turpin 17. Siua Wong 18. Thomas Deakin 19. Junior Pauga 20. Sandon Smith 21. Ethan King 22. Tuipulotu Katoa 23. Ben Thomas 24. Tyler Moriarty
Analysis: James Tedesco will play his first match since winning the World Cup for Australia back in November.
Fellow big names Joseph Suaalii, Daniel Tupou, Lindsay Collins and Nat Butcher will join their skipper in their first hit-outs of 2023.
Veteran halfback Luke Keary is being rested until the season opener, with Drew Hutchison pairing Sam Walker in the halves as Bulldogs recruit Corey Allan makes his Tricolours debut in the centres.
Sea Eagles team: 1. Kaeo Weekes 2. Christian Tuipulotu 3. Brad Parker 4. Tolutau Koula 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Josh Schuster 7. Cooper Johns 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Gordon Chan Kum Tong 10. Ben Trbojevic 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Sean Keppie 14. Jake Toby 15. Ethan Bullemor 16. Viliami Fifita 17. Toafofoa Sipley 18. Ben Trbojevic 19. Ben Condon 20. Ray Tuaimalo-Vaega 21. Josh Aloiai 22. Morgan Harper 23. Samuela Fainu 24. Zac Fulton
Analysis: Josh Schuster has been named at No. 6 as he looks to become Kieran Foran’s long-term replacement.
Cooper Johns joins him in the halves after impressing against Souths last week, with Daly Cherry-Evans being rested until Round 1.
Jake Trbojevic will captain the side in DCE’s absence while rookie fullback Jake Toby has kept his spot in the 17 and Ben Trbojevic moves to the reserves.
Ponga breaks silence on ‘toilet’ footage | 02:56
St George Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs, 4:20pm AEDT at Glen Willow Regional Stadium, Mudgee
Dragons team: 1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Moses Mbye 7. Ben Hunt 8. Zane Musgrove 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Ben Murdoch-Masila 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Billy Burns 14. Jayden Sullivan 15. Francis Molo 16. Josh Kerr 17. Aaron Woods 18. Tyrell Fuimaono 19. Max Feagai 20. Tautau Moga 21. Michael Molo 22. Dan Russell 23. Jaiyden Hunt 24. Treigh Stewart
Analysis: Star halfback Ben Hunt will make his first 2023 appearance and will partner Moses Mbye in the halves.
Tyrell Sloans comes in at fullback and Wests Tigers recruit Jacob Liddle completes the spine at hooker.
Another former Tiger in Zane Musgrove will make his Dragons debut as Jaydn Su’A, Aaron Woods and Jayden Sullivan will all play their first games of 2023.
Rabbitohs team: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Izaac Thompson 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Blake Taaffe 15. Peter Mamouzelos 16. Jacob Host 17. Shaq Mitchell 18. Josiah Karapani 19. Terrell Kalo Kalo 20. Ben Lovett 21. Davvy Moale 22. Thomas Fletcher 23. Richard Kennar 24. Michael Chee Kam
Analysis: Coach Jason Demetriou has named close to his strongest side, with Indigenous All Stars duo Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker part of a host of returning stars for the Charity Shield.
Captain Cameron Murray, Damien Cook, Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham, Tom Burgess, Jai Arrow and Kaeon Koloamatangi will all play their first minutes of the season.
Blake Taaffe will wear in the No.14 as Mitchell returns in a role he’ll be looking to cement down this season.
St Helens see off Dragons in the Gong | 01:34
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Penrith Panthers v St Helens Saints, 6:50pm AEDT at BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
Panthers team: 1. Stephen Crichton 2. Taylan May 3. Izack Tago 4. Sunia Turuva 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Luke Garner 12. Zac Hosking 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Jack Cogger 15. Matt Eisenhuth 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Lindsay Smith 19. Kurt Falls 20. Liam Henry 21. Thomas Jenkins 22. Mavrik Geyer
Analysis: Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Stephen Crichton, Brian To’o, Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris have all been named for the World Club Challenge.
Crichton has been named at fullback with Clive Churchill Medal winner Dylan Edwards being rested until Round 1.
Sunia Turuva has held onto his spot in the starting side, while former Bronco Zac Hosking has been named in the second row.
St Helens team: 1. Jack Welsby 2. Tommy Makinson 3. Will Hopoate 4. Mark Percival 5. Jonathan Bennison 6. Jonny Lomax 7. Lewis Dodd 8. Alex Walmsley 9. James Roby 10. Matty Lees 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Joe Batchelor 13. Morgan Knowles 14. Joey Lussick 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 16. Curtis Sironen 17. Agnatius Paasi 18. Jake Wingfield 19. James Bell 20. Daniel Norman 21. Ben Davies 22. Sam Royle 23. Konrad Hurrell 24. Lewis Baxter
Analysis: England superstar Tommy Makinson has overcome a cork to be named as St Helens look to win a third World Club Challenge.
Morgan Knowles returns after missing last week’s clash against the Dragons due to illness.
Curtis Sironen and Agnatius Paasi were impressive off the bench against St George and will need to fire once more against the NRL premiers.
Indigenous All-Stars claim THRILLING win | 02:35
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Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys, 8:55pm AEDT at Sunshine Coast Stadium
Broncos team: 1. Selwyn Cobbo 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Jesse Arthars 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Corey Jensen 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Cory Paix 15. Keenan Palasia 16. Brendan Piakura 17. Martin Taupau 18. Deine Mariner 19. Jock Madden 20. Delouise Hoeter 21. Blake Mozer 22. Xavier Willison
Analysis: Reece Walsh (fractured eye socket) has been replaced at fullback by Indigenous All Stars gun Selwyn Cobbo.
World Cup winner Pat Carrigan, captain Adam Reynolds, Kurt Capwell and Corey Oates have all been named for their first action of 2023.
Jordan Riki returns from the Maori All Stars and will start, while former Tigers playmaker Jock Madden should get some time off the bench and will look to put pressure on Ezra Mam for the starting halves spot next to Adam Reynolds.
Walters confirmed Madden has overcome a hamstring complaint and said he is keen to see him pressure Mam for the No.6 jersey
“Jock Madden injured his hamstring but he will be right for the Cowboys game,” Walters said.
“The trials are an opportunity for our guys to showcase their skills and push forward as individuals.
“There’s good competition for spots at the Broncos.”
Cowboys team: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Coen Hess 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Jake Granville 15. Griffin Neame 16. Jack Gosiewski 17. James Tamou 18. Ben Hampton 19. Riley Price 20. Brendan Elliot
Analysis: Coach Todd Payten has named a full-strength side to face the Broncos, with only Tom Gilbert (Dolphins) missing from last year’s preliminary final starting side.
Coen Hess comes into the side for Gilbert, while recruits James Tamou and Jack Gosiewski will get some more minutes this week.
Tom Dearden and Chad Townsend will start in the halves for the first time this year, with fullback Scott Drinkwakter and hooker Reece Robson completing the spine.
Roosters get high-scoring win over Storm | 00:59
New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm, 12:50pm AEDT at Orangethoery Stadium, Christchurch
Warriors team: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Brayden Wiliame 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Jackson Ford 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tohu Harris 14. Dylan Walker 15. Bunty Afoa 16. Josh Curran 17. Tom Ale 18. Ronald Volkman 20. Luke Metcalf 21. Freddy Lussick 22. Taine Tuaupiki 23. Bayley Sironen 24. Viliami Vailea 25. Edward Kosi
Analysis: Rookie coach Andrew Webster has named recruits Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Mitch Barnett, Marata Niukore and Dylan Walker to all play.
CNK will wear the No. 1 jersey while prop Barnett and second rower Niukore have also earned starts that look likely to remain in Round 1.
Luke Metcalf impressed last week but moves to the bench with Shaun Johnson returning in the halves alongside Te Maire Martin.
Storm team: 1. Nick Meaney 2. William Warbrick 3. Reimis Smith 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Grant Anderson 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 9. Harry Grant 10. Christian Welch 11. Trent Loiero 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Tom Eisenhuth 14. Bronson Garlick 15. Josh King 16. Chris Lewis 17. Tui Kamikamica 18. Jonah Pezet 19. Tyran Wishart 20. Xavier Coates 21. Joe Chan 22. Aaron Pene 23. Jordan Grant 24. Sualauvi Faalogo
Analysis: World Cup stars Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes all return for their first games in 2023.
Nick Meaney will play fullback with Ryan Papenhuyzen ruled out for the first 6-8 round of the season, but Christian Welch will get more minutes on the comeback trail from an Achilles injury.
Dragons recruit Tariq Sims (calf) is still several weeks away while Xavier Coates (hamstring) is on the extended bench.
Olam suffers suspected forearm fracture | 00:36
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders, 2:55pm AEDT at Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Tigers team: 1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Brent Naden 4. Tommy Talau 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Brandon Wakeham 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 9. Jake Simpkin 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Alex Seyfarth 13. Alex Twal 14. Fonua Pole 15. Charlie Staines 16. Shawn Blore 17. Tukimihia Simpkins 18. Justin Matamua 19. Asu Kepaoa 20. Aistasi James 21. Starford To’a 22. Junior Tupou 23. Brandon Tumeth 24. Will Smith
Analysis: The Tigers were average in their first hit-out of the year last week but they welcome back a host of stars to face the Raiders.
Gun recruit Isaiah Papali’i will play alongside Daine Laurie, David Nofoaluma, Ken Maumalo, Adam Doueihi, David Klemmer and Alex Twal.
Api Koroisau has been named the club’s captain but will be rested alongside Luke Brooks (calf) for Round 1.
Raiders team: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Harley Smith-Shields 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Danny Levi 10. Emre Guler 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Brad Schneider 15. Matt Frawley 16. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. Corey Horsburgh 18. Tom Starling 19. James Schiller 20. Pasami Saulo 21. Albert Hopoate 22. Ata Mariota 23. Trey Mooney 24. Utuloa Asouma
Analysis: Jordan Rapana returns from All Stars duties and will play fullback after Xavier Savage (broken jaw) went down last week.
Jack Wighton and Jamal Fogarty will look to pick up where they left off last year in the halves, with Seb Kris and Matt Timoko in the centres as Jarrod Croker misses out.
Josh Papalii, Hudson Young and Elliott Whitehead will all play their first games for the year and Joe Tapine returns from Māori All Stars camp.
Sailor marvels in SENSATIONAL assist! | 00:57
Canterbury Bulldogs v Cronulla Sharks, 5pm AEDT at Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Bulldogs team: 1. Hayze Perham 2. Jacob Kiraz 3. Jake Averillo 4. Paul Alamoti 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Matt Burton 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Tevita Pangai Junior 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Luke Thompson 14. Josh Reynolds 15. Ryan Sutton 16. Andrew Davey 17. Corey Waddell 19. Jeral Skelton 20. Jackson Topine 21. Jacob Preston 22. Braidon Burns 23. Jayden Tanner 24. Khaled Rajab 25. Jayden Okunbor
Analysis: Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr play their first game since winning the World Cup as star recruit Viliame Kikau starts at No. 11.
Hayze Perham will wear the No.1 jersey as Tevita Pangai packs down at prop and Eels recruit Reed Mahoney is the hooker.
Josh Reynolds will play off the bench spot as he pushes for a spot in the Round 1 best 17 alongside recruits Ryan Sutton and Andrew Davey.
Sharks team: 1. William Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Royce Hunt 11. Briton Nikora 12. Teig Wilton 13. Dale Finucane 14. Cameron McInnes 15. Wade Graham 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele 18. Braydon Trindall 19. Jack Williams 20. Mawene Hiroti 21. Jesse Colquhoun 22. Jayden Berrell 23. Niwhai Puru 24. Thomas Hazelton
Analysis: Craig Fitzgibbon has picked close to a full-strength side with reigning Dally M Medal winner Nicho Hynes in the halves alongside Matt Moylan.
Will Kennedy is the fullback as Blayke Brailey completes the spine, while Teig Wilton starts in the second row.
Veteran lock Wade Graham has been named on the bench alongside Cameron McInnes and Eels recruit Oregon Kaufusi.
Ciraldo era begins with win over Raiders | 01:25
Dolphins v Gold Coast Titans, 7:05pm AEDT at Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe
Dolphins team: 1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Jack Bostock 3. Tesi Niu 4. Brenko Lee 5. Robert Jennings 6. Anthony Milford 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Tom Gilbert 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Ray Stone 16. Jarrod Wallace 17. Herman Ese’ese 18. Euan Aitken 19. Isaiya Katoa 20. Poasa Faamausili 21. Connelly Lemuelu 22. Valynce Te Whare 23. Mason Teague
Analysis: Wayne Bennett has finally unveiled his best 17 with star recruit Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow named at fullback.
Ex-Panthers playmaker Sean O’Sullivan has been named at halfback, while Brenko Lee and Tesi Niu are the centres.
Skipper Jesse Bromwich also starts alongside Felise Kaufusi, Kenny Bromwich, Tom Gilbert, Jeremy Marshall-King and Mark Nicholls, who will all make their club debuts.
Titans team: 1. AJ Brimson 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Aaron Schoupp 4. Phillip Sami 5. Jojo Fifita 6. Kieran Foran 7. Tanah Boyd 8. Jaimin Jolliffe 9. Sam Verrills 10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 12. Beau Fermor 13. Isaac Liu 14. Jayden Campbell 15. Erin Clark 16. Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Joe Stimson 18. Sam McIntyre 19. Klese Haas 20. Toby Sexton 21. Thomas Weaver 22. Treymain Spry 23. Keano Kini 24. Iszac Fa’asumaleaui
Analysis: Kieran Foran makes his highly-anticipated Titans debut alongside Tanah Boyd in the halves.
Former Rooster star Sam Verrills will also debut at hooker, while AJ Brimson returns at fullback to complete the spine.
Skipper Tino Fa’asuamaleaui makes his first appearance for the year alongside Moeaki Fotuaika, while young gun Jayden Campbell moves to the bench.
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