Rugby League


The six big questions heading into the final round of NRL trials

1 Has the pre-season turmoil been too much for the Roosters?

The Roosters have had the worst imaginable pre-season. Their co-captain Mitchell Pearce faces an uncertain future, representative back-rower Boyd Cordner is sidelined with injury while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves continues his slow rehabilitation from a knee reconstruction. How much this affects the Roosters, time will tell. They play St Helens on Saturday with much of the focus around how their untried halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings perform. They have benefited from their time away from Sydney – including setting up a training camp in Dubai. 

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Apprentice: Jackson Hastings talks to Michell Pearce during a training session before the co-captain was stood down.

Apprentice: Jackson Hastings talks to Mitchell Pearce during a training session before the co-captain was stood down. Photo: Brendan Esposito

2 Can Brad Abbey push for a starting spot?

With Bulldogs fullback options Brett Morris and Will Hopoate sidelined, Abbey has a chance to impress when he wears the No.1 jersey for the first time as the Bulldogs play Melbourne on Saturday. While the rookie is expected to start the season in NSW Cup, the Warriors recruit has been earmarked as the Bulldogs' long-term fullback option. Hopoate will be fit for round one while Morris is an outside chance. He will be tested by the boot of Cooper Cronk. 

3 Walker's off, Walker's on


Dylan Walker may be gone but it is another Walker who has announced himself at the Rabbitohs this off-season. Cody Walker has been handed the South Sydney No.6 jersey – and barring injury he is expected to start at five-eighth in their first NRL game against the Roosters.

X-factor: Souths rookie Cody Walker.

X-factor: Souths rookie Cody Walker. Photo: Getty Images

He will combine with Adam Reynolds for the first time after the halfback missed last week's Charity Shield. Last year's five-eighth Luke Keary will start from the bench but is suspended from the opening round. 

4 Mystery rake for Manly

The Sea Eagles have been ravaged by injuries to their dummy-half options. Regular back-rower Blake Leary will start at hooker with first-choice rakes Matt Parcell [hamstring] and Api Koroisau [shoulder] unavailable.  Back-up hooker Jayden Hodges' season ended when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament at the Auckland Nines while the versatile Jamie Buhrer (cheekbone) is also sidelined for at least the first month of the season. Kiwi back-rower Lewis Brown is another hooking option for new Manly coach Trent Barrett. 

5 Josh Dugan taking central role

Dragons coach Paul McGregor has signalled his intentions by selecting Dugan to start at centre in St George Illawarra's final trial match against the Warriors on Saturday. Kurt Mann will again play fullback after playing there in last week's Charity Shield with Dugan rested. Dugan and Mann are expected to split their time in both positions with the NSW incumbent fullback wanting to make a permanent switch to the centres. McGregor was disappointed in his team after the lacklustre performance at the Charity Shield. 

6 The Cowboys by how many?

North Queensland have the rare opportunity to field the same 17 players that won the premiership when they play their first competitive game against Leeds in the World Club Challenge. Leeds have had a disastrous start to their premiership defence losing their opening two games, including a last-start 56-12 drubbing to Super League battlers Widnes. If Johnathan Thurston can find his groove early, it could be a long night for the Rhinos. South Sydney had a record-breaking 39-0 win against St Helens last year. 

NRL trials


St Helens v Roosters, St Helens 

Warriors v Dragons, Nelson, New Zealand.

Bulldogs v Storm, Belmore Sports Ground

Titans v Rabbitohs, Miami, Queensland.

Sea Eagles v Ipswich Jets, Pittwater Park

Knights v Raiders, Orange

Broncos v Souths Logan Magpies, Brisbane 

Tigers v Sharks, Campbelltown Stadium

Panthers v Eels, Pepper Stadium


Wigan Warriors v Broncos, Wigan


Leeds v Cowboys, Leeds