Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has ruled star winger Alex Johnston out of their preliminary final against Penrith, with the club’s record tryscorer unable to recover from a hip flexor injury in time for Saturday’s game.

Richie Kennar will come into the squad for just his second game of the season. He previously appeared against Newcastle in an Origin-affected game, scoring a hat trick, and has been a consistent performer in NSW Cup, albeit predominantly as a centre.

Parramatta will be without centre Tom Opacic for their trip to North Queensland after he failed to recover from his hamstring injury in time.

Bailey Simonsson has been elevated to the starting 13 as a result and named at centre though it is likely that he will switch with Waqa Blake on gameday.

Opacic was one of four first-half tryscorers for the Eels but came off as the hour-mark approached and was Parramatta’s only injury concern from the 40-4 defeat of Canberra.

Eels utility Marata Niukore slotted into the left centre spot when Opacic left the field, and scored two late tries. Niukore started last season in the centres for the Eels but has been starting at lock of late, rotating with Ryan Matterson.

Bryce Cartwright has been elevated to the interchange at the expense of Makahesi Makatoa.

Souths have lost Siliva Havili for their clash with Penrith on Saturday night after he failed to recover from a calf injury.

Demetriou confirmed that Havili, who has featured both as a cover for hooker and as a middle rotation option, will not make it in time.

He was boosted, however, by confirmation Jai Arrow will recover from his groin problem in time for the Preliminary Final.

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Souths forward Tevita Tatola is free to play in Saturday’s showdown with Penrith despite his chicken wing tackle on Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo. Tatola twisted Mulitalo’s arm into a dangerous position midway through the second half of the Rabbitohs’ 38-12 semi-final defeat of Cronulla on Saturday night.

For his grade one dangerous contact charge, Tatola has accepted a $1800 fine. The Rabbitohs are already missing front-rower Thomas Burgess, who is this weekend serving the second game of his two-match suspension for his high tackle on James Tedesco.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Panthers winger Taylan May will serve his one-match ban for a high tackle on Eels centre Will Penisini with Charlie Staines his replacement. Origin hooker Api Koroisau could again start from the bench with Mitch Kenny in the run-on side. Brian To’o may switch from the right wing to the left to accommodate Staines.

The Cowboys are well rested after having the week off following their 93-minute extra-time epic against the Sharks. Coen Hess had a slight training mishap on Monday with his knee but is unlikely to be in any doubt.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 16: Tom Opacic of the Eels is attended to by the team trainer during the NRL Semi Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canberra Raiders at CommBank Stadium on September 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)


Preliminary Final: (3) Cowboys vs (4) Eels 7.50pm at QCB Stadium

Cowboys: 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. Tom Gilbert 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 15. Luciano Leilua 16. Coen Hess 17. Griffin Neame 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 19. Tomas Chester 20. Jake Granville 21. Brendan Elliot 22. Ben Hampton

Ready and raring to go after a week off. Todd Payten has no injury concerns in his team apart from a minor knee issue to prop Coen Hess and they are likely to field the same line-up which just got home against the Sharks.

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Bryce Cartwright 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore 18. Makahesi Makatoa 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Nathan Brown 21. Ofahiki Ogden 22. Ky Rodwell

Experienced centre Tom Opacic (hamstring) is out so coach Brad Arthur has replaced the former Cowboy with Bailey Simonsson. Marata Niukore or Waqa Blake could also slot in at centre but the team won’t be finalised until an hour before kick-off.

Bryce Cartwright has been elevated to the interchange at the expense of Makahesi Makatoa.


Preliminary Final: (1) Panthers vs (7) Rabbitohs, 7.50pm at Accor Stadium

Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 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 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Sean O’Sullivan 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Sunia Turuva 22. Chris Smith

Rookie winger Taylan May will serve his one-match ban – no, not the two-game suspension for assault which was controversially delayed until next year – the one he received for a high tackle on Eels centre Will Penisini. Charlie Staines is May’s replacement on the wing. Brian To’o may switch from the right wing to the left to accommodate Staines.

Origin hooker Api Koroisau could again start from the bench with Mitch Kenny in the run-on side.

Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Hame Sele 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Jed Cartwright 18. Davvy Moale 19. Blake Taaffe 20. Josh Mansour 21. Richard Kennar 22. Jacob Host

While prop Tevita Tatola (chicken wing fine) free to play, the Bunnies have lost utility forward Siliva Havili to a calf concern while winger Alex Johnston and second-rower Jai Arrow (hip) are under a cloud. Jed Cartwright comes onto the bench after being out for more than a month with a hamstring tear.

Tom Burgess is serving the second and final match of his ban for a high tackle on Roosters star James Tedesco.

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