Sporting News

NRL trials: What we learned from the first team lists of the year

Sporting News logo Sporting News 24/02/2021 05:14:04 Ed Chisholm

Most teams enter season 2021 with some key team selection questions that they hope to answer in this weekend's trials.

With the earlier trials this pre-season being limited to players who featured in 12 or less games last year, this weekend's matches provide a strong indication of which way coaches are leaning when it comes to their 1-17 for round one.

And with coaches officially naming their sides ahead of their first proper hit-out ahead of the upcoming season, some big hints have been dropped.

Here are some of the biggest revelations of this week's trial team lists.

Harry Grant wins out in Storm hooker battle?

Perhaps the most talked-about selection dilemma over the pre-season, it appears Craig Bellamy is leaning towards starting Harry Grant at hooker over Brandon Smith.

The Maroons star, who rejoined Melbourne after his loan with the Wests Tigers last season, will start at hooker against Newcastle in Albury, with Smith's naming on the bench suggesting the pair could share the dummy-half duties.

While it was more or less expected, given Grant elevated himself to be one of the top No. 9s in the game on loan at Concord last year, it now raises questions over Smiths' future.

The incumbent New Zealand hooker has told the Storm he wants to be a starting hooker and could leave the club if not granted that opportunity.

Holmes shifted from fullback

Todd Payten dropped a hint this week that he was toying with the idea of taking the No. 1 off Valentine Holmes, and it appears that is the case.

The Origin star will start on the wing for the Cowboys against the Broncos, with Scott Drinkwater nabbing the fullback spot.

Speed freak Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was also slated for the fullback spot but will start at centre.

It's an interesting call from Payten. Although Holmes was undoubtedly the NRL's best winger when he won a premiership with Cronulla, he signed with the Cowboys to play fullback.

Bennett to play Arrow from bench?

Jai Arrow arrived at South Sydney as a big signing over the off-season but it appears the Queensland middle forward may not be starting for Wayne Bennett's side in round one.

Arrow has been named on an extended bench, and while Arrow wasn't tipped to edge out Cameron Murray at lock, he was expected to at least be named on an edge.

Instead, Bennett has named new recruit Jacob Host and Keaon Koloamatangi on the edges.

Host is an effective hole-runners and no-frills style of player who the Rabbitohs picked up from the Dragons over the off-season, after struggling to find minutes behind Tariq Sims and Tyson Frizell in the Red V. 

While Koloamatangi played in the middle last year, but revealed to Sporting News this week he's being groomed as an edge forward over the summer.

An interesting selection call from the super coach.

Pangai Jnr moved to middle, no starting place for Oates

Jordan Riki has been all the talk up at Red Hill, with the emerging back-rower earning a starting spot on the right edge after a monster pre-season.

It's been accommodated by Tevita Pangai Jnr's shift to the middle, where Kevin Walters will hope the Tongan international can have more of an impact.

Interesting to note is that former Origin winger Corey Oates, who was tipped to transition into the back row, hasn't been named to start.

The 26-year-old has struggled for form in recent years, after blistering in the Origin arena for the Maroons, but has long been touted for a move into the forwards given his big body.

It's likely Walters is giving Oates the time to make the complete transition from the bench.

Bench role for Murdoch-Masila?

He was built up as a big off-season signing for the Warriors after dominating in the Super League, but Ben Murdoch-Masila has failed to clinch a starting spot in Nathan Brown's side to take on the Titans.

Instead Brown has named Josh Curran to start on the right edge, with Bailey Sironen starting on the other.

Brown admitted on Wednesday he was still unsure of Murdoch-Masila's role for the team.

"We've still got to work out how to use Ben," the new Warriors coach said.

"Josh has been at the club now for 18 months, Ben has come in from England in the New Year.

"How we use Ben early on is probably anyone's guess at the moment, Whether we use him in the middle, edge or both we'll have to sort out in the short-term. Longer-term we'll figure out what suits Ben best.

"Josh has had a really good pre-season and has an opportunity to gout and give himself a shot at (selection) in round one."

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24. helmikuuta 2021 7:14:04 Categories: Sporting News

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