Havili out, Arrow in, AJ 50/50, Opacic hopeful about hamstring, Panthers switch, Hess scare



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

Teams have been announced for the two Preliminary Finals and Rabbitohs coach Jason 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.

The third injury doubt, winger Alex Johnston, is still rated at 50/50 for the Accor Stadium showdown.

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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.

Eels centre Tom Opacic has downplayed the severity of the hamstring injury that forced him off in the resounding semi-final win, saying he would have finished the game had the result been in the balance. He has been named to face the Cowboys.

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. The centre’s left hamstring has been on ice since Friday’s game but he was expected to train on Monday afternoon after reporting no soreness ahead of the session.

The 28-year-old has no history of hamstring injuries and is hopeful of lining up against his former club North Queensland in Friday night’s preliminary final. “I’ll be doing my best to get out there. It’s not a game I want to miss, that’s for sure,” he told reporters.

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 and appears the most obvious choice if Opacic is ruled out.

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

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.

Teams will be officially announced at 4pm AEST on Tuesday.

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)

Friday 

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 coach Brad Arthur’s only concern but the former Cowboy is confident of being right. Nathan Brown could be recalled to the bench with Marata Niukore going to centre if Opacic is out.

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

Saturday 

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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