Vacant spots, new combos: Burning questions for NRL trials
THE NRL pre-season really ramps up this weekend with seven trials to be played.
We take a look at some of the burning questions ahead of the games.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Storm v Warriors at Kardinia Park, Geelong, 6.50pm (all times AEST)
Storm: Have Melbourne found their new No.1? Scott Drinkwater gets his chance to shine in Billy Slater's old jersey, with fellow fullback contenders Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen named on the bench. Elsewhere, Brodie Croft can stake his claim for the halfback position after being named in the starting side.
Warriors: Which playmaker will step up? This trials fixture will pit three young playmakers against each other in Chanel Harris-Tavita, Adam Keighran and Hayze Perham as they battle it out for the vacant halves spot alongside Blake Green following Shaun Johnson's departure.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Titans v Cowboys at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 5pm
Titans: Can Tyrone Roberts do it again? Another good performance from the Gold Coast signing would also certainly cement his spot in the starting side for Round 1. Roberts will captain the Titans in the trial and will be looking to produce the kind of performance that saw him win the Preston Campbell Medal for man of the match in the All Stars game.
Cowboys: Which centres will shine? North Queensland have six players battling it out for two centre spots in 2019. Enari Tuala and Javid Bown start in this trial, with Tom Opacic and Dan Russell on the bench. Justin O'Neill and Ben Hampton are the other two who haven't been named. Elsewhere, Carlin Anderson gets a golden chance to impress at fullback after being named to start.
Rabbitohs v Panthers at Redfern Oval, 5pm
Rabbitohs: Will Alex Johnston impress Wayne Bennett? The South Sydney speedster gets another chance to shine at fullback after the All Stars game while Greg Inglis remains sidelined with a knee injury. Johnston has made it no secret he wants to play fullback, but he may end up switching positions in the game with fellow No.1 contender Corey Allan named on the wing.
Panthers: Can Dylan Edwards take back the fullback role? The livewire young gun will make his return for Penrith after a serious shoulder injury ended his 2018 season. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak isn't playing, but performed admirably in Edwards' absence last season and has his sights set on keeping the No.1 jumper.
Raiders v Bulldogs at Bega Recreation Ground, 5pm
Raiders: How will the backline look? There's plenty of interest around the Canberra side this season after revelations Jack Wighton had been training at five-eighth. The likes of Bailey Simonsson and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will again compete for the fullback position after featuring there in the trial against the Eels last weekend.
Bulldogs: Who will partner Kieran Foran? Lachlan Lewis and Jack Cogger could both get game time in the halves alongside Foran as they battle it out for the No.6 jersey. At fullback, Nick Meaney will get a crack in what will be a new-look spine.
Dragons v Knights at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, 5.30pm
Dragons: What will the spine look like? St George Illawarra fans will get a glimpse of how their key players could line-up in Round 1 with Gareth Widdop, Ben Hunt, Corey Norman, Cameron McInnes all named. Widdop is expected to play fullback with Norman to partner Hunt in the halves. Matt Dufty is also named and will be out to prove he still belongs in the team's top 17.
Knights: How will the Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce combination go? Newcastle coach Nathan Brown will be hoping a full pre-season of Ponga and Pearce training together will produce the goods with the duo's playmaking combo to get its first real test. Ponga struggled at five-eighth in the All Stars game, but he should be more comfortable around his Knights teammates.
Sea Eagles v Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium, 6.30pm
Sea Eagles: Team is yet to be named.
Sharks: Which young gun will stake their claim? Sharks coach John Morris will give a host of young rookies the chance to impress with centre Bronson Xerri, hooker Blayke Brailey and backrower Briton Nikora all named in the starting side. Jack Williams makes his return from a pectoral tear to start at lock, while Kyle Flanagan starts at five-eighth as he looks to nail down an NRL spot.
Broncos v Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Kougari Oval, Wynnum, 7pm
Broncos: How will Jack Bird perform? The Brisbane star makes his long-awaited return after a 287-day injury lay-off and will be desperate to put in a good showing in the centres. The 23-year-old played just eight games in his first season with the club before a sternum injury sidelined him.
Every game of every round of the NRL LIVE with no ad-breaks during play. Get it all on Foxtel!