Just two weeks after being dropped by Manly coach Trent Barrett, Apisai Koroisau has been thrown into the hotseat and asked to fill in for injured star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.
With Cherry-Evans sidelined due to a high ankle sprain which is expected to keep him out for a month, Barrett has turned to Koroisau to partner Dylan Walker in the halves against South Sydney at Brookvale Oval on Thursday night.
In other big team news, a host of stars including South Sydney’s spiritual leader Sam Burgess, Cronulla captain Paul Gallen, Penrith skipper Matt Moylan and Canberra halves pairing Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin have all been named to make their comebacks.
Koroisau’s inclusion is the biggest change heading into round five and he and fellow ex-Rabbitoh Walker will be charged with steering the Sea Eagles around against their former club.
While Cherry-Evans’s loss is a huge blow, they will be boosted by the returns of Martin Taupau (suspension), Steve Matai (neck) and Brenton Lawrence (suspension).
As expected, Burgess will make his return from a neck injury suffered when he awkwardly ducked his head in a tackle against St George Illawarra a week and a half ago.
His brother Tom will also be available, boosting their forward pack while Kirisome Auva’a will come onto the wing for the injured Alex Johnston.
NSW skipper Gallen will make his return from a knee injury after missing the last three weeks while his Blues vice-captain Robbie Farah will start for Wests Tigers after coming off the bench last week when their sides meet at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday.
Sezer (eye) and Austin (knee) will make their timely returns against Canterbury after losing and drawing their last two games.
Moylan is expected to give the Panthers direction and spark in attack after being named for his first NRL game since May last year.
After sitting out most of last year because of a foot injury, he made his return to the field in the pre-season only to suffer a back injury.
In-form winger Corey Oates (shoulder) and English Test centre Jack Reed both make timely returns for Brisbane for their local derby with Gold Coast on Friday night.
St George Illawarra halfback Benji Marshall returns for their clash with premiers North Queensland who have named Javid Bowen, the nephew of club great Matt Bowen, in the centres for Kane Linnett (shoulder).
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has named Jayden Nikorima to start at five-eighth against the Roosters after he was relegated to the bench against Manly last week, with Aidan Guerra reverting to the back-row.
Melbourne have been struck by a crisis in their three-quarter line with playmaker Ben Hampton named for the injured Curtis Scott (broken leg) and Marika Koroibete facing suspension for Saturday’s game against Newcastle.
They come up against a Knights side who will receive a boost with former Kangaroos Test winger Sione Mata’utia named to return from suspension, taking the place of Jake Mamo.