Jamie Soward has given the injury-ravaged Penrith a much-needed boost with the playmaker to return against Canterbury on Saturday.
Soward suffered a shoulder injury after being hit off the ball by Parramatta’s Pauli Pauli three weeks ago and missed the Panthers’ worrying last start 20-0 loss to Melbourne.
The Panthers’ casualty ward is overflowing with Matt Moylan (ankle), Brent Kite (leg), Jamal Idris (knee), Josh Mansour (knee), Ben Murdoch-Masila (ankle) and George (leg) and Robert Jennings (knee) all sidelined.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has not named his State of Origin stars – Trent Hodkinson, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer and Brett and Josh Morris – for the ANZ Stadium clash, but all could be late inclusions.
Manly captain Jamie Lyon’s hamstring injury has opened the door for young gun Tom Trbojevic to be included in the backline against the Wests Tigers on Friday night.
Daniel Mortimer has been named at hooker against the Warriors as the club grapples with a No.9 crisis with Kierran Moseley (knee), Beau Falloon (wrist) and Matt Srama (ankle) all out.
Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins (knee) has again not been named, with Tuimoala Lolohea to wear the No.1.
Joey Leilua’s departure from Newcastle has resulted in coach Rick Stone reshuffling his backline with skipper Kurt Gidley moving to fullback, Dane Gagai into the centres and halfback Tyrone Roberts making a timely return.
Leilua is expected to sign with Canberra in the coming days but is not expected to line up against North Queensland at GIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Melbourne and Brisbane have named their stars, including Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Justin Hodges, Corey Parker and Sam Thaiday, for Sunday’s top four blockbuster.
The Sydney Roosters will again be without New Zealand Test prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, but Boyd Cordner, Aidan Guerra, Michael Jennings and Mitchell Pearce have all been named to back up after Origin II.