Early Mail: Rabbitohs twist as Roberts returns
James Roberts will finally make his NRL return when South Sydney take on Penrith on Thursday night.
But Jimmy the Jet's long awaited comeback could still come with a twist.
Wayne Bennett is expected to name Roberts on the bench with Braydon Burns and Campbell Graham likely to keep the starting centres spots.
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Roberts hasn't played since returning from a stint in rehab where he went to get help for some personal issues during the COVID shutdown.
While Bennett has been naming Roberts in the squad each week, the coach has held off playing him until he felt Roberts was 100 per cent ready.
While Roberts is now ready to go, it is going to create an interesting selection dilemma for Bennett given how well Graham has been playing in the centres since moving in from the wing.
Check out our full round seven early mail below:
PANTHERS vs RABBITOHS
Thursday 25 June, 7:50pm
Penrith came through the Storm game with some minor injury concerns, but Liam Martin (hamstring), Viliame Kikau (shoulder) and Dylan Edwards (ribs) are all hopeful of playing with a six-day turnaround. Jarome Luai will be free to play after taking the early guilty plea for his dangerous tackle on Felise Kaufusi.
The Rabbitohs will finally welcome back star centre James Roberts after being left out since the lockdown while he regained full fitness, but they will be missing young forward Tom Amone after he suffered what looked to be season-ending knee injury. His bench spot will likely be filled by either Mark Nicholls or, provided he gets through training after recovering from a hamstring injury, Hame Sele. Liam Knight picked up a minor ankle injury in the game but is expected to be named.
STORM vs WARRIORS
Friday 26 June, 6:00pm
Melbourne could welcome back Jahrome Hughes (broken hand) after he was close to returning last week - Hughes would replace Ryley Jacks at halfback. Josh Addo-Carr should return after being granted personal leave to attend the birth of his child with partner Lakaree, replacing Marion Seve on the left wing. Dale Finucane (dislocated finger) and Christian Welch (knock) are both expected to be named.
The Warriors will play their first game with Todd Payten in charge, after Stephen Kearney was sacked as coach on Saturday. Wayde Egan will have to beat an eye gouge charge in order to play - with Karl Lawton to start at hooker if he is unsuccessful. Jazz Tevaga is getting close to returning after recovering from off-season ankle injury and, later, a calf injury. Ken Maumalo (hamstring) is expected to replace Gerard Beale on the left wing, provided David Fusitu'a (concussion) is passed fit to play. Lachlan Burr will be ruled out after suffering multiple concussions this season with either King Vuniyayawa or Isaiah Papali'i coming onto the bench. Eliesa Katoa could be in some doubt after suffering an ankle injury early in the Storm game, Katoa did return to the field after treatment though which is a positive sign. Roosters loanee Poasa Faamausili will be playing his last game for Warriors unless his four-week loan can be extended.
ROOSTERS vs DRAGONS
Friday 26 June, 7:55pm
The Roosters have James Tedesco (concussion) in doubt following his run-in with Maiko Sivo, and he will need to pass required protocols ahead of Thursday's captain's run. Daniel Tupou (cork), Joseph Manu (knock), Victor Radley (HIA), Jake Friend (nose) and Angus Crichton (shoulder) will all be monitored but should be right to play. Lindsay Collins could return after being a late withdrawal on the weekend having suffered a neck injury at training.
The Dragons will be without Jordan Pereira after he was charged with Grade 3 careless high tackle on Corey Thompson. Jason Saab or Tim Lafai are the standout options to come onto his wing. Adam Clune will be monitored after failing to finish the game due to concussion and if ruled out Tristan Sailor could come in at 5/8. James Graham's future in the NRL is in question with the club looking for a suitable replacement before releasing him to the English Super League. Jack de Belin's future could be known pending Monday's court verdict.
COWBOYS vs KNIGHTS
Saturday 27 June, 3:00pm
Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Both Kyle Feldt (passed HIA) and rookie Connelly Lemuelu (shoulder) will be monitored by the Cowboys after suffering minor injuries in the Tigers game. Coach Paul Green may look at Jake Granville as an option to come back at hooker after a poor passing game from dummy half by Reece Robson, with Reuben Cotter another option to come onto the bench. John Asiata (knee), Jordan McLean (calf), Valentine Holmes (ankle) and Michael Morgan (shoulder) all remain unavailable.
For Newcastle, Mitch Barnett (back) has returned to training and is closing in on a return for the Knights, who expect both Lachlan Fitzgibbon (HIA) and Bradman Best (wrist) to overcome knocks and be available. Enari Tuala and Gehamat Shibasaki are fighting it out for the right centre position.
BRONCOS vs TITANS
Saturday 27 June, 5:30pm
The Broncos will be missing forwards Patrick Carrigan and Tom Flegler due to suspension after both accepted one match bans from the NRL judiciary from charges incurred against the Knights. This will push Joe Ofahengaue into the starting line-up at lock, with Rhys Kennedy and either Ethan Bullemor or Jamil Hopoate coming onto the bench. Corey Oates will be monitored, after playing with a groin injury suffered early in the Knights game. Senior squad members Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford, Matt Lodge and Tevita Pangai Junior have all been put on notice with the threat of changes to be made if the side keeps underperforming. Halfback Sean O'Sullivan has returned to training after recovering from ACL injury and could be an option in coming weeks.
The Titans must have broken a mirror, because they're suffering an injury curse right now. New signing Corey Thompson lasted just 23 minutes against the Dragons after wearing a high shot from Jordan Pereira. Thompson has been cleared of a broken jaw but will need to pass required HIA protocols to play. Young Tonumaipea suffered a knee injury and won't play, with Tyrone Peachey set to start at centre and Beau Fermor a chance to make his NRL debut from the bench. Phillip Sami is also in doubt after suffering a hamstring injury - opening the door for Jonus Pearson to come onto wing if he's ruled out. Sam Lisone and Anthony Don both copped knocks in the game but should be right to be named.
EELS vs RAIDERS
Saturday 27 June, 7:35pm
Parramatta's Shaun Lane and Waqa Blake passed game day HIA's against the Roosters, but will be monitored during the week. Nathan Brown could miss two weeks after being charged with a grade 2 careless high tackle on Victor Radley, but the Eels are expected to take his fight to the judiciary. Kane Evans will return after missing the Roosters game through suspension.
Canberra came through the Manly game with no major injury concerns with Dunamis Lui or Bailey Simonsson both a chance to come back into the 17. Jarrod Croker left the field early due to concussion but is expected to be named.
SEA EAGLES vs SHARKS
Sunday 28 June, 4:05pm
Central Coast Stadium
The Sea Eagles are counting the cost of their gritty win over the Raiders with fullback Tom Trbojevic set to be sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring injury. The versatile Brendan Elliott is the likely option to move to fullback. Should Moses Suli (hand) prove his fitness, he'll return to the centres otherwise that spot will be filled by Tevita Funa - with Jorge Taufua to reclaim his wing spot, if he's recovered a quad injury. Otherwise Abbas Miski will come onto the wing. Brad Parker will be monitored after failing a game day HIA. Five-eighth Dylan Walker is facing 8-12 weeks on the sideline after suffering a nasty-looking ankle injury, with coach Des Hasler looking at either Cade Cust or Josh Schuster as options to come in at five-eighth. Martin Taupau (thumb) and Corey Waddell (shoulder) could both return after missing the Raiders game.
Cronulla escaped the Bulldogs game with no major injury concerns, with Matt Moylan (concussion) passing a game day HIA. New recruit Nene Macdonald will need a few weeks to build up fitness levels before being available for selection.
BULLDOGS vs WESTS TIGERS
Sunday 28 June, 6:30pm
The Bulldogs switched things up on the weekend, dropping playmaker Lachlan Lewis and bringing in Brandon Wakeham on the right edge which saw Kieran Foran move to the left edge where he partnered Raymond Fataila-Mariner. Nick Meaney (hip) could return, replacing Christian Crichton. Aiden Tolman comes out of quarantine on game day with the Bulldogs hoping to get an exemption to allow him to train with the squad a day early at Saturday's captain's run.
The Tigers are expected to be without Zane Musgrove (foot), Alex Twal (knee) and Robert Jennings (hamstring). There aren't too many options so replace Jennings, so expect Reece Hoffman to come onto left wing, while new signing Shawn Blore is set to make his NRL debut at lock. Chris Lawrence, Alex Seyfarth or Elijah Taylor are options to replace Musgrove in the 17. Centre Joey Leilua suffered a knock to the knee early in the game on the weekend but should be right to play. Trio Harry Grant, Josh Aloiai and Sam McIntyre were all hit with Grade 1 charges by the match review committee, but will be free to play should they take early guilty pleas.
Originally published as Early Mail: Rabbitohs twist as Roberts returns