Early Mail: Big Bunnies boost as young gun returns
SOUTH Sydney young gun Adam Doueihi is set to be catapulted straight back into the NRL starting team at centre when the 20-year-old makes his long-awaited return in Friday night's clash against Parramatta.
With the Rabbitohs reeling on the back of a growing injury toll and State of Origin commitments, Doueihi is one of several key changes Wayne Bennett is expected to announce today.
John Sutton is likely to shift from the back row to play five-eighth in Cody Walker's absence, while reserve grade captain Billy Brittain will take over from Damien Cook at hooker.
Bennett is also tossing up whether to start either Dean Britt, the son of former Canterbury warhorse Darren, or Bailey Sironen, son of Balmain great Paul, in Sutton's regular spot on the left edge.
Doueihi underwent a knee reconstruction last year in his rookie season and has not played in 2019. But his anticipated return comes as a huge boost to the Rabbitohs who couldn't even name a 21-man squad last week.
With Alex Johnston (knee), Braidon Burns (ankle) and Kyle Turner (toe) all sidelined through injury, the Rabbitohs have also lost Walker, Cook, Cam Murray and Dane Gagai to Origin. Doueihi will take over from Gagai in the centres.
The Rabbitohs on Monday applied for and were granted permission by the NRL to bring up three players from outside the top 30 squad to consider for this week's round.
The other player in contention for an NRL call up is young half Connor Tracey.
Bennett is most likely to go with Sutton as starting five-eighth to partner Adam Reynolds, but Tracey could still win a spot on the bench.
NRL EARLY MAIL ROUND 12
PANTHERS V SEA EAGLES
Thursday 30 May, Panthers Stadium, 7:50pm
Panthers: The loss of Nathan Cleary (Origin) will be offset by the return of James Maloney (suspension). Of bigger concern for Penrith is the round 11 injuries to both starting centres with Dean Whare (Hamstring) expected to miss 4-6 weeks and Waqa Blake (Knee) out for 6-10 weeks.
Sea Eagles: Both Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic are unavailable for the game due to Origin selection. Centre Brad Parker (Jaw) is a long-term injury. Tom Trbojevic (hamstring) is a possible - though unlikely - return and should he be fit to play, Brendan Elliot would move from fullback to centre to fill in for Parker.
EELS V RABBITOHS
Friday 31 May, Bankwest Stadium, 7:55pm
Eels: No new injury concerns and zero Origin selections is a 'win' for the club - though better form from some could have seen them pushing to make the Blues.
Rabbitohs: The loss of Cameron Murray, Cody Walker, Dane Gagai and Damien Cook (all Origin) is somewhat offset by the news that Adam Reynolds (leg) should be available for selection. Young gun Adam Doueihi makes a timely return to replace Gagai in the centres, John Sutton is likely to shift from the back row to play five-eighth in Walker's absence while Billy Brittain will take over from Cook at hooker. Young half Connor Tracey is also a contender to replace Walker or could snare a bench spot.
BULLDOGS V RAIDERS
Saturday 1 June, ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm
Bulldogs: Dylan Napa (Origin) is out for the match. Lock Adam Elliot (ankle) is expected back which would likely see Chris Smith either go to the bench or right out of the 17 - though selection is always a gamble with coach Dean Pay.
Raiders: Injury to hooker Josh Hodgson (thumb) and Origin honours for Nick Cotric, Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii will see the Raiders field a patchwork outfit against the Bulldogs.
TITANS V COWBOYS
Sunday 2 June, CBUS Super Stadium, 4:05pm
Titans: Jai Arrow (Origin) is out for the 'local' derby. Michael Gordon (leg) is slated to return and it will be interesting to see if he dislodges AJ Brimson, who played well and scored a try in round 11, from the fullback role.
Cowboys: The loss of skipper Michael Morgan and prop/lock Josh McGuire to Origin selection along with the injuries to forward leader Matt Scott (shoulder) and centre Justin O'Neill (spleen) will force the Cowboys to dig deep. Coen Hess (groin) was deemed not fit enough for Origin consideration and in no certainty to play against the Titans.