State of Origin stars being forced to back up off limited rest and players returning rapidly from coronavirus will be the talk of the town when teams are selected for Round 18.
Plenty of clubs are also dealing with injuries and returns.
Here is all the latest news and rumours ahead of teams dropping at 4pm (AEST) this afternoon.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Cronulla Sharks
North Queensland Cowboys
There are plenty of enormous questions for the Cowboys, with all of Valentine Holmes, Tom Dearden, Tom Gilbert and Jeremiah Nanai likely to be rested just 48 hours after Origin Game 3, and with Todd Payten unlikely to take a risk given the standing of the team on the competition table. Murray Taulagi is also questionable given he will come out of coronavirus isolation on the day of the game, while Jordan McLean is set to miss a month with a hamstring injury.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is likely to play for either Holmes or Taulagi, while Brendan Elliot is the other likely in if both are out. Ben Hampton will slot into five-eighth if Dearden doesn’t play, while Connelly Lemuelu and Luciano Leilua move to the second row for Nanai and Gilbert, with Ben Condon the most likely option to take the bench spot. Expect either Griffin Neame or Jamayne Taunoa-Brown to start for McLean, with the remaining two bench spots vacated by the prop and Tabuai-Fidow going to Jake Granville and one of Brendan Frei, Riley Price or Emry Pere.
The Sharks should have two big ins for this huge clash with the Cowboys just 48 hours removed from the decider, with Toby Rudolf and Nicho Hynes both to return from coronavirus, although it’s believed they are only due out of isolation on game day, so would be playing on zero preparation time. Rudolf would likely see Royce Hunt drop out of the side, while Hynes would directly replace Braydon Trindall.
Parramatta Eels vs New Zealand Warriors
Ryan Matterson was due to return last week, but was ultimately a late snubbing as he continues to manage a rib injury. He is likely to be named this afternoon, although it’s unclear who will drop out. Nathan Brown impressed Brad Arthur in his return to first grade, although still seems the most likely option. If Arthur elects to run without a back on the bench, then Tom Opacic is the option to drop out, while Ky Rodwell could miss if Brown is retained.
New Zealand Warriors
Reece Walsh should return straight into the number one jersey after missing the Auckland homecoming with coronavirus. Chanel Harris-Tavita’s return to the bench means Freddy Lussick will miss out, while Addin Fonua-Blake will start for Aaron Pene, who goes straight back to the bench.
Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons
A trip to the Central Coast will see the Sydney Roosters bring back Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and welcome Matt Lodge into the side after he played for the North Sydney Bears last weekend. It’s understood Lindsay Collins, Daniel Tupou and James Tedesco are also a good chance of backing up. Waerea-Hargreaves and Lodge would likely see Drew Hutchison and Daniel Suluka-Fifita fall out of the side, with Sam Verrills starting at hooker for Hutchison. Luke Keary is also a chance of returning, which would push Joseph Manu back to the centres, Sitili Tupouniua back to the second row, Nat Butcher to the bench and Egan Butcher out of the side.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons will be without both Mikaele Ravalawa and Tariq Sims, with the former injured and the later suspended. Tautau Moga, Jonathan Reuben or Max Feagai will play on the wing, while Jack de Belin will start at lock with Aaron Woods or Josh McGuire likely to rejoin the bench, although both still could with Jaiyden Hunt or Josh Kerr a chance to miss out.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Newcastle Knights
Manly Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles could welcome back both Brad Parker and Josh Aloiai this week, however, neither are guaranteed to play. It's tipped that Parker, if he comes in, would replace Morgan Harper, while Aloiai would send Sean Keppie back to the bench and Taniela Paseka out of the side. It's tipped Daly Cherry-Evans will back up.
Two Origin players in Jacob Saifiti and Kalyn Ponga are likely to be named, but may not play. Ponga would replace Tex Hoy, and Saifiti would take the spot of Pasami Saulo on the bench. There is also a chance Jayden Brailey will start for Chris Randal, although may spend another week on the bench first.
Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos
Gold Coast Titans
Phillip Sami will likely return to the side for Jamayne Isaako, while Kevin Proctor is also due to be fit and could slot in for Herman Ese'ese on the bench, although that's up in the air. On one foot, experience is important for the Titans as they look to turn around a horror run of form, however Proctor's form was abysmal before his injury.
The Broncos should welcome back all of Selwyn Cobbo, Kurt Capewell, Patrick Carrigan and Thomas Flegler from Origin camp. That should see Delouise Hoeter, Xavier Willison, Rhys Kennedy and Tyson Gamble drop out of the side.
Wests Tigers vs Penrith Panthers
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Tigers are considering a shock shake-up in the halves, with Jackson Hastings reportedly set to be named at lock, while Luke Brooks and Adam Doueihi would form the new halves combination.
James Tamou and Ken Maumalo are both also likely to return for the Tigers, with Fonua Pole reverting to the bench and Justin Matamua moving out of the side after his debut. Junior Tupou is likely to drop out if Maumalo returns.
The Panthers are expected to rest all of their Origin players. Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Apisai Koroisau, Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin are all unlikely to play, although may be named today. In their place, Sean O'Sullivan, Kurt Falls, Soni Luke, Sunia Turuva, Charlie Staines, Matt Eisenhuth and J'maine Hopgood are likely to join the team, with Mitch Kenny and Scott Sorensen moving into the starting 13.
Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders
The Storm should welcome back Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi for this one. Nick Meaney will move back to the wing, with Dean Ieremia out of the side, while Kaufusi's return will see Chris Lewis go back to the bench with Jordan Grant out of the side.
No changes are expected for the Raiders.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
No changes are expected for the Bulldogs.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Lachlan Ilias is likely to be out for the Rabbitohs, with Kodi Nikorima starting in the halves and Blake Taaffe moving onto the bench. Alex Johnston and Mark Nicholls should also return with Richie Kennar and Shaquai Mitchell both sitting out.