NRL Rd 7 - Panthers v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Campbell Graham of the Rabbitohs is tackled during the round seven NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on June 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

All 16 team lists for Round 23 have been released, with plenty in the way of changes and big calls from coaches as the finals approach.

Here are all the big talking points.

RELATED: Round 23 team lists

Did the Rabbitohs drop the right player for Graham's return?
The Rabbitohs will welcome back Campbell Graham from injury this weekend - another boost on their run to the finals.

Graham's form may have been a little average immediately prior to his injury, but so was most of the South Sydney outfit. There was never any question about him regaining his spot in the side the moment he was fit and able to do so, and that's exactly what Jason Demetriou has done this weekend.

Returning into the centres, the decision has been made to drop impressive youngster Izaac Thompson, with Isaiah Tass and Jaxson Paulo retaining their spots - the later pushed out to the wing.

Paulo certainly has the talent to be a first-grade player, but hasn't shown a lot this year. That hasn't been aided by constant chopping and changing of positions, and while it's clear his favoured spot is on the wing, Thompson has been excellent in his first couple of NRL appearances.

On form alone, he deserved his call up, and probably deserved to remain in the top grade. An intriguing call from Demetriou, and one that may not be 100 per cent correct.

Will Chanel Harris-Tavita find a way back into the Warriors' side in 2022?
Daejarn Asi was mighty impressive last week, and has recently spoken out on wanting to let his footy do the talking as he pushes for a new contract in 2023.

Currently unsigned, Asi will have another chance to impress with the Warriors this weekend as they take on the North Queensland Cowboys in the early game on Friday.

His performance last week was was bought him the extra week though, with Chanel Harris-Tavita named at 18th man and not far from a return.

Given Harris-Tavita is about to call time on his career for now, he may struggle to get back into the team, with the Warriors weighing up whether to keep Asi beyond the end of the season after his mid-year switch from the Cowboys.

Every game is mighty important for Asi just at the moment, and you can expect him to put on another show on Friday.

NRL Rd 1 - Warriors v Titans
GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Chanel Harris-Tavita of the Warriors during the round one NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Gold Coast Titans at Central Coast Stadium, on March 13, 2021, in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

An early return for Mitchell Moses
The Parramatta Eels, who can't seem to string two weeks of consistent form together to save their lives, will welcome back Mitchell Moses a week early in what is a huge boost for the blue and gold.

The star halfback injured his finger a couple of weeks ago and wasn't due back until Round 24 at the very earliest, but was named on Tuesday afternoon for this Saturday afternoon's match with the Canterbury Bulldogs.

The Eels will be out for revenge in the match given the shock Queen's Birthday beatdown Canterbury handed them a number of weeks ago, and Parramatta need the points - and the for and against.

Moses and Dylan Brown picking up where they left off will be of paramount importance, with the side otherwise virtually at full strength, although Bailey Simonsson is yet to return.

Cronulla must keep Lachlan Miller in their 17
This is an exceedingly difficult scenario for the Sharks given the amount of talent they have in their outside backs, but Lachlan Miller is a must have in their 17 moving forward.

In much the same way the multi-talented Connor Tracey made himself a player that needs to be in the starting 13, Miller has shown enough now that the ex-rugby convert not only should have a spot in the 17, but is likely high on the shopping list for a lot of other clubs come November 1.

A struggle for constant game time at the Sharks, where he has only played a pair of games, could still well ultimately see him leave the club.

Despite that, his form is at the point that he simply must be playing as much football as possible, whether it be at fullback, wing, centre, halves or from the bench as a genuine all-round backline utility.

His speed and footwork leave me with little doubt he could slot into a lock forward role the same way Dylan Walker does at Manly too if push came to shove.

Could Dylan Walker be about to have a lock audition?
Speaking of Dylan Walker, and he is now going to have the final three weeks of the season to prove he can fill the role of a starting lock ahead of his move to the New Zealand Warriors in 2023 due to the unfortunate season-ending injury for Jake Trbojevic.

While I've previously made the argument that Trbojevic is now more of a prop in the modern game than he is a lock as he was at the start of his career, Walker will bring plenty of differing skills to the role for Manly over the next three weeks.

The utility will be looking to force his way into the starting side at the Warriors next year, and his move to lock gives him the chance to prove it should be in 13.

With Josh Curran likely to shift permanently onto the edge with the departure of Euan Aitken, and Tohu Harris more likely than not to partner Addin Fonua-Blake in the front row, it means the 13 role is wide open.

A ball-playing, fast-footed player like Walker could be exactly what the Warriors need, and the next three weeks will be critical in showing it as the case.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Dylan Walker of the Sea Eagles looks dejected after the try to Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs during the NRL Semi Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Manly Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium on September 20, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

What good does playing Charlie Staines from the bench do?
The Penrith Panthers continue to play a back off the bench as the season winds down, and while that role normally belongs to Jaeman Salmon, it's starting to feel like they are doing it because it's simply "the done thing."

Most teams do it in the modern game, but Charlie Staines, who drops out of the fullback role to accommodate Dylan Edwards' return from injury this weekend, makes little to no sense in the role.

That is even more so the case when you consider Mitch Kenny - a specialist hooker who can play some lock forward - is also on the bench.

While the need for someone to cover backline positions in a forward pack who otherwise can't is necessary, a player like Kurt Fallas or Robert Jennings would far better serve the role than Staines is able to given their marginal ability to play in other positions if push came to shove.

Having someone sit on the bench for 80 minutes as injury cover does no good for the team and no good for the player, particularly in what is likely to be an extremely physical contest against South Sydney.

A Newcastle debut one to watch
Krystian Mapapalangi, a player who can turn out at both centre and wing, has been named to make his debut this weekend for the Knights.

The club are in an almost seemingly constant state of crisis, with Bradman Best and Enari Tuala stood down this weekend after missing the team bus in Brisbane last Sunday.

It has paved the way for Mapapalangi to come into the side ahead of Hymel Hunt, and he will be one to watch from the outset.

Only 19 years of age, the Burwood-born young outside back comes into the competition with plenty of raps on him, having served as 18th man a few weeks ago during a loss to the Bulldogs.

A player to watch next year, his first taste of NRL action could be intriguing.

1 COMMENT

  1. Lachlan Miller – the one spot in which the Sharks lack depth seems to be five-eighth. If Matt Moylan is unavailable, the Sharks slot in Braydon Trindall, but he is not as good a partner for Hynes as Moyland.

    Making Miller the nominated 5/8 replacement might make sense given that Moyland has a history of injuries. Sure, he has been better this year, but the older he gets the more dangerous to rely on him being injury-free.

    Having said that, Miller’s best bet is to move on. He is already 28 (happy birthday for last Sunday, Lachie !) and he can’t afford to hang around for a couple of years to get a regular first team spot at Cronulla. He would be best off heading for some place like the Dolphins where he would be guaranteed a start given their backline is pretty talent-strapped.

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