Some Early early mail from Fox.
8.05pm Thursday at Pirtek Stadium
Eels: Superstar winger Semi Radradra made a welcome return to Eels training on Sunday when he jumped straight off a plane and rushed to join his teammates following his four-day mercy dash back to cyclone-ravaged Fiji.
Broncos: Halfback Ben Hunt’s return from suspension will be the only change for Brisbane. The Courier-Mail’s Chris Garry reports that the Broncos are otherwise set to line up with the same side that beat Wigan in the World Club Series.
Broncos training for round one with same formation as World Club Series except Hunt at halfback. Looks like Herman Ese'ese will miss out.— Chris Garry (@Tiger_CMail) February 28, 2016
SEA EAGLES v BULLDOGS
8.05pm Friday at Brookvale Oval
Sea Eagles: Fullback Brett Stewart remains in significant doubt for Manly’s NRL season opener on Friday night due to a hamstring injury.
Stewart didn’t train with the Sea Eagles at their Narrabeen base on Monday morning, instead opting for treatment with the team physiotherapist and is at best a 50/50 proposition.
Recruit Apisai Koroisau is likely to play. He trained on Monday and shared the hooker duties with Matt Parcell.
Young gun Tom Trbojevic (leg) trained strongly on Monday and will play against the Bulldogs. Trbojevic will likely slot into fullback if Stewart is ruled out.
Bulldogs: Boom NRL youngster Brad Abbey’s gamble to shun the Warriors for Canterbury could be about to pay off.
Abbey shapes as a bolter for the Bulldogs’ round one side to face Manly on Friday after Brett Morris underwent a second round of knee surgery on Monday and faces four to six weeks on the sideline.
The 19-year-old speedster opted for the Bulldogs ahead of the Warriors, and he has rocketed into calculations for a first-grade spot during his first pre-season with the club.
He pushed his case during the Auckland Nines and played at fullback during their final trial against Melbourne.
Star recruit Will Hopoate is likely to wear the No.1 in Morris’ absence but it will open up a backline vacancy for Abbey.
The Kiwi youngster now looks set for a berth in the season opener at Brookvale Oval, which gives him a golden chance to establish himself in first grade while Morris recovers.
RAIDERS v PANTHERS
3pm Saturday at GIO Stadium
Panthers: Christian Nicolussi reports that Will Smith will wear the No. 1 jumper for Penrith, with coach Anthony Griffin preferring him ahead of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Peta Hiku.
Smith steps in for the injured Matt Moylan, who will miss at least a week with back stiffness.
Watene-Zelezniak and Hiku will play right wing and left centre respectively.
Trent Merrin is also tipped to play at lock, with Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Sam McKendry the starting front-rowers.
Meanwhile, Dean Whare is likely to miss Penrith’s opening-round NRL clash due to a calf injury.
The Kiwi centre has been all but ruled out of the match, with Waqa Blake likely to be called into the Penrith side for the game at GIO Stadium.
TIGERS v WARRIORS
5.30pm Saturday at Campbelltown Stadium
Tigers: Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods has revealed rookie rake Manaia Cherrington will be asked to play 80 minutes in the NRL season opener in coach Jason Taylor’s bid to alleviate his hooking injury crisis.
Both Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin are sidelined for at least the first month of the new NRL season, leaving Taylor to rely on his third-choice hooker to start under the new interchange rules.
Cherrington has just 11 NRL games to his credit but new captain Woods is confident the 21-year-old is up to the task, beginning with Saturday’s clash with the Warriors at Campbelltown Stadium.
COWBOYS v SHARKS
7.30pm Saturday at 1300SMILES STADIUM
Sharks: Jack Bird’s physicality is likely to get him the nod over Ben Barba at fullback for Cronulla.
Both Bird and Barba impressed at various stages in the No.1 jumper during last month’s trials, but Sharks coach Shane Flanagan admits he’s enamoured by Bird’s bigger frame.
“I saw some things over the two trials that I really liked from him at fullback,” Flanagan said.
“(But) he saved a try there one-on-one that not too many people could do - be able to hold up Brenton Lawrence over the tryline, flipped him on his back.
“That’s the physicality of Birdy at fullback.”
ROOSTERS v RABBITOHS
4pm Sunday at Allianz Stadium
Roosters: Exciting rookie Latrell Mitchell is set to be unleashed for his NRL debut against South Sydney, according to Fox Sports.
Mitchell is expected to be named at right centre, while Shaun Kenny-Dowall will be named on the right wing, with Dale Copley and Daniel Tupou on the other side of the field.
TITANS v KNIGHTS
6.30pm Sunday at Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: Gold Coast coach Neil Henry is weighing up whether to run a Maroons forward or a debutant in the centres for the season opener.
The Gold Coast Bulletin reports that Chris McQueen and Nathan Davis are in contention for a backline spot.
“We’ve got Anthony Don and Meady (David Mead) on the wings, it’s whether or not we go Chris McQueen in the centres or give Nathan Davis a debut,’’ Henry said.