Cult hero Stargroth Amean has won back the starting fullback role for the PNG Hunters, while captain Dane Hogan will return for Sunshine Coast Falcons, ahead of Sunday’s grand final rematch.
Their presence will bolster a much-anticipated XXXX Rivalry Round match-up between two sides kept apart by just two points at the culmination of last year’s thrilling Intrust Super Cup decider.
Both teams are coming off indifferent form, with PNG suffering a 26-14 loss to the Northern Pride in their last start after a win against Ipswich in round one, while Sunshine Coast beat Wynnum Manly 23-22 after a loss to Burleigh the week before.
Amean is one of the best stories in the colourful landscape of PNG rugby league, a medical science student with dreams of becoming a doctor, and a survivor who has bounced back from several serious injuries.
He takes back the custodian duties from Alex Wera, who has moved to centre, while Bendon Goturo comes on to the wing and Nixon Putt slides in closer to the ruck at second row.
Sunshine Coast skipper Hogan returns after injuring his hamstring in the lead-up to last week’s game.
His return forces Louis Geraghty to the bench, while Harrison Muller comes in at lock, with Jacob Hind back to the interchange. Connor Donehue has been named on the bench as extra cover in jersey 19.
Elsewhere, there are some big names missing across the league, with eyes peeled to see if they become late inclusion on the weekend.
Todd Carney is due to miss a second straight game for the Northern Pride, while Ben Hannant’s brief debut in the Intrust Super Cup before injury sees him replaced by Christopher Law at Burleigh.
Easts has omitted Young Tonumaipe’a, Billy Walters and Brandon Smith, all of whom have been named on an extended bench for the Melbourne Storm, along with backrower Brett Greinke.
One interesting inclusion for the Tigers in jersey 18 is former Broncos and Knights up-and-comer Harry Pondekas, who last year played universities league with Australian Catholic University.
Joe Bond has been named in the five-eighth role usually occupied by Walters, while Kea Pere has been named in place of Tonumaipe’a.
Redcliffe has responded to two losses on the trot by apparently shaking up its front row.
Sam Anderson and Nathan Watts are named as the starting props, with Hugh Pratt at hooker, meaning Toby Rudolf and James Taylor slide to the bench and last week’s rake Jake Turpin is out.
The Dolphins face a Wynnum Manly side which has undergone few changes, with Patrick Carrigan replacing Alex Barr in the second row and Adam Tuimavave-Garrard coming on to the bench.
Mackay welcomes back influential five-eighth Nicho Hynes, with Mitchell Dunn reverting to the bench, while Kellen Jenner replaces Shane Wright in the forwards.
The Cutters oppse a CQ Capras team smarting after a 36-16 loss to Norths.
The Capras have shifted Zeik Foster from half to fullback, with Maipele Morseau out, Aaron Teroi coming in as the starting half, Bill Cullen at prop and James Hill in at lock.
At Davies Park, West End, Japanese and Torres Strait Islander-heritage player Gehamat Shibasaki will make his Cup debut for Norths in the centres, as the Devils take on the Souths Logan Magpies.
The Broncos Under 20 stand-out is joined in the Norths team by round one hero Alex Bishop who returns at hooker.
Souths Logan has just one change, with Sam Lavea named at prop and Rhys Melville reverting to the bench.