Late Mail, teams in and out, injuries, selection news; Alex Johnston injury, Panthers vs Rabbitohs; Cowboys vs Eels, Tom Opacic

South Sydney flyer Alex Johnston is rated a 50/50 chance of being fit for the preliminary final clash with the Panthers.

Johnston was forced from the field against the Sharks and is racing the clock to be fit.

It has posed a significant headache for Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.

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The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio said on NRL 360 it was a pain management issue.

“The catch is this, Johnston is rated a 50-50 chance as of today. It’s a stomach abdomen problem, it’s not something you can needle. It’s about the pain threshold and whether he can rehab in time to get out on the footy field,” he said.

”he fact that he left the field the other night isn’t ideal and that’s what worrying for South Sydney — if he does play, does he finish the match?

NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said the injury could significantly impact Johnston performance should he suit up on Saturday night.

“The thing is too with that, it’s not just the pain threshold,” he said.

“Those sort of stomach issues really impact you and you just physically can’t do what you’re trying to do.

“As brave as you want to be or as hard as you try, you just physically can’t get there, your body stops you from doing it and that’s a big risk to take into a game.

Josh Mansour and Richard Kennard have been named as reserves should Johnston be ruled out.

Read on for all the Late Mail for the Preliminary Finals.


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North Queensland Cowboys v Parramatta Eels, 7.50pm AEST at Queensland Country Bank Stadium Stadium

Cowboy’s team: 1 Scott Drinkwater 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Valentine Holmes 4 Peta Hiku 5 Murray Taulagi 6 Tom Dearden 7 Chad Townsend 8 Jordan McLean 9 Reece Robson 10 Reuben Cotter 11 Tom Gilbert 12 Jeremiah Nanai 13 Jason Taumalolo 14 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 15 Luciano Leilua 16 Coen Hess 17 Griffin Neame 18 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 19 Tomas Chester 20 Jake Granville 21 Brendan Elliot 22 Ben Hampton

Player’s cut:

latemail:The Cowboys are expected to keep faith in the same 17 that got the job done against the Sharks in week one of the finals. Luciano Leilua has been named on the bench where he has genuinely played in recent weeks despite being named in the starting team.

Els team: 1st Clinton Gutherson 2nd Maika Sivo 3rd Viliami Penisini 4th Tom Opacic 5th Waqa Blake 6th Dylan Brown 7th Mitchell Moses 8th Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9th Reed Mahoney 10th Junior Paulo 11th Shaun Lane 12th Isaiah Papali ‘i 13 Ryan Matterson 14 Bryce Cartwright 15 Jacob Arthur 16 Oregon Kaufusi 17 Marata Niukore 18 Makahesi Makatoa 19 Bailey Simonsson 20 Nathan Brown 21 Ofahiki Ogden 22 Ky Rodwell

Player’s cut:

latemail: Tom Opacic is in doubt with a hamstring injury despite being named. The Daily Telegraph’s Dave Riccio believes it is unlikely Opacic will play. “Opacic has got this hamstring problem and the scans came back a lot more positive than first thought,” Riccio said on NRL 360. “But I just think it is a bridge too far going into a must win prelim that Opacic plays. Parramatta will look at the options to replace him and it will either be Marata Niukore moving to the centres. He is a big body and has done the job before. It allows them not to move Waqa Blake who regained his confidence last week on the wing. Or they can draft Bailey Simonsson into that wing or center spot. But I think Opacic is at long odds to play. But Parramatta wants to give him every opportunity to prove himself.” Should Opacic be ruled out and Niukore play in the centres, Makahesi Makatoa would come back onto the bench after he was pushed to the 18th man by Bryce Cartwright.

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs, 7.50pm AEST at Accor Stadium

Panther’s team: 1 Dylan Edwards 2 Charlie Staines 3 Izack Tago 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Brian To’o 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 Moses Leota 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Mitch Kenny 15 Scott Sorensen 16 Spencer Leniu 17 Jaeman Salmon 18 Sean O’Sullivan 19 Matt Eisenhuth 20 J’maine Hopgood 21 Sunia Turuva 22 Chris Smith

Player’s cut:

latemail: Charlie Staines comes into the side for the suspended Taylor Maybut Brian To’o will swap wings with Staines to partner Izack Tago on the right edge. Api Koroisau has been named to start but could come off the bench in a swap with Mitch Kenny as happened in the Panthers’ first final against the Eels.

Rabbitoh’s team: 1 Latrell Mitchell 2 Alex Johnston 3 Isaiah Tass 4 Campbell Graham 5 Taane Milne 6 Cody Walker 7 Lachlan Ilias 8 Tevita Tatola 9 Damien Cook 10 Mark Nicholls 11 Keaon Koloamatangi 12 Jai Arrow 13 Cameron Murray 14 Kodi Nikorima 15 Hame Sele 16 Michael Chee Kam 17 Jed Cartwright 18 Davvy Moale 19 Blake Taaffe 20 Josh Mansour 21 Richard Kennar 22 Jacob Host

Player’s cut:

late mail: Alex Johnston will be given right up until the last moment to prove his fitness. The winger is currently rated a 50/50 chance of playing with Richard Kennar other Josh Mansour named as reserved. The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio said he believed Souths could go with Kennar should Johnston be ruled out.

“Richard Kennard or Josh Mansour, I really feel like the ghosts that have unfolded as far as Mansour’s past performances are concerned,” he said on NRL 360 on Tuesday.

“I think it’ll be enough to sway the Bunnies away from picking Mansour against his former team. I’d lean towards Kennar.” second rower Jai Arrow is expected to play despite his nagging groin injury. Jed Cartwright replaces the injured Siliva Havili on the bench.

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