Milford axed, Hynes and Manu out as NRL teams named
Wayne Bennett has pulled the trigger and dropped five-eighth Anthony Milford from the Dolphins' team for their first NRL match against the Sydney Roosters, naming 19-year-old debutant Isaiya Katoa to start at No.6.
The teams for round one were released on Tuesday with Cronulla No.7 Nicho Hynes out of the side to play South Sydney at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday night after succumbing to a calf strain. His spot will be taken by Braydon Trindall.
Canberra named centre Sebastian Kris to start the season at fullback against North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday night with Xavier Savage out for eight weeks with a broken jaw. Star Raiders prop Josh Papali'i is also absent with a calf complaint.
English import John Bateman is out of the Wests Tigers side to play Gold Coast on Sunday afternoon with an ankle injury. Shawn Blore will start in the back-row alongside new signing Isaiah Papali'i.
Brisbane confirmed fullback Reece Walsh will miss the Friday night clash in Penrith with a fractured cheek. Winger Selwyn Cobbo is his replacement.
The biggest selection bombshell is Milford's omission after the 206-game veteran played in the World Cup final for Samoa.
Coach Bennett never dropped the 28-year-old in four seasons at the Broncos where he was one of his favourite players.
Former Penrith prodigy Katoa, who played three Tests at the World Cup for Tonga, has outshone his older teammate in pre-season and captain Jesse Bromwich said that is what the selection came down to.
"Milf has got a fight in front of him and I'd love to see him step up and get that jersey back," Bromwich said.
Bromwich said Katoa was ready to step up.
"At the World Cup he did some really good things too and I think kids these days are just so much more confident than they used to be," Bromwich said.
"He has done a really good job at training and showed he has got the potential and skill to be a really good first-grader. You've got to start somewhere.
"I have full confidence in him. He has a mature head and is really good at organising."
The Roosters have lost Joey Manu to a facial fracture for the Dolphins clash with his spot taken by Corey Allan.
The Bulldogs are facing a front-rower crisis with England prop Luke Thompson sustaining a broken ankle at training on Tuesday and set to be sidelined for at least six months. Thompson joins fellow front-rower Tevita Pangai Jnr, Chris Patolo and Sam Hughes on the sidelines for the away showdown with Manly on Sunday.
Canterbury named Ex-Shark Franklin Pele and young gun Jayden Tanner on the bench.
Parramatta have back-row injury woes and have given starts to Bryce Cartwright and Matt Doorey in a new-look pack against Melbourne at CommBank Stadium on Thursday night.
The Storm are missing nine of their top 30 due to injury. Former New Zealand rugby sevens star Will Warbrick will debut on the wing after the giant Olympian carved up in the pre-season.
Flying Titans winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira has been given an NRL debut by coach Justin Holbrook against the Tigers after he scored a stunning six tries in two NRL trials.
South Sydney confirmed Blake Taafe in the No.14 jersey for their round-one clash with the Sharks.
Newcastle centre Dane Gagai (hamstring) is out of the side to play the Warriors in Wellington on Friday night with Enari Tuala recovering from a pectoral injury to take his place.