Representative stars Nicho Hynes and Joey Manu join high-profile Broncos recruit Reece Walsh as the big names who will miss Round 1 of the new Telstra Premiership season through injury.
Reigning Dally M Medal winner Hynes, who was the best player on the field in the NRL All Stars clash in February, picked up a calf injury at training last week and joins prop Royce Hunt (elbow) as the major omissions for the Sharks.
The Roosters and Broncos meanwhile have opted not to risk their backline talents, who both suffered facial fractures recently.
But it is believed the approach is a cautious one and both Manu and Walsh are good chances of taking the field in week two.
While those established players will miss the start of the season for their respective clubs, a rising star will get his first chance in the big time at Suncorp Stadium, when the Dolphins host the Roosters in their first ever NRL match.
In what promises to be a memorable debut regardless of the result, Isaiya Katoa has been named to be the club’s inaugural No.6 ahead of veteran Anthony Milford, following an impressive couple of games for the club in the Pre-season Challenge.
Manly custodian Tom Trbojevic will play for the first time since Round 11 last year, after an off-season which included time spent in America with renowned injury specialist Bill Knowles to strengthen his troublesome hamstring.
He joins a Manly side which includes new signing Kelma Tuilagi in the second row and former Storm squad member Cooper Johns, who is in a injury replacement for Josh Schuster.
After talk that he could be rushed into the side in similar fashion to the way Lote Tuqiri was in 2010, Wests Tigers recruit John Bateman will sit out their opener against the Titans after arriving in Australia last week.
The new-look Knights spine will be rolled out for the first time in Wellington against the Warriors, with the much-discussed move of Kalyn Ponga to five-eighth and the first outings for new signings Jackson Hastings and Lachlan Miller, who will line up at halfback and fullback respectively.
They’ll take on a Warriors outfit who have named seven new faces who weren’t at the club last year.
Some of the other positional battles of interest saw Hayze Perham win the fullback job at the Bulldogs, Sebastian Kris beat Jordan Rapana to the vacant No.1 jersey at the Raiders and Bryce Cartright named to make his first NRL start since September, 2021.