NRL Round 5 Teams: Stars back on Storm’s horizon, key Rabbitoh hit for six, tough Bulldog played on with broken jaw


Melbourne’s hopes of bringing down the Broncos on Thursday have received a huge boost with six players back on deck for the Round 5 clash at AAMI Park, headlined by their star halves duo.

Jahrome Hughes will return after serving his one-game ban for bumping a referee while fellow playmaker Cameron Munster is on track to make his first appearance for 2024.

Munster missed all three of Melbourne’s matches before the bye but is expected to play for the first time since suffering a groin injury when he slipped getting out of the shower in the pre-season.

Doubts were cast over those plans last week after Storm great Cameron Smith was caught on a hot mic telling SEN radio co-host Denan Kemp that Munster could “hardly run”. But Munster’s condition has been improving and he has resumed full training.

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Melbourne expect centre Reimis Smith to return from the rib injury that sidelined him mid-game against the Knights, and Joe Chan could return from the hand infection that required surgery.

Former Storm captain Christian Welch is expected to face the Broncos after shaking off concussion symptoms while Kiwi prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is a chance to play after getting through two games at NSW Cup level to get back to full fitness following his hamstring tear. 

Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston is out for as much as six weeks, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report, after tearing his hamstring while Canterbury will be without second-rower Jacob Preston for nearly as long after it was revealed he played on with a broken jaw during the 20-16 loss to Souths on Good Friday. 

He is set to miss at least three weeks due to the hairline fracture while winger Josh Addo-Carr (concussion) is no certainty for this Friday’s Allianz Stadium fixture against the Roosters. 

Dolphins utility Max Plath (2-3 matches for a hip drop) and Canterbury forward Kurtis Morrin (2-3 for a dangerous throw) are the only players facing suspension thus far.

Each player has carved a niche at their team for their work ethic in doing the dirty work around the ruck but are both likely to enter an early guilty plea to avoid risking a third week on the sidelines.

Round 4 teams

Melbourne vs Brisbane at AAMI Park: 8pm, Thursday April 4

Storm: Cameron Munster (groin) is aiming to return while halves partner Jahrome Hughes will make his comeback from his one-game ban for pushing a referee. Their pack will also be strengthened by Christian Welch (concussion), Joe Chan (hand infection) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hamstring) being available although Craig Bellamy has been cagey about the Kiwi prop’s timeframe to return to NRL level from the NSW Cup.

Centre Reimis Smith (ribs) is another likely in for the Storm but Sua Fa’alogo will need another week out with his ankle problem.

Broncos: Payne Haas (knee), Reece Walsh (cheekbone) and Brendan Piakura (ankle) are likely to be out for at least three more weeks so no changes expected to the team which caned the Cowboys.

Jacob Preston. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Canterbury vs Sydney at Accor Stadium: 6pm, Friday April 5

Bulldogs: Josh Addo-Carr (concussion) is again a doubtful proposition with Blake Wilson set to regain a wing spot if he’s out. Second-rower Jacob Preston (jaw) will be unavailable until the end of April at the earliest.

Roosters: Nat Butcher was charged with a careless high tackle from Thursday night’s loss to Penrith but is free to pay after copping a fine of $1000. Fellow forward Lindsay Collins is a slight chance to make an early comeback from a hamstring strain.

Newcastle vs St George Illawarra at McDonald Jones Stadium: 8pm, Friday April 5

Knights: Kiwi prop Leo Thompson will return from a one-game ban while Dane Gagai sat out Sunday’s clash with the Warriors due to an undisclosed medical condition.

Dragons: Shane Flanagan is unlikely to make any changes to the team which upset Manly in Wollongong although the future of Zac Lomax remains up in the air with the disgruntled winger potentially asking for a release as early as this week.

South Sydney vs Warriors at Accor Stadium: 3pm, Saturday April 6

Rabbitohs: Veteran winger Alex Johnston suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Canterbury and won’t be sighted until May while Shaquille Mitchell (concussion) is a maybe this weekend. Izaac Tu’itupou Thompson is likely to come in for Johnston on the left flank.

Warriors: Dylan Warriors did not suit up for Sunday’s stoush with the Knights due to an ankle problem while fullbacks Taine Tuaupiki (concussion) and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (hamstring) should be available.

Manly vs Penrith at 4 Pines Park: 5.30pm, Saturday April 6

Sea Eagles: Matt Lodge is closing in on a return from his knee injury while Josh Schuster looks set to stay in the NSW Cup for at least another week as he works his way back to full fitness after a disrupted pre-season.

Panthers: Kiwi prop James Fisher-Harris is unlikely to be back from his shoulder problem but second-rower Scott Sorensen is an outside chance to overcome his knee injury.

Max Plath was sin binned for this dangerous tackle on Phillip Sami.

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Dolphins vs Wests at Suncorop Stadium: 7.35pm, Saturday April 6

Dolphins: Max Plath looks set to cop a two-game ban for a hip-drop tackle while Anthony Milford needs to prove his fitness after picking up a hamstring strain in the win over the Titans.

Tigers: Front-rower Alex Twal and hooker Jake Simpkin are available for selection after missing Round 4 due to the concussion protocols. 

Cowboys vs Gold Coast at QCB Stadium: 4.05pm, Sunday April 7

Cowboys: With Heilum Luki (ankle), Jamayne Taunoa-Brown (Achilles) and Coen Hess (knee) sidelined long term, Todd Payten will have to call up players from the Queensland Cup if he wants to swing the axe after their lacklustre loss to Brisbane.

Titans: Front-rower Keenan Palasia (thigh) could be coming back to bolster the pack after missing the loss to the Dolphins. 

Elliott Whitehead. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Canberra vs Parramatta at GIO Stadium: 6.15pm, Sunday April 7 

Eels: No returning players on the horizon for Brad Arthur as he looks to negotiate a short turnaround after the Easter Monday meeting with the Tigers.

Raiders: Elliott Whitehead sat out Sunday’s trip to Cronulla with a calf problem. Winger Albert Hopoate (arm) is aiming to return as well.

Bye – Sharks

Braden Hamlin-Uele (knee) and Dale Finucane (concussion) are hoping to return in Round 6 while suspended second-rower Briton Nikora will definitely be back. Fellow forwards Royce Hunt (calf) and Toby Rudolf (ankle) will remain on the sidelines for a few more weeks. 

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