Home Australia Contrasting fortunes for Origin duo as Souths sack Cook and Broncos welcome Walsh

Contrasting fortunes for Origin duo as Souths sack Cook and Broncos welcome Walsh

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Three Rabbitohs NRL players appear dejected during the loss to the Sydney Roosters.

State of Origin stars Damien Cook and Reece Walsh have had contrasting fortunes ahead of round six, with the NSW hooker dismissed and the Maroons fullback set to return early from a facial fracture.

Walsh’s return is a big boost for the Broncos, who were initially expected to miss at least six weeks following a nasty clash of heads with Panthers winger Taylan May.

After reaching the grand final last season, the Broncos have had a tough start to 2024, currently sitting 10th in the NRL standings with just two wins from their first five outings.

Cook has been omitted by South Sydney as coach Jason Demetriou gambles with his team selection in a bid to save his job.

The 32-year-old’s surprising omission was a major talking point when this week’s squads were announced on Tuesday, with Parramatta releasing prolific winger Maika Sivo and Canterbury deploying Stephen Crichton at full-back for the first time.

Demetriou was expected to give Peter Mamouzelos a greater share in hooking duties with Cook, but the latter was named as the 18th man by the embattled Rabbitohs coach.

Siliva Havili features on the Souths bench to face Cronulla on Saturday and will likely work in tandem with Mamouzelos.

Souths hooker Damien Cook (centre) paid the price for his team’s shocking 1-4 start to the 2024 season.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Debutant Jye Gray starts at fullback in the absence of the suspended Latrell Mitchell, leaving Cody Walker the only survivor of the South Sydney column that took the field in round one.

Elsewhere, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur pulled off his first selection surprise of the season, leaving out Sivo as he looks to spark the club’s faltering campaign.

Fresh off an unfortunate defeat to Canberra, Arthur dropped Sivo to reserve grade and gave Dylan Brown his third-half partner in the space of a month as the Eels prepare to take on North Queensland.

Daejarn Asi replaces Blaize Talagi at five-eighth, with Morgan Harper and Bailey Simonsson named to play at center and wing respectively on Saturday.

While Parramatta have made several changes to arrest their early-season slide, the Roosters have been forced into a massive restructure while dealing with a growing number of injuries.

The Roosters, who face Newcastle on Thursday, named Joey Manu at fullback in place of James Tedesco and brought in Connor Watson at five-eighth.

Michael Jennings, who will play his 300th NRL game, has been named centre.

Canterbury, meanwhile, named Crichton at fullback in a reshuffled squad that lost Blake Taaffe and Kurt Mann to injuries as it faces Melbourne on Friday.

The Storm are resolute, but have included Nelson Asofa-Solomona among their expanded bench.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Ben Trbojevic will take over at center when Manly take on the Warriors in Auckland, where the home side will be boosted by the return of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on the wing.

For Sunday’s games, St George Illawarra will stick with Tyrell Sloan at fullback when they take on the Wests Tigers.

Benji Marshall has added Alex Seyfarth to his starting group due to John Bateman’s concussion-enforced absence.

Meanwhile, Canberra warhorse Jordan Rapana succumbed to a knee injury, with debutant Chevy Stewart replacing fullback to face Gold Coast.

Zac Hosking returns from a concussion for the Raiders, while power forward Trey Mooney comes to the bench for his first minutes of the season.

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