Desperate Cowboys name teen to debut
A 19-YEAR-old hooker who has signed to play with the Manly Sea Eagles from next season is the man called on to replace injured Cowboys No.9 Ray Thompson.
Jayden Hodges, a second-year National Youth Competition player and the cousin of Broncos centre Justin Hodges, will make his debut for the Cowboys in their must-win clash against the in-form Sharks in Sydney on Sunday.
The versatile Rory Kostjasyn will start at hooker, but Hodges has won the back-up dummy half role ahead of several more experienced players.
After having his jaw shattered by Knights prop Kade Snowden last weekend, Thompson is not expected to play again this season, as is the case with Snowden, who has not challenged a seven-match ban.
In Snowden's absence, Willie Mason conveniently returns for the Knights on Friday night against the Broncos, who have Alex Glenn back from injury. Glenn will play centre, with David Stagg moving to the bench.
Such is the injury plight of the Titans, who need to win to keep their finals hopes alive, coach John Cartwright has been able to name just 16 players for Sunday's crucial clash against the table-topping Roosters in Sydney.
The Titans have appealed to the NRL to give them second-tier salary cap dispensation so someone who has not played in the top grade this season is able to fill the void.
Ten of their top 25 players are unavailable because of injury and four more - Greg Bird, Luke Bailey, Brad Takairangi and Jamie Dowling - will need to pass fitness tests later in the week to front up against the Roosters, who welcome back skipper Anthony Minichiello.
For the first time since 1910, four brothers will play for an NRL team when Sam, George, Luke and Tom Burgess suit up for the Rabbitohs against the Tigers on Friday night. Playing for Annandale, coincidentally against South Sydney in 1910, were Ray, Rex, Roy and Bernard Norman.
Unable to use boom rookie Luke Brooks again, Tigers coach Mick Potter has given departing skipper Benji Marshall the opportunity to make his 200th NRL appearance.
Skipper Terry Campese returns for the Raiders in their trip to New Zealand, with Josh McCrone switched to hooker.
Rugby union-bound Sandor Earl has been dropped, Bill Tupou moves to the wing and Joel Thompson is in the centres. Blake Ferguson has not been selected.
The Eels welcome back Jarryd Hayne from injury. He replaces Jake Mullaney at fullback for the Monday night clash with the unchanged Dragons at ANZ Stadium.
For the much-anticipated Sea Eagles-Storm clash on Saturday night, Brett Stewart returns at fullback for Manly, while Anthony Watmough is rested, and Tohu Harris is back to bolster the Melbourne pack.