Contrasting fortunes for State of Origin stars as Rabbitohs axe Damien Cook and Broncos set to deploy Reece Walsh

In short: The Rabbitohs have axed State of Origin hooker Damien Cook as coach Jason Demetriou fights to save his job.

Reece Walsh has been named to make a shock return to the Broncos side after missing just two matches due to a facial fracture.
What’s next? Cook’s Rabbitohs side will face the Sharks on Saturday night, while Walsh will make his return against the Dolphins on Friday night.
State of Origin stars Damien Cook and Reece Walsh have had contrasting fortunes ahead of Round 6, with the NSW hooker axed and the Maroons fullback set to make a shock early return from a facial fracture.

Walsh’s return is a major boost for the Broncos who was initially expected to miss at least six weeks following a sickening head clash with Panthers winger Taylan May.

After reaching the grand final last season, the Broncos have gotten off to a rocky start in 2024, currently sitting 10th on the NRL ladder 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 shock omission was a major talking point when this week’s teams were announced on Tuesday, with Parramatta axing prolific winger Maika Sivo and Canterbury deploying Stephen Crichton at fullback for the first time.

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

Siliva Havili is listed on Souths’ bench to face Cronulla on Saturday and will likely work in tandem with Mamouzelos.
Debutant Jye Gray starts at fullback in the absence of the suspended Latrell Mitchell, leaving Cody Walker as the only survivor of the South Sydney spine that took to the field in round one.

Elsewhere, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has pulled his first selection shock of the season, dropping Sivo as he seeks to spark the club’s spluttering campaign.

Fresh off a hapless defeat to Canberra, Arthur has dropped Sivo to reserve grade and given Dylan Brown his third halves partner in the space of a month as the Eels prepare to face North Queensland.

Daejarn Asi replaces Blaize Talagi at five-eighth, with Morgan Harper and Bailey Simonsson named to play at centre and wing respectively on Saturday.
While Parramatta has made several changes to halt its early-season slide, the Roosters have been forced to make a mass shake-up as they deal with a rising injury toll.

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

Michael Jennings, who will bring up his 300th NRL game, has been named at centre.

Canterbury, meanwhile, have named Crichton at fullback in a reshuffled side that has lost Blake Taaffe and Kurt Mann to injury as they head to face Melbourne on Friday.

The Storm are settled but have listed Nelson Asofa-Solomona among their extended bench.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Ben Trbojevic will fill in at centre as Manly face the Warriors in Auckland, where the home side will be boosted by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s return on the wing.

For Sunday’s games, St George Illawarra has stuck by Tyrell Sloan at fullback as they face the Wests Tigers.

Benji Marshall has brought Alex Seyfarth into his starting pack because of John Bateman’s concussion-enforced absence.

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

Zac Hosking returns from concussion for the Raiders, as powerful forward Trey Mooney comes onto the bench for his first minutes of the season

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