Manly Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey is likely to drop Jorge Taufua after the winger’s horrendous opening finals game.
The normally reliable Taufua has been having an unhappy September.
On Friday he struggled under the high ball as South Sydney followed North Queensland’s game plan of targeting him on the flank. Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds continued to pepper him, resulting in veteran Lote Tuqiri successfully leaping for a try.
The Rabbitohs had watched Taufua struggle against the Cowboys in the final game of the regular season.
Either Cheyse Blair or Clint Gutherson will come into the side for Taufua, who was on the verge of NSW selection earlier this year.
Toovey will make a final call on Taufua’s inclusion and finalise other selections before the captain’s run on Friday.
Hookers Matt Ballin (broken leg) and Jayden Hodges (neck) will have fitness tests on Friday.
Ballin is unlikely to be cleared to play. Hodges is expected to play dummy half against the Bulldogs, who are expected to be unchanged, at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Manly prop Jason King is one loss away from retiring.
“I can’t be thinking along those lines,” King said of retirement. “I don’t want to be side-tracked about my last game.
“We had some points scored against us on the weekend. We’ll have to be strong in the middle. [South Sydney] grabbed that momentum. It’s hard to put a stop to it.
“A lot of areas we’ve looked at [to improve them]. Our kick defence was one, the other was our kick chase – and a lot of things about our defence. This week the focus has been our defence.”
King will need to lead an inexperienced Manly forward pack. He has told his young teammates not to get caught up in last week’s big loss to South Sydney.
“I’m a leader at the club,” King said. “I do every thing I can do be a leader, not just of the forward pack but of the team in general.
“It’ll be along the lines of encouragement and focusing on the positives and not dwelling on our past performance and doing everything you can in your preparation to play the best you possibly can.”
Meanwhile, at Allianz Stadium on Friday night, the Roosters will welcome back No.9 Jake Friend from a chest injury and Aidan Guerra from suspension. Boyd Cordner (knee) will also play against the Cowboys.
North Queensland have named veteran Glenn Hall to replace the suspended Tariq Sims in the back row.