Canberra will be without Josh Hodgson for the remainder of the NRL season due to an ACL injury. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS

rugby league

NRL grand final rematch missing 14 stars

2020-07-15 20:33:51

It will be a grand final rematch unlike any other in the past seven years, with more than a third of combatants from the 2019 decider missing.

Just nine of Canberra’s 17 from last year’s grand final will face the Sydney Roosters on Thursday night.

Co-captain Josh Hodgson is the highest-profile casualty through injury, forwards Sia Soliola and John Bateman are also injured while halfback Aidan Sezer is now in England.

The Roosters will be without at least six of their stars from the 2019 decider with those who have left the club including superstars Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell.

Nat Butcher became the last to be ruled out on Wednesday night with a “minor injury”, with Isaac Liu to return from a rib injury in his place at lock.

Such is the strength of the 14 that won’t be involved at the SCG, they could form a formidable starting side for any club.

The 14 absentees is the most to miss a grand final rematch since 2013, when Canterbury and Melbourne were also without 14 players from their 2012 title bout.

Not that it affects the thinking of Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

“You don’t dwell on the past, you go and attack the future,” he said.

“There will be 17 players playing for us and them, so let’s go.

“I don’t think coaches have changed, I don’t think systems of play have changed.

“But you also have the knowledge of players who come in and out.”

The changes in personnel are no doubt due in part to the nine-month wait for the rematch, the longest since 2003.

The Roosters are no guarantee to go into the game with all of their stars they have named.

While Boyd Cordner is a certainty to return from a head clash, fellow co-captain Jake Friend was still to pass the last of his concussion checks in Wednesday’s captain’s run.

Brett Morris was also still needing to pull up well from the final training session on Wednesday, after missing the win over North Queensland with a groin strain.

Robinson would not confirm whether Morris would start on the right wing or if he could possibly shift to the left to keep five-try hero Matt Ikuvalu on the same side he played last week.

“We’ll have to see … We name our team but you don’t give a day’s notice on changes or things you want to do,” Robinson said.

“Brett trained well yesterday, so it will be how he walks in this morning.”

The match will be Canberra’s first at the SCG since Ricky Stuart played in their 1987 grand final loss there – the last NRL decider played at the ground.

The Roosters have since made the cricket ground a fortress, winning 11 of 12 there last year with a for-and-against of 366-104.

THE MISSING XIII

1. Latrell Mitchell

2. Daniel Tupou

3. John Bateman

4. Joey Leilua

5. Bailey Simonsson

6. Aidan Sezer

7. Cooper Cronk

8. Corey Horsburgh

9. Josh Hodgson

10. Sia Soliola

11. Victor Radley

12. Sam Verrills

13. Nat Butcher

Reserve: Emre Guler