Kalyn Ponga has officially been ruled out of the Newcastle clash with the Roosters this week.
The decision comes after Newcastle medical officer Ameer Ibrahim revealed his increasing concerns over Ponga being “bashed”, “attacked” and “hit high regularly” by opposition players.
Ibrahim’s comments have led ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys and new NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo to declare war on players illegally targeting Ponga.
The Daily Telegraph can also reveal Ibrahim was forced to urgently mend Ponga’s badly broken nose to avoid surgery in the Knights dressing room immediately after Friday night’s win over Cronulla.
“I do not like when a player is singled out because he is a star player,” V’landys said.
Check out all the teams below for Round 18.
Early Mail: Predicted changes for round 18
Casualty ward: NRL Physio’s full analysis
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WESTS TIGERS V RABBITOHS
Thursday, 10 September, Bankwest Stadium, Sydney, 7:50pm
Wests Tigers: 1. Moses Mbye, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. Joseph Leilua, 4. Adam Doueihi, 5. Asu Kepaoa, 6. Benji Marshall , 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Josh Aloiai, 9. Harry Grant, 10. Thomas Mikaele, 11.Luke Garner, 12. Luciano Leilua, 13. Alex Twal
Interchange: 14. Matthew Eisenhuth, 15. Elijah Taylor, 16. Jacob Liddle, 17. Sam McIntyre
Reserves: 18. Chris Lawrence, 19. Tommy Talau, 20. Josh Reynolds. 21. Russell Packer
Wests Tigers comment: It’s a settled Wests Tigers side with no changes to the 17 that played last week.
Rabbitohs: 1.Corey Allan, 2. Alex Johnston, 3. Campbell Graham, 4. Steven Marsters, 5. Dane Gagai, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds (c), 8. Liam Knight, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. Jaydn Su’A, 12. Bayley Sironen, 13. Cameron Murray
Interchange: 14.Mark Nicholls, 15. Jed Cartwright, 16. Patrick Mago, 17. Keaon Koloamatangi
Reserves: 18. Jaxson Paulo, 19. Ky Rodwell, 20. Troy Dargan 21. Cory Denniss
Rabbitohs comment: Dane Gagai is named to return – again. Gagai has been a late withdrawal for two weeks running but this should be the game he makes his return to the field. Jaxson Paulo is the player to make way with Gagai named on the wing and young centre Steven Marsters retained. Tevita Tatola is out replaced at prop by Liam Knight with Jed Cartwright coming on to the bench. Keaon Koloamatangi is named to play but will need to pass HIA protocols after being concussed against the Storm.
BULLDOGS V SEA EAGLES
Friday 11 September, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, 6:00pm
Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate, 2. Nick Meaney, 3. Reimis Smith, 4. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 5. Jayden Okunbor, 6. Jake Averillo, 7. Lachlan Lewis, 8. Ofahiki Ogden, 9. Jeremy Marshall-King, 10. Aiden Tolman, 11. Josh Jackson (c), 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13. Luke Thompson
Interchange: 14. Brandon Wakeham, 15. Renouf To’omaga, 16. Matt Doorey, 17. Sauaso Sue
Reserves: 19. Dean Britt, 20. Tuipulotu Katoa, 21. Tim Lafai, 23. Chris Smith
Bulldogs comment: It’s a very different backline for the Dogs with winger Jayden Okunbor to make his NRL return after being embroiled in the schoolgirl sex scandal in the pre-season. Kieran Foran (pec) is out which sees Jake Averillo slot in at five-eighth. Marcelo Montoya is out with Reimis Smith named to start at centre. While the other centre slot is filled by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak at the expense of Kerrod Holland. Dylan Napa (knee) is a big loss and his absence shifts Aiden Tolman to prop with a promotion for Luke Thompson from bench to lock. Brandon Wakeham and Suaso Sue come on to the interchange bench.
Sea Eagles: 1. Tevita Funa 2. Albert Hopoate 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper, 5. Abbas Miski 6. Cade Cust 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Jack Gosiewski 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14. Lachlan Croker 15.Corey Waddell, 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka
Reserves: 18. Haumole Olakau’atu, 19. Luke Metcalf, 20. Morgan Boyle, 21. Ben Trbojevic
Sea Eagles comment: Backline dramas continue for the Sea Eagles with Josh Schuster (ankle) and Jorge Taufua (Achilles) out of the team. Albert Hopoate shifts from centre to wing to cover for Taufua and Cade Cust comes in at five-eighth for Schuster.
PANTHERS V EELS
Friday 11 September, Panthers Stadium, Penrith, 7:55pm
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Brent Naden, 4. Stephen Crichton, 5. Brain To’o, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou (C), 9. Api Koroisau, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Liam Martin, 13. Isaiah Yeo
Interchange: 14. Tyrone May, 15. Spencer Leniu, 16. Moses Leota, 17. Zane Tetevano
Reserves: 18. Mitch Kenny 19.Kurt Capewell, 20. Matt Burton, 21. Charlie Staines
Panthers comment: Nathan Yeo is back after missing last week due to concussion. Yeo returns to lock, pushing James Fisher-Harris to prop and Moses Leota to the bench and Kurt Capewell to the reserves.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson (c), 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Jai Field, 7. Mitch Moses, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown
Interchange: 14. Ray Stone, 15. Andrew Davey, 16. Kane Evans, 17. Oregon Kaufusi
Reserves: 18. Haze Dunster, 19. Stefano Utoikamanu, 20. Will Smith, 21. Samuel Hughes
DRAGONS V RAIDERS
Saturday 12 September, WIN Stadium, Wollongong, 3:00pm
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty, 2. Jordan Pereira, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Zac Lomax, 5. Cody Ramsey, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Adam Clune , 8. Kaide Ellis, 9. Ben Hunt 10. Paul Vaughan , 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Jacob Host. 13. Cameron McInnes (c)
Interchange: 14. Billy Brittain, 15. Josh Kerr, 16. Blake Lawrie, 17. Jackson Ford
Reserves: 18. Eddie Blacker, 19. Tyrell Fuimaono, 20. Brayden Williame, 21. Max Feagai
Dragons comment: Dean Young will hand exciting rookie speedster Cody Ramsey his NRL debut in St George Illawarra’s match against Canberra on Saturday. With the Red V’s finals hopes all but gone, Young will blood Ramsey on the wing in place of Mikaele Ravalawa. Paul Vaughan (suspension) is a big inclusion and he will partner Kaide Ellis up front with last week’s starting props Blake Lawrie and Josh Kerr on the interchange bench. Tyrell Fuimaono is out.
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad, 2. Sami Valemei, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Jordan Rapana, 5. Nick Cotric , 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Tom Starling, 10. Ryan Sutton, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joseph Tapine
Interchange: 14. Saliva Havili, 15. Dunamis Lui, 16. Hudson Young, 17. Corey Harawira-Naera
Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Matt Frawley, 20. Matthew Timoko, 21. Sia Soliola
Raiders comment: No change from the 17 that lost to the Roosters last week with Tom Starling to start at hooker and Josh Papalii named to start despite injuring his shoulder.
TITANS V BRONCOS
Saturday 12 September, Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, 5:30pm
Titans: 1. AJ Brimson, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Beau Farmor, 4. Young Tonumaipea, 5. Corey Thompson, 6. Ashley Taylor, 7. Jamal Fogarty, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Moeaki Fotuaika, 11. Sam Stone, 12. Keegan Hipgrave, 13. Tyrone Peachey
Interchange: 14. Erin Clark, 15. Jai Whitbread, 16. Jai Arrow, 17. Sam Lisone
Reserves: 18. Tanah Boyd, 19. Treymain Spry, 20. Darius Farmer, 21. Nathan Peats
Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd, 2. Corey Oates, 3. Kotoni Staggs, 4. Herbie Farnworth, 5. Richard Kennar, 6. Sean O’Sullivan, 7. Tom Dearden, 8. Rhys Kennedy, 9. Issac Luke, 10.Payne Haas, 11. David Fifita, 12. Alex Glenn, 13. Patrick Carrigan.
Interchange: 14. Cory Paix, 15. Ben Te’o, 16. Xavier Coates, 17. Joe Ofahengaue
Reserves: 18. Jesse Arthars, 19. Ethan Bullemor, 20. Brodie Croft, 21. Pride Petterson-Robati
ROOSTERS V KNIGHTS
Saturday 12 September, Sydney Cricket Ground, 7:35pm
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Brett Morris, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Kyle Flanagan, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Jake Friend (c), 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Sitili Tupouniua, 13. Isaac Liu
Interchange: 14. Nat butcher, 15. Lindsay Collins, 16. Angus Crichton, 17. Sonny Bill Williams
Reserves: 18. Poasa Faamausili, 19. Mitchell Aubusson, 20. Freddy Lussick, 21. Ryan hall
Knights: 1. Tex Hoy, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Gehamat Shibasaki, 5. Starford To’a, 6. Mason Lino, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Kurt Mann, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Herman Ese’ese
Interchange: 14. Phoenix Crossland, 15. Daniel Saifiti, 16. Josh King, 17. Brodie Jones
Reserves: 18. Sione Mata’utia, 19. Pasami Saulo, 20. Tautau Moga, 21. Chris Randall
STORM V COWBOYS
Sunday 13 September, Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast, 4:05pm
Storm: 1. Nicho Hynes, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Brenko Lee, 4.Justin Olam, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenneath Bromwich, 13. Tino Faasuamaleaui
Interchange: 14. Ryley Jacks, 15. Darryn Schonig, 16. Albert Vete, 17. Isaac Lumelume
Reserves: 18. Tom Eisenhuth, 19, Sandor Earl, 20. Tui Kamikamica, 21. Max King
Cowboys: 1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Esan Marsters, 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 6. Scott Drinkwater, 7. Jake Clifford, 8. Francis Molo, 9. Reuben Cotter, 10. Jordan McLean (c), 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Mitchell Dunn, 13. Josh McGuire
Interchange: 14. Daejarn Asi, 15. John Asiata, 16. Tom Gilbert, 17. Corey Jensen
Reserves: 18. Shane Wright, 19. Jake Granville, 20. Ben Hampton, 21. Peter Hola
SHARKS V WARRIORS
Sunday 13 September, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney, 6:30pm
Sharks: 1. William Kennedy, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Connor Tracey, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 9. Blayke Brailey, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Siosifa Talakai, 13. Toby Rudolf
Interchange: 14. Teig Wilton, 15. Jack Williams, 16. Andrew Fifita, 17. Royce Hunt
Reserves: 18. Scott Sorensen, 19. Bryson Goodwin, 20. Braydon Trindall, 21. Billy Magoulias
Sharks comment: Shaun Johnson (groin/hamstring) is a huge inclusion. He replaces Chad Townsend (suspension) in the halves. Wade Graham (suspension) is replaced in the back row by Siosifa Talakai. Sione Katoa (sternum) returns on the wing pushing Bryson Goodwin to reserves.
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2. Adam Pompey, 3. Hayze Perham, 4. Peta Hiku, 5. George Jennings, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7.Chanel Harris-Tavita, 8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, 9. Karl Lawton, 10. Isaiah Papali’i, 11. Jack Murchie, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Jazz Tevaga
Interchange: 14. Wayde Egan, 15. Adam Blair, 16. Daniel Alvaro, 17. Lachlan Burr
Reserves: 18. Josh Curran, 20. Paul Turner, 21. Tom Ale, 22. Gerard Beale
Warriors comment: The Warriors have secured a deal with the Eels meaning loan pair George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro return. Jennings replaces Gerard Beale on the wing, Alvaro replaces Josh Curran on the bench. Isaiah Papali’i starts at prop with Lachlan Burr reverting to the interchange.
Originally published as NRL teams: Ponga sits for Knights, Dragons turn to youth