The Sydney Roosters will be looking to give their NRL premiership defence a kick-start when they welcome back Sonny Bill Williams for their blockbuster Friday night clash with Canterbury.
Williams picked up a three-game suspension for a shoulder charge on South Sydney’s George Burgess, but is due to return to face his former club at Allianz Stadium.
The New Zealand superstar said this week it had been difficult watching from the sidelines and said he feels extra responsibility to perform following last Friday’s loss to Manly.
“I have been training hard and ready now to get out there and play,” he said.
The Roosters will be without Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for the game after he took a one-match ban for a careless high tackle on Manly’s Glenn Stewart.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, head into the match following a tumultuous week that saw them rip up Andrew Fifita’s contract after the Cronulla prop said in an interview he wished he had chosen rugby union over his big-money Canterbury deal.
The Dogs have named an unchanged line-up to that which easily accounted for the Melbourne Storm in Perth last weekend.
James Graham endured a torrid night in the win over the Storm, and the Roosters will look to get stuck into the prop at every opportunity.
In Friday night’s other match, Queensland centre Justin Hodges won’t have to worry about captaincy duties as he returns for the Broncos against Parramatta.
Coach Anthony Griffin declared Hodges would definitely make his return from a snapped achilles tendon against Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium after he completed training on Thursday.
However, Griffin has instructed the Test and Queensland centre to focus purely on his own positional role.
Hodges hasn’t played since being named the Broncos co-captain with Corey Parker when Sam Thaiday was stripped of the leadership in the pre-season.
Griffin said little attention had been given to dividing up the on-field captaincy duties as he eased the 31-year-old back into NRL action.
“There’s not a great deal of focus on that at the moment,” the coach said. “He just needs to concentrate on himself at the moment, and get himself through.
“Corey has been doing a great job leading the team so I don’t think that will change too much.
“The thing for us tomorrow night is that we all perform around (Hodges) and he’s just got to make his tackles and do his job.”
Hodges snapped his achilles tendon against St George Illawarra last August – the second time he’s suffered the injury.
While his return comes six weeks earlier than expected, Griffin said his battle was now more mental than physical.
“It’s going to be hard for him in the next 24 hours. He’s had some big injuries – both achilles,” he said.
“Hopefully once he gets on the field and feel the contact that will ease his nerves.”
Part of Parramatta’s improvement has been the addition of former Broncos utility Corey Norman at five-eighth.
Norman had been groomed to be Brisbane’s playmaker before leaving Red Hill last year.
Although disappointed at the painful defection, Griffin denied there would be a special reception for the 22-year-old.
“It was hard to see him go but that’s 12 months ago now,” he said.