Round 14 team lists, ins and outs, Cody Walker, Jack Wighton, Rabbitohs halves, Lehi Hopoate named at fullback for Manly Sea Eagles, Nicho Hynes rested, Sharks

Rabbitohs fans have had to be patient, but the wait is finally over — Cody Walker and Jack Wighton will partner each other in the halves this week.

It’s the change many had been calling for and interim coach Ben Hornby pulled the trigger on it in Round 12… only for Walker to be a late withdrawal due to a calf injury.

But with Walker back on deck, we’ll finally see what this star-studded halves combination can do.

Meanwhile, Manly coach Anthony Seibold has made a surprise call on his fullback, the Warriors could be about to go on a winning run with a stack of players returning and Nicho Hynes’ absence raises some questions.

Here are the biggest talking points to come out of the Round 14 teams lists.

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Api backs Benji’s overseas holiday | 00:35

TEEN ROOKIE PLAYS HIMSELF INTO MANLY’S NO.1 JERSEY

Sea Eagles speedster Tolu Koula has been named to return from a shoulder injury this week — but not in the position many might’ve expected.

When Tom Trbojevic suffered a hamstring injury in Round 10, coach Anthony Seibold faced a big decision on who would replace his superstar No.1.

Previously it’s been Reuben Garrick that’s shifted to the back, but this time Seibold went all-in on Koula — who has had aspirations of a permanent switch there down the track.

The 21-year-old shone when he stepped into the role in Round 11, finishing with a try assist, three linebreak assists and over 200 running metres.

But then disaster struck when he was ruled out the following week due to an AC joint injury.

That opened the door for 19-year-old Lehi Hopoate to make his NRL debut against the Storm, of all clubs.

Hopoate started the year in New South Wales Cup playing centre before switching to fullback in Round 6 and finding a home there with four tries, three try assists and five linebreaks in six games, while also averaging four tackle busts and 166 running metres per game.

He carried that form into first grade where set up two tries, got two linebreak assists and took 17 runs for 133 metres in Manly’s upset win over Melbourne.

Evidently that performance was enough and Seibold has put his faith in Hopoate until Trbojevic returns in Round 18.

There has been talk though of Trbojevic moving to the centres long-term to ease the stress on his hamstrings. Perhaps, this next month with Hopoate at fullback might influence Seibold’s view on that.

CALVARY RETURNS FOR WOUNDED WARRIORS

The Warriors have fallen short of expectations this season but started to rediscover their mojo before their Round 13 bye.

And now, with seven players back on deck, there’s really no excuses why they can’t start finding some momentum.

The Warriors were last season’s surprise packet, going from a 15th-place finish in 2022 to the Top four and a preliminary final under rookie coach Andrew Webster.

But this year they’ve been hot and cold — and sit 13th at the halfway mark of the season.

A big part of that has no doubt been the horror run of injuries the team has endured, which all started when first-choice five-eighth Luke Metcalf, who suffered a leg fracture in Round 4.

The likes of Shaun Johnson, Kurt Capewell, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris, Rocco Berry, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Wayde Egan have all spent time on the sideline injured.

But Tuesday’s team list announcement for this week’s clash with the Cowboys would’ve been a sight for the Warriors fans’ sore eyes with a number of big additions named.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returns from an illness at fullback, centre Rocco Berry is back from a hand injury, workhorse hooker Wayde Egan returns from a concussion, inspirational leader Tohu Harris is back from a wrist injury and Kurt Capewell is back on deck after battling a calf injury. Additionally, Addin Fonua-Blake is back after being stood down for the Warriors’ last game, while Taine Tuaupiki is available again after taking some time for the birth of his first child.

The Warriors are coming off the bye, but prior to that produced their two best wins of the year with makeshift line-ups. Now, with majority of their big guns back on deck, a win over the Cowboys is a must.

They are then expecting superstar halfback Johnson to return from a pectoral injury and Round 15 and Tuivasa-Sheck to return from a hamstring injury the week after.

Could this be the beginning of the Warriors’ run for the top eight?

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SOUTHS TO FINALLY UNLEASH WIGHTON-WALKER PARTNERSHIP

This weekend’s clash against the Titans will be the first time we’ll see the halves partnership of Cody Walker and Jack Wighton for South Sydney.

After spending the first ten games in the centres, Wighton was moved to five-eighth against Parramatta in Round 12.

Souths would win the game and end a six-game losing streak, but Wighton didn’t have his best game it has to be said.

With Walker now in the line-up at halfback instead of the inexperienced Dion Teaupa, it should give Wighton a bit more of a licence to run with Walker to assume chief playmaking duties.

The former Raider is at his best when he’s taking the line on, and having Walker in the halves with him will allow him to do that.

You have to remember, Wighton has won a Dally M and a Clive Churchill in the No. 6 jersey, so with the run under the belt at five-eighth against the Eels, we will see a much improved performance

Despite South Sydney’s poor season, Walker has been mostly decent for the Bunnies.

He has 11 try assists in ten games, which is tied for 7th in the NRL this season.

A spine consisting of Walker, Wighton, Latrell Mitchell and hooker Damien Cook should be able to points on the board. Souths just better hope they can improve their league-worst defence.

If they can tighten it up, they should win their fair share of games in the back half of the year.

‘Teddy has fitted in seamlessly’ | 08:40

THE CURIOUS CASE OF NICHO’S CALF

No matter what happens in Game I on Wednesday night, or how he backs up, Nicho Hynes won’t be lining up for the Sharks against the Broncos this weekend.

Curiously, Hynes has been left out of Cronulla’s side to face the Broncos on Saturday night. Hynes hasn’t just been omitted from the starting side, but the star playmaker doesn’t feature on the extended bench either.

Barring those Origin stars on the bye in Round 14, Hynes is the only player in either of the 20-man squads that hasn’t been named this week.

Several have been listed on extended benches, leaving a chance they’ll back up, but Hynes hasn’t been named full stop.

For what it’s worth, Sharks skipper Cam McInnes has been listed as the team’s starting prop for the clash against Brisbane.

It begs the question, is Hynes’ 100% fit?

Hynes has been hampered by a calf issue since early last month and has missed a game against the Storm in Round 10 and the second half of a heavy defeat to Penrith in Round 12.

Hynes didn’t train fully at the start of NSW camp last week, but has reportedly looked good since.

Calf issues can be tricky to manage and overcome, as Hynes has experienced at times this season.

The Sharks have trod with caution of late when it comes to Hynes, so this is likely just another precautionary measure.

However, Blues fans can’t be too confident their halfback for Game I is fully healthy based on his club side leaving him out of the team entirely for this Saturday’s clash.

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