While there might be no NRL this weekend, all the biggest names are still in action as the 2019 Representative Round takes centre stage with a number of blockbuster games coming up!
Beginning on Friday night as the Women's State of Origin lights up North Sydney Oval, there's no shortage of rugby league action throughout the week with a slew of international Test matches on Saturday before the Men's State of Origin rounds it off on Sunday night in Perth with the series on the line for New South Wales.
Don't miss a minute of the action, with everything you need for the week below!
REPRESENTATIVE ROUND SCHEDULE
|Friday, June 21||U/18 Women — NSW vs. QLD||5:45pm||North Sydney Oval||-|
|Friday, June 21||Cook Islands vs. South Africa||7:00pm||Ringrose Park||-|
|Friday, June 21||Women — NSW vs. QLD||7:45pm||North Sydney Oval||FOX/NINE|
|Saturday, June 22||Women — New Zealand vs. Samoa||1:10pm||Mt. Smart Stadium||FOX/GEM|
|Saturday, June 22||New Zealand vs. Tonga||3:40pm||Mt. Smart Stadium||FOX/GEM|
|Saturday, June 22||Women — Fiji vs. Papua New Guinea||3:40pm||Leichhardt Oval||-|
|Saturday, June 22||Fiji vs. Lebanon||5:40pm||Leichhardt Oval||FOX/GEM|
|Saturday, June 22||Samoa vs. Papua New Guinea||7:40pm||Leichhardt Oval||FOX/GEM|
|Sunday, June 23||NSW vs. QLD||7:50pm||Optus Stadium||NINE|
Why Maguire brought Benji back into Kiwis fold
WESTS TIGERS PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wests Tigers will have a number of contracted players in action throughout the Representative Round, starting with four women who will run out at North Sydney Oval for the U/18's and senior Blues sides. Of particular notoriety is Botille Vette-Welsh, who becomes the first Wests Tigers female to play State of Origin.
- Emily Curtain (NSW U/18's Women)
- Sophie Curtain (NSW U/18's Women)
- Janaya Bent (NSW U/18's Women)
- Botille Vette-Welsh (NSW Women)
On Saturday, Benji Marshall and Esan Marsters take centre stage for Michael Maguire's Kiwis as they face Tonga, while Robbie Farah, Bilal Maarbani, Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee Kam and David Nofoaluma are all set to feature at Leichhardt Oval as Lebanon take on Fiji and Samoa face Papua New Guinea.
- Benji Marshall (New Zealand)
- Esan Marsters (New Zealand)
- Robbie Farah (Lebanon)
- Bilal Maarbani (Lebanon)
- Michael Chee Kam (Samoa)
- David Nofoaluma (Samoa)
- Josh Aloiai (Samoa)
Rounding out the schedule on Sunday is captain Moses Mbye, who retains his spot on the bench for Queensland as they look to clinch the 2019 State of Origin series.
Ryan Matterson will feature as the 18th Man once again for New South Wales.
- Moses Mbye (Queensland)
- Ryan Matterson (New South Wales)
Friday, June 21 — NSW U/18's Women vs. QLD U/18's Women (click here)
Friday, June 21 — NSW Women vs. QLD Women (click here)
Saturday, June 22 — New Zealand Kiwi Ferns vs. Samoa Women (click here)
Saturday, June 22 — New Zealand vs. Tonga (click here)
Saturday, June 22 — Fiji Women vs. Papua New Guinea Women (click here)
Saturday, June 22 — Lebanon vs. Fiji (click here)
Saturday, June 22 — Samoa vs. Papua New Guinea (click here)
Sunday, June 23 — State of Origin Game II, QLD vs. NSW (click here)
THREE KEY STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
Can Tonga continue their ascendency in international football?
Following their sensational run in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and their victory over Samoa the year after, Tonga is seemingly knocking on the door of becoming a powerhouse in rugby league — a perception only strengthened by the inclusion of several superstars in the squad to face New Zealand on Saturday.
Jason Taumalolo, Tevita Pangai Junior, Andrew Fifita, Manu Ma'u — there's no shortage of big names in this squad, and with a large Tongan presence expected in the crowd on Saturday, there's every chance they'll start the game against New Zealand in New Zealand as favourites.
The next question for Tonga will then become as to whether they can take that next step and start to topple the tier one nations (Australia, New Zealand, England etc.) on a regular basis. They showed against England in the World Cup that, on their day, they could do it, but their game against Australia showed they were also still behind at times. Their spine has good players but not the superstars of their forward pack, and that's probably the one thing stopping them from truly making that next step, and the area that New Zealand (with the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Benji Marshall) have a clear advantage in on Saturday.
Is Samoa set to follow in the steps of Tonga?
Off the back of Tonga's rise, the rugby league cognoscenti is on the hunt for their "next Tonga" and many have started to peg Samoa in this category — something which has only risen with more NRL players in their squad than ever before.
For the first time in a long time, every player of the Samoan side is playing consistent NRL and they now have some x-factors of their own in Anthony Milford and Martin Taupau to stand out. Against a Papua New Guinea side without the Boas brothers, Samoa will likely have too much firepower for them at Leichhardt Oval and should pick up a win on the night, and that could start to pave the way for the "next Tonga" to come to the fore and begin to consistently challenge the big teams.
Fittler makes seven changes to Blues side for Origin Two
Will Fittler's changes help or hinder New South Wales?
After dropping Game One in Queensland, Blues Coach Brad Fittler has sprung a massive seven changes for Game Two as New South Wales look to keep their defence of the shield alive in Perth. Of course, some of those were forced with David Klemmer, Payne Haas and Nick Cotric out injured, but the likes of James Maloney, Daniel Saifiti and Jack Wighton — who shifts from the bench to centre to replace Latrell Mitchell — will all have the rugby league world watching on keenly.
There's no doubting the talent that still exists within this Blues squad and, as shown in Game One, the likes of Damien Cook and James Tedesco can break a game open up the middle if given the opportunity. But will they get the chance to do that on Sunday, and will the Blues have enough in attack to take advantage if they do?
On the surface, it looks as though Fittler has picked a team that can score points. The attacking weapons that exist across the back combined with a more mobile pack and flexible bench rotations should see New South Wales improve with the ball in hand, but it'll also give Queensland some key areas to attack defensively.