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Each team's selection dilemma heading into round 1

The 2020 NRL pre-season is officially done and dusted but the 16 coaches still have big decisions on their clipboards before finalising their teams for round one.

All 16 sides took part in the final round of trials on the weekend and while the results were not necessarily important, it was the last chance for many fringe candidates to push for selection in the opening week of the Telstra Premiership.

The season kicks off next Thursday with Parramatta taking on Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.

Here are the selection dilemmas for each team heading into the season according to the reporters who covered the games throughout NSW, Queensland, Melbourne and New Zealand.

Panthers v Eels 

Brad Walter

Parramatta - centre. Brad Arthur needs to determine whether to rush Waqa Blake or Brad Taikarangi into the right centre role without having played a pre-season match or stick with Jaeman Salmon after his impressive trial form.

Penrith - bench utility. With Tyrone May suspended for the first four rounds, coach Ivan Cleary must choose between Matt Burton or impressive rookie Brendan Hands for the bench utility role.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Eels

Raiders v Bulldogs 

Chris Kennedy

Canberra - second-rower. The Raiders need to settle on a right edge forward replacement for the injured John Bateman, with prop Corey Horsburgh neither a resounding success nor failure filling in there in the win over the Bulldogs in their Port Macquarie trial.

Canterbury - halfback. The same game also offered no firm answers around whether Jack Cogger or Brandon Wakeham will be the best foil for Lachlan Lewis as Dean Pay's men stuck to a stripped-back, defence-oriented style in the 12-10 loss.

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Raiders

Storm v Cowboys 

Jonathan Healy

Melbourne - right centre. Justin Olam appears certain to win the race to start in the left centre position for the Storm against the Sea Eagles in round one, but Marion Seve and off-season recruit Brenko Lee are neck-and-neck for the other centre berth and Storm coach Craig Bellamy has been impressed by both players. Each received 40 minutes in the win over the Cowboys on Saturday and Bellamy is likely to let this one play out right until game day.

North Queensland - five-eighth. The absence of Scott Drinkwater for the Cowboys' final trial means Jake Clifford could have his nose in front to partner Michael Morgan in the halves against the Broncos in round one. While Clifford didn't do anything to stand out against the Storm, he was solid enough to warrant another chance alongside Morgan.

Match Highlights: Storm v Cowboys

Knights v Roosters

Margie McDonald

Newcastle - five-eighth. Knights coach Adam O’Brien admitted if he’d had “a crystal ball” on how good Tex Hoy would be at five-eighth then he would have trained him more in that position during the pre-season. So Kurt Mann needs to watch his back.

Roosters - centre. The Roosters offered little insight into options for Latrell Mitchell’s replacement after Angus Crichton was given only a pass mark against St Helens, because they didn’t field their first-choice NRL side against the Knights. Nines players Chrisitan Tuipulotu and James Tuitahi played in the centres in Gosford and Trent Robinson did heap praise on the future of Tuipulotu – so watch this space.

Match Highlights: Roosters v Knights

Rabbitohs v Dragons

Alicia Newton

St George Illawarra - left centre. This is possibly the biggest question mark for Paul McGregor. He was tight-lipped when asked about his round-one back line after the Charity Shield loss to Souths. Tim Lafai and Brayden Williame are options on the left edge with Lafai reverting to the wing in the second half. 

South Sydney - bench. This is Wayne Bennett’s biggest area to address. He had plenty of forwards step up and take their opportunity in the final trial with Patrick Mago, Hame Sele, Bayley Sironen and Keaon Koloamatangi among the best in the second half. 

Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Dragons

Broncos v Titans

Joel Gould

Brisbane - right wing. It has developed into a three-way battle between Xavier Coates, Jamayne Isaako and Jesse Arthars. Coates, 18, may have his nose in front after a scintillating one-handed try in the corner in the trial loss to the Titans. With Jack Bird set to play fullback, Isaako is facing the possibility of not making the 17 to play the Cowboys after underwhelming pre-season performances.

Titans - hooker. Former NSW hooker Nathan Peats and in-form Mitch Rein are battling to wear the No.9 jersey against the Raiders, but the former Dragons rake surely has the edge. Rein was outstanding in the 28-22 win over the Broncos and, on form, should get the gig although Peats captained the Titans at the close of last season after returning from a lengthy layoff with a torn pectoral.

Match Highlights: Broncos v Titans

Warriors v Tigers

Corey Rosser

Tigers - hooker. Despite Billy Walters getting the start ahead of him at hooker for Sunday's trial against the Warriors, Josh Reynolds might have given himself in the edge in that battle with a strong showing in the Tigers' 20-6 victory. After coming on about half an hour into the contest, Reynolds burrowed over for a try and impressed with his energy on both sides of the ball. 

Warriors - five-eighth. Provided he can overcome an ankle complaint picked up in the loss to the Tigers, Kodi Nikorima now appears the frontrunner to start the season at five-eighth for the Warriors. After being handed the No.6 jersey ahead of youngster Chanel Harris-Tavita for the final trial, Nikorima helped set up his side's only try during his 40-minute stint in Rotorua. 

Match Highlights: Warriors v Wests Tigers

Sharks v Sea Eagles

Troy Whittaker

Cronulla - outside backs. They began the pre-season with a surplus of outside backs but Cronulla now have a shortage. Sharks coach John Morris isn’t sure whether Matt Moylan (calf), Josh Dugan (knee) and Bronson Xerri (shoulder) will be right for round one. William Kennedy and usual centre Josh Morris are fullback options if Moylan isn’t fit.

Manly - dummy-half options. Having had great success with the two-hooker system last year, Manly coach Des Hasler has to decide whether to play new recruit Danny Levi for 80 minutes or substitute him with someone like Cade Cust or Lachlan Croker. Cust and Croker were solid in the club’s only trial against Cronulla but they played in the halves, while Levi was only given a tick over 30 minutes in his club debut during Cronulla's trial triumph over Manly.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles