Wests Tigers Coach Michael Maguire will have some big decisions to make when he sits down next week to pick his side for the club's season opener against the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday, May 30.
With Luke Brooks, Moses Mbye and Thomas Mikaele all back in full team training, Maguire will have a plethora of new options available to him for selection, with all three likely to force their way in to the final 17-man squad one way or another.
Brooks' return at halfback is the most obvious selection where he will partner Benji Marshall in the halves, while co-captain Mbye appears destined for left centre — the position he was playing in during the final trial match against the Warriors.
In speaking with the media last week, Maguire indicated that Adam Doueihi would likely get first crack at fullback with Corey Thompson moving to the wing, although we'll to wait and see if that is official in next Tuesday's team list.
Maguire told reporters that "it's still open, but I want to see where Adam can take us as a fullback — that's part of the reason why I signed him. Corey is so competitive that he can slip there on the wing if need be."
Coaching Insider: Return to training
If Thompson does take that left wing spot with Mbye at centre, all eyes will then be on the right edge where the combination of Joey Leilua and David Nofoaluma also appears most likely after time together in the trials and opening two rounds.
The return of Mikaele, the arrival of Shawn Blore and Russell Packer's return to fitness creates a welcome problem for Maguire in the forward pack with a number of players all gunning for spots in the 17-man squad.
The likes of Chris McQueen, Matt Eisenhuth and Oliver Clark all missed out against the Dragons and Knights to start the year, and potentially trying to add in new personnel in Blore and Packer will only make that forward battle more intriguing.
Harry Grant also stands to feature somewhere in the squad after Maguire gave the new arrival a glowing endorsement following his return to training last week.
"One thing I've spoken about a lot with this process of getting Harry is that playing hooker is a bit of an art," Maguire said. "It's about ruck speed and grabbing markers and rolling your forwards on to the ball, and when you've been doing that in the position for all of your career it's just a natural part of the habits.
"Harry has definitely got that and he's been behind someone at the top of his game in Cameron Smith as well as Brandon Smith too.
"He's pushing really hard for that dummy half spot — he's doing really well."
Shawn Blore on why he joined Wests Tigers
Whether Grant starts at hooker still remains to be seen, however, and it'll be interesting to see whether he is given full licence in the number nine jumper or instead splits time with Billy Walters or Josh Reynolds given his limited first-grade opportunities so far while with the Melbourne Storm.
It would appear unlikely that all three of Grant, Walters and Reynolds find their way in to the 17 due to their similar positions but there's certainly plenty of flexibility either way — making it a fascinating positional battle to keep an eye on next week.
Benji Marshall: Ready for the return
For the Cronulla Sharks, Coach John Morris will likely welcome back Matt Moylan, Bronson Xerri, Briton Nikora and Josh Dugan from injury in Round 3 which will certainly lead to plenty of big decisions around the make-up of the Sharks backline.
Xerri is a straight swap for Josh Morris — who has officially linked up with brother Brett at the Roosters — while Dugan will potentially take the number one jumper from William Kennedy, although Moylan will more likely take that role. That could potentially leave Dugan on one wing outside Ramien with Ronaldo Mulitalo on the other wing outside Xerri — taking the place of Sione Katoa.
Both sides will officially name their teams for Round 1 at 4:00pm AEST on Tuesday, May 26 with the teams set to make their return to action on Saturday, May 30.
Match: Sharks v Wests Tigers
Round 3 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney