Canterbury’s season has lurched into another crisis, as players failing to follow the league’s COVID-19 restrictions have put five players in isolation and forced coach Trent Barrett to pick three debutants for Saturday afternoon’s showdown with former club Manly.
With Dylan Napa, Brandon Wakeham, Aaron Schoupp, Corey Waddell and Sione Katoa all unavailable because of their visit to a Bondi pub last Sunday week, the Dogs will turn to first-starters Falakiko Manu, 19-year-old local junior Chris Patolo and Bailey Biondi Odo, a utility who popped up for the club at last year’s Perth Nines.
Manu, 24, will start in the centres and has performed strongly for feeder club Mounties, while Biondi Odo and Manu will both come off the bench.
Kyle Flanagan has also been recalled because of the five unavailable Dogs, as has Corey Allan on to a wing.
Canterbury’s entire squad were forced to undergo COVID tests and only resumed training on Monday.
Injured trio Adam Elliott (cheekbone), Chirs Smith (ankle) and Nick Cotric (turf toe) join the long list of Bulldogs on the sidelines.
Manly will be without Jake Trbojevic whose glute injury forced him out of Origin II and will keep him sidelined until round 18 against St George Illawarra.
Brent Naden will start his first game of the year for Penrith on the wing with Charlie Staines named at fullback for the injured Dylan Edwards (foot). Nathan Cleary’s shoulder injury will see Matt Burton unite with Jarome Luai in the halves for Friday night’s western Sydney derby against Parramatta. The game had sold out weeks in advance before COVID put a stop to any fans being inside BlueBet Stadium.