Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has no doubt Benji Marshall will be in the right frame of mind for the season kick-off despite the star playmaker’s tumultuous week. Sheens had no hesitation in naming Marshall in his team to meet Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Monday night, confident the world’s best player will be focussed just a week after he was charged with assault. Marshall’s halves partner, No.7 Robert Lui, will also play after his partner entered hospital on Tuesday for the birth of their first child. Sheens said of Marshall: “I think at this stage he is still very concerned about the (assault) issue, it’s only just happened, but I’m very confident his mental state will be right.” “He’s had plenty of meetings with his lawyers and that issue is in good hands.” “What his job is now is to settle down with the football team.” “I’ve got every confidence that he’ll be in good shape both physically and mentally for the game.” Sheens dismissed suggestions the Marshall drama would impact negatively on his side heading into the premiership opener. “Everyone’s in good spirits as far as getting ready. We’re looking forward to the season – that hasn’t changed,” he said. “The Monday (game is) probably an advantage for us, it gives us a few more days to sort ourselves out.”


Five new faces will line-up for the Bulldogs, with Trent Hodkinson, Kris Keating, Sam Kasiano, Aiden Tolman in the run-on side and Frank Pritchard to come off the bench. “This is a side that has been picked on form. It’s got a nice blend of youth and experience and I’m excited to see them play in front of what we expect will be a big crowd on Monday night,” coach Kevin Moore said.


The Roosters are expecting to be without Todd Carney for Friday’s season opener against the Rabbitohs after the Dally M winner aggravated a groin injury in training.


Greg Inglis will make his highly anticipated debut for the Bunnies.


North Queensland recruits Dallas Johnson and Glenn Hall will make their Cowboys debuts against the Broncos in the other Friday fixture.


Sam Thaiday will make only his fifth starting appearance at prop in 127 games for Brisbane when he runs out against North Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night. The last time Thaiday stuck his head in the front-row was round nine last year when the Broncos thumped Melbourne 36-14 at AAMI Park. It sets up a mouth-watering battle for the hard metres, with new Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott. Justin Hodges misses out for the Broncos with a hamstring problem as does Ben Hannant with a similar injury.


Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney will go in with six newcomers for his first match in charge against the Warriors in Auckland on Saturday night. Veteran duo Carl Webb and Chris Walker will turn out in the blue and gold for the first time, while Casey McGuire is back 12 years after his last game for the club. Former Storm lower grader Billy Rogers and local juniors Mitch Allgood and Ryan Morgan are the other fresh faces.


Former South Sydney Rabbitoh Luke Capewell will get first crack at the No.6 jersey when the Titans open their season against world club champions and NRL premiers St George Illawarra at Skilled Park on Saturday night. Titans coach John Cartwright named an 18-man squad, including Mark Minichiello, despite the backrower missing the pre-season following groin surgery.


After debuting in 2000, Dragons centre Matt Cooper will chalk up his 200th NRL game.


The much-anticipated showdown between fullbacks Brett Stewart and Billy Slater looks on after the Melbourne custodian was named in the team to meet Manly at AAMI Park on Saturday evening. Daly Cherry-Evans will debut for the Sea Eagles at No.7 while The Sea Eagles will be without David Williams, who has a hamstring problem, with William Hopoate named on the wing.


Melbourne have also been given a boost with Billy Slater selected to play after overcoming a shoulder complaint. The Test fullback had been in doubt for the opening few rounds of the competition after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.


Canberra have chosen their three big off-season signings – Brett White, Matt Orford and Blake Ferguson – in the team to meet Cronulla at Canberra Stadium on Sunday. Orford (abductor strain) and former Sharks winger Ferguson (finger) face fitness tests later in the week before they are cleared to play.”We’ll give the guys up until the last training session on Saturday morning to prove themselves fit and hopefully they’ll all take the field on Sunday,” coach David Furner said. “It’s important for us to get off to a good start this season but equally important to make sure we don’t risk players who are carrying injuries.”


Albert Kelly and Wade Graham will start at the Cronulla scrumbase in a new look halves combination.


Former Toyota Cup player-of-the-year Beau Henry will make his debut for Newcastle against Penrith at CUA Stadium on Sunday. The former Dragon will play five-eighth alongside Jarrod Mullen. “My whole family will be in Penrith to watch me play. They’ve put in the hard work since I was playing juniors so I’m really glad that I can make my debut in front of them,” Henry said. “Working with Jarrod has been great, each day we’re combining better, learning each others’ game and hopefully we can show this to our fans on Sunday afternoon.”