NRL trial teams, Pre-Season Challenge: every squad revealed as clubs roll out heavy artillery

Bronson Xerri’s long and patient wait for a rugby league return is finally over as the Canterbury Bankstown centre prepares to make his comeback from a drug ban in the club’s opening trial against Melbourne on Thursday night.

Xerri, once one of the most highly rated young players in the game, made his last appearance in the NRL in September 2019.

A four-year ban for steroid use cut his career off at the knees but he was thrown a lifeline by the Bulldogs in the off-season and will take his first step towards a return when the NRL’s pre-season challenge begins at Belmore Sportsground.

SCROLL DOWN FOR EVERY PRE-SEASON CHALLENGE, ALL STARS SQUAD

Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo has named a strong side for the club’s opening trial with Blake Taaffe given first shot at the fullback job and Drew Hutchison handed the No. 7 jersey, with Toby Sexton starting on the interchange bench.

Xerri was on the verge of signing a mega-deal prior to his ban and his comeback will be one of the most intriguing stories of the season.

All eyes will be on him on Thursday night as he takes on a pair of experienced centres in Storm duo Reimis Smith and Marion Seve. Melbourne have wrapped most of their big names in cotton wool, although Ryan Papenhuyzen will captain the side after requesting to play.

In other team news:

* Parramatta have named boom youngster Ethan Sanders at halfback against Canberra, the side he has been widely tipped to join next season;

* The Raiders will unveil key signing Kaeo Weekes at five-eighth and highly-rated teenager Chevy Stewart at fullback in that game:

* Newcastle’s new recruits Tom Jenkins, Jed Cartwright, Jack Cogger and Will Pryce will play while Englishman Kai Pearce-Paul will skip the opening trial as he recovers from a toe injury;

* Kade Dykes will play his first game since suffering a serious knee injury in 2022 for the Sharks;

* The Roosters and Manly have taken totally different approaches to their hit out before Las Vegas with the Roosters naming a full-strength side missing only Spencer Leniu, although Joey Manu has been named on an extended bench;

* Manly have only a sprinkling of their best talent in their side – led by Josh Schuster – as they rest Jake and Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans, Luke Brooks and Tolutau Koula in preparation for round one;

* The Dragons have named a full-strength team for the annual Charity Shield with Tyrell Sloan at fullback and Zac Lomax on the wing;

* South Sydney’s new recruit Sean Keppie will start at prop in a team missing many of their star outside backs;

* Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will make his return for the Warriors in the centres against the Wests Tigers in Christchurch on Sunday;

* Jayden Sullivan has been given the first opportunity to impress at five-eighth for the Tigers with teenager Lachlan Galvin starting on the bench;

* Adam Reynolds, Payne Haas, Reece Walsh and Pat Carrigan will play for the Broncos against an undermanned Cowboys; and

* Des Hasler has named a near unrecognisable line-up to take on the Dolphins, for whom new recruits Herbie Farnworth and Tom Flegler will play.

Sanders is one of the brightest stars emerging at the Eels but he has been coveted by Canberra and was close to joining them late last season, only for the NRL to introduce new rules which meant he was unable to negotiate with rival clubs before round six.

It meant the Eels were given more time to convince Sanders to stay, although his path to first grade is blocked by Eels superstars Dylan Brown and Mitchell Moses.

Weekes, signed from Manly to provide depth in the halves, will be given first shot at locking down the five-eighth spot alongside No. 7 Jamal Fogarty.

Stewart, meanwhile, has been given a chance to impress in the No. 1 jersey. The 18-year-old was a schoolboy star and has been tipped for big things by Raiders insiders, having drawn flattering comparisons with Melbourne and Queensland legend Billy Slater.

NRL PRE-SEASON CHALLENGE SQUADS

BULLDOGS V STORM

Thursday, February 15, 7.00pm, Belmore Sports Ground

Bulldogs: 1. Blake Taaffe 2. Blake Wilson 3. Eli Clark 4. Bronson Xerri 5. Jeral Skelton 6. Matt Burton 7. Drew Hutchison 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Samuel Hughes 11. Kitione Kautoga 12. Jacob Preston 13. Jaeman Salmon Bench: 14. Toby Sexton 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. Liam Knight 17. Jordan Samrani 19. Harry Hayes 20. Bailey Hayward 21. Joash Papali’i 22. Reece Hoffman 23. Jack Todd 24. Joseph O’Neill 25. Luke Smith 26. Lipoi Hopoi 27. Kurtis Morrin 28. William Afualo 29. Khaled Rajab

Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Dean Ieremia 3. Reimis Smith 4. Marion Seve 5. Tuipulotu Katoa 6. Keagan Russell-Smith 7. Jonah Pezet 8. Tristan Powell 9. Bronson Garlick 10. Aaron Pene 11. Kane Bradley 12. Chris Lewis 13. Trent Loiero Bench: 14. Tyran Wishart 15. Caius Faatili 16. Lazarus Vaalepu 17. Coby Williamson 18. Treigh Stewart 19. Cole Geyer 20. Sheldon Diaz 21. Thomas Rafter 22. Karauria Stokes-Mahara 23. Stanley Huen 24. Mitchell Jennings 25. Angus Hinchey 26. Jontay-Junior Betham-Misa 27. Regan Hughes 28. Jake Toby

INDIGENOUS ALL STARS V MAORI ALL STARS WOMEN

Friday, February 16, 5.50pm, Queensland Country Bank Stadium

Indigenous All Stars Women: Shaylee Bent, Jaime Chapman, Kirra Dibb, Quincy Dodd, Monique Donovan, Taliah Fuimaono, Tallisha Harden, Kimberley Hunt, Keilee Joseph, Grace Kemp, Olivia Kernick, Bobbi Law, Mahalia Murphy, Jasmine Peters, Tommaya Kelly-Sines, Taneka Todhunter, Tamika Upton, Janelle Williams

Māori All Stars Men: Brooke Anderson, Corban Baxter, Annessa Biddle, Destiny Brill, Kennedy Cherrington, Zali Fay, Mya Hill-Moana, Shannon Mato, Kerehitina Matua, Raecene McGregor, Shanice Parker, Rima Pirini Butler, Ashleigh Quinlan, Tiana Raftstrand-Smith, Jasmin Strange, Chante Temara, Zahara Temara, Botille Vette-Welsh

INDIGENOUS ALL STARS V MAORI ALL STARS MEN

Friday, February 16, 8.10pm, Queensland Country Bank Stadium

Indigenous All Stars Men: Josh Addo-Carr, Bailey Biondi-Odo, Bailey Butler, Josh Curran, Adam Elliott, Zac Fulton, Jordan Grant, J’maine Hopgood, Nicho Hynes, Brian Kelly, Josh Kerr, Alofiana Khan-Pereira, Kyle Laybutt, Latrell Mitchell, Shaquai Mitchell, Kierran Moseley, Hohepa Puru, Kotoni Staggs, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Braydon Trindall

* Withdrew: Cody Walker, Isaiah Tass, Jacob Alick

Māori All Stars Men: Jesse Arthars, Kenny Bromwich, Jojo Fifita, Dane Gagai, Jack Howarth, Jahrome Hughes, Royce Hunt, Te Maire Martin, Trey Mooney, Briton Nikora, Kodi Nikorima, Keenan Palasia, Adam Pompey, Joseph Tapine, Jazz Tevaga, Leo Thompson, Matthew Timoko, Brandon Smith, Dylan Walker, Xavier Willison

* Withdrew: Jacob Gagai, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

KNIGHTS V SHARKS

Saturday, February 17, 1.45pm, Industree Group Stadium, Gosford

Knights: 1. Fletcher Sharpe 2. Thomas Jenkins 3. Enari Tuala 4. Krystian Mapapalangi 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Tyson Gamble 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Phoenix Crossland 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Jed Cartwright 12. Dylan Lucas 13. Mat Croker Bench: 14. Jack Cogger 15. Jack Hetherington 16. Brodie Jones 17. Tom Cant 18. David Armstrong 19. Fletcher Myers 20. Kyle McCarthy 21. William Pryce 22. Laitia Moceidreke 23. Riley Jones 24. Paul Bryan 25. Zach Herring 26. Clay Webb 27. Ryan Rivett 28. Sebastian Su’a

Sharks: 1. Kade Dykes 2. Sione Katoa 3. Kayal Iro 4. Mawene Hiroti 5. Samuel Stonestreet 6. Daniel Atkinson 7. Niwhai Puru 8. Thomas Hazelton 9. Jayden Berrell 10. Oregon Kaufusi 11. Jesse Colquhoun 12. Teig Wilton 13. Cameron McInnes Bench: 14. Billy Burns 15. Jack Williams 16. Tuku Hau Tapuha 17. Lachlan Crouch 18. Christopher Veaila 19. Samuel Healey 20. Salesi Ataata 21. Blake Hosking 22. Siosifa Talakai 23. Liam Ison 24. Max Bradbury 25. Tom Rodwell

ROOSTERS V SEA EAGLES

Saturday, February 17, 3.45pm, Industree Group Stadium, Gosford

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Billy Smith 4. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 5. Dominic Young 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Naufahu Whyte 9. Zach Dockar-Clay 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Sitili Tupouniua 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley Bench: 14. Sandon Smith 15. Terrell May 16. Egan Butcher 17. Angus Crichton 18. Joseph Manu 19. Siua Wong 20. Fetalaiga Pauga 21. Connor Watson

Sea Eagles: 1. Bailey Hodgson 2. Jaxson Paulo 3. Tommy Talau 4. Clayton Faulalo 5. Raymond Tuiamalo Vaega 6. Jakob Arthur 7. Brandon Wakeham 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Karl Lawton 10. Toafofoa Sipley 11. Ben Trbojevic 12. Ben Condon 13. Nathan Brown Bench: 14. Jamie Humphreys 15. Joshua Schuster 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. Aaron Woods 18. Gordon Chan Kum Tong 19. Brad Parker 20. Aitasi James 21. Dean Matterson 22. Max Lehmann 23. Lehi Hopoate 24. Cameron Brown 25. Jacob Sykes 26. Austin Dias

EELS V RAIDERS

Saturday, February 17, 5.55pm, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Eels: 1. Blaize Talagi 2. Haze Dunster 3. Morgan Harper 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Sean Russell 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Ethan Sanders 8. Ky Rodwell 9. Brendan Hands 10. Ofahiki Ogden 11. Shaun Lane 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Ryan Matterson Bench: 14. Luca Moretti 15. Wiremu Greig 16. Matt Doorey 17. Makahesi Makatoa 18. Matthew Arthur 19. Toni Mataele 20. Joshua Lynn 21. Charlie Guymer 22. Dan Keir 23. Saxon Pryke 24. Zac Cini 25. Isaac Lumelume 26. Ethyn Martin

Raiders: 1. Chevy Stewart 2. Nick Cotric 3. James Schiller 4. Albert Hopoate 5. Xavier Savage 6. Kaeo Weekes 7. Ethan Strange 8. Emre Guler 9. Zac Woolford 10. Pasami Saulo 11. Mitchell Spencer 12. Simi Sasagi 13. Ata Mariota Bench: 14. Tom Starling 15. Prinston Esera 16. Utuloa Asouma 17. Jed Stuart 18. Danny Levi 19. Adam Cook 20. Peter Hola 21. Mitch Henderson 22. Peter Taateo 23. Noah Martin 24. Loghan Lewis

RABBITOHS V DRAGONS

Saturday, February 17, 8.05pm, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Rabbitohs: 1. Jacob Gagai 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Richard Kennar 5. Taane Milne 6. Dean Hawkins 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Peter Mamouzelos 10. Sean Keppie 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray Bench: 14. Jye Gray 15. Jacob Host 16. Davvy Moale 17. Thomas Burgess 18. Tallis Duncan 19. Michael Chee Kam 20. Thomas Fletcher 21. Leon Te Hau 22. Braidon Burns 23. Dion Teaupa

Dragons: 1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Zac Lomax 3. Moses Suli 4. Jack Bird 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Tom Eisenhuth 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Jack de Belin Bench: 14. Connor Muhleisen 15. Viliami Fifita 16. Ben Murdoch-Masila 17. Dylan Egan 18. Michael Molo 19. Jesse Marschke 20. Christian Tuipulotu 21. Savelio Tamale 22. Mathew Feagai 23. Max Feagai 24. Sione Finau 25. Dan Russell 26. Ryan Couchman 27. Toby Couchman 28. Alec Tutakave

WARRIORS V WESTS TIGERS

Sunday, February 18, 2.00pm, Apollo Projects Stadium, Christchurch

Warriors: 1. Taine Tuaupiki 2. Setu Tu 3. Ali Leiataua 4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita 7. Luke Metcalf 8. Bunty Afoa 9. Freddy Lussick 10. Tom Ale 11. Jackson Ford 12. Jacob Laban 13. Kalani Going Bench: 14. Eddie Ieremia 15. Zyon Maiu’u 16. Tanner Stowers-Smith 17. Leka Halasima 18. Patrick Moimoi 20. Etuate Fukofuka 21. Toni Tupouniua 22. Ben Farr 23. Luke Hanson 24. Moala Graham-Taufa 25. Geronimo Doyle 26. Quinnlan Tupou 27. Paul Roache

Tigers: 1. Jahream Bula 2. Charlie Staines 3. Solomona Faataape 4. Declan Casey 5. Junior Tupou 6. Jayden Sullivan 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Asu Kepaoa 13. Alex Seyfarth Bench: 14. Lachlan Galvin 15. Josh Feledy 16. Fonua Pole 17. Samuela Fainu 18. Kit Laulilii 19. Sione Fainu 20. Jake Simpkin 21. Tallyn Da Silva 22. Heath Mason 23. Alexander Lobb 24. Tony Sukkar 25. Navren Willett 26. Nick Lui Toso 27. Reuben Porter 28. Sione Latoa-Vaihu

COWBOYS V BRONCOS

Sunday, February 18 4.00pm, BB Print Stadium, Mackay

Cowboys: 1. Tomas Chester 2. Semi Valemei 3. Jodeci Tiraha 4. Viliami Vailea 5. Robert Derby 6. Jake Clifford 7. Thomas Duffy 8. Thomas Mikaele 9. Sean Mullany 10. Marly Bitungane 11. Jack Gosiewski 12. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 13. Sam McIntyre Bench: 14. Kyle Schneider 15. Wil Sullivan 16. John Radel 17. Jamal Shibasaki 18. D’Jazirhae Pua’avase 19. Jaxon Purdue 20. Ewan Moore 21. Jenson Taumoepeau 22. Henry Teutau

Broncos: 1. Reece Walsh 2. Corey Oates 3. Delouise Hoeter 4. Selwyn Cobbo 5. Deine Mariner 6. Jock Madden 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Corey Jensen 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Brendan Piakura 12. Jaiyden Hunt 13. Patrick Carrigan Bench: 14. Tyson Smoothy 15. Martin Taupau 16. Fletcher Baker 17. Kobe Hetherington 18. Jordan Pereira 19. Benjamin Te Kura 20. Joshua Patston 21. Tristan Sailor 22. Cory Paix 23. Blake Mozer

DOLPHINS V TITANS

Sunday, February 18, 6.15pm, Sunshine Coast Stadium

Dolphins: 1. Trai Fuller 2. Jack Bostock 3. Tesi Niu 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Isaiya Katoa 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Euan Aitken 12. Felise Kaufusi 13. Tom Gilbert Bench: 14. Max Plath 15. Valynce Te Whare 16. Jake Averillo 17. Kurt Donoghoe 18. Gerome Burns 19. Ray Stone 20. Jeremiah Simbiken 21. Connelly Lemuelu 22. Lachlan Hubner 23. Harrison Graham 24. Jarrod Wallace 25. Mason Teague 26. Brenton Baira

Titans: 1. Jaylan De Groot 2. Tony Francis 3. Aaron Schoupp 4. Jack Garrod 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Tom Steadman 7. Kyle Foxwell 8. Luke Burton 9. Vaka Sikahele 10. Jordan Penquitt 11. Ryan Foran 12. Seth Nikotemo 13. Arama Hau Bench: 14. Thomas Weaver 15. Iszac Fa’asumaleaui 16. Joe Stimson 17. Klese Haas 18. Harley Smith-Shields 19. Kaleb Ngamanu 20. Josiah Pahulu 21. Oskar Bryant 22. Caelys-Paul Putoko