Stuart makes Strange call for Raiders against Knights

George ClarkeAAP
Ethan Strange has won the battle to play five-eighth for Canberra against Newcastle. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconEthan Strange has won the battle to play five-eighth for Canberra against Newcastle. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart will entrust one-gamer Ethan Strange to fill the void left by club icon Jack Wighton after naming the teenager to play at five-eighth for the Raiders' season-opening trip to Newcastle.

Wighton's exit to South Sydney over the off-season created a two-way shootout to plug the No.6 role for the Green Machine, with 19-year-old Strange beating Kaeo Weeks to the starting spot.

Stuart will also deploy English import Morgan Smithies at lock and Danny Levi at hooker for Thursday's clash away to the Knights.

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien, however, has stuck solid with the halves pairing of Jackson Hastings and Tyson Gamble.

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Off-season recruit Jack Cogger has to make do with a spot on the bench alongside back-row sensation Kai Pearce-Paul.

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Elsewhere, the Warriors have put their faith in Taine Tuaupiki to cover Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck makes his return to the NRL against Cronulla on Friday.

Nicho Hynes is tracking to feature for the Sharks on Friday after overcoming a quadriceps complaint late in the pre-season.

There is no such luck for Melbourne big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who will miss his side's clash with Penrith with a hamstring issue.

The Storm have named Cameron Munster to start against the reigning premiers despite him battling a calf injury.

The Panthers are at near full strength with Luke Sommerton taking the place of Mitch Kenny at hooker due to suspension.

In Saturday's games, Morgan Harper starts at centre for Parramatta against Canterbury.

The Bulldogs have named Drew Hutchison at halfback with Jacob Kiraz edging out Bronson Xerri to partner new captain Stephen Crichton at centre.

Des Hasler has pulled a surprise for the Gold Coast's season opener at home to St George Illawarra by naming Chris Randall at hooker ahead of Sam Verrills.

The Dragons have opted to select No.9 Jacob Liddle and prop Blake Lawrie after dealing with hamstring and rib issues picked up in the pre-season trials.

In Sunday's standalone game between the Dolphins and North Queensland, Cowboys veteran Kyle Feldt has beaten Fijian ace Semi Valemei to a wing spot.

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