Brisbane Broncos fans have been left frustrated after Kevin Walters opted to rest a number of starters for their clash against Melbourne, including superstar Reece Walsh, in a controversial move with the minor premiership on the line. On Monday, reports suggested Walters could rest up to five players from this week's pivotal clash against the Melbourne Storm in the final round of the NRL.
The Broncos are first on the ladder with 42 points, two ahead of the Panthers, and will be playing fourth place Melbourne. If the Broncos lose, and the Panthers win, they will drop to second on the ladder and most likely face the Warriors in week one of the finals.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was confirmed Walsh, Payne Haas, Selwyn Cobbo, Herbie Farnworth and Ezra Mam will all be rested for the final week before the finals. The ladder-leaders are already missing Adam Reynolds (injury), Kotoni Staggs (suspension) and Patrick Carrigan (injury).
The team selection puts the Broncos in a precarious position against the Storm. However, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has also opted to rest a number of players, including Cameron Munster and Harry Grant, although Ryan Papenhuyzen returns as the starting fullback. This has put a dampener on what was looming as one of the most hyped games of the season in the final round.
The tactical decision from Walters and Bellamy hasn't gone down well with a number of fans. While the Broncos hold their own fate in their hands, it could impact who they play in the first round of the finals.
Many fans have already bought tickets to the game at Suncorp Stadium, which is seen as the game of the round. These fans could head to the game and be left disappointed when Maroons superstar Walsh, and a number of other stars, don't run out onto the park.
One fan who was intending on heading out to Suncorp said he felt 'cheated' and would opt to avoid the clash. Another said fans were being 'robbed' because teams were not taking the minor premiership battle seriously. Yahoo Sport Australia writer Adam Lucius threw out a potential idea to play all the games at the same time.
Meanwhile, other Broncos fans were left angry at the reports of a 'weakened' team - which was confirmed on Tuesday - taking to the field for the final home and away game of the season.
Confirmed: All the below players will be missing from the Storm and Broncos clash.
But add these to the list as well:
— bet365 AUS (@bet365_aus) August 29, 2023
I feel cheated almost a Qcup game now - was so looking fwd to this game -hardly missed a home game in 34 years but not sure ill b turning up now - guess Broncs dont care they got my money as a member anyway
— Doug Roberts (@dmroberts1) August 28, 2023
They all need the rest. Love the decision!
— Bobby (@bronxnationbob) August 28, 2023
Wont be worth watching. @NRL must do something about this. Makes the game a farce. Fans being ripped off
— Paul (@ardmorelad) August 28, 2023
Happy for key Broncos to rest on Thursday. Minor premiership doesn’t matter. Being heathy for the finals does. Still sucks though to see a ‘B’ team at a sellout on Thursday #bronxnation
— Nathan (@ncrook93) August 28, 2023
Storm will just rest Munster, Grant, Hughes, and a whole bunch of their best players too.
It will basically be a QLD cup game.
— 🏆🏆21/22 PREMIERS!❤️💛💚🐾 (@pennypanthers22) August 28, 2023
Warriors also rest stars, Panthers near full strength
The Warriors have also put their stars on ice with a top-four finish already secured, resting Addin Fonua-Blake, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Shaun Johnson and Wayde Egan for their trip to face the Dolphins. Captain Tohu Harris is also out with a back injury.
However Penrith have named a near full-strength side for their final-round clash with North Queensland in a move that could be crucial in swinging the NRL's minor premiership battle. The Panthers have recalled fullback Dylan Edwards, winger Sunia Turuva and back-rower Scott Sorensen from rest, while centre Izack Tago (leg) is lurking on the extended bench as he eyes a return for the first time since round 20.
Elsewhere, the Sydney Roosters have named star centre Joey Manu for their make-or-break clash with South Sydney, despite him tweaking his hamstring against the Wests Tigers. Captain James Tedesco is back from a head knock, while Fletcher Baker replaces suspended prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in the front row.
Blake Taafe is in at fullback for South Sydney with Latrell Mitchell suspended, while Michael Chee Kam and Izaac Thompson are recalled in place of Taane Milne and Jacob Host. Reigning Dally M medallist Nicho Hynes has also been picked for Cronulla after overcoming a quad issue. Matt Moylan has been dropped to the bench as a result.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.