Cronulla star Johnson avoids NRL axe

Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson has come under fire for not living up to his billing this NRL season, but he holds his spot to face Melbourne.

SHAUN JOHNSON of the Kiwis in action during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between the New Zealand Kiwis and Tonga at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand.
SHAUN JOHNSON of the Kiwis in action during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between the New Zealand Kiwis and Tonga at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Picture: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson has been spared the axe and will face Melbourne this week, despite a lacklustre month in the No.6 jumper.

Johnson has come under fire for not living up to his million-dollar billing this NRL season, with the star New Zealand recruit copping the brunt of three straight losses.

But he's kept his spot in the Sharks' halves alongside Chad Townsend and will look to utilise prop Andrew Fifita who returns from suspension. Cronulla enforcer Paul Gallen is out injured.

The Storm have named six players, including Cameron Munster and Josh Addo-Carr, to back up from State of Origin on Wednesday and play in skipper Cameron Smith's 400th NRL game.

South Sydney star Sam Burgess returns from shoulder surgery against Manly a week after his brother George was suspended for eye-gouging.

Coming off a bye, the Sea Eagles have named an unchanged 17.

Brisbane rookies Xavier Coates and Herbie Farnworth, who helped the Broncos upset Cronulla last week, have been retained to face the Warriors as Brisbane welcome back four stars.

Anthony Milford returns at fullback which sends Darius Boyd to five-eighth, while Maroons representatives Corey Oates, David Fifita and Joe Ofahengaue have all been named.

The Warriors have recalled hooker Isaac Luke to their starting side.

Injured Blues halfback Nathan Cleary will feature for Penrith off the bench against Gold Coast, while the Titans initially named Tyrone Peachey only to pull him back off the bench.

Canberra winger Nick Cotric returns against St George Illawarra, who get second-rower Tariq Sims back from suspension, and Origin forwards Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Ben Hunt have been listed among the reserves.

Sydney Roosters skipper Jake Friend (bicep) hasn't played since round seven but will meet North Queensland. Victor Radley subsequently returns to lock.

Roosters and Blues stars James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner will be rested.

The Cowboys welcome back former Australian and Queensland prop Matt Scott on the bench and Cohen Hess (knee) is an outside chance after being named on the reserves.

Newcastle are hoping their four Origin stars get through unscathed and face Canterbury but only Mitchell Pearce has been named to start.

The Bulldogs are without Kieran Foran (hamstring) and Brandon Wakeham will play his second NRL game.

Wests Tigers have named captain Moses Mbye to back up from Origin and face Parramatta, while the Eels have only made one change to their bench with Marata Niukore coming in for Peni Terepo.

FRIDAY

Penrith v Gold Coast, 6:00pm at Panthers Stadium.

Newcastle v Canterbury, 7:55pm at McDonald Jones Stadium.

SATURDAY

South Sydney v Manly, 3:00pm at ANZ Stadium.

Brisbane v Warriors, 5:30pm at Suncorp Stadium.

Melbourne v Cronulla, 7:35pm at AAMI Park.

SUNDAY

Sydney Roosters v North Queensland, 2:00pm at Central Coast Stadium.

Wests Tigers v Parramatta, 4:05pm at Bankwest Stadium.

St George Illawarra v Canberra, 6:10pm at WIN Stadium.


AAP