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Cleary doubtful as Penrith weigh up return

Kurt Capewell will tell Penrith coach Ivan Cleary he is desperate to play for the Panthers on Friday night as the NRL’s ladder-leaders consider how to rebound from State of Origin I.

Several clubs across the league face crucial decisions on Thursday and Friday, as they weigh up short-term success with their stars’ long-term fitness.

Kyle Feldt became the first player officially ruled out on Thursday morning for North Queensland, after suffering a glute injury in his horror Origin debut.

Valentine Holmes will, however, run out in a big boost for the Cowboys against Manly with Justin O’Neill to get a recall.

Manly, meanwhile, are expected to play Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic but are likely to take a far more cautious approach on Tom Trbojevic.

The Manly fullback has a long history with hamstring injuries and the Sea Eagles have Dylan Walker named to return on the bench.

But it is Penrith who have the biggest decision to make, with seven players touching down in Sydney on Thursday afternoon just 31 hours before kick off against Cronulla.

Nathan Cleary is almost certain to miss despite avoiding any fracture to his cheek but still sporting five stitches and a heavily-bruised eye socket following heavy bleeding on Wednesday.

“I’m not too sure if I will play tomorrow night but I should be right by next week,” he said on Thursday morning.

Brian To’o was looking sore at Blues camp after totalling 225 metres and scoring two tries on Origin debut, while Isaah Yeo is also unlikely.

Jarome Luai is only a 50-50 chance despite being keen to run out, while Apisai Koroisau will be fine to play after not being used as the Blues’ 18th man.

Liam Martin is the best chance of backing up of those who did play after having just 30 minutes, while Capewell is desperate to get back on the field after feeling the pain of the 50-6 drubbing.

“I want to play (on the weekend),” Capewell said.

“I’m feeling alright and want to play again for sure, bounce back, that’s the only way to get over it.

“I take it personally (what happened in Origin I), it means a lot to me this Maroons jersey and we were nowhere near good enough.”

The Panthers did have their 12-match winning streak stopped last week without their Origin players, but will still finish the round in first place regardless of Friday’s result.

It’s expected the club will take the option of resting several players through the Origin period.

“If you’re going to have Origin players you need to learn how to live without them as well. Last week was a good lesson for us,” coach Cleary said.

Meanwhile other clubs have a longer window to make decisions, with Christian Welch unlikely to run out for Melbourne against the Warriors on Sunday after suffering an early concussion.

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