Blog with Hoops, Nathan Cleary, when will he play, return date revealed, Adam Reynolds, Covid, return date, Brisbane Broncos, Penrith Panthers, Parramatta Eels

The NRL relaunches into orbit on Thursday night with a hundred stories guaranteed to catch fire once the new season begins.

Penrith Premiers are confident half-back Nathan Cleary will be given until match day to prove he is ready to feature in the season opener against Manly.

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The Panthers don’t. 7 had a right shoulder reconstruction late last season and was originally scheduled to be sidelined until the third round.

But as we know with champion Penrith and the NSW half-back, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Cleary has timed his rehab to the millisecond to the point where there’s every chance he’ll be there to take on Tommy Turbo and the Sea Eagles.

Can the Panthers become just the second team in 25 seasons to face each other?

If they want to do that, they need Clive Churchill’s medalist Nathan to be fit and shooting for most of the season.

On the other hand, it’s been a rollercoaster initiation for prized Brisbane Broncos rookie Adam Reynolds, who has come down with COVID and is highly unlikely to play against his former club South Sydney on Friday night.

Adam Reynolds will likely miss the Broncos’ season opener against the Bunnies. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The Broncos are fuming over mixed messages from the NRL around COVID protocols, with the game’s governing body essentially shifting responsibility to the 16 clubs as to when players can return to training and playing.

Once the players leave mandatory seven-day isolation, everything becomes clear as mud when it comes to the NRL’s advice as to when they should be back in full swing.

The most important question Broncos fans want answered is whether Reynolds will play the Bunnies and at this point Brisbane coach Kevin Walters is saying the small no. 7 is highly unlikely.

Ding, dong, could the eels finally kill the witch and end the NRL’s longest premiership drought of 36-plus seasons.

Parramatta’s premiership window is definitely wide open and there’s a sense if it’s not this season, then when?

Will it start to close once they lose Reed Mahoney, Marata Niukore and Isaiah Papali’I to other clubs at the end of this year?

And although they fell into a hole towards the end of last season, they found a way to kick things up a notch and gave Premiers Penrith one hell of a game in week two of the final.

Could the Eels finally end a 36-year wait for a prime ministership? Photo: Damien ShawSource: News Corp Australia

Will the Bulldogs improve now that Gus Gould is back as Canterbury-Bankstown minister for all things Rugby League?

Or should head coach Trent Barrett be nervous given they have a tough draw for the first six rounds and who knows what will happen if it’s more or less the same as the year last?

The Sydney Roosters are getting cavalry back in the form of point guard Luke Keary, guns center Joey Manu, forward rower Lindsay Collins and hooker Sam Verrills and it feels like if they all stay fit, the Chooks will be awfully hard to beat.

They also added experience in terms of depth in the crosses with Paul Momorovski and Kevin Naiqama.

The Dragons looked lively in tryouts as manager Anthony Griffin looks to really put his stamp on the Red V.

How will Souths go without Reynolds, Dane Gagai and Jadyn Su’A and the biggest loss of all – super coach Wayne Bennett?

Can Tommy Turbo replicate the standout season he staged last year for Manly again?

The Melbourne Storm are still a juggernaut, but have just had the most interrupted pre-season in the club’s history in terms of headlines off the pitch?

Somehow, you feel like if anyone knows how to handle this, it’s going to be Craig Bellamy and Frank Ponissi.

We could go on and on. Three more nights and football is back. How good is this.

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