All team line ups here
A big weekend of matches coming up, with first up against second and third taking on fourth, as well as a likely wooden spoon shootout. With a couple of noteable injuries having occured in recent weeks there are also spots up for grabs in both the Queensland and New South Wales Origin sides, which will be name over the weekend.
Brisbane Broncos vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday, 7:30 pm, Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane $1.45, Souths $2.80
Live Ch. 9 (NSW, Qld), Live Gem (Rest of Australia)
The blockbuster match up of the round. 4th placed South Sydney travelling to Lang Park to take on 3rd placed Brisbane. Brisbane have a strong side as ever, welcoming back Justin Hodges, Petero Civoniceva (in his 300th first grade match) and Sam Thaiday, although the loss of Ben Hannant to injury will hurt. As a club they’ve been on a bit of a skid of late, having lost four of their past six matches, including getting kept to nil by the Cowboys last Friday night. It’s worth noting though that only one of those losses has been in the fortress like confines of Suncorp Stadium.
South Sydney returned to the winners list with a comfortable defeat of Parramatta last weekend. They’ve won five of their last six matches, although are yet to win outside of Sydney. Inglis playing, despite a minor elbow injury is a boost. I’d be a bit concerned about their three quarter line, with potential for Hodges and Reed to create havoc for Merritt, Farrell, Everingham and Hunt defensively. They have been reasonably solid in attack but just don’t look quite as safe without King in the side.
An imposing Brisbane pack will look to get over the top of a South Sydney side that is still missing Asotasi and Sam Burgess. Souths will need Issac Luke at his best, with his threat around the ruck their most likely avenue to victory. Dave Taylor will also want to put in a big performance given his position in the Queensland Origin side is under pressure at present. The safe bet here is to back the Broncos, who just look a bit strong across the park especially at home. Brisbane by 10
St George Illawarra Dragons vs. Gold Coast Titans
Friday, 7:30 pm, WIN Stadium
Dragons $1.40, Titans $3
9:30 pm Ch. 9 (NSW, Qld), Gem (Rest of Australia)
After a promising beginning to the post-Bennett era the Dragons have really hit a rut of late. They’ve won just one of their last six matches and have at times looked clueless in attack. Continual question marks remain over team selections, with skipper Ben Hornby’s performances at halfback copping much of the vitriol. Dean Young is working as hard as ever but very much looking ready for his impending retirement, whilst Nathan Fein’s continual selection is also questionable. They did seem to fins a bit of spark against the Bulldogs last weekend, although this was after they’d had 28 points put on them.
Gold Coast have hit some decent form recently, with Scott Prince finding a new lease of life now he has a decent playmaker in Aiden Sezer alongside him. It’s boosted the whole side who are playing a more aggressive, committed style of football.
Saints showed some positive signs last week and at home against the Gold Coast I think they will be able to grab a victory. Dragons by 12
North Queensland Cowboys vs. Canberra Raiders
Saturday, 5:30 pm, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Cowboys $1.28, Raiders $3.75
Fox Sports Live
North Queensland will be very happy with their performance last week. Not only did it involve beating the big brother Broncos, they didn’t even let them score a point. For a side prone to some lazy football this is a huge confidence booster. Thurston and Bowen continue to cause havoc for opposition defences and, if on their game, should ensure a Cowboys victory against Raiders.
Canberra grabbed a somewhat unexpected win last match when they took down the Knights in Newcastle. Josh Dugan looked a bit more at home at 5/8, although he obviously has a way to go in that position. It’s an impressive, if error prone, forward pack and they could shock the Cowboys if they really turn up to play, but base on their last two and a half seasons under Furner I wouldn’t bank on that. Cowboys by 20.
Penrith Panthers vs. Parramatta Eels
Saturday, 7:30 pm, Centrebet Stadium
Panthers $1.70, Parramatta $2.20
Fox Sports Live
Blockbuster Western Derby this one. Eleven rounds left in the season and these two sides are very much playing for pride. Both have a few players missing which makes this an even less attractive fixture.
The home side are at least boosted by the return of the inspirational Luke Lewis. The impressive Josh Mansour is also back after a back injury, although McKendry and Burns continue to miss through injury. Luke Walsh has been playing pretty poorly and will need to put in a big game with impressive young playmaker Harry Seijka making his starting debut alongside him at 5/8.
Parramatta have shown definite signs of improvement in a close fought loss to the Dragons and a victory over Cronulla, but the bye seemed to induce a reversion to previous form in a comfortable loss to Souths. As ever with the Eels it comes down to Jarryd Hayne. A big performance from him, as well as Sandow making a contribution is vital. This requires the underrated Tim Mannah and company giving these two a decent amount of room to move. Could be a close game, with both teams prone to some woeful football amongst flashes of brilliance that must make fans tear their hair out. Parramatta might be that bit more desperate as a loss here leaves them
Canterbury Bulldogs vs. Melbourne Storm
Saturday, 2 pm, Virgin Australia Stadium Mackay
Bulldogs $2.20, Storm $1.70
Fox Sports Live
The other big match of the round sees the first placed Melbourne up against second placed Canterbury in, of all places, Mackay. Canterbury will want to put in a big performance at this ‘home’ game. Such is the congested nature of the ladder that a loss could see them fall as low as fifth place. It was a close fought match last time these sides met, although since then Canterbury have improved whilst Melbourne have lost Slater to injury for at least the short term. Playing Widdop back there who is well and truly used to playing as part of this dangerous spine. Cameron Smith has been named at 5/8 as well, although you can expect he’ll largely stay around the ruck where he is at his most dangerous. As Manly discovered on Monday night when a side is so consistently switched on as Melbourne are not even the loss of arguably the games best player will stop them.
Canterbury will continue to play their style of football, characterised by big running forwards and a short passing game at the line. This flat attack has been very effective for large portions of the season and they are showing improvement in the manner of involving the backline players as well. It’s a whole different challenge to take the game to this Melbourne side and their excellent defensive structure. I think Melbourne will get the victory here in a tough, bruising encounter. Melbourne by 8
Sydney Roosters vs. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Sunday, 3 pm, Allianz Stadium
Roosters $2.50, Manly $1.55
Delayed Ch. 9. 4 pm (NSW, Qld), Gem (rest of Australia)
The Roosters will be relieved to have finally achieved another victory last weekend. There’ll be disappointment in the manner in which they let the Tigers back into the match, when they had them on the ropes, but at this time of year the two points is the most vital thing. The recent meeting between these two sides, just a month or so back in round 11, resulted in a close fought victory to Manly in a match characterised by some controversial refereeing. The Roosters long term record against Manly is pretty poor, although it’s some comfort to be at home, where they have a slight improvement. They’ll need their forwards to put in a similar shift as they did against the Tigers, where they ran aggressively, tackled ruthlessly (for 60 minutes) and allowed the side to play through the middle of the field, rather than side to side as they are prone to.
Which Manly side shows up is the big question. They haven’t found their consistency at all this season, and each time they seem to be hitting their stride they throw another match away, with their record against the poorer sides of particular concern. Given that the Warriors have the bye a loss here would see Manly having just a two point gap on the chasing pack, whilst a win gives them a bit of breathing space in the top eight. They’ll have to be fired up and in particular will want big games from Watmough and Buhrer in the absence of both Glenn Stewart and Tony Williams.
I liked the way the Roosters played last weekend and if they can produce a similar performance I think they could get a victory over a Manly side missing some key players. Roosters by 8.
Newcastle Knights vs. Wests Tigers
Monday, 7 pm, Hunter Stadium
Newcastle $2.65, Tigers $1.50
(Fox Sports Live)
Newcastle would have welcomed the bye last weekend, although given they seemed to lose energy coming back from a previous bye it may not have been the best thing for them. They’ve largely been woeful the past 7 rounds, with just four points courtesy of two byes to show for that period. Their defence has lacked aggression and intensity and their attack is just poor. Kurt Gidley’s energy, enthusiasm and, at club level, ability, has been missed big time by a side trying to find its feet under Wayne Bennett. Snowden and Mason up front have both been good over recent times and will need to be very good to get their side some momentum in this one.
The Tigers, clearly affected by the late withdrawal of inspirational skipper Robbie Farah after the sad passing of his mother, were uncharacteristically flat last Sunday, especially considering it was a sold out Leichhardt Oval. Farah has been named to return, and the Tigers fortunes unfortunately rely heavily on how he’s coping with this sad period in his life. If it’s anything like his match in Origin II the Tigers will be in good hands. What will be concerning is the easy metres they allowed the Roosters forwards to make last weekend. They need a defensive lift, especially from Adam Blair who was woeful last round. They are a better side across the park than this current Newcastle side though, and provided Farah is there I think they should be able to win this match relatively comfortably. Tigers by 16
The mighty North Sydney Bears take on a well performed Windsor Wolves this Sunday at North Sydney Oval in what is sure to be a cracker. Norths have just suffered their first loss in six weeks and will be fired up to show it was a fluke. The strength of the side will depend on who South Sydney puts out on Friday night, with George Burgess in particular a key player they will be hoping remains a backup. Up the Red and Black!