St George Illawarra Dragons vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jackson Ford 14. Tyrell Fuimaono 15. Josh Kerr 16. Jacob Host 17. Tristan Sailor 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Jason Saab 20. Jayden Sullivan 21. Korbin Sims
Ben Hunt returns to halfback after the injury of Adam Clune. I think the positional switch will be a detriment to the Dragons attack as Hunt has proven to be potent at dummy half after struggling at halfback for the past 18 months. They desperately need to win to keep in touch with the top.
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Jaxson Paulo 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Alex Johnston 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Liam Knight 16. Keaon Koloamatangi 17. Patrick Mago 18. Jack Johns 19. Corey Allan 20. Kurt Dillon 21. Troy Dargan
The Rabbitohs are another team desperate to win to keep in touch with the top 8. Latrell returns to fullback which is a huge boost for them. I expect a tight game but I think they’ll have too much class for the Dragons.
Rabbitohs by 4
Wests Tigers vs New Zealand Warriors
Tigers: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Chris Lawrence 4. Moses Mbye 5. Tommy Talau 6. Billy Walters 7. Benji Marshall 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Harry Grant 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Alex Twal 14. Sam McIntyre 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Luke Brooks 17. Shawn Blore 18. Josh Reynolds 19. Chris McQueen 20. Alex Seyfarth 21. Asu Kepaoa
Billy Walters and Benji hold on to their positions in the halves with Brooks again coming off the bench. They’ve been a bit hot and cold all season but their defence continues to improve under coach Maguire. I think Benji will put on a masterclass against the Warriors.
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Patrick Herbert 3. Adam Pompey 4. Peta Hiku 5. George Jennings 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 9. Karl Lawton 10. Jack Hetherington 11. Eliesa Katoa 12. Tohu Harris 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Wayde Egan 15. Adam Blair 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Lachlan Burr 18. Isaiah Papali’i 20. Adam Keighran 21. Jack Murchie 23. Josh Curran
They put up a good fight against the reigning premiers last round and almost pulled off an upset. The Warriors have lacked consistency in effort areas this season and the challenge for them is to back up their effort against the Roosters this weekend against Benji’s Tigers. I’m not convinced they can.
Tigers by 12
Brisbane Broncos vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Richard Kennar 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Xavier Coates 6. Anthony Milford 7. Tom Dearden 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. Joe Ofahengaue 12. Tevita Pangai Junior 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Issac Luke 15. Rhys Kennedy 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. Ben Te’o 18. Cory Paix 19. Jordan Riki 20. Pride Petterson-Robati 21. Jesse Arthars
Darius Boyd returns to fullback, Turpin returns to dummy half for the first time since round 2 and Croft will miss out due to injury. All the talk is about their first half effort against the Storm last round, but that doesn’t change the fact they were belted in the second half. They need to shut down Shaun Johnson otherwise they’ll have another score put on them.
Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Connor Tracey 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Siosifa Talakai 15. Jack Williams 16. Teig Wilton 17. Royce Hunt 18. Bryson Goodwin 19. Braydon Trindall 20. Jackson Ferris 21. Billy Magoulias
Pressure will be on in-form Johnson to deliver with halves partner Townsend out with an injury. They barely escaped with the win last round against the Dragons so they’ll be looking for an improved performance to consolidate their spot in the top 8. If Johnson fires, they should win by plenty against the hapless Broncos.
Sharks by 16
Sydney Roosters vs Gold Coast Titans
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Ryan Hall 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Sitili Tupouniua 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Isaac Liu 14. Lachlan Lam 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. Nat Butcher 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Christian Tuipulotu 19. Drew Hutchison 20. Daniel Fifita 21. Egan Butcher
The back-to-back champs were made to grind out a win against the lowly Warriors last round and they’ll be looking to return to their flamboyant best against the improving Titans. A win will ensure they remain in the top 4.
Titans: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Anthony Don 3. Brian Kelly 4. Dale Copley 5. Phillip Sami 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Nathan Peats 10. Jaimin Jolliffe 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow 14. Tanah Boyd 15. Tyrone Peachey 16. Jarrod Wallace 17. Sam Lisone 18. Erin Clark 19. Sam Stone 20. Jai Whitbread 21. Alexander Brimson
I feel like I say it every week, but the Titans continue to improve under Justin Holbrook. Despite being dominated for most of their match last round against the table-topping Panthers, they showed a lot of grit to stay in the fight, going down by just eight points. This will be their toughest test this season and I expect them to put in another fight, but on paper, they’re completely outclassed.
Roosters by 16
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canberra Raiders
Cowboys: 1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Connelly Lemuelu 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Shane Wright 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Mitchell Dunn 15. Tom Gilbert 16. Gavin Cooper 17. Francis Molo 18. John Asiata 19. Ben Hampton 20. Esan Marsters 21. Jake Granville
Despite being ravaged with injuries and their coach parting ways with the club, the Cowboys are the other Queensland side who continue to show some fight against the top sides. They come up against last years grand finalists and the challenge for them is to keep improving their defence against a far more experienced lineup.
Raiders: 1. Jordan Rapana 2. Semi Valemi 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Siliva Havili 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Hudson Young 14. Tom Starling 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Corey Harawira-Naera 18. Sam Williams 19. Harley Smith-Shields 20. Kai O’Donnell 21. Matt Frawley
Rapana shifts to fullback replacing the injured Nicoll-Klokstad. The Raiders continue to prove they’re still a premiership threat despite their injury toll and with the highly-anticipated return for John Bateman, I think they’ll have enough to edge out the Cowboys in Townsville.
Raiders by 8
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles vs Penrith Panthers
Sea Eagles: 1. Brendan Elliot 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Cade Cust 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lachlan Croker 15. Corey Waddell 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Haumole Olakau’atu 19. Dylan Walker 20. Tevita Funa 21. Morgan Boyle
Manly have returned to form over the past two weeks and will be looking to get back into the premiership race against the ladder leaders. Cade Cust is starting to come into his own at five-eighth but it will be the battle of the halfbacks with DCE going up against an in-form Nathan Cleary.
Panthers: 1. Caleb Aekins 2. Josh Mansour 3. Brent Naden 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Billy Burns 18. Apisai Koroisau 19. Matt Burton 20. Zane Tetevano 21. Charlie Staines
The Panthers dominated all the stats last round against the Titans but barely escaped with the win. But the fact is they did come away with the victory with the young side they had on the park and will again look to grind out another win against Manly. The form of Cleary has me confident they’ll again escape with the two competition points.
Panthers by 2
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Parramatta Eels
Bulldogs: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Tim Lafai 4. Jake Averillo 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Luke Thompson 14. Jack Cogger 15. Sione Katoa 16. Sauaso Sue 17. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Kerrod Holland 20. Renouf To’omaga 21. Chris Smith 22. Reimis Smith
Scored an upset win against the Knights last round, just their second of the season. It proves that the effort is there week-after-week against far superior rosters and although this game looks like it will be a complete mismatch, I’m sure they won’t make it easy for the Eels.
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Andrew Davey 15. Marata Niukore 16. Kane Evans 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Brad Takairangi 19. Stefano Utoikamanu 20. David Gower 21. Will Smith
I thought the Eels were starting to look tired in recent weeks but Mitch Moses completely reinvigorated his team last round against the Tigers. I expect the majority of this game to be a bit of a slugfest, but I expect the Eels to run away with it at the backend.
Eels by 14
Melbourne Storm vs Newcastle Knights
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 9. Cameron Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Albert Vete 17. Tom Eisenhuth 18. Ryley Jacks 19. Nicholas Hynes 20. Darryn Schonig 21. Jesse Bromwich
Melbourne were out-enthused in the first half of their match against Brisbane last round, but a famous Bellamy spray at halftime ensured they came out firing in the second half to maul the Broncos in the end. They come up against the Knights who have struggled in recent weeks and I expect them to be on from the start.
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Enari Tuala 3. Tautau Moga 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Chris Randall 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Josh King 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Herman Ese’ese 18. Tex Hoy 19. Jirah Momoisea 20. Mason Lino 21. Mathew Croker
The Knights look like a side that needs a week off to refresh after a shock loss to the last placed Bulldogs last round. They’ve been hit with injuries to key players and according to their coach, they’re struggling in some effort areas and not showing the right attitude. I expect an improved performance but based on current form, I think they’ll struggle against a very professional Storm outfit.
Storm by 12