Sydney Roosters vs Melbourne Storm
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Ryan Hall 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Luke Keary 7. Lachlan Lam 8. Lindsay Collins 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Sitili Tupouniua 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Isaac Liu 14. Drew Hutchison 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. Nat Butcher 17. Daniel Fifita 18. Egan Butcher 19. Christian Tuipulotu 20. Max Bailey 21. Kyle Flanagan
Roosters have decided to take the cautious approach and keep their concussed co-captain Boyd Cordner on the sideline for another week. They’ll be looking to return the favour after losing their epic clash against Melbourne in round 8. The reigning premiers need to keep racking up the wins to hold on to 4th spot and have a big opportunity against the Cameron-less Storm.
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Tom Eisenhuth 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Nicholas Hynes 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Albert Vete 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 18. Sandor Earl 19. Chris Lewis 20. Cooper Johns 21. Brenko Lee
Papenhuyzen returns after being rested but the Storm lose captain Cam Smith and star five-eighth Cam Munster to injury. Both forward packs and outside backs are evenly matched and equally potent, but I think the loss of Melbourne’s two big guns will give the Roosters the edge.
Roosters by 6
New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Patrick Herbert 3. Adam Pompey 4. Peta Hiku 5. George Jennings 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Chanel Harris-Tavita 8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 9. Karl Lawton 10. Lachlan Burr 11. Eliesa Katoa 12. Tohu Harris 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Wayde Egan 15. Adam Blair 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Isaiah Papali’i 18. Jack Murchie 20. Gerard Beale 21. Adam Keighran 22. Josh Curran
Just the one forced change as the Warriors lose Hetherington to a 4-match ban. They were impressive against Manly last round and interim-coach Todd Peyton is showing his head coaching credentials with what he’s doing with this side under the current circumstances. I think they’ll make it hard for the ladder-leaders, but class have the class to beat the ladder-leaders.
Panthers: 1. Caleb Aekins 2. Josh Mansour 3. Tyrone May 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brent Naden 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Daine Laurie 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Dylan Edwards 20. Matt Burton 21. Billy Burns
The first-placed Panthers delivered the perfect half of football in the first half of their clash with the Raiders last round. Dylan Edwards has been named on the extended bench and is a chance to return at fullback. Cleary and Cleary have this side firing on all cylinders and should edge out the Warriors.
Panthers by 10
Parramatta Eels vs St George Illawarra Dragons
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. Ray Stone 15. Marata Niukore 16. Kane Evans 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Andrew Davey 19. Haze Dunster 20. Stefano Utoikamanu 21. Brad Takairangi
Ryan Matterson returns after his concussion layoff. Lucky to escape with the win last round against the Sharks, with goal kicking being the difference. The Eels look like they’re due for a loss, but they’re still managing to grind out wins which shows their quality. They come up against the struggling Dragons where I think it will be close, but they should grind them out as well.
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Adam Clune 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Ben Hunt 10. Josh Kerr 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tyrell Fuimaono 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Tristan Sailor 15. Kaide Ellis 16. Korbin Sims 17. Jacob Host 18. Brayden Wiliame 19. Eddie Blacker 20. Jason Saab 21. Jayden Sullivan
More chopping and changing to the Dragons spine with Norman recalled to the halves and Hunt shifted back to hooker. This could be Mary McGregor’s last game as head coach, pending a board meeting next week. I think the effort will be there, but they won’t have the continuity in attack to challenge the Eels defence.
Eels by 8
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks vs Gold Coast Titans
Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Siosifa Talakai 12. Wade Graham 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Connor Tracey 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Jack Williams 17. Royce Hunt 18. Teig Wilton 19. Briton Nikora 20. Braydon Trindall 21. Bryson Goodwin
The Sharks scored more tries in their loss to the Eels last round with Johnson’s wayward goal kicking coasting them. But that said, they still weren’t clinical enough in dreadful conditions to get the win. Matt Moylan needs to step up this week after an ineffective return from injury.
Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 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. Corey Thompson 19. Jai Whitbread 20. Young Tonumaipea 21. Beau Fermor
The Gold Coast Titans are officially Queensland’s number one team and have made significant improvements since the arrival of new coach Justin Holbrook. They flogged the Cowboys last round in a high energy and enthusiastic performance. AJ Brimson is a future rep player and Dally M medal winner, in my opinion. Their next challenge is to win away from home and I think they can cause an upset to make it 2 in-a-row.
Titans by 4
North Queensland Cowboys vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Tom Opacic 4. Connelly Lemuelu 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 6. Ben Hampton 7. Michael Morgan 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Jake Granville 15. John Asiata 16. Emry Pere 17. Francis Molo 18. Shane Wright 19. Jake Clifford 20. Corey Jensen 22. Esan Marsters
The Cowboys took two steps forward with a few improved performances against the top teams in recent weeks, but one giant step back last round against the Titans. Drinkwater returns to the side, but at fullback which means Tabuai-Fidow shifts to the wing. I find that move bizarre with Hampton holding on to the #6 jumper. They have a lot to make up for after the lackluster effort last round, but I don’t think they’ll get the chocolates against Souths.
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 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. Patrick Mago 17. Keaon Koloamatangi 18. Jack Johns 19. Corey Allan 20. Troy Dargan 21. Kurt Dillon
Souths cruised past the hapless Broncos last round but I thought they could have been more ruthless. They come up against another struggling side and need to win to cement their spot in the top 8, but the only way I see them losing would be complacency. Another opportunity for Jason Demetriou to show his credentials as head coach.
Rabbitohs by 12
Canberra Raiders vs Brisbane Broncos
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Jordan Rapana 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papalii’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. Michael Oldfield 20. Kai O’Donnell 21. Matt Frawley
Havili has been named at #9 despite suffering an injury in their last round loss to the Panthers. The Raiders form has been inconsistent this season and they’ll be desperate to win this game to ensure they keep in touch with the top 4, which spells bad news for the struggling Broncos.
Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Richard Kennar 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Xavier Coates 6. Brodie Croft 7. Tom Dearden 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Ben Te’o 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Cory Paix 15. Jordan Riki 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Matthew Lodge 18. Issac Luke 19. Ethan Bullemor 20. Rhys Kennedy 21. Jesse Arthars
What to say about this current Broncos team? The club is a basket case at the moment and to make matters worse, they lose one of their most potent forwards and offload specialist, Tevita Pangai and their head coach for COVID breaches. There seems to be a lot of individual effort shown in recent weeks, but they can’t put that effort together as a team. I predict another long and painful night for Brisbane.
Raiders by 20
Newcastle Knights vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Starford To’a 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Blake Green 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Josh King 18. Tex Hoy 19. Brodie Jones 20. Chris Randall 21. Mason Lino
Newcastle returned to form in a big way last round with their 40-point mauling of the Tigers. Blake Green already showing his worth at five-eighth and Kurt Mann looks like he’s solved the teams hooker woes. Big opportunity to consolidate their position in the top 8 against a struggling Manly outfit, but that depends on which Knights side turns up.
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. Taniela Paseka 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. Haumole Olakau’atu 18. Morgan Boyle 19. Tevita Funa 20. Abbas Miski 21. Jack Gosiewski
Another excruciating loss to the Warriors last round for the injury-plagued Sea Eagles. A lot has been said about the lack of quality with their depth, but on paper they still look like a strong team. I think there’s an attitude issue at the moment, especially with their defence and they need to fix it if they want to play finals.
Knights by 14
Wests Tigers vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Tigers: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Joseph Leilua 4. Moses Mbye 5. Tommy Talau 6. Luke Brooks 7. Benji Marshall 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Russell Packer 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Luke Garner 13. Matt Eisenhuth 14. Thomas Mikaele 15. Josh Reynolds 16. Sam McIntyre 17. Chris Lawrence 18. Asu Kepaoa 19. Shawn Blore 20. Alex Seyfarth 21. Elijah Taylor
The toothless Tigers were trounced last round against the Knights and the “soft underbelly” which coach Maguire is trying to get rid of, seems to be getting softer by the week. They’re still without their most in-form player Harry Grant, but Josh Reynolds returns to the bench which will add much needed energy to the teams performance.
Bulldogs: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Tim Lafai 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Kieran Foran 7. Jack Cogger 8. Ofahiki Ogden 9. Sione Katoa 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Luke Thompson 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Aiden Tolman 16. Sauaso Sue 17. Reimis Smith 19. Brandon Wakeham 20. Renouf To’omaga 21. Chris Smith 22. Matt Doorey
Despite not having enough NRL quality talent on their roster, the Bulldogs have been a tough, gritty team for most of the season but that wasn’t the case last round against an under strength Storm. They will want to redeem themselves after that shocker and they have a big opportunity against a vulnerable Tigers outfit and could potentially lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder should the Broncos lose. Cogger gets a crack at halfback and I think they can win this one.
Bulldogs by 2