NRL: Tips for Round 18

Wests Tigers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

Tigers: 1. Moses Mbye 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Joseph Leilua 4. Adam Doueihi 5. Asu Kepaoa 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Harry Grant 10. Thomas Mikaele 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Alex Twal 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. Elijah Taylor 16. Jacob Liddle 17. Sam McIntyre 18. Chris Lawrence 19. Tommy Talau 20. Josh Reynolds 21. Russell Packer

The Tigers’ incredible comeback win last round against Manly was soured by more drama with the whole Reynolds-Packer saga, again reflecting on the culture within the club. I thought the positional switch between Doueihi and Mbye was a good move. Although they’re still mathematically a chance at the finals, I can’t see them getting up over an improving Rabbitohs side.

Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allan 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Steven Marsters 5. Dane Gagai 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Liam Knight 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Jed Cartwright 16. Patrick Mago 17. Keaon Koloamatangi 18. Jaxson Paulo 19. Ky Rodwell 20. Troy Dargan 21. Cory Denniss

As coach Wayne Bennett said, Souths beat themselves in their last round loss to the Storm, a match they should have won. Despite losing Latrell to injury, I thought they still showed enough in attack which will challenge the top sides. They need to finish the season strongly to ensure a home final and I think they’ll cruise past the Tigers.

Souths by 14

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 5. Jayden Okunbor 6. Jake Averillo 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Ofahiki Ogden 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Aiden Tolman 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Luke Thompson 14. Brandon Wakeham 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Matt Doorey 17. Sauaso Sue 19. Dean Britt 20. Tuipulotu Katoa 21. Tim Lafai 23. Chris Smith

This game is probably the Bulldogs last genuine opportunity to lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder before they play Souths and Penrith in the final two rounds. But the loss of Foran again to injury might be too much for a team already lacking in class players to overcome. Averillo gets his chance at five-eighth, but I can’t see where the points will come from.

Sea Eagles: 1. Tevita Funa 2. Albert Hopoate 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 5. Abbas Miski 6. Cade Cust 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Jack Gosiewski 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lachlan Croker 15. Corey Waddell 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Haumole Olakau’atu 19. Luke Metcalf 20. Morgan Boyle 21. Ben Trbojevic

The end of the 2020 season can’t come soon enough for the injury-plagued Sea Eagles after their terrible loss last round to the Tigers, surrendering a 14-point lead with 9-minutes remaining. Despite missing several key players, they need to find a way to win games without Tom Trbojevic and finish the season strongly for their supporters. They should have enough class to put away the Bulldogs.

Sea Eagles by 8

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Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels

Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Brent Naden 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 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. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Kurt Capewell 20. Matt Burton 21. Charlie Staines

Penrith were far from their best against the Broncos last round, but even a sub-par performance is still good enough to win games of football and that shows how good they’re going at the moment. Their forward pack continues to rip in every game and win the middle-third battle, but they’re sure to be tested by the Eels pack. That said, they should comfortably repel a struggling Eels attack and grind out their 13th straight win.

Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Jai Field 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. Andrew Davey 16. Kane Evans 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Haze Dunster 19. Stefano Utoikamanu 20. Will Smith 21. Samuel Hughes

The Eels escaped with a win against the Warriors last round but their attack still looks too predictable. Reed Mahoney has been ruled out with a shoulder injury which is a huge blow considering they’ve also lost Dylan Brown to injury. I expect the Eels to get into the grind but I don’t think they will have enough points in them to knock-off the Panthers for a second time this season.

Panthers by 10

St George Illawarra Dragons vs Canberra Raiders

1. Matt Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Cody Ramsey 6. Corey Norman 7. Adam Clune 8. Kaide Ellis 9. Ben Hunt 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Jacob Host 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Billy Brittain 15. Josh Kerr 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Jackson Ford 18. Eddie Blacker 19. Tyrell Fuimaono 20. Brayden Williame 21. Max Feagai

The Dragons lost another game they should have won last round against the Cowboys, but they have to move on quickly as a few of their players are now playing for their futures with newly appointed coach Anthony Griffin who’ll no doubt be watching and taking notes. Problem is they come up against a Raiders side desperate to win their remaining 3 games to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top 4.

Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Semi Valemi 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Jordan Rapana 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Tom Starling 10. Ryan Sutton 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Dunamis Lui 16. Hudson Young 17. Corey Harawira-Naera 18. Sam Williams 19. Matt Frawley 20. Matthew Timoko 21. Iosia Soliola

I think the Raiders would have taken a lot out of their last round loss to the Roosters and now knowing which areas of their game they need to improve. I expect them to show some aggression and perhaps look to be more flamboyant with their attack. Papalii has been named despite suffering a shoulder injury last round, If he plays, Canberra will win comfortably.

Raiders by 12

Outside Panthers Stadium

Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos

Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Anthony Don 3. Beau Fermor 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Corey Thompson 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Moeaki Fotuaika 11. Sam Stone 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Tyrone Peachey 14. Erin Clark 15. Jai Whitbread 16. Jai Arrow 17. Sam Lisone 18. Tanah Boyd 19. Treymain Spry 20. Darius Farmer 21. Nathan Peats

The Titans are coming off back-to-back wins and are a real chance of making it 3 in-a-row in the Queensland local derby against the struggling Broncos. But despite their recent good form, they can ill-afford to be complacent. David Fifita will be looking to show his future club what they’re getting. I’m impressed with the progress Brimson, Taylor and Fogarty are making as a spine and if they produce their best footy, I think they’ll edge out the Broncos.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Richard Kennar 6. Sean O’Sullivan 7. Tom Dearden 8. Rhys Kennedy 9. Issac Luke 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Alex Glenn 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Cory Paix 15. Ben Te’o 16. Xavier Coates 17. Joe Ofahengaue 18. Jesse Arthars 19. Ethan Bullemor 20. Brodie Croft 21. Pride Petterson-Robati

Brisbane competed well against the first-placed Panthers last round and it all comes down to keeping things simple at training and a simple game plan under interim coach Peter Gentle. They get their captain Alex Glenn back for some much needed on-field leadership and I expect another improved performance against their southern neighbour. But based on current form, I can’t see them getting past the Titans.

Titans by 8

Sydney Roosters vs Newcastle Knights

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Isaac Liu 14. Nat Butcher 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Angus Crichton 17. Sonny Bill Williams 18. Poasa Faamausili 19. Mitchell Aubusson 20. Freddy Lussick 21. Ryan Hall

Sitting outright 4th after their win over grand final opponents Canberra last round, the Roosters need to keep winning to ensure they finish in that elusive top 4. It turned out to be the SBW show and despite huffing and puffing during his 13-minute stint, he’ll be better for the run. I expect another clinical performance to put away the Ponga-less Knights.

Knights: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Starford To’a 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Daniel Saifiti 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones 18. Sione Mata’utia 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Tautau Moga 21. Chris Randall

Newcastle are without their most potent attacking weapon in Kalyn Ponga, but the talented Tex Hoy gets his chance at fullback. Edrick Lee also returns from a long injury layoff to strengthen their outside backs. This is the crunch game for the Knights heading into the finals to show whether they’re contenders or just making up the numbers. Their form, and attitude, has been too inconsistent this season and I think they’re in for a long night against the reigning premiers.

Roosters by 14

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Melbourne Storm vs North Queensland Cowboys

Storm: 1. Nicholas Hynes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Brenko Lee 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 14. Ryley Jacks 15. Darryn Schonig 16. Albert Vete 17. Isaac Lumelume 18. Tom Eisenhuth 19. Sandor Earl 20. Tui Kamikamica 21. Max King

The Storm have won 9 of their past 10 after edging out an in-form Rabbitohs last round and are looking more clinical each week. In my opinion, they are the premiership favourites. They lose Papenhuyzen to injury but have more than enough class to dispose of the 14th placed Cowboys.

Cowboys: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Esan Marsters 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Francis Molo 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Mitchell Dunn 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Daejarn Asi 15. John Asiata 16. Tom Gilbert 17. Corey Jensen 18. Shane Wright 19. Jake Granville 20. Ben Hampton 21. Peter Hola

Their losing streak is finally over after their golden point win over the Dragons last round. Val Holmes returned to form, Drinkwater was dangerous in attack and their forwards stepped up in the absence of Taumalolo, but the Storm pose a far more formidable challenge this week. They’re another team of players looking to impress an incoming coach, but they look to be vastly outmatched by this Melbourne side.

Storm by 16

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks vs New Zealand Warriors

Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Connor Tracey 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Siosifa Talakai 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Teig Wilton 15. Jack Williams 16. Andrew Fifita 17. Royce Hunt 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Bryson Goodwin 20. Braydon Trindall 21. Billy Magoulias

The Sharks lose halfback Chad Townsend again, but this time to suspension as well as in-form captain Wade Graham, but welcome back Shaun Johnson from injury. They’re clinging on to 8th position with three rounds remaining, but are still in danger of losing their finals spot if they lose this game, as they have to play both of last years grand finalists in their last two rounds.

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Adam Pompey 3. Hayze Perham 4. Peta Hiku 5. George Jennings 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Chanel Harris-Tavita 8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 9. Karl Lawton 10. Isaiah Papali’i 11. Jack Murchie 12. Tohu Harris 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Wayde Egan 15. Adam Blair 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Lachlan Burr 18. Josh Curran 20. Paul Turner 21. Tom Ale 22. Gerard Beale

It’s do-or-die for the Warriors after their heartbreaking loss last round to the Eels. They now must win their remaining 3 games and rely on the Sharks to lose their remaining 3 games to qualify for the finals but considering the draw, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Despite all the off-field challenges they’ve had to face this season, on-field they continue to fight hard every week and I predict they’ll be up for the challenge against the Sharks and knock them off.

Warriors by 4