NRL: Tips for Round 20

Brisbane Broncos vs North Queensland Cowboys

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Xavier Coates 3. Jesse Arthars 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Richard Kennar 6. Kotoni Staggs 7. Tom Dearden 8. Joe Ofahengaue 9. Issac Luke 10. Payne Haas 11. Jordan Riki 12. Alex Glenn 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Cory Paix 15. Ben Te’o 16. Corey Oates 17. Jamil Hopoate 18. Rhys Kennedy 21. Brodie Croft

Broncos fans probably haven’t been this nervous about a game since the 2015 grand final because if their team loses, it’s almost certain they will collect this year’s wooden spoon unless the Bulldogs can upset the Panthers. The team will not only be desperate to avoid the spoon, but they will also be hoping to send club legend Darius Boyd out on a winning note. I believe this team absolutely deserves to finish last, but considering what’s on the line for them, emotionally I think they will be up for this challenge and can pip the Cowboys.

Cowboys: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Murray Taulagi 21. Justin O’Neill 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Mitchell Dunn 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. John Asiata 15. Tom Gilbert 16. Corey Jensen 17. Francis Molo 18. Emry Pere 19. Jake Granville 20. Ben Condon

The Cowboys miserable season comes to an end, but it’s also an end of an era somewhat for the club, with a new head coach and coaching staff arriving in the preseason. But like the Broncos, they’ll be hoping to send club stalwart Gavin Cooper off with a win. They may have a lot of external pressure on them to win this game, with many pundits and rugby league supporters outside of Brisbane wanting to see the Broncos finish last. But their defence has been so woeful this season that even a struggling Broncos attack might put a few points on them.

Broncos by 6

Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights

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

Many tipped the Titans to again finish last, but they’ll finish the season as perhaps the competitions biggest improvers. Holbrook has impressed as coach and it’s looking like they’re building towards sustained success with the improvement of key players such as Ash Taylor, Jamal Fogarty, AJ Brimson and Moe Fotuaika, as well as some big name recruits who will arrive next season. The Titans have recorded 8 wins this season, but they’ve been against each of the other bottom 8 clubs. The final piece to their 2020 puzzle, is to upset a top 8 side and make it 5 in-a-row.

Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Chris Randall 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Brodie Jones 18. Josh King 19. Gehamat Shibasaki 20. Starford To’a 21. Jirah Momoisea

This is a danger game for the Kinghts heading into the finals. They must win to secure a home final, but they can ill-afford to underestimate the in-form Titans. Several times this year they’ve been accused of complacency in their losses to bottom 8 sides, but with a home final at stake, surely they’ll show up with the right attitude. I’m tipping the Knights in a close one, but I’m not confident.

Knights by 4

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South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters

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

If the Knights win, the Rabbitohs will finish 7th and will have to travel to Newcastle regardless of whether they win or lose this game. I hope nobody tells them the result so they run out assuming they’re playing for a home final. Either way, the Roosters are the perfect litmus test for Souths heading into the finals and last weeks shock loss to the Bulldogs aside, this game will determine whether they’re a chance at winning the premiership, or if they’re merely making up the numbers. But, I think they’ve been too inconsistent to topple the reigning premiers.

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Mitchell Aubusson 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. Angus Crichton 14. Lachlan Lam 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. Nat Butcher 17. Sonny Bill Williams 18. Matt Ikuvalu 19. Daniel Fifita 20. Freddy Lussick 21. Ryan Hall

If the Eels win their game, the Roosters will need to win to finish 3rd, but that would mean they’d have to travel to Suncorp Stadium to take on the Storm, so I’m surprised Trent Robinson has not rested any players and named a full strength squad. Late changes could still be made if they can’t move up or down on the ladder. Either way, the Roosters look primed and ready for a tilt at a 3-peat and I think they’ll cruise past the Rabbitohs.

Roosters by 12

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers

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

It was an emotional win last round against Souths for captain Josh Jackson’s 200th game and to lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder. They will have to get themselves up again if the Broncos win their match, because that would put them 2 points ahead in the race to avoid the spoon. A few players play their last game for the club and several others will be looking to impress the incoming coach, but unfortunately I don’t see the getting close to the minor premiers.

Panthers: 1. Daine Laurie 2. Josh Mansour 3. Tyrone May 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Matt Burton 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Dean Whare 20. Jack Hetherington 21. Billy Burns

With the minor premiership locked up, the Panthers will use this game to fine-tune their skills and structures heading into the finals. Ivan Cleary has rested a few key players and he’s also named Matt Burton on the bench which may suggest halfback Nathan Cleary will play limited minutes. I expect them to comfortably put away the Bulldogs and finish the regular season with just one loss.

Panthers by 18

ANZ Stadium

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks vs Canberra Raiders

Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Mawene Hiroti 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Wade Graham 7. Connor Tracey 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Siosifa Talakai 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Scott Sorensen 15. Jack Williams 16. Andrew Fifita 17. Teig Wilton 18. Billy Magoulias 19. Braydon Trindall 20. Bryson Goodwin 21. Daniel Vasquez

The Sharks have limped into the finals with 10 wins and 9 losses, but they haven’t beaten a top 8 side this season which has many suggesting they’re only making up the numbers and perhaps don’t even deserve to be there. A win against a glorified second-string Raiders won’t do much to change that perception, but if they’re going to give themselves confidence of causing an upset or two in the finals, they really should, and must win this game.

Raiders: 1. Adam Cook 2. Semi Valemi 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Harley Smith-Shields 5. Nick Cotric 6. Matt Frawley 7. Sam Williams 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Tom Starling 10. Iosia Soliola 11. Hudson Young 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Siliva Havili 14. Kai O’Donnell 15. Ryan Sutton 16. Darby Medlyn 17. Jarrett Subloo 18. Ata Mariota 19. Joseph Tapine 20. Jack Wighton 21. Elliott Whitehead

Considering a top 4 spot is still a possibility for the Raiders if they win this game, I find it bizarre that Ricky Stuart has rested three-quarters of the top 17. The positive I guess, is they’ll be fit and fresh to face either the eighth-placed Sharks or first-placed Panthers in week one of the finals. Despite the players missing, they still have a strong forward pack and I still give them a slight hope of an upset against the struggling Sharks, but I’m not sure where their points will come from without their strike players.

Sharks by 8

Wests Tigers vs Parramatta Eels

Tigers: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Tommy Talau 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Asu Kepaoa 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Zane Musgrove 9. Harry Grant 10. Thomas Mikaele 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Alex Twal 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. Elijah Taylor 16. Shawn Blore 17. Michael Chee-Kam 18. Alex Seyfarth 19. Jacob Liddle 20. Josh Reynolds 21. Joseph Leilua

There’s a lot of build up and intrigue with this game, in part because it’s the final time club legends Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence don the Tigers jersey. I expect the Tigers to be up emotionally as they’d desperately love to send Benji and Lawrence out as winners for their long service to the club. An added bonus is the possibility of reclaiming 9th spot if the Titans lose, which would be fitting for the West Tigers as they seemingly own that ladder position.

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. Will Smith 15. Andrew Davey 16. Kane Evans 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Haze Dunster 19. Brad Takairangi 20. George Jennings 21. Daniel Alvaro

The other intriguing part to this game is the form of the Eels heading into the finals. If the Raiders win their game, the Eels must win this one to finish in the top 4. They’ve spluttered along for the second half of this season and even if they finish fourth, on current form it’s hard to argue that they’d also simply be making up the numbers in the finals. This is their last chance to find form and go into the finals with some momentum but I’m not confident in the form of Moses and their erratic, sideways attack.

Tigers by 2

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New Zealand Warriors vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

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

The NRL and it’s supporters owe the Warriors a great debt for their sacrifice this season and it’s a great shame they’ve fallen short of qualifying for the finals. But with some key signings and a new coach arriving to the club for next season, they’ve got a bright future ahead. I think the team will be desperate to send their current coach Todd Payten off with a win after what he’s done with the team this year, and finish the season strongly before they can finally head home to be with their family. Thank you Warriors!

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

Manly are busted and broken. I have no doubt they’re desperate to get this season over with so they can recover and start working towards 2021. I have no reason to doubt the Sea Eagles with a fit squad can make the finals next year, but this season is a complete write off and I think it shows with the attitude of the players, especially after they were flogged by the Gold Coast last round.

Warriors by 10

St George Illawarra Dragons vs Melbourne Storm

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

I never thought I’d see the 13th placed Dragons go into a match as favourites against the second-placed Storm. The Dragons have nothing to play for as a team, but individually there might be a few players looking to impress the incoming coach. A loss to a very understrength Storm side would cap-off yet another season of mediocrity for this proud club. With Ben Hunt missing to suspension, I think the Dragons are already looking past this game to mad Monday.

Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Sandor Earl 3. Ricky Leutele 4. Paul Momirovski 5. Isaac Lumelume 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Cooper Johns 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Tom Eisenhuth 12. Chris Lewis 13. Max King 14. Nicholas Hynes 15. Darryn Schonig 16. Albert Vete 17. Aaron Pene 18. Aaron Booth 19. Dean Ieremia 20. Trent Loiero 21. Judda Turahui

Win or lose, Melbourne will finish second which is why Craig Bellamy has rested three-quarters of his best 17. Papenhuyzen returns from injury and will captain the club for the first time in his career and despite the players missing, they have quality depth and these fringe players will be looking to impress the coach in case an opportunity presents itself during the finals. I think they will upset the Dragons.

Storm by 6