Penrith Panthers vs Melbourne Storm
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Matthew Eisenhuth 17. Liam Martin 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Matt Burton 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Jaeman Salmon
It is the grand final rematch and the first real test for the Panthers after two-straight shut out victories against the lowly Cowboys and Bulldogs in the first two rounds. Their defence has been faultless and although their attack has not been at its most fluent, they have shown a lot of patience and they look willing to grind out wins this year than attempt to blast teams off the park every game. I think that mentality will hold them in good stead against the premiers.
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Tom Eisenhuth 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14. Aaron Pene 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Chris Lewis 17. Nicholas Hynes 18. Cooper Johns 19. Darryn Schonig 20. Tyson Smoothy 21. Dean Ieremia
Coming off a shock loss to Parramatta, we rarely see Storm sides lose two in-a-row. Last week we saw the effects of the Storm not having Cam Smith in the side, who would always keep his teammates composed when they were under the pump and able to close out a game, even when the momentum is with the opposition. Cam Munster is the man to take on that responsibility, but if the Panthers get on a role, the jury is out on whether they can continue getting it done without Smith in close games. The difference in this game might come down to enthusiasm, which the Panthers will have in spades as they look to avenge last years grand final loss.
Panthers by 4
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Cody Ramsey 3. Jack Bird 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Josh Kerr 12. Tariq Sims 13. Tyrell Fuimaono 14. Poasa Faamausili 15. Trent Merrin 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Brayden Wiliame 18. Adam Clune 19. Kaide Ellis 20. Jackson Ford 21. Jordan Pereira
The Dragons were impressive last round in their away win against the Cowboys and it was the best performance we have seen from halfback Ben Hunt since his debut game for the club. Their entire backline looks to be in good form and new recruit Andrew McCullough’s service from dummy half has been quality, as well as his almost flawless defence. The challenge for the Dragons is getting better performances out of each members of their forward pack. If they can create enough time and space for their halves, they can topple an out-of-form Manly side.
Sea Eagles: 1. Dylan Walker 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Jack Gosiewski 12. Josh Schuster 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cade Cust 15. Morgan Boyle 16. Sean Keppie 17. Josh Aloiai 18. Tevita Funa 19. Morgan Harper 20. Toafofoa Sipley 21. Christian Tuipulotu
Manly have started the season 0-2 and they look like a team playing with no confidence. Dylan Walker has again been named at fullback although many believe that experiment has failed. Cherry-Evans is struggling for form and it would be fair to say Jake Trbojevic has fallen down the list of best lock forwards in the game currently. There is no doubt one part of the reason they are struggling is because they are missing their potent combinations with Tom Trbojevic and that is something they need to fix ASAP. Another thing they need to fix is their attitude in defence. On current form, it is difficult to see them beating the Dragons.
Dragons by 8
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Josh Mansour 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Benji Marshall 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Patrick Mago 17. Jai Arrow 18. Jacob Host 19. Tautau Moga 20. Troy Dargan 21. Steven Marsters
Easily the match of the round. Souths have got off to a shaky start to the season although they cruised past Manly last round. Their attack has yet to reach that fluency we know it can but they may need to be against arch rivals the Roosters, which means their spine will need to step it up. We can forget about the 60-8 thrashing from the last round last season, as it will have no bearing on this match. If anything, it will only motivate the Roosters and the form they have shown in the opening rounds, the Rabbitohs might not keep up with them.
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Lachlan Lam 7. Luke Keary 8. Lindsay Collins 9. Freddy Lussick 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Angus Crichton 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Isaac Liu 14. Victor Radley 15. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 16. Nat Butcher 17. Daniel Suluka-fifita 18. Drew Hutchison 19. Matt Ikuvalu 20. Sam Walker 21. Fletcher Baker
The Roosters have registered two 40-plus scores in the opening two rounds and have easily shown to be the most potent attacking team thus far. James Tedesco and Luke Keary are carving up opposition defensive lines and Brett Morris cannot stop scoring tries. They are such a professional side that despite their injury list, their fringe players come in and get the job done. The quality of their depth is so impressive. Victor Radley returns for the first time since round seven last season to add even more potency and skill to their attack. It is difficult to see them losing at the moment although this will be their first real test against another top side.
Roosters by 10
Canberra Raiders vs New Zealand Warriors
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Ryan Sutton 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan James 18. Sam Williams 19. Tom Starling 20. Caleb Aekins 21. Sebastian Kris
The Raiders escaped with a scrappy win against the Sharks last round. They look to be easing their way into the season but surely coach Ricky Stuart will be looking for more clinical performances moving forward. They are one of the premiership heavyweights and have a well balanced side across the park, but they will need to fix up their discipline and a few fundamentals if they are going to beat an improving Warriors.
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitu’a 3. Adam Pompey 4. Peta Hiku 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Bunty Afoa 11. Eliesa Katoa 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Tohu Harris 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Ben Murdoch-Masila 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Jack Murchie 18. Tom Ale 20. Marcelo Montoya 21. Paul Turner 22. Kane Evans
The Warriors are unlucky not to be 2-0 after a few rough calls went against them in their loss to the Knights last round. They lose halfback Harris-Tavita for an extended period to injury, but Sean O’Sullivan may prove be a handy pickup from the Broncos. Nikorima has started the season well and he will step up to guide the side around the park. It is hard to look past the quailty of the Raiders, but if the Warriors can bring their A-game, an upset could be on the cards.
Raiders by 6
Brisbane Broncos vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Broncos: 1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Xavier Coates 3. Herbie Farnworth 4. Tesi Niu 5. David Mead 6. Anthony Milford 7. Brodie Croft 8. Tevita Pangai Junior 9. Jake Turpin 10. Thomas Flegler 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. John Asiata 15. Rhys Kennedy 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. Ben Te’o 18. Tom Dearden 19. Richard Kennar 20. Cory Paix 21. Corey Oates
The Broncos losing streak sits at 13-straight after yet another loss in their local derby against the Titans. Their first choice halves pairing of Milford and Croft have been unconvincing. Their defence has left a lot to be desired. Individually, they are trying their hearts out, but they cannot seem to put it all together collectively on both sides of the ball. If they do not come away with the two points against the equally struggling Bulldogs, their next five games are against the Storm, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Eels and Titans and they could be setting records as far as losing streaks are concerned. Their lack of quality and confidence makes it hard to tip them against any opponent.
Bulldogs: 1. Corey Allan 2. Nick Meaney 3. Will Hopoate 4. Nick Cotric 5. Tuipulotu Katoa 6. Jake Averillo 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Ofahiki Ogden 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Jack Hetherington 11. Adam Elliott 12. Corey Waddell 13. Josh Jackson 14. Sione Katoa 15. Renouf Atoni 16. Joe Stimson 17. Dylan Napa 19. Dean Britt 20. Chris Smith 21. Lachlan Lewis 22. Ava Seumanufagai
The Bulldogs failed to score a single point last round against the Panthers. This game is vital in regards to the clubs rebuild and they have to view this game as a huge opportunity to get their spluttering attack going against a weak Broncos defence and register their first in for their season. It is also a chance for new halfback Kyle Flanagan to build some confidence in his own game. For all the Bulldogs woes in previous seasons, they have been credited for being gritty in defence, which is what will separate them from the Broncos.
Bulldogs by 4
Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Tom Opacic 4. Marata Niukore 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Nathan Brown 14. Oregon Kaufusi 15. Keegan Hipgrave 16. Will Smith 17. Ray Stone 18. Jordan Rankin 19. Haze Dunster 20. David Hollis 21. Joey Lussick
The Eels have got off to an impressive start to the season and knocked off the reigning premiers last round. They are playing with plenty of energy. Hooker Reed Mahoney has arguably been the difference between winning and losing their first two games, along with captain Clint Gutherson. Winger Maika Sivo looks to be in devastating form as he always is at Bankwest Stadium so look for him to terrorize Katoa down that left edge. Still plenty of improvement needed with their halves though, but they should knock off the Sharks at home.
Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Connor Tracey 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Teig Wilton 15. Aiden Tolman 16. Jack Williams 17. Billy Magoulias 18. Mawene Hiroti 19. Nene Macdonald 20. Andrew Fifita 21. Braydon Trindall
Wayward goal kicking was the difference between winning and losing last round against the Raiders but they have played a real positive brand of football in the opening two rounds. Matt Moylan has shown glimpses of his best and it is hard to fault the efforts put in from their forward pack. Unfortunately for the Sharks, the stigma of not being able to beat the sides above them over the past year is still there and it is hard to see them upsetting the Eels at Bankwest.
Eels by 8
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers
Knights: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Starford To’a 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Connor Watson 14. Sauaso Sue 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones 18. Gehamat Shibasaki 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Dominic Young 21. Simi Sasagi
Newcastle were able to scrape by the Warriors thanks largely by a brilliant individual performance by star centre Bradman Best. Still missing a few key players including fullback Kalyn Ponga, the Knights have done well to start the season with two wins and have a chance to make it three against a toothless Tiger outfit. There is still plenty of improvement left in this team and playing in front of their home crowd, they should comfortably collect the two points.
Tigers: 1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Tommy Talau 4. James Roberts 5. Asu Kepaoa 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Luke Brooks 8. Zane Musgrove 9. Jacob Liddle 10. James Tamou 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Alex Twal 14. Joe Ofahengaue 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Stefano Utoikamanu 17. Moses Mbye 18. Michael Chee-Kam 19. Joseph Leilua 20. Russell Packer 21. Alex Seyfarth
The Tigers were pumped by 34 points by the Roosters last round and it is hard to see how they will get themselves out of this slump they are in. Luke Brooks looks out of his depth without Benji Marshall or Robbie Farah alongside him and his performances as the game managing halfback of this team has been very poor. The potential is there and hopefully he can build some confidence with a good performance and turn it around because if he does not fire, the team does not fire. The Tigers might be in for a long Sunday afternoon in Newcastle
Knights by 16
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Murray Taulagi 3. Esan Marsters 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8. Francis Molo 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Jake Granville 15. Josh Mcguire 16. Corey Jensen 17. Lachlan Burr 18. Justin O’Neill 19. Shane Wright 20. Peter Hola 21. Ben Hampton
The Cowboys are 0-2 after another disappointing loss to the Dragons last round. The effort is there and they have shown improvements in defence and their resilience in general, but for two straight games they have cost themselves any chance of winning because of their atrocious completion rates. Far too many simple errors are killing their attack, making it difficult for Morgan and Drinkwater to have any real impact. Coach Todd Payten’s selection with his spine is a bit perplexing as well with Holmes left out on the wing again. If they can hold onto the ball, maybe they will have a chance against the Titans.
Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Anthony Don 3. Phillip Sami 4. Patrick Herbert 5. Corey Thompson 6. Tanah Boyd 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Moeaki Fotuaika 11. Kevin Proctor 12. David Fifita 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Sam Lisone 16. Jaimin Jolliffe 17. Erin Clark 18. Beau Fermor 19. Herman Ese’ese 20. Sam McIntyre 21. Sam Stone
The Titans again proved that they are ‘little brother’ no more after a third straight win over their northern neighbours, the hapless Broncos. They lose five-eighth Ash Taylor to injury which is a huge blow as he creates plenty of try scoring opportunities, meaning halfback Jamal Fogarty will need to get a lot more creative in attack and livewire fullback AJ Brimson needs to get more involved. They are in a good place the Titans and being Queensland’s best team is a huge motivation for them when it comes to building their identity. If the Titans are to make the finals, they have to win these games which they are expected to win.
Titans by 10