The NRL premiership rolls into a seven-match Round 14 schedule, with Wednesday’s Origin creating a bit of uncertainly for some crucial showdowns.
History: Played 40: Raiders 21, Tigers 19
Last meeting: Round 25, 2022: Raiders 56 d Tigers 10 at Leichhardt Oval
Team News: The only change to the Tigers side that obliterated the Cowboys a fortnight ago is for Parramatta-bound Joe Ofahengaue, with Fonua Pole to start at lock and Alex Seyfarth joining the bench. The Raiders’ NSW second-rower Hudson Young has been named to back up in the place of Corey Harawira-Naera, who left the field in distressing scenes on Saturday. The much-publicised decision to rest Jarrod Croker so he game play game number 300 at home sees Nick Cotric move from the bench to the wing and Albert Hopoate shift to centre, with Matt Frawley the new interchange player.
What We Like: Only four of the last 12 matches at Campbelltown (where, incidentally, the Tigers are on a six-match slide) have produced totals of more than 42 points, while the last four saw 38 points or less scored. Under 43.5 looks good with the Tigers’ matches following a low-scoring trend this season – their last outing notwithstanding. A Tigers/Raiders ($7.50) or Raiders/Tigers ($9.00) option in the Half-time/Full-time stakes is handy value in a coin-flip game. Starford To’a, who gave Holmes a bath two weeks ago and marks up against fill-in centre Albert Hopoate here, is a great Anytime Tryscorer shout.
Final Thoughts: If there’s any team who probably didn’t want a bye last week, it’s the Tigers: only one Origin player and coming off the club’s most memorable performance in more than decade to give them three wins from their last four. But it was a breakout game for a clutch of their young guns and a tantalising platform to make something of their season. The Raiders were pitiful against Manly as their five-match winning run came to an end, but they showed a ton of character to outlast Souths 33-26 after the Harawira-Naera incident with back-row enforcer Corey Horsburgh having a huge game. A few weeks ago you’d be all over the Green Machine here, but the shot of confidence the Tigers’ attack received in their last outing makes this a real toss-up.
Best Bet: Handicap – Tigers +2.5 @ $1.81
History: First meeting
Team News: The Warriors get Wayde Egan back as Freddy Lussick (concussion) sits one out, while Dylan Walker returns after missing a game and Mitch Barnett will come off the bench after an 11-week layoff. Tom Ale and Demitric Sifakula drop off the interchange. The Dolphins’ 17 is unchanged with Origin pair Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Gilbert to be rested.
What We Like: Last week’s loss was just the Warriors’ fourth this season to produce over 38 points, while the Dolphins – after a string of points-fests – have been involved in consecutive low-scorers. With Mt Smart games averaging less than 27 points in 2023, the under 44.5 is a solid play. Jamayne Isaako is coming off consecutive doubles and has 12 tries from as many games this year – he’s an obvious Anytime Tryscorer option at $1.80 or to get two or more at $5.10.
Final Thoughts: The heat is on the 6-6 Warriors after losing four of their last five and producing arguably their poorest performance of the Andrew Webster in going down to the Origin-depleted Broncos. There were positive individual aspects, but they blundered in big moments before coming home with a wet sail – to no avail. The 7-5 Dolphins have been similar to the Warriors in 2023, a team more than the sum of its parts and consistent in performance and effort, but they haven’t won consecutive games since Round 3. Last week’s 26-12 defeat of the Dragons was clinical and impressive, but this is a testing road trip. At Mt Smart and with some key troops back, the Warriors should get up…even if they are giving away too many points at the line.
Best Bet: Margin – Warriors 1-12 @ $3.00
History: Played 21: Rabbitohs 15, Titans 6
History: Round 14, 2022: Rabbitohs 30 d Titans 16 at Cbus Super Stadium
Team News: Kieran Foran is out for the Titans, which sees Jayden Campbell move to five-eight and Keano Kini get a start at fullback. Sam Verrills and Iszac Fa’asuamaleaui are back on the bench and Alofiana Khan-Pereira returns on the wing, while Maroons duo David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui have been named to back up. Blake Taaffe will again play fullback for Souths with injury ruling Latrell Mitchell out of Origin I. Campbell Graham is back from injury, Richie Kennar replaces Taane Milne on the wing, Cam Murray and Jai Arrow have been named, and Liam Knight, Tallis Duncan and Jed Cartwright drop out of the 17.
What We Like: The freewheeling, points-haemorrhaging Titans are always a tempting overs bet, despite a low-scorer in their last outing. Six of their 11 games have produced 50-plus totals, as have the Rabbitohs’ last two games. Rookie Titans winger Khan-Pereira scored in all but three of his 10 NRL games to date, tallying 12 tries courtesy of four doubles – he’s irresistible Anytime Tryscorer value at $1.88. Ditto Campbell Graham ($2.00), who has 12 tries in 13 games.
Final Thoughts: A key game for both sides, with Souths losing their last two to surrender a share of the competition lead. The 33-26 Origin-impacted loss to the Raiders could be forgiven – and Cody Walker couldn’t have done much more – but the fact remains the Rabbitohs have won only five of their last 11 without Latrell. The 5-6 Titans are a respectable ninth but blowing a 14-point against the Bulldogs in Round 12 was a crushing blow to their finals hopes. Another loss will see them drop to at least 12th. Souths have won their last seven against Gold Coast and should find a way on Saturday night.
Best Bet: Margin – Rabbitohs by 7 to 12 @ $7.00
History: Played 61: Broncos 39, Sharks 22
Last meeting: Round 8, 2022: Broncos 16 d Sharks 7 at Suncorp Stadium
Team News: Cronulla’s only change sees Siosifa Talakai return in the centres for the desperately unlucky Connor Tracey, one of the Sharks’ best in their Round 12 win over Newcastle. Nicho Hynes should back up from Origin. Brisbane’s five Origin players have been named to play, which sees Corey Jensen and Kobe Hetherington move back to the bench, and Tristan Sailor, Deine Mariner, Brendan Piakura, Keena Palasia and Xavier Willison to the reserves.
What We Like: The competition’s two highest-scoring teams coming together might suggest an overs play, with eight of the Sharks’ 11 games and five of the Broncos’ 12 produced 44-plus points. But both teams’ games have trended towards lower scores lately and this shapes as more of a war of attrition – consider the under 43.5. Will Kennedy ($2.20), with 11 tries this season – including a couple of hat-tricks – is strong Anytime Tryscorer value, while two of Jesse Arthars’ last three wing opponents have scored doubles, bringing Sione Katoa ($1.96) into the frame.
Final Thoughts: Co-leaders Cronulla have won five of their last six and got back to they do best in the fortnight before the bye, beating Manly and Newcastle into submission with tough defence and some Hynes-influenced flair. The flood of points against them from the Dolphins in Magic Round appears to be an anomaly, with their other five opponents over the past six weeks held to an average of 11.6 points. Origin-ravaged Brisbane were super-gutsy in coming away with the win over the Warriors in New Zealand, with Adam Reynolds producing a vintage display and the players deputising all playing superbly. Whether the rep stars back up or not, the Broncos will find the more accomplished Sharks a tougher nut to crack down in Cronulla, where the hosts hold the value as only $1.62 favourites.
History: Played 178: Roosters 92, Bulldogs 81, draws 5
Last meeting: Round 8, 2022: Bulldogs 16 d Roosters 12 at Accor Stadium
Team News: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Joey Manu make welcome returns for the Roosters, with Drew Hutchison moving back to the bench in the place of injured Brandon Smith. Nat Butcher starts with Victor Radley copping another suspension. James Tedesco and Lindsay Collins have been named to back up from Origin. The Bulldogs’ NSW duo, Josh Addo-Carr and Tevita Pangai Jr, are listed in the reserves with Blake Wilson and Ryan Sutton named to start. Josh Reynolds is back on the bench.
What We Like: Almost inconceivably, the Roosters attack is the worst in the NRL, while the Bulldogs score the second-least points per game. Under 41.5 is a great play in this one. Luke Keary scored a double in the Roosters’ last outing and is $3.90 to dot down again, while Jake Averillo ($3.15) looks among the best-value options in the Bulldogs’ line-up.
Final Thoughts: Crunch time for the 10th-placed Roosters, who get a couple of big names back but lose a couple and are under intense scrutiny after a 44-6 loss to the Panthers and a last-minute defeat to the lowly Dragons in their last two outings. The Bulldogs are a win back in 14th, grabbing a desperately needed comeback win over the Titans – just their second W in seven games – that was big on spirit. The Roosters have covered just one of their last seven and are hard to get on-board with as a double-digit favourite.
Best Bet: Handicap – Bulldogs +10.5 @ $1.90
History: Played 43: Storm 32, Cowboys 11
Last meeting: Round 11, 2022: Cowboys 36 d Storm 6 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Team News: Tom Dearden, 18th man for Queensland, is the Cowboys’ only Origin absentee named to start, though Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi and Reuben Cotter are in the reserves. Semi Valemei has been chosen on the wing for Round 13 debutant Robert Derby but could make way for Taulagi. Jeremiah Nanai (suspension) is a big interchange inclusion, while Jason Taumalolo lurks among the reserves. The Storm’s 17 is unchanged with Cameron Munster and Harry Grant named to back up.
What We Like: Just one of the Storm’s last eight games have gone over 40 points, while the Cowboys have a 9-4 under record in 2023. Under 42.5 is worth a nudge with none of these teams’ last nine in Townsville breaching that mark. Kyle Feldt has scored nine tries in his last eight games and is a juicy $2.05 Anytime Tryscorer; the Cowboys winger can concede them though and Will Warbrick ($1.95) is equally enticing after crossing for six in his last eight games.
Final Thoughts: No one’s getting too excited about Melbourne as a premiership threat just yet, but they are in equal-first after clinical wins over Brisbane and the Dolphins, and are less encumbered by the Origin drain that at just about any stage of the past 20 years. North Queensland responded pretty well to a horrific loss to Wests Tigers, going down 24-16 to Parramatta despite the absence of four Maroons reps. They were in it until the dying stages thanks to a Scott Drinkwater-led fightback. The embattled Cowboys are 4-2 at home this year and hold some appeal with more than a converted try’s start, but the Storm should get their 13th win from their last 14 in this rivalry.
Best Bet: Margin – Storm 1 to 12 @ $2.80
History: Played 37: Dragons 20, Panthers 17
Last meeting: Round 2, 2022: Panthers 20 d Dragons 16 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Team News: Penrith’s six NSW players have all been named to back up in an unchanged 17. Props Spencer Leniu (groin) and Matt Eisenhuth (shoulder) and centre Izack Tago (pectoral) are all in the reserves as they push to return from injury. Ben Hunt has been named to back for St George Illawarra, pushing Jayden Sullivan back to the bench and Moses Mbye to 18th man. Jaydn Su’A and Billy Burns come into the starting engine-room, with Ben Murdoch-Masila going to the bench, Jack Bird rested and Toby Couchman out of the 17.
What We Like: Penrith are conceding just 11.4 points per game and given the Origin factor, you’d expect the champs being content to grind this one out at home – where visitors are scoring less than 10 points a game. Under 12.5 points for the Dragons hold plenty of appeal. Dylan Edwards, who has scored seven tries in his last nine games, will be looking to lead the way for an Origin-weary (or depleted) Panthers side and is a solid $2.03 Anytime Tryscorer option. Dragons wing behemoth Mikaele Ravalawa ($2.55) has scored in six of his nine games this year.
Final Thoughts: The Panthers won three on the trot leading into the bye, hammering the Roosters 44-6 at home in Round 11 before strangling the Broncos 15-4 at Suncorp. They’re back at the top of the ladder and reasserted as the team to beat. The euphoria of the Saints’ win at the death over the Roosters after Anthony Griffin’s axing faded fast, somewhat understandably looking flat as a pancake in a 26-12 loss to the Dolphins last Thursday. News of Jason Ryles and the club’s major sponsor rejecting them may compound this Dragons’ squad’s beaten mentality. The uncertainty over the Panthers’ NSW contingent makes it hard to get behind them covering a 15.5-point line with full confidence, but whatever line-up Ivan Cleary sends out should get the result without much trouble.