Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 18 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 19 matches.

Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos @ CommBank Stadium
Thursday 21st July, 7:50pm

Clinton Gutherson1Tesi Niu
Maika Sivo2Corey Oates
Will Penisini3Kotoni Staggs
Waqa Blake4Brenko Lee
Bailey Simonsson5Jordan Pereira
Dylan Brown6Ezra Mam
Mitchell Moses7Adam Reynolds
Reagan Campbell-Gillard8Corey Jensen
Reed Mahoney9Jake Turpin
Junior Paulo10Payne Haas
Shaun Lane11Kurt Capewell
Isaiah Papali’i12Jordan Riki
Ryan Matterson13Patrick Carrigan
Makahesi Makatoa14Cory Paix
Jakob Arthur15Kobe Hetherington
Oregon Kaufusi16Thomas Flegler
Marata Niukore17Keenan Palasia

Played 46, Eels 25, Broncos 21

Last Meeting: Round 7, 2021: Eels 46 def. Broncos 6

Final Thoughts: The Parramatta Eels didn’t set the world on fire in Round 18 but did enough to beat the Warriors 28-18 at CommBank Stadium. Similarly, the Brisbane Broncos left it late to beat the Titans 16-12 but performed exceptionally well given the Origin outs.

We’ve been here before with Ryan Matterson but the Eels have named him to start this week; Marata Niukore drops to the bench. Meanwhile, the Broncos welcome back their Origin stars. Cory Paix also returns with Billy Walters out with a hip injury.

The Eels have fresh speculation surrounding the club this week with Bard Arthur rumoured to be being shopped around by his management. He has peaked as the coach of this side to many. Like previous seasons, Week 2 of the NRL Finals already feels like their ceiling. However, they have an opportunity to raise that ceiling this week. The Broncos are one of the better sides in the competition right now. While equal on points, they’ve been the more consistent of the two. They have struggled away from home recent years, though. That is a factor to consider in this one alongside the return of their stars. It’s a match made for the middle. The Eels are a top yardage side while the Broncos have proven dangerous through the centre-third when they get a roll on. Pat Carrigan’s return will help get them up the field through his passing and running game. Adam Reynolds can kick them out of trouble when they don’t. Similarly, Ryan Matterson is a huge name to keep an eye on. He was named last week before pulling out late. If the same happens again, the Broncos look good to match the Eels in the middle and keep this one close at the very least.

Tip: Tri Bet (10.5) – Either Team by 10 or Less @ $1.83

St. George-Illawarra Dragons v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles @ Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Friday 22nd July, 6:00pm

DragonsSea Eagles
Cody Ramsey1Reuben Garrick
Mathew Feagai2Jason Saab
Moses Mbye3Morgan Harper
Zac Lomax4Tolutau Koula
Tautau Moga5Christian Tuipulotu
Talatau Amone6Kieran Foran
Ben Hunt7Daly Cherry-Evans
Jack de Belin8Sean Keppie
Andrew McCullough9Lachlan Croker
Blake Lawrie10Josh Aloiai
Billy Burns11Haumole Olakau’atu
Jaydn Su’a12Andrew Davey
Jack Bird13Toafofoa Sipley
Jayden Sullivan14Dylan Walker
Tariq Sims15Josh Schuster
Francis Molo16Martin Taupau
Josh McGuire17Taniela Paseka

Played 32, Dragons 21, Sea Eagles 11

Last Meeting: Round 18, 2021: Sea Eagles 32 def. Dragons 18

Final Thoughts: You know the NRL season is roughly three-quarters in when the St. George-Illawarra Dragons produce the “full support of the board” gear. Anthony Griffin needed it following their 54-26 loss to the Roosters. No such problems for Des Hasler and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles who hammered the Knights 42-12 last week.

The Dragons have lost Moses Suli for this one with Moses Mbye into the centres. Jayden Sullivan joins the bench alongside Tariq Sims who returns from injury and takes Aaron Woods’ spot. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles are without Jake Trboejvic who has been sidelined with covid. Toafofoa Sipley moves into lock with Taniela Paseka onto the bench.

Anthony Griffin has the backing of the board, which, historically, means he’s under pressure to save his job. He needs a response from his side following back-to-back dire performances. The Dragons attack in uninspiring and often fails to put their most dangerous attacking players into promising positions. Zac Lomax scored an superb individual try last week but is rarely presented with the chance. Their desperation to run it on the last suggests they’re sticking to a game plan set by the man in the coaches box. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles are averaging 35 points per game across their last five. They’ve learned to live without Tom Trbojevic and started to play with some variation on the edges. Daly Cherry-Evans and Haumole Olakau’atu have looked dangerous on the right all season while Kieran Foran and the left have produced points in recent weeks. Given the form of the Manly attack against what has been a poor St. George-Illawarra defence, this one might blow out by the end.

Tip: Handicap – Sea Eagles -2.5 @ $1.90

Newcastle Knights v Sydney Roosters @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Friday 22nd July, 7:55pm

Kalyn Ponga1James Tedesco
Edrick Lee2Daniel Tupou
Dane Gagai3Paul Momirovski
Enari Tuala4Joseph Manu
Hymel Hunt5Joseph Suaalii
Anthony Milford6Luke Keary
Adam Clune7Sam Walker
David Klemmer8Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Jayden Brailey9Sam Verrills
Daniel Saifiti10Matthew Lodge
Tyson Frizell11Angus Crichton
Lachlan Fitzgibbon12Nat Butcher
Mitch Barnett13Victor Radley
Kurt Mann14Connor Watson
Jacob Saifiti15Egan Butcher
Pasami Saulo16Drew Hutchison
Brodie Jones17Terrell May

Played 45, Knights 14, Roosters 31

Last Meeting: Round 1, 2022: Knights 20 def. Roosters 6

Final Thoughts: The Newcastle Knights suffered another heavy defeat in Round 18. This time: 42-12 at the hands of the Sea Eagles. The Sydney Roosters administered a heavy defeat of their own by hammering the Dragons 54-26 at Central Coast Stadium.

Hymel Hunt has been named to play his first game of the 2022 NRL season. Tyson Frizell and Edrick Lee are both nursing injuries but have been named to play. However, Simi Sasagi is out and replaced by Brodie Jones. For the Roosters, Luke Keary and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves have been named to return with Matt Lodge also in the starting side. Sitili Tupouniua, Siosiua Taukeiaho and Billy Smith miss this one.

A lot has changed since the last time these two teams met back in Round 1. The Knights took the chocolates in that one but have since become one of the worst teams in the NRL. Meanwhile, the Roosters have slowly but surely improved and started to come into some form of late. While the Roosters have lost more players to injury, Keary provides a boost and a Waerea-Hargreaves/Lodge front row would strike fear into any pack in the competition. They will lay a platform for the Roosters attack. As we saw last week, they have plenty of points in them if they’re surging through the middle. Joseph Manu had a lot to do with scoring those points but has moved out to the centres. However, he’s shown a tendency to float off his side of the field searching for work so still poses as a threat in attack. It’s difficult to see the Knights keeping it close. Playing at home has made little impact on their performance with some of their worst in 2022 coming at McDonald Jones Stadium. With a Top 8 spot on the line and the threat of coming into form this week, the Roosters are set to add another one of those poor results to the Knights home record.

Tip: Handicap – Roosters -9.5 @ $1.90

Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors @ GIO Stadium
Saturday 23rd July, 3:00pm

Xavier Savage1Chanel Harris-Tavita
Nick Cotric2Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Matthew Timoko3Jesse Arthars
Sebastian Kris4Adam Pompey
Albert Hopoate5Marcelo Montoya
Jack Wighton6Daejarn Asi
Jamal Fogarty7Shaun Johnson
Josh Papalii8Addin Fonua-Blake
Zac Woolford9Wayde Egan
Joseph Tapine10Tohu Harris
Hudson Young11Euan Aitken
Elliott Whitehead12Josh Curran
Adam Elliott13Jazz Tevaga
Tom Starling14Reece Walsh
Ryan Sutton15Bunty Afoa
Emre Guler16Aaron Pene
Corey Harawira-Naera17Jack Murchie

Played 43, Raiders 22, Warriors 21

Last Meeting: Round 8, 2022: Warriors 21 def. Raiders 20

Final Thoughts: The Canberra Raiders always seem to get up when facing the Storm and produced a superb 20-16 win in Melbourne last week. The New Zealand Warriors, on the other hand, couldn’t back up their homecoming win a fortnight earlier and fell to the Eels 28-18.

The Raiders lose Jordan Rapana to suspension but welcome back Nick Cotric to the wing. Albert Hopoate is on the other for the injured James Schiller. Stacey Jones has hit the panic button and dropped Reece Walsh to the bench and Ronald Volkman to the reserves. Chanel Harris-Tavita starts at fullback with Daejarn Asi into five-eighth.

Only two spots separate these two on the NRL ladder but they aren’t close. The Raiders have developed into a capable footy side on the back of an improved middle. Meanwhile, the Warriors run for the fewest metres in the competition after 18 rounds. Their answer is to drop the fullback and make a change in the halves… There is always the Raiders factor to consider. Ricky Stuart’s side has a remarkable ability to crumble on any given day and they did so the last time these two met in Round 8. While they outlasted the Storm in Melbourne last week, applying pressure and being patient tends to be a successful approach against the Raiders. They’ve not been able to do it consistently across 80 minutes, but that appears to be what Stacey Jones is asking from his side. If the middle can compete and provide Shaun Johnson with a platform to create, we might be in for an upset.

Tip: Handicap – Warriors +12.5 @ $1.90

Penrith Panthers v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @ BlueBet Stadium
Saturday 23rd July, 5:30pm

Dylan Edwards1William Kennedy
Taylan May2Connor Tracey
Izack Tago3Jesse Ramien
Stephen Crichton4Siosifa Talakai
Brian To’o5Ronaldo Mulitalo
Jarome Luai6Matt Moylan
Nathan Cleary7Nicho Hynes
Moses Leota8Toby Rudolf
Apisai Koroisau9Blayke Brailey
James Fisher-Harris10Royce Hunt
Viliame Kikau11Briton Nikora
Liam Martin12Wade Graham
Isaah Yeo13Dale Finucane
Mitch Kenny14Teig Wilton
Scott Sorensen15Cameron McInnes
Matthew Eisenhuth16Braden Hamlin-Uele
Jaeman Salmon17Andrew Fifita

Played 41, Panthers 17, Sharks 23

Last Meeting: Round 14, 2021: Sharks 19 def. Panthers 18

Final Thoughts: The Penrith Panthers sent out a reserve grade side in Round 18 and still managed to pick up the two competition points with an 18-16 win over the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks faced an under-strength Cowboys side but impressed throughout their 26-12 victory.

Ivan Cleary will have his Origin reps back for this one as the Panthers return to full strength. Siosifa Talakai also returns for the Sharks and takes Connor Tracey’s place in the centres. Tracey moves out to the wing for Sione Katoa who is out for the rest of the NRL season.

We’ve been waiting a long to to get a better idea of where the Sharks stand in the premiership race. They’ve picked up 12 wins throughout the NRL season and produced some impressive results, but they’ve not had the opportunity to test themselves against the top sides often enough to install them as genuine premiership contenders. This week, the Sharks take on a rested and ready Panthers outfit. The Origin stars took their break and return this week to ramp up into the end of the season. This could well be a preview of what is to come in September. Penrith plays with the best yardage and defence in the NRL. Those are two consistent identifiers in premiership winning teams and nobody does either better right now. The Sharks aren’t too far behind, though. They’ve quietly put together a strong defence to concede the third-fewest points in the competition while their 1,603 running metres per game ranks 5th. However, a lot of those numbers have come against poorer teams. This is where the Sharks will be tested and can measure themselves against the best. The Panthers will be ready and willing to absorb early pressure and aren’t all that familiar with going down early. Expect the Sharks to fire up and get stuck in early, looking to play expansive footy and strike an early blow.

Tip: Halftime-Fulltime – Sharks/Panthers @ $7

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Melbourne Storm @ Accor Stadium
Saturday 23rd July, 7:35pm

Latrell Mitchell1Nick Meaney
Alex Johnston2Dean Ieremia
Jed Cartwright3Marion Seve
Isaiah Tass4Justin Olam
Jaxson Paulo5Tyran Wishart
Cody Walker6Cameron Munster
Lachlan Ilias7Jahrome Hughes
Tevita Tatola8Jesse Bromwich
Damien Cook9Harry Grant
Mark Nicholls10Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Keaon Koloamatangi11Felise Kaufusi
Jai Arrow12Kenneath Bromwich
Cameron Murray13Josh King
Kodi Nikorima14Grant Anderson
Davvy Moale15Tui Kamikamica
Siliva Havili16Alec MacDonald
Thomas Burgess17Jordan Grant

Played 36, Rabbitohs 5, Storm 31

Last Meeting: Round 2, 2022: Storm 15 def. Rabbitohs 14

Final Thoughts: The South Sydney Rabbitohs look like a top side at their best but aren’t putting together a full 80 minutes just yet. They needed two late tries to seal the 36-28 win over the Bulldogs last week. As for the Melbourne Storm, their 20-16 loss to the Raiders made it three defeats on the bounce. It’s the first time Craig Bellamy’s side has lost three in a row since 2015.

Cameron Murray is back for the Rabbitohs and is joined by Damien Cook. Davvy Moale and Siliva Havili move to the bench and Daniel Suluka-Fifita out of the side. Jed Cartwright has earned a start ahead of Taane Milne. Another injury to Ryan Papenhuyzen forces Nick Meaney into the Storm #1 jersey, with Tyran Wishart replacing Grant Anderson on the wing.

Latrell Mitchell has changed the game for the Rabbitohs. His inclusion opens up both sides of the field and has ignited the Bunnies left edge into 2021 form. This side still struggles defensively at times. Poor periods of a match have allowed lower opposition to take leads or stay in the game longer than they should. However, the Rabbitohs are coming out on top more often than not to fly into the back end of the NRL season. The Storm, on the other hand, are limping. This is unfamiliar territory for this side and triggering a change in form has become more difficult with Papenhuyzen’s latest injury. However, they’re familiar with beating the Rabbitohs. Melbourne has won 31 of the 36 games between the two clubs with South Sydney’s latest win coming in 2018 – their only win in eight years. More recently, though, the Storm haven’t been at their best with the ball. A turnover in the spine hasn’t helped. The 20 minutes Melbourne’s first-choice spine played together last week was the first time they came together since Round 9 and now they’ve been forced into another change. We know better than to doubt the Storm – especially in positions like this. However, the Rabbitohs have come into form at the right time and will be tough to beat at home.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs +1.5 @ $1.95

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Gold Coast Titans @ CommBank Stadium
Sunday 24th July, 2:00pm

Jake Averillo1AJ Brimson
Jacob Kiraz2Sosefo Fifita
Declan Casey3Phillip Sami
Braidon Burns4Patrick Herbert
Josh Addo-Carr5Corey Thompson
Matt Burton6Tanah Boyd
Kyle Flanagan7Toby Sexton
Max King8Moeaki Fotuaika
Jeremy Marshall-King9Aaron Booth
Paul Vaughan10Isaac Liu
Josh Jackson11David Fifita
Corey Waddell12Beau Fermor
Tevita Pangai Junior13Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Zach Dockar-Clay14Erin Clark
Kurtis Morrin15Jaimin Jolliffe
Joe Stimson16Herman Ese’ese
Raymond Faitala-Mariner17Jayden Campbell

Played 20, Bulldogs 9, Titans 11

Last Meeting: Round 20, 2021: Titans 34 def. Bulldogs 6

Final Thoughts: The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are improving but lack the finer details late in the game. They slipped up late in falling to the Rabbitohs 36-28 on Sunday evening. Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Titans went close to the Broncos but couldn’t quite get one over big brother in losing 16-12.

Josh Addo-Carr has been named for the Bulldogs but is in doubt for Sunday. Aaron Schoupp looks the most likely to take his spot if Addo-Carr isn’t good to go. Jayden Campbell is good to go for the Titans, though. He returns to the NRL off the bench.

The Bulldogs played well in defeat last week. While conceding 36 points won’t please Mick Potter, their attack continues to play well and has enough points in them to beat a terrible Titans side on Sunday. While the Titans kept it close with the Broncos in Round 18, the Broncos team was understrength. The scoreboard flatters them somewhat despite noticeable improvements. Defence is likely to be optional in this one. Both have struggled without the ball throughout the 2022 NRL season with the Titans, in particular, susceptible to conceding piles of points across brief periods of a match. They’ve often played well enough to compete but seen a disastrous 10-20 minutes cost them a chance at the chocolates. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are playing free-flowing and confident footy. They’re well-positioned to capitalise on the inevitable period the Titans fall asleep to put this game out of reach.

Tip: Margin – Bulldogs 13+ @ $3.05

North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers @ Queensland Country Stadium
Sunday 24th July, 4:05pm

Scott Drinkwater1Daine Laurie
Kyle Feldt2Brent Naden
Valentine Holmes3Starford To’a
Peta Hiku4Asu Kepaoa
Murray Taulagi5Ken Maumalo
Tom Dearden6Adam Doueihi
Chad Townsend7Luke Brooks
Coen Hess8James Tamou
Reece Robson9Fa’amanu Brown
Luciano Leilua10Joe Ofahengaue
Tom Gilbert11Luke Garner
Jeremiah Nanai12Kelma Tuilagi
Jason Taumalolo13Jackson Hastings
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow14Fonua Pole
Jake Granville15Zane Musgrove
Jamayne Taunoa-Brown16Alex Seyfarth
Griffin Neame17Tyrone Peachey

Played 41, Cowboys 18, Tigers 23

Last Meeting: Round 10, 2022: Cowboys 36 def. Tigers 12

Final Thoughts: The North Queensland Cowboys were missing many of their top players but will be disappointed with their 26-12 loss to the Sharks last week. The Wests Tigers didn’t have the same excuse for their 18-16 loss to the Panthers who were without seven of their Origin stars.

The Cowboys welcome back their Origin reps for this one. Jeremiah Nanai’s return pushes Luciano Leilua to prop in an interesting change. As for the Tigers, James Roberts and David Nofoaluma are a chance at returning. Brent Naden is locked in though after being named on the wing.

Up against a smarting Cowboys side looking to respond to a loss, welcoming back their full Origin contingent and playing in North Queensland, this one could get ugly for the Tigers. Jackson Hastings is doing everything he can for the Tigers at the moment. He led the team in touches, tackles and runs while finishing behind only Joe Ofahengaue in yardage. He’s an impressive player but the Tigers need more from the rest of the squad if they’re to compete. Those improvements need to come in defence. Around the ruck, in particular. No team provides the opposition more opportunities to attack around the ruck than the Tigers and Reece Robson will be licking his lips at the prospect of crossing the line this week. The Cowboys are third in the NRL in yardage and will generate plenty of opportunities in good ball. From there, Tom Dearden, Scott Drinkwater and Robson will produce points. Too many for the Tigers to be a chance in this one.

Tip: Anytime Try Scorer – Reece Robson