Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 14 matches. The Origin stars are back!

Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks @ GIO Stadium
Thursday 13th June, 7:50pm

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad1Matt Moylan
Bailey Simonsson2Sosaia Feki
Jarrod Croker3Bronson Xerri
Nick Cotric4Josh Morris
Jordan Rapana5Josh Dugan
Jack Wighton6Kyle Flanagan
Aidan Sezer7Chad Townsend
Josh Papalii8Andrew Fifita
Siliva Havili9Blayke Brailey
Dunamis Lui10Matt Prior
John Bateman11Briton Nikora
Elliott Whitehead12Kurt Capewell
Joseph Tapine13Paul Gallen
Tom Starling14Wade Graham
Tom Starling15Jayson Bukuya
Iosia Soliola16Jack Williams
Ryan Sutton17Braden Hamlin-Uele

Played 76, Raiders 33, Sharks 41

Last Meeting: Round 19, 2018: Sharks 28 def. Raiders 24

Final Thoughts: This could be one of the better Thursday night NRL games we see all season. Both sides are travelling fairly well while nursing injuries to have picked up enough wins to be well and truly inside the Top 8 on the ladder. The Raiders are still without Josh Hodgson. He’s one of the most under-appreciated players in the competition at the moment and his absence may become evident should this game go down to the wire. Meanwhile, Shaun Johnson is expected to return for the Sharks. The last time he played in Canberra, he slotted two field goals in as many minutes for the Warriors to come from behind and beat the Raiders.

Expecting a close contest, the experience of the Sharks is a bonus. They’re a group that has played plenty of football together and know exactly what is expected towards the back-end of a match. There isn’t another significant disparity between the two.

Tip: Handicap – Sharks +1.5 @ $1.90

Gold Coast Titans v New Zealand Warriors @ Cbus Super Stadium
Friday 14th June, 6:00pm

Alexander Brimson1Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Anthony Don2David Fusitu’a
Jesse Arthars3Peta Hiku
Brian Kelly4Patrick Herbert
Dale Copley5Ken Maumalo
Tyrone Roberts6Kodi Nikorima
Ryley Jacks7Blake Green
Jarrod Wallace8Agnatius Paasi
Nathan Peats9Issac Luke
Moeaki Fotuaika10Leeson Ah Mau
Bryce Cartwright11Isaiah Papali’i
Tyrone Peachey12Tohu Harris
Jai Arrow13Adam Blair
Mitch Rein14Jazz Tevaga
Shannon Boyd15Bunty Afoa
Jai Whitbread16Lachlan Burr
Jack Stockwell17Karl Lawton

Played 26, Titans 8, Warriors 17

Last Meeting: Round 4, 2019: Warriors 26 def. Titans 10

Final Thoughts: Neither the Titans or Warriors can be trusted at the moment. Nobody can definitively say one side will beat the other on Friday because we don’t know which version of the two sides will turn up. The Titans have been up and down. One week they’re looking like a park footy team, the next they’re beating the Broncos at Suncorp. Meanwhile, the Warriors are typically volatile. Just last week they played a near-perfect first half to then concede 24 unanswered points in the second.

Unfortunately for Garth Brennan, injuries mean he needs to name both Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey in the backrow. If there’s one consistency in this Titans outfit, it’s the terrible defence of these two. Peachey, in particular, has been getting found out since moving to the edges. Tohu Harris has been getting switched around between the left and right in recent weeks but it doesn’t matter which side he plays on Friday; he’s a great chance at finding the line.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Tohu Harris @ $5

North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers @ 1300SMILES Stadium
Friday 14th June, 7:55pm

Michael Morgan1Corey Thompson
Kyle Feldt2Robert Jennings
Enari Tuala3Moses Mbye
Tom Opacic4Esan Marsters
Javid Bowen5David Nofoaluma
John Asiata6Benji Marshall
Jake Clifford7Luke Brooks
Josh McGuire8Ben Matulino
Jake Granville9Robbie Farah
Scott Bolton10Alex Twal
Gavin Cooper11Ryan Matterson
Coen Hess12Michael Chee-Kam
Jason Taumalolo13Matthew Eisenhuth
Kurt Baptiste14Jacob Liddle
Shane Wright15Thomas Mikaele
Corey Jensen16Josh Aloiai
Francis Molo17Chris Lawrence

Played 37, Cowboys 16, Tigers 19

Last Meeting: Round 10, 2018: Tigers 20 def. Cowboys 12

Final Thoughts: It’s Jason Taumalolo vs the Wests Tigers this week. The hulking Tongan is the heart and soul of the Cowboys and how he plays directly reflects how close the team gets to winning. It’s no coincidence that the Cowboys won just one of the five games Taumalolo missed when injured earlier in the year. Michael Morgan’s role is unclear. He’s been named at fullback but will surely take up more of the duties in the halves than he did in Round 13. Morgan can’t do anything if Taumalolo and the Cowboys pack doesn’t get up the field, though.

Lucky for them, only the Bulldogs concede more running metres than the Tigers. This is a horror matchup for Wests who have lacked power through the middle of the field in recent weeks. Desperate enough to sound out Tim Mannah from reserve grade at the Eels, Michael Maguire knows he has a problem.

Jordan McLean and Matt Scott may be unavailable, but the Cows still have plenty of yardage in them. With that advantage, they should end up on the right side of the scoreboard.

Tip: Handicap – Tigers -3.5 @ $1.90

Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights @ AAMI Park
Saturday 15th June, 3:00pm

Jahrome Hughes1Kalyn Ponga
Suliasi Vunivalu2Edrick Lee
Will Chambers3Hymel Hunt
Marion Seve4Jesse Ramien
Josh Addo-Carr5Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Cameron Munster6Kurt Mann
Brodie Croft7Mitchell Pearce
Jesse Bromwich8James Gavet
Cameron Smith9Connor Watson
Nelson Asofa-Solomona10Daniel Saifiti
Felise Kaufusi11Lachlan Fitzgibbon
Kenneath Bromwich12Mitch Barnett
Dale Finucane13Tim Glasby
Brandon Smith14Jamie Buhrer
Christian Welch15Herman Ese’ese
Joe Stimson16Josh King
Ryan Papenhuyzen17Sione Mata’utia

Played 41, Storm 25, Knights 15

Last Meeting: Round 15, 2018: Storm 28 def. Knights 10

Final Thoughts: The Knights are flying! But the Storm are the Storm. This feels like the end of Newcastle’s six-game winning streak. Coming off an impressive win across the ditch last week, the Storm are in decent form themselves. They’ve quietly won four games on the trot.

Doing a job through the middle against the Roosters and Rabbitohs, the Knights are up against a full-strength Storm pack this week. Filled with Kiwis stars and the likes of Dale Finucane (how is he not playing Origin?), this time of year doesn’t have a massive impact on the Storm middles. They weathered a decent first half against the Warriors in Round 13 before putting their foot down and running in 24 points in the second half.

As impressive as the Knights were last week, they’re going to miss David Klemmer here. It’s risky to anticipate Daniel Saifiti producing the same sort of performance he did against the Rabbitohs after a career of inconsistencies and falling short of expectations.

Tip: Doubles – Storm/Storm @ $1.83

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers @ ANZ Stadium
Saturday 15th June, 5:30pm

Corey Allan1Dylan Edwards
Dane Gagai2Josh Mansour
James Roberts3Isaah Yeo
Kyle Turner4Brent Naden
Campbell Graham5Brian To’o
Cody Walker6James Maloney
Adam Doueihi7Nathan Cleary
George Burgess8James Tamou
Damien Cook9Mitchell Kenny
Liam Knight10James Fisher-Harris
John Sutton11Viliame Kikau
Ethan Lowe12Frank Winterstein
Cameron Murray13Liam Martin
Tevita Tatola14Wayde Egan
Mark Nicholls15Jarome Luai
Dean Britt16Moses Leota
Tom Amone17Reagan Campbell-Gillard

Played 92, Rabbitohs 50, Panthers 39

Last Meeting: Round 7, 2019: Rabbitohs 22 def. Panthers 18

Final Thoughts: Losers of two in a row, the Rabbitohs are going to want to find a result here. There hasn’t been any reason to worry about their defeats given the Origin disruptions, but Wayne Bennett won’t have any excuses for a loss this week. Especially against a Panthers side that, despite improving, is still one of the worst in the NRL.

Sam Burgess is a big out and they’re still without Adam Reynolds, but the Bunnies are the stronger side. Cody Walker has a point to prove following his unconvincing Origin debut, James Roberts is more comfortable at the club, Damien Cook is sure to bounce back after a quiet game last week, and Dane Gagai is where he should be – on the wing.

James Maloney had the Panthers playing better footy last week. Don’t sleep on him as a smokey for Origin Game 2 selection. However, injuries, new faces, and others playing out of position make things difficult for the Panthers. They’ve scraped by the last three weeks, but they were beneficiaries of the time of year. They’ll find things a lot tougher this week.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs -5.5 @ $1.87

Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos @ Bankwest Stadium
Saturday 15th May, 7:30pm

Clinton Gutherson1Darius Boyd
Maika Sivo2Corey Oates
Michael Jennings3Kotoni Staggs
Josh Hoffman4Gehamat Shibasaki
Blake Ferguson5Jamayne Isaako
Jaeman Salmon6Anthony Milford
Mitchell Moses7Sean O’Sullivan
Kane Evans8Matthew Lodge
Reed Mahoney9Jake Turpin
Junior Paulo10Payne Haas
Shaun Lane11David Fifita
Manu Ma’u12Matt Gillett
Nathan Brown13Tevita Pangai Junior
Ray Stone14Andrew McCullough
Peni Terepo15Jaydn Su’a
David Gower16Thomas Flegler
Marata Niukore17Patrick Carrigan

Played 57, Eels 21, Broncos 30

Last Meeting: Round 12, 2018: Broncos 18 def. Eels 10

Final Thoughts: What’s going on with these two? Thumped by the Sharks last week, the lift Bankwest Stadium provided has long since rubbed off the Eels. They’ve been diabolical for the best part of a month. Soft through the middle, this isn’t a matchup they’ll dominate. While the Broncos have hardly been banging the door down of the top teams in the NRL, the potential is still there. At the very least, their pack is made up of representative quality players and is capable of running any team off the park if they want.

Consistency remains the issue for the Broncos. For every hard-fought win like that over the Warriors in Round 11, they drop a shocker like Sunday’s nightmare 26-18 loss to the Titans. With neither team particularly trustworthy, go with the talent.

Tip: Head-to-Head – Broncos @ $2

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v St George-Illawarra Dragons @ Lottoland
Sunday 16th June, 2:00pm

Sea EaglesDragons
Tom Trbojevic1Matthew Dufty
Jorge Taufua2Jonus Pearson
Dylan Walker3Euan Aitken
Moses Suli4Zac Lomax
Reuben Garrick5Mikaele Ravalawa
Cade Cust6Corey Norman
Daly Cherry-Evans7Ben Hunt
Addin Fonua-Blake8Blake Lawrie
Apisai Koroisau9Cameron McInnes
Martin Taupau10Paul Vaughan
Joel Thompson11Jacob Host
Curtis Sironen12Tariq Sims
Jake Trbojevic13Tyson Frizell
Manase Fainu14Jeremy Latimore
Jack Gosiewski15Reece Robson
Morgan Boyle16Korbin Sims
Taniela Paseka17Jai Field

Played 29, Sea Eagles 9, Dragons 19

Last Meeting: Round 6, 2019: Dragons 12 def. Sea Eagles 10

Final Thoughts: The Manly and St George form guides are tough to get a read on with key players recently returning from injury. Tom Trbojevic wasn’t at his best last week, but will be better for the run on Sunday. Meanwhile, Corey Norman had a blinder in his first game back with his partnership with Ben Hunt picking up where it left off.

Despite the Sea Eagles being $1.52 and -4.5 favourites, this game is one of the toughest of the round to pick. The Dragons pack is one that can’t be taken lightly, and when they do get downhill, Hunt and Norman have proven to be one of the most dangerous halves pairings in the NRL. However, while the Dragons have picked up five wins this year, only two have come by more than two points and both of those were against the Bulldogs. That isn’t all that promising.

In better form, at home, and well-coached, the Sea Eagles are deserved favourites. The Dragons look good to make a run now that Norman is back, though.

Tip: Handicap – Dragons +4.5 @ $1.90

Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs @ Sydney Cricket Ground
Sunday 16th June, 4:00pm

James Tedesco1Nick Meaney
Daniel Tupou2Marcelo Montoya
Latrell Mitchell3Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Joseph Manu4Will Hopoate
Ryan Hall5Reimis Smith
Drew Hutchison6Kieran Foran
Cooper Cronk7Jack Cogger
Zane Tetevano8Aiden Tolman
Victor Radley9Jeremy Marshall-King
Siosiua Taukeiaho10Dylan Napa
Boyd Cordner11Josh Jackson
Angus Crichton12Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Isaac Liu13Adam Elliott
Nat Butcher14Rhyse Martin
Lindsay Collins15Danny Fualalo
Sitili Tupouniua16Corey Harawira-Naera
Mitchell Aubusson17Sauaso Sue

Played 41, Roosters 19, Dragons 20

Last Meeting: Round 7, 2019: Roosters 20 def. Dragons 10

Final Thoughts: The Bulldogs are unlucky here. They were always going to struggle against the Roosters, but a Roosters side playing to avoid four consecutive losses? This could get ugly. Trent Robinson isn’t happy with what is side has dished up recently. He’s demanded an improvement and the poor Dogs are set to wear the brunt of it.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak makes his Bulldogs debut this week. However, he won’t be able to lift the club off the bottom of the ladder on his own. He will improve their attack and defence in the centres, but as the worst in the NRL in both departments, there’s only so much he can do.

This is just a terrible spot for the Bulldogs. They’ll do well to keep it close to start, but there’s a good chance this game gets out of hand over the last 20-30 minutes.

Tip: 2nd Half Handicap – Roosters -6.5 @ $2