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
|Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad||1||Matt Moylan|
|Bailey Simonsson||2||Sosaia Feki|
|Jarrod Croker||3||Bronson Xerri|
|Nick Cotric||4||Josh Morris|
|Jordan Rapana||5||Josh Dugan|
|Jack Wighton||6||Kyle Flanagan|
|Aidan Sezer||7||Chad Townsend|
|Josh Papalii||8||Andrew Fifita|
|Siliva Havili||9||Blayke Brailey|
|Dunamis Lui||10||Matt Prior|
|John Bateman||11||Briton Nikora|
|Elliott Whitehead||12||Kurt Capewell|
|Joseph Tapine||13||Paul Gallen|
|Tom Starling||14||Wade Graham|
|Tom Starling||15||Jayson Bukuya|
|Iosia Soliola||16||Jack Williams|
|Ryan Sutton||17||Braden Hamlin-Uele|
History: 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.
Gold Coast Titans v New Zealand Warriors @ Cbus Super Stadium
|Alexander Brimson||1||Roger Tuivasa-Sheck|
|Anthony Don||2||David Fusitu’a|
|Jesse Arthars||3||Peta Hiku|
|Brian Kelly||4||Patrick Herbert|
|Dale Copley||5||Ken Maumalo|
|Tyrone Roberts||6||Kodi Nikorima|
|Ryley Jacks||7||Blake Green|
|Jarrod Wallace||8||Agnatius Paasi|
|Nathan Peats||9||Issac Luke|
|Moeaki Fotuaika||10||Leeson Ah Mau|
|Bryce Cartwright||11||Isaiah Papali’i|
|Tyrone Peachey||12||Tohu Harris|
|Jai Arrow||13||Adam Blair|
|Mitch Rein||14||Jazz Tevaga|
|Shannon Boyd||15||Bunty Afoa|
|Jai Whitbread||16||Lachlan Burr|
|Jack Stockwell||17||Karl Lawton|
History: 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.
North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers @ 1300SMILES Stadium
|Michael Morgan||1||Corey Thompson|
|Kyle Feldt||2||Robert Jennings|
|Enari Tuala||3||Moses Mbye|
|Tom Opacic||4||Esan Marsters|
|Javid Bowen||5||David Nofoaluma|
|John Asiata||6||Benji Marshall|
|Jake Clifford||7||Luke Brooks|
|Josh McGuire||8||Ben Matulino|
|Jake Granville||9||Robbie Farah|
|Scott Bolton||10||Alex Twal|
|Gavin Cooper||11||Ryan Matterson|
|Coen Hess||12||Michael Chee-Kam|
|Jason Taumalolo||13||Matthew Eisenhuth|
|Kurt Baptiste||14||Jacob Liddle|
|Shane Wright||15||Thomas Mikaele|
|Corey Jensen||16||Josh Aloiai|
|Francis Molo||17||Chris Lawrence|
History: 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.
Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights @ AAMI Park
|Jahrome Hughes||1||Kalyn Ponga|
|Suliasi Vunivalu||2||Edrick Lee|
|Will Chambers||3||Hymel Hunt|
|Marion Seve||4||Jesse Ramien|
|Josh Addo-Carr||5||Shaun Kenny-Dowall|
|Cameron Munster||6||Kurt Mann|
|Brodie Croft||7||Mitchell Pearce|
|Jesse Bromwich||8||James Gavet|
|Cameron Smith||9||Connor Watson|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||10||Daniel Saifiti|
|Felise Kaufusi||11||Lachlan Fitzgibbon|
|Kenneath Bromwich||12||Mitch Barnett|
|Dale Finucane||13||Tim Glasby|
|Brandon Smith||14||Jamie Buhrer|
|Christian Welch||15||Herman Ese’ese|
|Joe Stimson||16||Josh King|
|Ryan Papenhuyzen||17||Sione Mata’utia|
History: 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.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers @ ANZ Stadium
|Corey Allan||1||Dylan Edwards|
|Dane Gagai||2||Josh Mansour|
|James Roberts||3||Isaah Yeo|
|Kyle Turner||4||Brent Naden|
|Campbell Graham||5||Brian To’o|
|Cody Walker||6||James Maloney|
|Adam Doueihi||7||Nathan Cleary|
|George Burgess||8||James Tamou|
|Damien Cook||9||Mitchell Kenny|
|Liam Knight||10||James Fisher-Harris|
|John Sutton||11||Viliame Kikau|
|Ethan Lowe||12||Frank Winterstein|
|Cameron Murray||13||Liam Martin|
|Tevita Tatola||14||Wayde Egan|
|Mark Nicholls||15||Jarome Luai|
|Dean Britt||16||Moses Leota|
|Tom Amone||17||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
History: 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.
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos @ Bankwest Stadium
|Clinton Gutherson||1||Darius Boyd|
|Maika Sivo||2||Corey Oates|
|Michael Jennings||3||Kotoni Staggs|
|Josh Hoffman||4||Gehamat Shibasaki|
|Blake Ferguson||5||Jamayne Isaako|
|Jaeman Salmon||6||Anthony Milford|
|Mitchell Moses||7||Sean O’Sullivan|
|Kane Evans||8||Matthew Lodge|
|Reed Mahoney||9||Jake Turpin|
|Junior Paulo||10||Payne Haas|
|Shaun Lane||11||David Fifita|
|Manu Ma’u||12||Matt Gillett|
|Nathan Brown||13||Tevita Pangai Junior|
|Ray Stone||14||Andrew McCullough|
|Peni Terepo||15||Jaydn Su’a|
|David Gower||16||Thomas Flegler|
|Marata Niukore||17||Patrick Carrigan|
History: 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.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v St George-Illawarra Dragons @ Lottoland
|Tom Trbojevic||1||Matthew Dufty|
|Jorge Taufua||2||Jonus Pearson|
|Dylan Walker||3||Euan Aitken|
|Moses Suli||4||Zac Lomax|
|Reuben Garrick||5||Mikaele Ravalawa|
|Cade Cust||6||Corey Norman|
|Daly Cherry-Evans||7||Ben Hunt|
|Addin Fonua-Blake||8||Blake Lawrie|
|Apisai Koroisau||9||Cameron McInnes|
|Martin Taupau||10||Paul Vaughan|
|Joel Thompson||11||Jacob Host|
|Curtis Sironen||12||Tariq Sims|
|Jake Trbojevic||13||Tyson Frizell|
|Manase Fainu||14||Jeremy Latimore|
|Jack Gosiewski||15||Reece Robson|
|Morgan Boyle||16||Korbin Sims|
|Taniela Paseka||17||Jai Field|
History: 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.
Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs @ Sydney Cricket Ground
|James Tedesco||1||Nick Meaney|
|Daniel Tupou||2||Marcelo Montoya|
|Latrell Mitchell||3||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak|
|Joseph Manu||4||Will Hopoate|
|Ryan Hall||5||Reimis Smith|
|Drew Hutchison||6||Kieran Foran|
|Cooper Cronk||7||Jack Cogger|
|Zane Tetevano||8||Aiden Tolman|
|Victor Radley||9||Jeremy Marshall-King|
|Siosiua Taukeiaho||10||Dylan Napa|
|Boyd Cordner||11||Josh Jackson|
|Angus Crichton||12||Raymond Faitala-Mariner|
|Isaac Liu||13||Adam Elliott|
|Nat Butcher||14||Rhyse Martin|
|Lindsay Collins||15||Danny Fualalo|
|Sitili Tupouniua||16||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|Mitchell Aubusson||17||Sauaso Sue|
History: 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.