Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 15 matches. The form guides are scattered but there is value out there.

Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bankwest Stadium
Thursday 27th June, 7:50pm

Corey Thompson1Alex Johnston
Robert Jennings2Dane Gagai
Moses Mbye3James Roberts
Esan Marsters4Braidon Burns
David Nofoaluma5Campbell Graham
Benji Marshall6Cody Walker
Luke Brooks7Adam Reynolds
Josh Aloiai8George Burgess
Robbie Farah9Damien Cook
Alex Twal10Liam Knight
Ryan Matterson11John Sutton
Chris Lawrence12Ethan Lowe
Matthew Eisenhuth13Cameron Murray
Jacob Liddle14Tevita Tatola
Thomas Mikaele15Mark Nicholls
Elijah Taylor16Dean Britt
Michael Chee-Kam17Kyle Turner

Played 34, Tigers 15, Rabbitohs 18

Last Meeting: Round 11, 2019: Rabbitohs 36 def. Tigers 16

Final Thoughts: Consistency. It’s something the Tigers haven’t had in their game for years. Add the fact that they have been thrashed in both games at Bankwest so far and the signs are ominous for this week. We can almost ignore the three-game losing streak the Rabbitohs are coming in on. Their form guide has been heavily impacted by injuries and State of Origin. With Adam Reynolds and Braidon Burns named to return from injury alongside all of the South Sydney Origin reps, the Bunnies are close to full-strength.

They got through the first 11 rounds of the NRL season with a 10-1 record while healthy. Their dominance through the middle – even without Tom and Sam Burgess – will lay the platform for this exciting backline to perform. Burns was outstanding before going down injured and plays outside Cody Walker and the massive chip on his shoulder. Bankwest hasn’t done it for the Tigers so far and it’s unlikely to change this week.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs -5.5 @ $1.87

St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys @ WIN Stadium
Friday 28th June, 6:00pm

Matthew Dufty1Scott Drinkwater
Jonus Pearson2Kyle Feldt
Timoteo Lafai3Jordan Kahu
Euan Aitken4Tom Opacic
Mikaele Ravalawa5Enari Tuala
Corey Norman6Michael Morgan
Ben Hunt7Jake Clifford
Blake Lawrie8Scott Bolton
Cameron McInnes9Jake Granville
Paul Vaughan10Jordan McLean
Jacob Host11Gavin Cooper
Tariq Sims12Shane Wright
Tyson Frizell13Jason Taumalolo
Jeremy Latimore14Reuben Cotter
Reece Robson15John Asiata
Korbin Sims16Corey Jensen
Luciano Leilua17Francis Molo

Played 32, Dragons 15, Cowboys 16

Last Meeting: Round 1, 2019: Cowboys 24 def. Dragons 12

Final Thoughts: So, it turns out Corey Norman isn’t the Red V’s saviour. Many became excited with his return producing St George Illawarra’s best performance in weeks. However, that win came against the Bulldogs. The Sea Eagles hit them with a reality check a week later. Almost as equally inconsistent, the Cowboys will be kicking themselves after dropping back-to-back games at home. It’s put a serious dampener on what was some encouraging form after winning three games on the trot.

It will all start in the middle this week. Jason Taumalolo v Tyson Frizell is the key battle. The Cowboys attack is terrible. If the Dragos can hold firm in the centre-third and put a lid on Taumalolo’s running metres, they’ll limit the opportunities the Cowboys have to attack the line. As we’ve seen, they need plenty before crossing it.

This is Taumalolo, though. He isn’t stopped easily. With Jordan McLean also returning and Scott Drinkwater making his club debut at fullback, the Cows will receive a boost both through the middle and in attack. There’s an upset on the cards here.

Tip: Handicap – Cowboys +5.5 @ $1.90

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm @ Adelaide Oval
Friday 28th June, 7:55pm

James Tedesco1Jahrome Hughes
Daniel Tupou2Suliasi Vunivalu
Latrell Mitchell3Will Chambers
Joseph Manu4Marion Seve
Ryan Hall5Josh Addo-Carr
Drew Hutchison6Cameron Munster
Cooper Cronk7Brodie Croft
Zane Tetevano8Jesse Bromwich
Victor Radley9Cameron Smith
Siosiua Taukeiaho10Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Boyd Cordner11Felise Kaufusi
Angus Crichton12Kenneath Bromwich
Isaac Liu13Dale Finucane
Nat Butcher14Brandon Smith
Lindsay Collins15Christian Welch
Sitili Tupouniua16Joe Stimson
Mitchell Aubusson17Ryan Papenhuyzen

Played 38, Roosters 17, Storm 20

Last Meeting: Round 6, 2019: Roosters 21 def. Storm 20

Final Thoughts: There are few bigger matchups in the NRL than this one right now. The Roosters and Storm are the premiership favourites and benchmarks for the competition. In Adelaide for this one, both sides will be looking to put on a better show than the 9-8 bludger they gave the locals last year.

Both sides are relatively healthy. The Roosters are without Jake Friend and Luke Keary, but they’ve been able to make-do for much of the season already. It’s where the Storm can really dominate, though. With Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster filling those positions, the Storm can hit the Roosters where it hurts most. The two sides match up well in the middle. Melbourne may have a slight advantage there on continuity and recent form. With that and the elite players in key positions – a rested Smith helps too – the Storm get the lean in this pick’em.

Tip: Head-to-Head – Storm @ $1.90

Gold Coast Titans v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles @ Cbus Super Stadium
Saturday 29th June, 3:00pm

TitansSea Eagles
Alexander Brimson1Tom Trbojevic
Anthony Don2Jorge Taufua
Jesse Arthars3Dylan Walker
Brian Kelly4Moses Suli
Dale Copley5Reuben Garrick
Tyrone Roberts6Cade Cust
Ryley Jacks7Daly Cherry-Evans
Jarrod Wallace8Addin Fonua-Blake
Nathan Peats9Manase Fainu
Moeaki Fotuaika10Martin Taupau
Will Matthews11Joel Thompson
Bryce Cartwright12Curtis Sironen
Jai Whitbread13Jake Trbojevic
Mitch Rein14Brendan Elliot
Tyrone Peachey15Corey Waddell
Jack Stockwell16Morgan Boyle
Shannon Boyd17Taniela Paseka

Played 20, Titans 9, Sea Eagles 10

Last Meeting: Round 11, 2019: Titans 36 def. Sea Eagles 18

Final Thoughts: Nobody that has watched the NRL this season can trust the Titans. Not a home. Not ever. They rarely string decent performances together, and with Jai Arrow out of the side, are unlikely to do it anytime soon. He’s the only consistent piece of the Titans puzzle no coach seems to be able to put together. The Sea Eagles, on the other hand, have found their leader. Des Hasler has returned and has Manly playing some brilliant footy. More impressively, it’s come while Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic have missed time.

The pair are both fit, healthy, and ready to go in this one. It’s a rare occasion to see the Sea Eagles at close to full-strength. Their dominance in the middle through Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake should lay the platform for Cherry-Evans and Trbojevic to run riot out wide. With what the Titans have dished up on the edges defensively this year, it could get ugly.

Tip: Doubles – Sea Eagles Halftime/Fulltime @ $2.20

Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Saturday 29th June, 5:30pm

Kalyn Ponga1Darius Boyd
Edrick Lee2Corey Oates
Hymel Hunt3Kotoni Staggs
Jesse Ramien4Gehamat Shibasaki
Shaun Kenny-Dowall5Richie Kennar
Kurt Mann6Anthony Milford
Mitchell Pearce7Sean O’Sullivan
James Gavet8Matthew Lodge
Connor Watson9Andrew McCullough
Daniel Saifiti10Payne Haas
Lachlan Fitzgibbon11David Fifita
Sione Mata’utia12Matt Gillett
Tim Glasby13Tevita Pangai Junior
Jamie Buhrer14Jake Turpin
Herman Ese’ese15Joe Ofahengaue
Josh King16Thomas Flegler
Pasami Saulo17Patrick Carrigan

Played 51, Knights 14, Broncos 35

Last Meeting: Round 5, 2018: Knights 15 def. Broncos 10

Final Thoughts: While the Knights have only won two of the last 14 games between the two clubs, this one is different. It’s the Broncos that are struggling. They’re the team threatened by the wooden spoon and on the outside looking in at the NRL’s Top 8. With all of the talent they could ask for seemingly at their finger-tips, the Broncos are grossly underachieving. This pack should be one of the best in the competition. Instead, it only turns up about once a month.

Meanwhile, the Knights were absent from the competition for a month earlier in the season. They’ve rebounded since, though. The six-game winning streak propelled them into the eight where they remain despite being humbled by the Storm before the Representative Round. Mitchell Pearce has been brilliant recently, but it has been on the back of David Klemmer. He adds so much to the pack and his absence could be costly this week. This Broncos pack has potential to steamroll the Knights. Are they up for it?

Tip: Handicap – Broncos +3.5 @ $1.90

Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders @ TIO Stadium
Saturday 29th June, 7:35pm

Clinton Gutherson1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Maika Sivo2Bailey Simonsson
Brad Takairangi3Jarrod Croker
Josh Hoffman4Sebastian Kris
Blake Ferguson5Jordan Rapana
Dylan Brown6Jack Wighton
Mitchell Moses7Aidan Sezer
Kane Evans8Josh Papalii
Reed Mahoney9Josh Hodgson
Junior Paulo10Dunamis Lui
Shaun Lane11John Bateman
Manu Ma’u12Elliott Whitehead
Nathan Brown13Joseph Tapine
Jaeman Salmon14Siliva Havili
Peni Terepo15Corey Horsburgh
David Gower16Iosia Soliola
Marata Niukore17Ryan Sutton

Played 59, Eels 27, Raiders 31

Last Meeting: Round 5, 2019: Raiders 19 def. Eels 0

Final Thoughts: The Eels have been great at home this season. They are the home team for this one, but it’s in Darwin. Does that mean we get the home Eels that have a 5-2 record at home or the away Eels that have won just two of seven games on the road? They’re one of the most inconsistent teams in the NRL, so nobody knows.

The Raiders, on the other hand, have played good footy all year. They’ve dealt with injuries, and this week, send out the healthiest team they have done in weeks. They’ve won the last five games between these two clubs and should get the job done here again. Josh Hodgson is back at hooker to give the Green Machine some class behind the ruck. He’s one of the most underrated players in the competition and will no doubt have a say on how this one goes. With the Eels conceding so many tries in the middle of the field this year, look for Hodgson to send Josh Papalii over with a crash-ball close to the line.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Josh Papalii @ $6.50

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers @ Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday 30th June, 2:00pm

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck1Dylan Edwards
David Fusitu’a2Josh Mansour
Peta Hiku3Isaah Yeo
Patrick Herbert4Brent Naden
Ken Maumalo5Brian To’o
Kodi Nikorima6Jarome Luai
Blake Green7James Maloney
Agnatius Paasi8James Tamou
Karl Lawton9Mitchell Kenny
Leeson Ah Mau10James Fisher-Harris
Adam Blair11Viliame Kikau
Isaiah Papali’i12Frank Winterstein
Jazz Tevaga13Liam Martin
Nathaniel Roache14Wayde Egan
Bunty Afoa15Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Sam Lisone16Moses Leota
Leivaha Pulu17Hame Sele

Played 44, Warriors 18, Panthers 24

Last Meeting: Round 10, 2019: Warriors 30 def. Panthers 10

Final Thoughts: These two teams have played some strange games over the last two years. The Warriors thrashed the Panthers earlier in the year, but things a different now. The Panthers have all of a sudden won four games in a row. While the wins have come against depleted teams, they will have at least improved the confidence and feeling around the club if not adding much to the form guide.

Both teams are missing key players this week. Tohu Harris is a massive out for the Warriors. He’s a key part to their left-edge attack and the driving force behind Ken Maumalo setting a career-high in tries scored while already doubling his 2018 total. The Panthers are without Nathan Cleary for this one. He’s not been in great form, but it’s improving. It could work out for the better, though. Jarome Luai was Samoa’s best on Saturday and slots into the halves for Cleary this week.

There isn’t a lot for punters to be excited about here. These two teams might be the most volatile in the NRL. Maumalolo’s try-scoring is the only consistency, but that’s under question with Harris’ absence. With both sides relatively even on paper, look for the best player on the field to stand out.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck @ $2.20

Canterbury Bulldogs v Cronulla Sharks @ ANZ Stadium
Sunday 30th June, 4:05pm

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak1Matt Moylan
Nick Meaney2Sosaia Feki
Marcelo Montoya3Bronson Xerri
Will Hopoate4Josh Morris
Reimis Smith5Josh Dugan
Kieran Foran6Shaun Johnson
Jack Cogger7Chad Townsend
Aiden Tolman8Braden Hamlin-Uele
Michael Lichaa9Jayden Brailey
Dylan Napa10Matt Prior
Josh Jackson11Briton Nikora
Corey Harawira-Naera12Wade Graham
Chris Smith13Paul Gallen
Rhyse Martin14Blayke Brailey
Danny Fualalo15Jayson Bukuya
Ofahiki Ogden16Jack Williams
Sauaso Sue17Kurt Capewell

Played 103, Bulldogs 57, Sharks 43

Last Meeting: Round 25, 2018: Sharks 30 def. Bulldogs 18

Final Thoughts: The Bulldogs are $1.57 favourites to finish the 2019 NRL season holding the wooden spoon and have lost their last five games against the Sharks. Sunday isn’t looking good for the Doggies. They welcome back Jack Cogger into the halves, but that addition is cancelled out by Shaun Johnson’s return to form following a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

It’s been a long season for the Bulldogs and is unlikely to get any better this week. The Sharks are finally healthy, and as we ease into the backend of the year, they will put their foot down and build towards what they hope is a premiership winning weekend in early October. Canterbury can compete in the middle, but the Sharks will have them covered. From there, the superior Cronulla attack will find points. Far too many for the worst attack in the competition to reel in. Unfortunately for footy fans, Round 15 appears set to end with a one-sided fixture.

Tip: Handicap – Sharks -8.5 @ $1.90