Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 16 matches. As always, State of Origin makes it a tough week to tip.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm @ WIN Stadium
Thursday 4th July, 7:50pm

DragonsStorm
Matthew Dufty1Jahrome Hughes
Jonus Pearson2Suliasi Vunivalu
Euan Aitken3Solomone Kata
Timoteo Lafai4Justin Olam
Mikaele Ravalawa5Sandor Earl
Jai Field6Billy Walters
Darren Nicholls7Brodie Croft
Korbin Sims8Jesse Bromwich
Cameron McInnes9Cameron Smith
Jeremy Latimore10Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Jacob Host11Joe Stimson
Luciano Leilua12Kenneath Bromwich
Blake Lawrie13Brandon Smith
Josh Kerr14Albert Vete
Reece Robson15Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Patrick Kaufusi16Tui Kamikamica
Mitchell Allgood17Ryan Papenhuyzen


History:
Played 37, Dragons 10, Storm 25

Last Meeting: Round 17, 2018: Storm 52 def. Dragons 30

Final Thoughts: With so many players moving in and out of the side due to State of Origin, this one is tough to pick. The Storm do still have the best player on the field and have travelled through this period relatively well in the past, though. Their Kiwi-laden forward pack can still dominate for the make-shift backline to score points. Considering the Storm only concedes 12 points per game (the best in the NRL), it’s unlikely Brodie Croft and debutant, Billy Walters, will need to manufacture many themselves.

The Dragons have been poor all year. They’ve shown few signs of repeating their finals run in 2018, and with their somewhat dangerous halves pairing both in camp with the Maroons, it’s tough to see them getting past a genuine premiership contender in the Storm. Anything can happen at this time of year, but the Storm pack is head and shoulders above anything the Dragons can send out.

Tip: Doubles – Storm/Storm @ $2

Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters @ Bankwest Stadium
Friday 5th July, 7:55pm

TigersRoosters
Corey Thompson1Joseph Manu
Robert Jennings2Daniel Tupou
Paul Momirovski3Latrell Mitchell
Esan Marsters4Brett Morris
David Nofoaluma5Ryan Hall
Benji Marshall6Luke Keary
Luke Brooks7Cooper Cronk
Josh Aloiai8Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Robbie Farah9Victor Radley
Alex Twal10Zane Tetevano
Ryan Matterson11Nat Butcher
Chris Lawrence12Mitchell Aubusson
Matthew Eisenhuth13Isaac Liu
Jacob Liddle14Angus Crichton
Thomas Mikaele15Poasa Faamausili
Elijah Taylor16Sitili Tupouniua
Michael Chee-Kam17Matt Ikuvalu


History:
Played 34, Tigers 9, Roosters 24

Last Meeting: Round 8, 2019: Roosters 42 def. Tigers 12

Final Thoughts: The Tigers have been blessed with an opportunity to play the Roosters at their most vulnerable time of year but are still massive outsiders on Friday night. Luke Keary returns to join an Origin-affected Roosters outfit that still features Latrell Mitchell, Cooper Cronk, Daniel Tupou, Victory Radley and Angus Crichton.

While the Tigers did manage to topple the Rabbitohs last week, it wasn’t pretty. The match doesn’t rate on the form guide and doesn’t instil a lot of confidence heading into this one. The Chooks have the better pack and their backline is still one of the best in the NRL even without the games leading fullback. Despite holding firm in Round 15, the Wests edges remain a worry. On the right side, in particular. With Keary returning and Mitchell playing with a massive chip on his shoulder, the Tigers can expect a lot of traffic on that side of the field.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Latrell Mitchell @ $2.20

Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Saturday 6th July, 7:35pm

KnightsWarriors
Connor Watson1Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Hymel Hunt2David Fusitu’a
Kurt Mann3Peta Hiku
Jesse Ramien4Patrick Herbert
Shaun Kenny-Dowall5Ken Maumalo
Mason Lino6Kodi Nikorima
Mitchell Pearce7Blake Green
James Gavet8Agnatius Paasi
Danny Levi9Karl Lawton
Jacob Saifiti10Leeson Ah Mau
Lachlan Fitzgibbon11Adam Blair
Sione Mata’utia12Isaiah Papali’i
David Klemmer13Jazz Tevaga
Jamie Buhrer14Issac Luke
Herman Ese’ese15Bunty Afoa
Josh King16Sam Lisone
Pasami Saulo17Lachlan Burr


History:
Played 41, Knights 19, Warriors 20

Last Meeting: Round 8, 2019: Knights 36 def. Warriors 18

Final Thoughts: Nathan Brown must have thought he was the luckiest man in the NRL when Brad Fittler didn’t select David Klemmer for Origin. However, with Tariq Sims since suspended, Brown will lose Klemmer for this one. It’s the leveller the Warriors need. They’ve been awful recently and embarrassed themselves by failing to put the Panthers away last week.

On paper, the Warriors should probably be closer to even money if not favourites. The form guide tells a different story and the Kiwi club simply can’t be trusted. Blake Green is struggling and Kodi Nikorima has had little impact. The turnover at hooker hasn’t helped and only made more difficult by the inconsistency of the Warriors middles.

Meanwhile, the Knights have won seven of their last eight games. It’s in the effort areas that they’ve really thrived. It’s an old cliche and about as bad a punting on a team because “they’re due”, but, the Knights do look like a team that wants it more than the opposition every week. That’s a recipe for disaster for the Warriors who can fall away when the going gets tough.

Tip: Handicap – Knights -2.5 @ $1.90

Cronulla Sharks v Brisbane Broncos @ PointsBet Stadium
Sunday 7th July, 4:05pm

SharksBroncos
Matt Moylan1Darius Boyd
Sosaia Feki2Herbie Farnworth
Bronson Xerri3Kotoni Staggs
Josh Morris4Gehamat Shibasaki
Josh Dugan5Xavier Coates
Shaun Johnson6Jake Turpin
Chad Townsend7Sean O’Sullivan
Aaron Woods8Matthew Lodge
Jayden Brailey9Andrew McCullough
Matt Prior10Payne Haas
Briton Nikora11Alex Glenn
Kurt Capewell12Tevita Pangai Junior
Paul Gallen13Thomas Flegler
Kyle Flanagan14James Segeyaro
Jayson Bukuya15Rhys Kennedy
Jack Williams16Shaun Fensom
Braden Hamlin-Uele17Patrick Carrigan

History: Played 58, Sharks 20, Broncos 37

Last Meeting: Round 7, 2019: Broncos 29 def. Sharks 6

Final Thoughts: A month is a long time in the NRL. However, most teams and players aren’t given that long before having the boot stuck into them. With back-to-back losses while bringing players into the side after lengthy stints on the sideline, we’re already in “are the Sharks better off without Moylan and Johnson” territory. The answer is no – obviously.

Nevertheless, the pair will need to show it this week up against a Broncos side fielding one of the worst backlines we have seen all year. Rookies, debutants, fresh faces at the club and an aging fullback does not read well for Brisbane’s prospects this week. Meanwhile, Origin has taken plenty out of the forward pack too. This one could get ugly with the Broncos edges sure to be under regular defensive pressure. The Sharks lose some of their attack on the left with Wade Graham out, so expect Johnson and Moylan to link up on the right to find points.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Shaun Johnson @ $3