Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 17 matches. Origin once again makes it tough early.

Penrith Panthers v Gold Coast Titans @ Panthers Stadium
Friday 12th July, 6:00pm

Dylan Edwards1Alexander Brimson
Josh Mansour2Anthony Don
Dean Whare3Dale Copley
Brent Naden4Brian Kelly
Brian To’o5Phillip Sami
Jarome Luai6Tyrone Roberts
James Maloney7Ryley Jacks
James Tamou8Jack Stockwell
Mitchell Kenny9Nathan Peats
James Fisher-Harris10Moeaki Fotuaika
Viliame Kikau11Kevin Proctor
Isaah Yeo12Bryce Cartwright
Liam Martin13Jarrod Wallace
Wayde Egan14Mitch Rein
Frank Winterstein15Shannon Boyd
Moses Leota16Jai Whitbread
Reagan Campbell-Gillard17Tyrone Peachey

Played 20, Panthers 12, Titans 7

Last Meeting: Round 5, 2019: Titans 30 def. Panthers 24

Final Thoughts: The Panthers have won five in a row, but their form guide doesn’t read like most five-game winning streaks. They’ve done it ugly. Without scoring more than 19 points in any of the five wins, the Panthers have relied on their defence. Lucky to come up against a couple of depleted sides along the way, they’ve made the most of their opportunities. Here, the Panthers play a genuinely poor Titans outfit. If the form is real, they wipe the floor with them. Still without Ash Taylor, the Titans attack can only go so far. They’ve found 20 points six times this year, but there has been no consistency to it. The only thing consistent are the losses. It difficult to trust the Titans to cause the upset, but the Panthers form isn’t trustworthy either.

Tip: Handicap – Titans +7.5 @ $1.90

Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Friday 12th July, 8:00pm

Connor Watson1Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Hymel Hunt2Nick Meaney
Kurt Mann3Marcelo Montoya
Jesse Ramien4Will Hopoate
Shaun Kenny-Dowall5Reimis Smith
Mason Lino6Brandon Wakeham
Mitchell Pearce7Jack Cogger
James Gavet8Aiden Tolman
Danny Levi9Michael Lichaa
Josh King10Dylan Napa
Jamie Buhrer11Josh Jackson
Sione Mata’utia12Corey Harawira-Naera
Herman Ese’ese13Chris Smith
Jacob Saifiti14Adam Elliott
Pasami Saulo15Renouf To’omaga
Phoenix Crossland16Ofahiki Ogden
Aidan Guerra17Sauaso Sue

Played 49, Knights 21, Bulldogs 26

Last Meeting: Round 9, 2019: Knights 22 def. Bulldogs 10

Final Thoughts: A lot depends on Mitchell Pearce and David Klemmer backing up for this one. With them, the Knights should do it comfortably. Klemmer is the heart and soul of the pack. The go-forward he generates and NRL best numbers for props in minutes, running metres and post-contact metres set the tone for Pearce – and Kalyn Ponga when fit – to cause trouble out the back. If the pair don’t play, anything can happen. We saw the Bulldogs improve at the back end of 2018 once the pressure was off. They’re an effort side, and while they only score 11 points per game, it’s not through a lack of trying.

Canterbury should be able to hold a Klemmer-less Knights side firm in the middle. From there, points become a little more difficult. A lot depends on the final team lists, but points appear to be at a premium in Newcastle on Friday night.

Tip: Points Total – Under 40.5 Points @ $1.90

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles @ ANZ Stadium
Saturday 13th July, 3:00pm

RabbitohsSea Eagles
Adam Doueihi1Tom Trbojevic
Dane Gagai2Jorge Taufua
James Roberts3Dylan Walker
Braidon Burns4Moses Suli
Campbell Graham5Reuben Garrick
Cody Walker6Cade Cust
Adam Reynolds7Daly Cherry-Evans
Tevita Tatola8Addin Fonua-Blake
Damien Cook9Manase Fainu
Liam Knight10Martin Taupau
John Sutton11Joel Thompson
Sam Burgess12Curtis Sironen
Cameron Murray13Jake Trbojevic
Ethan Lowe14Brendan Elliot
Mark Nicholls15Corey Waddell
Dean Britt16Morgan Boyle
Kyle Turner17Taniela Paseka

Played 158, Rabbitohs 75, Sea Eagles 81

Last Meeting: Round 4, 2019: Sea Eagles 13 def. Rabbitohs 12

Final Thoughts: The pressure is on the Rabbitohs here. They’ve had the excuse of the Origin period for their four-game losing streak, but as the NRL now looks to the finals, they need to find wins. With Sam Burgess back, the Bunnies have their leader. Souths have lacked mongrel and it’s something you need when facing this Manly side. The Sea Eagles thrive on the little plays. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty and it’s that effort that has allowed them to exceed every expectation for them to sit at fifth on the ladder.

This is another one that waits for Origin, though. Both sides have players out, but it’s Manly’s that will truly determine the match. With Daly Cherry-Evans, Tom Trbojevic and Jake Trbojevic all in doubt or at least playing following a short turnaround, Souths are the favourites regardless of their inclusion. With Souths rested and less-reliant on their Origin stars, expect them to pull away late.

Tip: 2nd Half Result – Rabbitohs -2.5 @ $1.95

Brisbane Broncos v New Zealand Warriors @ Suncorp Stadium
Saturday 13th July, 5:30pm

Anthony Milford1Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Corey Oates2David Fusitu’a
Kotoni Staggs3Peta Hiku
Herbie Farnworth4Gerard Beale
Xavier Coates5Ken Maumalo
Darius Boyd6Kodi Nikorima
Jake Turpin7Blake Green
Matthew Lodge8Agnatius Paasi
Andrew McCullough9Issac Luke
Payne Haas10Leeson Ah Mau
Alex Glenn11Adam Blair
Tevita Pangai Junior12Isaiah Papali’i
Thomas Flegler13Jazz Tevaga
James Segeyaro14Lachlan Burr
Joe Ofahengaue15Sam Lisone
David Fifita16Bunty Afoa
Patrick Carrigan17Chanel Harris-Tavita

Played 44, Broncos 25, Warriors 18

Last Meeting: Round 11, 2019: Broncos 8 def. Warriors 2

Final Thoughts: How do you tip this one? The Broncos just completed one of the biggest upsets of the 2019 NRL season. Meanwhile, the Warriors are typically inconsistent and untrustworthy.

The changes to the Broncos spine, while interesting, do make things difficult for the Broncos in attack. They’ve not had a lot of time on the field or at training to iron out the creases of Anthony Milford’s switch to fullback and Darius Boyd’s move to the halves. There’s also Jake Turpin – who has spent most of the season at hooker – playing just his second game at halfback. The Warriors, on the other hand, have enjoyed their time at Suncorp recently. Winning their last two at the ground while scoring 26 points in both matches, the Kiwi club loves a dry track.

It’s a lottery between two sides playing for what have been up and down seasons. As the joint leading try-scorer in the NRL, Ken Maumalo is the only way to go in this one.

Tip: Anytime try-scorer – Ken Maumalo @ $2

Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks @ AAMI Park
Saturday 13th July, 7:35pm

Jahrome Hughes1Matt Moylan
Suliasi Vunivalu2Sosaia Feki
Will Chambers3Bronson Xerri
Marion Seve4Josh Dugan
Josh Addo-Carr5Josh Morris
Cameron Munster6Shaun Johnson
Brodie Croft7Chad Townsend
Jesse Bromwich8Andrew Fifita
Cameron Smith9Jayden Brailey
Nelson Asofa-Solomona10Matt Prior
Felise Kaufusi11Briton Nikora
Kenneath Bromwich12Wade Graham
Dale Finucane13Jack Williams
Brandon Smith14Kurt Capewell
Christian Welch15Jayson Bukuya
Joe Stimson16Aaron Woods
Ryan Papenhuyzen17Braden Hamlin-Uele

Played 39, Storm 23, Sharks 15

Last Meeting: Round 8, 2019: Sharks 20 def. Storm 18

Final Thoughts: The Melbourne Storm just keep doing it. Favourites to make the Grand Final at $2, their NRL-best attack continues to find points while the NRL-best defence repels them. It’s tough to bet against them, but it’s what we’re doing here. Sort of.

The Sharks have won six of the last nine games between these two clubs. Albeit in poor form following three consecutive defeats, the expectation is that they get up for this one. There isn’t a club out there that wants to ruin Cameron Smith’s record-breaking 400th appearance more than the Sharks. Shaun Johnson is copping all the blame for the last defeat, but he was far from the cause. In fact, Kyle Flanagan – who gave away the silly penalty – has been dropped while Aaron Woods has been relegated to the bench after his two penalties and poor defence on Brisbane’s game-winning try.

This Sharks team is great on paper. They should be further up the NRL ladder. Round 17 against the competition-leaders is when they’ll start to prove it.

Tip: Handicap – Sharks +8.5 @ $1.90

Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys @ Central Coast Stadium
Sunday 14th July, 2:00pm

Joseph Manu1Scott Drinkwater
Daniel Tupou2Kyle Feldt
Latrell Mitchell3Jordan Kahu
Brett Morris4Tom Opacic
Ryan Hall5Javid Bowen
Luke Keary6Michael Morgan
Cooper Cronk7Jake Clifford
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves8Josh McGuire
Jake Friend9Jake Granville
Siosiua Taukeiaho10Jordan McLean
Nat Butcher11Gavin Cooper
Mitchell Aubusson12Shane Wright
Victor Radley13Jason Taumalolo
Isaac Liu14John Asiata
Angus Crichton15Matthew Scott
Sitili Tupouniua16Scott Bolton
Poasa Faamausili17Francis Molo

Played 38, Roosters 26, Cowboys 11

Last Meeting: Round 21, 2018: Roosters 26 def. Cowboys 20

Final Thoughts: James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner are both staying at home after Origin 3 but the Roosters remain as heavy favourites. Much of that will have to do with the return of Jake Friend and Siosiua Taukeiaho. The Cowboys are strong through the middle simply because Jason Taumalolo is out there. However, he can’t take on this Roosters side all by himself. There is too much talent, and with Victor Radley back into lock, the Chooks are finally fielding close to their first-choice pack.

Anticipating a lack of yardage for the Cowboys, their attack will surely struggle. Even when Taumalolo carries the team up the field, there is no certainty that his backline finds points. With Friend back and Luke Keary continuing his return from injury, the Roosters look set to put their foot down with an eye on the finals from here.

Tip: Handicap – Roosters -8.5 @ $1.90

Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels @ Bankwest Stadium
Sunday 14th July, 4:05pm

Corey Thompson1Clinton Gutherson
Robert Jennings2Maika Sivo
Moses Mbye3Brad Takairangi
Esan Marsters4Josh Hoffman
David Nofoaluma5Blake Ferguson
Benji Marshall6Dylan Brown
Luke Brooks7Mitchell Moses
Josh Aloiai8Kane Evans
Robbie Farah9Reed Mahoney
Alex Twal10Junior Paulo
Ryan Matterson11Shaun Lane
Chris Lawrence12Manu Ma’u
Matthew Eisenhuth13Nathan Brown
Jacob Liddle14Jaeman Salmon
Thomas Mikaele15Marata Niukore
Elijah Taylor16David Gower
Michael Chee-Kam17Tepai Moeroa

Played 39, Tigers 15, Eels 22

Last Meeting: Round 6, 2019: Eels 51 def. Tigers 6

Final Thoughts: This is one of the more interesting matchups of Round 17. The Tigers have displayed promising signs over the last month as they continue to hang around the NRL’s Top 8. Meanwhile, the Eels have done well to stay in it. After losing three in a row a month ago, the Eels have won three of their last four games.

The mental scars of the 51-6 thrashing the Eels handed the Tigers won’t have healed. It remains as one of the worst losses for any team this season. Acting hosts at Bankwest Stadium this time around, the Tigers will be eager to right their wrongs of Round 6.

It’s a tough one for punters. Similar to the Broncos and Warriors, the two sides don’t play with a lot of consistency. However, the Eels have beaten the better sides of late and do come in rested following the bye. They are the more reliable option here.

Tip: Handicap – Eels -2.5 @ $2

St George Illawarra Dragons v Canberra Raiders @ WIN Stadium
Sunday 14th July, 6:10pm

Matthew Dufty1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Jonus Pearson2Bailey Simonsson
Euan Aitken3Jarrod Croker
Timoteo Lafai4Nick Cotric
Mikaele Ravalawa5Jordan Rapana
Corey Norman6Jack Wighton
Darren Nicholls7Aidan Sezer
Jeremy Latimore8Josh Papalii
Cameron McInnes9Josh Hodgson
Blake Lawrie10Dunamis Lui
Jacob Host11John Bateman
Tariq Sims12Elliott Whitehead
Luciano Leilua13Joseph Tapine
Korbin Sims14Siliva Havili
Reece Robson15Corey Horsburgh
Patrick Kaufusi16Iosia Soliola
Josh Kerr17Ryan Sutton

Played 30, Dragons 11, Raiders 17

Last Meeting: Round 11, 2018: Dragons 25 def. Raiders 18

Final Thoughts: With the Dragons possibly playing without their Origin stars on Sunday, the Raiders at $1.95 appeals. In fact, it appeals whether Ben Hunt, Corey Norman, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell play or not.

The Raiders have won three of their last four games. With the bye last week giving some injuries time to heal, they’re naming close to a full-strength side this week. The Raiders have shown that when they’re healthy, they’re a force to be reckoned with. On the defensive end, in particular. While playing away has proven difficult for the Raiders over the years, they’ve recorded four wins in their seven road games this season. Meanwhile, the Dragons have lost four of their seven home games in 2019. The market will move as Origin players are confirmed or ruled out, but the early $1.95 for the Raiders to win is a gift.

Tip: Head-to-head – Raiders to win 1-12 @ $1.95