Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 8 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 17 matches.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders @ 4 Pines Park
|Reuben Garrick||1||Xavier Savage|
|Jason Saab||2||Semi Valemei|
|Brad Parker||3||Jarrod Croker|
|Morgan Harper||4||Sebastian Kris|
|Moses Suli||5||Jordan Rapana|
|Kieran Foran||6||Matt Frawley|
|Dylan Walker||7||Sam Williams|
|Taniela Paseka||8||Emre Guler|
|Lachlan Croker||9||Josh Hodgson|
|Martin Taupau||10||Dunamis Lui|
|Haumole Olakau’atu||11||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|Karl Lawton||12||Hudson Young|
|Sean Keppie||13||Ryan Sutton|
|Cade Cust||14||Tom Starling|
|Ben Trbojevic||15||Ryan James|
|Kurt De Luis||16||Iosia Soliola|
|Toafofoa Sipley||17||Joseph Tapine|
History: Played 32, Sea Eagles 19, Raiders 13
Last Meeting: Round 6, 2020: Sea Eagles 14 def. Raiders 6
Final Thoughts: The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles are on fire. Their 66 points scored against the Bulldogs on Saturday night puts their three-game average at 48 points per game. Meanwhile, the Canberra Raiders have continued their slide down the NRL ladder following a poor 44-6 loss to the Titans.
Reuben Garrick will slot in at fullback for Tom Trbojevic while Dylan Walker replaces Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves. Cade Cust is the new #14. For the Raiders, Xavier Savage is at fullback for the injured Bailey Simmonsson, Matt Frawley will wear the #6 for Jack Wighton, Emre Guler starts for Josh Papalii and Hudson Young replaces Elliott Whitehead.
While the Sea Eagles are without Trbojevic and Cherry-Evans, we’ve seen this group dominate without them. Without Trbojevic, at least. They’ll try to run a lot of the same shapes which won’t be quite as effective, but their pack should earn enough opportunities to find points. It’s an area the Raiders are struggling. Their 1,549 running metres per game ranks 13th in the NRL. Canberra simply isn’t giving themselves enough opportunities to score thanks to their 15th-ranked 47.1% average possession and 16th-ranked 76.2% completion rate per game. There is still a lot of talent in this Raiders side. They should keep it close given the players Manly is missing.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v North Queensland Cowboys @ Stadium Australia
|Blake Taaffe||1||Daejarn Asi|
|Alex Johnston||2||Kyle Feldt|
|Braidon Burns||3||Javid Bowen|
|Campbell Graham||4||Connelly Lemuelu|
|Taane Milne||5||Murray Taulagi|
|Cody Walker||6||Scott Drinkwater|
|Adam Reynolds||7||Tom Dearden|
|Mark Nicholls||8||Coen Hess|
|Benji Marshall||9||Reece Robson|
|Thomas Burgess||10||Jordan McLean|
|Keaon Koloamatangi||11||Shane Wright|
|Jaydn Su’A||12||Mitchell Dunn|
|Hame Sele||13||Jason Taumalolo|
|Liam Knights||14||Jake Granville|
|Jacob Host||15||Tom Gilbert|
|Patrick Mago||16||Lachlan Burr|
|Peter Mamouzelous||17||Heilum Luki|
History: Played 35, Rabbitohs 17, Cowboys 17
Last Meeting: Round 14, 2020: Rabbitohs 31 def. Cowboys 30
Final Thoughts: The South Sydney Rabbitohs did it easy in their 38-22 win over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon. The North Queensland Cowboys, on the other hand, copped a hiding of their own as the Knights piled up 38 unanswered points at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Big changes for the Rabbitohs: Blake Taaffe, Braidon Burns, Jaydn Su’A, Benji Marshall are in. Latrell Mitchell, Dane Gagai, Jai Arrow and Damien Cook are all out of Origin duty. Patrick Mago and Peter Mamouzelos join the bench. Similar for the Cowboys: Daejarn Asi, Connelley Lemualu and Tom Gilbert replace Origin stars Valentine Holmes, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Francis Molo.
While the Rabbitohs have lost more influential players to Origin than the Cowboys, Wayne Bennett still has key contributors to work with. Primarily, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker. The Souths halves will ensure the attack runs relatively smoothly which, against this struggling North Queensland defence, will find points. Although, the Rabbitohs defence also has a few question marks around it. They concede 20 points per game. While inconsistent, the Cowboys have shown glimpses of an elite attack through Scott Drinkwater. It’s asking a lot of the Cowboys given what they produced last week, but this one looks like a shootout.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters @ Bankwest Stadium
|Nick Meaney||1||Joseph Manu|
|Corey Allan||2||Daniel Tupou|
|Will Hopoate||3||Josh Morris|
|Aaron Schoupp||4||Billy Smith|
|Tui Katoa||5||Matt Ikuvalu|
|Kyle Flanagan||6||Drew Hutchison|
|Jake Averillo||7||Sam Walker|
|Jack Hetherington||8||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves|
|Sione Katoa||9||Sam Verrills|
|Luke Thompson||10||Siosiua Taukeiaho|
|Corey Waddell||11||Isaac Liu|
|Joe Stimson||12||Sitili Tupouniua|
|Josh Jackson||13||Victor Radley|
|Bailey Biondi-Odo||14||Lachlan Lam|
|Dylan Napa||15||Egan Butcher|
|Ofahiki Ogden||16||Nat Butcher|
|Renouf Atoni||17||Ben Thomas|
History: Played 44, Bulldogs, 21, Roosters 23
Last Meeting: Round 5, 2020: Roosters 42 def. Bulldogs 6
Final Thoughts: The Sydney Roosters had the unfortunate honour of facing an on-fire Storm outfit last week. Although, few will have tipped a 46-0 loss, even with the injuries the tri-colours are carrying. Meanwhile, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs barely turned up to their Round 16 clash as the Sea Eagles ran in 66 unanswered points.
Brandon Wakeham is the only one of the five Bulldogs coming out of isolation and back into the team. Bailey Biondi-Odo retaining his spot at #14 is the notable news from team list Tuesday. Victor Radley returns for the Roosters. So too does Billy Smith who will play for the first time since 2019. Matt Ikuvalu and Drew Hutchison are back in while Ben Thomas will play his third NRL game.
Radley’s return is going to open up the Roosters attack this week. His role in how they move the ball isn’t something that goes noticed until he returns from a lengthy layoff. James Tedesco may be out for this one, but Radley’s inclusion provides a significant boost and will get the best out of Sam Walker, in particular. Canterbury’s returning players don’t provide a lot of confidence. While on the backfoot throughout his 80 minutes on return last week, Kyle Flanagan has done nothing to suggest he is going to get any points out of this dire Bulldogs attack – Bulldogs 10 points or less at $2.20 appeals. They’re injury and Origin depleted, but this one looks as though it will be another one for the blowout books.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v New Zealand Warriors @ Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
|William Kennedy||1||Reece Walsh|
|Sione Katoa||2||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak|
|Will Chambers||3||Rocco Berry|
|Jesse Ramien||4||Marcelo Montoya|
|Ronaldo Mulitalo||5||Roger Tuivasa-Sheck|
|Connor Tracey||6||Kodi Nikorima|
|Shaun Johnson||7||Sean O’Sullivan|
|Aiden Tolman||8||Addin Fonua-Blake|
|Blayke Brailey||9||Wayde Egan|
|Aaron Woods||10||Matthew Lodge|
|Briton Nikora||11||Eli Katoa|
|Teig Wilton||12||Bayley Sironen|
|Toby Rudolf||13||Jazz Tevaga|
|Braydon Trindall||14||Kane Evans|
|Siosifa Talakai||15||Leeson Ah Mau|
|Jack Williams||16||Bunty Afoa|
|Braden Hamlin-Uele||17||Ben Murdoch-Masila|
History: Played 38, Sharks 23, Warriors 15
Last Meeting: Round 18, 2020: Sharks 22 def. Warriors 14
Final Thoughts: The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and New Zealand Warriors suffered bad losses in Round 16. Cronulla’s four-game winning streak is over following a disappointing 26-18 defeat at the hands of the Broncos. Earlier in the round, the Warriors produced a Warriors classic as they collapsed in a heap to lose 19-18 to the Dragons.
Connor Tracey is being given a chance at five-eighth with Matt Moylan still on the sideline for the Sharks. Braydon Trindall moves to the bench with Will Chambers returning to the centres. Reece Walsh is back for the Warriors while Matt Lodge will make his club debut. Chad Townsend and Tohu Harris are both out with shoulder injuries and replaced by Kodi Nikorima and Jazz Tevaga.
This one is a lottery given the form guides of the two sides. However, the Sharks have cohesion and a handful of decent results on their side. If it’s close, they have proven performers that can seal the deal. The Warriors, on the other hand, have made a habit of losing close games this season. Lodge will provide the Warriors with yardage through the middle but they lack ball-playing in their pack. Sean O’Sullivan and Kodi Nikorima completed an awful 80 minutes in attack the last time they linked up in the halves too. You never really know what the Warriors will produce. Reece Walsh and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck could win this on their own. However, the Sharks look the more trustworthy side in this one and have home ground advantage on their side.