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Bunker Review – Round 17

Round 17 of the NRL premiership saw some teams suffering from an Origin hangover and others valiantly backing up with rep-stacked line-ups – and it was unpredictable as ever as teams jostle for position ahead of the run home.

Upset Sunday

The first four matches of Round 17 offered up few surprises, with the favourites getting up without much trouble and only Origin-depleted Penrith failing to cover.

That trend was flipped on its head via Sunday’s trio of matches, however, with all three underdogs picking up massively important wins.

Days after the surprise sacking of coach Justin Holbrook, Gold Coast pulled off one of the biggest upsets of 2023 to stun then-ladder-leading Brisbane 18-12 under interim coach Jim Lenihan. The Titans defied their negative traits of flimsy defence and second-half collapses to hang on for a gutsy victory.

The 9.5-point outsiders were missing front-row anchor Tino Fa’asuamaleaui but fellow Queensland Origin forwards Moeaki Fotuaika (210 metres, 34 tackles in 70 minutes) and David Fifita (135 metres, try, try assist in 80 minutes) were enormous up against the vaunted Broncos pack.

North Queensland’s spectacular revival continued with a crucial and convincing 31-6 drubbing of South Sydney (see Statement game of Round 17) as a $2.75 underdog before Canberra ($2.30) completed the trifecta by holding off Sydney Roosters 20-18 – both games staged in Sydney.

The Raiders penchant for letting big leads slip reared its head again after they had rocketed to an 18-0 scoreline before the half-hour mark. But yet again the Raiders hung on for their eighth win in 10 matches, with all eight coming by margins of seven or less.

The Raiders ($1.45 to make the Top 8), Cowboys ($2.30) and Titans ($7.50) all gave their finals prospects a massive shot in the arm.

Finals hopes fading

With 10 rounds remaining, just five points separate seventh and 14th place – but the weekend’s results and performance inflicted finals body blows on a quartet of clubs.

Newcastle ($26 to make the Top 8) have seemingly had their hopes dashed by consecutive narrow losses to Origin-ravaged teams to the Roosters and Penrith.

The stalling Roosters’ ($3.60) subsequent loss to the Raiders – their fifth in seven games – makes their job much harder with games against the Broncos and Storm over the next month.

The Dolphins ($6.50) are still within touching distance but the newcomers look cooked after leaking 106 points in two games to Manly and Parramatta – though it could have been a lot worse than the 48-20 scoreline against the Eels when they trailed by 38 at halftime.

Manly ($11), on the back of Tom Trbojevic’s season-ending injury, spiralled in the market via a sixth loss in eight games. The 24-6 result in Melbourne put the Sea Eagles’ limitations under a harsh spotlight.

Statement game of NRL Round 17

In the space of just 36 days since their horrific 66-18 loss to Wests Tigers, the Cowboys have collected the scalps of big dogs Melbourne, Penrith and South Sydney to rocket to 10th on the ladder and shape as a massive finals chance.

But heading to Sydney yesterday with an 0-5 record outside Queensland, a 31-6 thrashing of the Rabbitohs was arguably the most important part of their revival yet.

The Cowboys held their own in the first-half arm-wrestle – leading by a deliciously rare 5-0 scoreline at halftime – before seizing their opportunity with some attacking brilliance in the first six minutes of the second stanza.

Scott Drinkwater has been a major catalyst for the turnaround and dazzled at fullback once again.

As well as their burgeoning playoff hopes, revenge will be on their mind when they host the Tigers this Saturday. Meanwhile, they only leave Queensland twice more before the end of the regular season: against battling Manly in Round 20 and Penrith in Round 27.

Major reshuffle among second-tier contenders

Souths slipped behind Brisbane on the second line of premiership betting after their heavy loss in Round 17, but the big movement came outside the well-established top four contenders. Parramatta joined Cronulla as fifth favourites, North Queensland steamed into the seventh line by almost cutting their price in half and the Warriors are at their shortest price of the season. At the other end of the spectrum, Sydney Roosters’ and the Dolphins’ prices almost doubled, while Manly suffered the most dramatic spiral of any team this season.


Penrith Panthers$2.70$2.80
Brisbane Broncos$5.00$5.50
South Sydney Rabbitohs$5.50$4.50
Melbourne Storm$6.50$7.00
Cronulla Sharks$12$13
Parramatta Eels$12$16
North Queensland Cowboys$19$34
New Zealand Warriors$23$31
Canberra Raiders$41$36
Sydney Roosters$46$26
Gold Coast Titans$126$126
The Dolphins$151$81
Manly Sea Eagles$226$51
Newcastle Knights$401$151
St George Illawarra Dragons$501$401
Canterbury Bulldogs$501$451
Wests Tigers$501$501


Close games, Controversy & Cleary’s Return

Round 20 Preview

Apologies, Sprays & Silky Tries Define Round 19

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