Penrith Panthers vs Cronulla Sharks – Friday night – Panthers Stadium
The Panthers have the luxury of not having to name their Origin halves in the line-up after unleashing a new pairing in round 17. That said, team changes are pretty likely. Former Panthers golden boy Matt Moylan returns to his old stomping ground, which should create some interest. Now the whole world will be tipping Penrith on Friday night and so they should, but the Sharks will be loving that. They will also recall that when these sides met in round seven the Sharks were comfortable winners (although a few late tries to the Panthers made it look closer than it was). On that occasion the Sharks were without Paul Gallen and Wade Graham and lost Luke Lewis in the 13th minute. Back then the Sharks didn't have Woods or Bukuya coming off the bench either. I'm probably the only one, but I'm tipping the Sharks can win this with their big boppers.
Verdict – Sharks by 4
Result – Sharks 24 defeated Panthers 12
Newcastle Knights vs Parramatta Eels – Friday night – McDonald Jones Smart Stadium
We have had some better showings from the Eels during recent efforts, but their habit of losing is proving hard to break. Mitchell Pearce returns to boost the home sides fortunes, and they did beat the Eels 30-6 earlier in the year. Here comes my best Kanye West impersonation:
You know I've got to be right now, though the Knights can't get much Ponga.
Sheesh. That's terrible.
Verdict – Knights by 4
Result – Knights 18 defeated Eels 16
Canterbury Bulldogs vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday afternoon – ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs, like the Eels but even more so, have been better in recent weeks, but their late capitulation to the Raiders would be quite deflating. I doubt they've had enough time to pump themselves back up in time for a challenge from the in-form team in the NRL.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 10
Result – Rabbitohs 24 defeated Bulldogs 6
Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm – Saturday night – Lottoland
Last week the Storm racked up a half century and this week they welcome back up to seven State of Origin players. Not many teams like to spend Saturday night at Brookvale, but the purple machine are on the verge of a top two finish and they have a track record of not letting such opportunities slip.
Verdict – Storm by 8
Result – Storm 14 defeated Sea Eagles 13
Canberra Raiders vs North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday night – GIO Stadium
Some people think I focus on the weather too much, but when the North Queenslanders wake up in Canberra on Saturday morning it will be -5 degrees. The Cowboys season is over and they'll spend the weekend in Canberra wishing they were somewhere else.
Verdict – Raiders by 10
Result – Raiders 38 defeated Cowboys 12
Brisbane Broncos vs New Zealand Warriors – Sunday afternoon – Suncorp Stadium
7th plays 8th and if you just used round 17 as a guide you'd think it was 1st vs 18th. The Broncos didn't concede a point while the Warriors barely scored a point. I assume Peta Hiku has been on defensive drills this week but we can be sure the Broncos will be testing him on Sunday. I'm reluctant to write the Warriors off completely, but this is the time of the season (post-Origin) where the Warriors usually start their slide out of contention. Mr Thinker is planning to drag the mini-thinkers down to the ground for a rare daytime game for the Broncos. Fingers crossed for a contest.
Verdict – Broncos by 8
Result – Warriors 26 defeated Broncos 6
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers – Sunday afternoon – Jubilee Oval
The Dragons are short-priced favourites on Sunday but I'm taking them on. Four of the their all-important forward pack back up from Origin, and Ben Hunt had to play in the forwards for QLD too. There's also some very important inclusions for the Tigers this weekend (Matulino, Marshall, Grant, Nofoaluma, Liddle). The Dragons haven't lost a game at home all year so I've clearly broken my brain but:
Verdict – Tigers by 4
Result – Tigers 20 defeated Dragons 16
Gold Coast Titans vs Sydney Roosters – Sunday night – Cbus Super Stadium
The Roosters should be nice and fresh after a week off, and there is some talk of resting Boyd Cordnor this weekend. I'm assuming Arrow and Wallace will be backing up for the Titans but they'll have heavy legs. Before last weekend the Titans looked like a team that could make a last ditch run at a top eight spot, but that dream is over now. Given their lack-lustre performance last Sunday, it's hard to imagine they'll give us much this Sunday.
Verdict – Roosters by 14
Result – Roosters 20 defeated Titans 12
Wally Lewis - round eighteen selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- Panthers vs SHARKS
- Knights vs EELS
- Bulldogs vs RABBITOHS
- Sea Eagles vs STORM
- RAIDERS vs Cowboys
- BRONCOS vs Warriors
- DRAGONS vs Tigers
- Titans vs ROOSTERS