Three things The Thinker learned in round eight
- I thought the Broncos had a future star in Tevita Pangai Jnr, and they probably do, but the star of Payne Haas will shine brighter still.
- If the salary cap penalty doesn't de-rail the Sea Eagles season their home ground will.
- Two high profile AFL coaches are under scrutiny at the minute. There is no doubt in my mind that the scrutiny would be much harsher if we were talking about two high profile NRL coaches.
Brisbane Broncos vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Thursday night – Suncorp Stadium
Andrew McCullough returns early from an elbow issue – he's either a quick healer or a sucker for punishment. The timing is fortuitous with Josh McGuire likely to miss six weeks with an ankle injury. If McCullough plays and lasts the 80 minutes I think the Broncos can get home, but don't be surprised if Klemmer or Woods decide to give his elbow a decent workout. The only time the Bulldogs have looked good this season was against the Cowboys, and that form is questionable at best.
Verdict – Broncos by 8
Result – Broncos 22 defeated Bulldogs 20
Newcastle Knights vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Friday night – McDonald Jones Stadium
What makes the Knights impressive start to the season all the more impressive is that they've played just two of their first eight games at home. They haven't lost in Newcastle yet (beating Manly and Brisbane) so we can expect a bumper crowd on Friday night. Mitchell Pearce won't be there but it didn't stop them last week, but beating the Bunnies looks a tougher challenge than beating the Sea Eagles. The Bunnies have played some good footy over the last month. They might have won just two of their last four, but narrow losses to the Dragons and the Broncos isn't bad form. Hard to split these two but...
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 2
Result – Rabbitohs 36 defeated Knights 18
Penrith Panthers vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – Carrington Park (Bathurst)
BigPete country hosts another NRL game this Friday night and there'll be a chill in the air the Cowboys haven't had to contend with in season 2018 thus far. The injuries are mounting for Penrith with Dylan Edwards unavailable for an extended period. Watene-Zelezniak borrows the number one jersey in the interim. Peter Wallace returns at hooker and brings maturity, solid defence and a kicking game. These sides met in round four and the Panthers won in a canter (33-14) on Townsville. The Cowboys have improved since then but I doubt they've improved enough.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Cowboys 26 defeated Panthers 20
Canberra Raiders vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday afternoon – GIO Stadium
These two met back in round one where the Raiders appeared to have the game in hand but were run down in the last ten minutes. That was quite the trend for Canberra for a while. They've been a more complete outfit in the last month, winning three from four including two at home where they conceded just 12 points. I expect they'll win again.
Verdict – Raiders by 10
Result – Raiders 32 defeated Titans 18
New Zealand Warriors vs Wests Tigers – Saturday night – Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors are back at home where they have lost just once this season. The last time they played at Mt Smart was probably their most impressive – a 20-12 victory over the Dragons and a defensive effort we almost never see across the dutch. The Warriors also welcome back Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris and Solomone Kata this weekend...handy inclusions. They've had plenty of time to bounce back from that big loss to the Storm on ANZAC Day and bounce back they will.
Verdict – Warriors by 4
Result – Warriors 26 defeated Tigers 4
Cronulla Sharks vs Parramatta Eels – Saturday night – Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Eels scored six points or less four times through the early rounds of the season, but in the last fortnight they've racked up 68 points in attack. Things are starting to gel. The Sharks have named Wade Graham but a fitness test beckons – I expect he will start. Josh Dugan has four-six weeks to find some skin to ink while his foot heels, with Valentine Holmes slotting in at fullback. Holmes has made no secret of his desire to play there permanently. He'll leave Cronulla if he has to, so look for a bold showing as he tries to secure a new contract somewhere. These sides met in round three where the Sharks won 14-4, but I think the Eels have lifted since then. Visiting teams rarely come away from Cronulla on a Saturday night with a win but...
Verdict – Eels by 4
Result – Sharks 22 defeated Eels 20
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Melbourne Storm – Sunday afternoon – Jubilee Oval
It's clearly the game of the round but those without pay television will miss out (seriously Channel Nine...Thinker shakes head). Both teams come to this game well rested after dominant performances on ANZAC Day. The Dragons are unchanged from last week and have been virtually unchanged all season. Clearly luck with injuries plays a part in a teams success but it's much more than that with the Red V. Much much more. The last two weeks from the Storm have been freaking unbelievable, and it blows my tiny tiny mind that I'm not tipping them. Why you may ask. No Jesse Bromwich and no Tim Glasby is why. This Dragons pack is a ripper, and with a home crowd pushing them on I think they can win that tussle. What a game though (seriously Channel Nine...Thinker shakes head).
Verdict – Dragons by 1
Result – Dragons 34 defeated Storm 14
Sydney Roosters vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday afternoon – Allianz Stadium
Trent Barrett has been scouring garage sales and gumtree looking for footballers and has managed to cobble together a team of seventeen for this weekend. It may very well include Jackson Hastings, which is probably the most interesting thing about this game. The Roosters have had a few extra days to prepare for this, and their performance against the Dragons wasn't bad. They probably can't win a premiership, but they're good enough to win this.
Verdict – Roosters by 10
Result – Roosters 22 defeated Sea Eagles 20
Wally Lewis - round nine selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- BRONCOS vs Bulldogs
- Knights vs RABBITOHS
- PANTHERS vs Cowboys
- RAIDERS vs Titans
- WARRIORS vs Tigers
- Sharks vs EELS
- Dragons vs STORM
- ROOSTERS vs Sea Eagles