Parramatta Eels vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Thursday night – ANZ Stadium
Not a lot of form to go with here (not good form anyway). These two teams have won just seven games this season, so the Rabbitohs have won almost twice as many as these sides put together. Somehow the Eels are favourites on Thursday night, probably because they look close to a win. That is certainly true, but winning has been quite the issue for the Eels this year, and it's hard to tip a team that keep finding ways to lose. In round 10 the Bulldogs beat the Eels 20-12, and this game is the 150th appearance for Josh Jackson. It's not a major milestone, but neither team has much to play for, and that might be enough.
Verdict – Bulldogs by 2
Result – Eels 14 defeated Bulldogs 8
Cronulla Sharks vs Canberra Raiders – Friday night – Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Raiders season isn't over yet, and they're playing some good football, but I've been burned by these Sharks v Raiders games often. For reasons unknown the Raiders don't handle the Sharks well. The injury to one of my favourite players in the NRL (Jarrod Croker) won't help either. With the Sharks well and truly in contention for a top four spot I have to tip them at home.
Verdict – Sharks by 4
Result – Sharks 28 defeated Raiders 24
Brisbane Broncos vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium
The Broncos were meant to celebrate win number 500 for Wayne Bennett last Sunday, but they never looked likely in what was probably their worst performance ot the season (and there's been a few contenders). Perhaps the timeslot got to them (they don't play in the sunshine very often), perhaps the occasion got to them...and perhaps they just aren't very good. I honestly don't know, but when I start to doubt the Broncos they usually pull out a performance to remind everyone they are still a top four team. Perhaps they will do so again. Perhaps. Meanwhile the Panthers have lost three of their last four. Their only win was a comprehensive flogging of the team that came out and comprehensiively flogged the Broncos on Sunday. A logical mind would be picking the Panthers, but my illogical gut is telling me the Broncos will be put through a thousand defensive drills this week and give us a show. As a Thinker, I should probably go with my head over my gut, but...
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Broncos 50 defeated Panthers 18
Newcastle Knights vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
Mitchell Pearce returned for the Knights and the Knights returned to the winners circle in round 18 (but only just). One has to think that the Knights could have been playing finals football this season had Pearce and Ponga stayed fit and well. The Titans were competitive against the Roosters last weekend but that was far from the Chooks best seventeen. The Knights at home.
Verdict – Knights by 8
Result – Knights 30 defeated Titans 24
Wests Tigers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
A home game for the Tigers but we're at ANZ, so I'm not sure what dressing rooms the Rabbits have to use. Only the Chooks could argue they have a richer history than the Bunnies (and they don't) but John Sutton notches up a first for the oldest club in the competition* – no other player has played 300 games in the red and green. Given his popularity with his team-mates I'm all but certain they'll be winning this one.
* the Rabbitohs were admitted into the inaugural 1908 competition seven days prior to the Roosters...one for the trivia buffs.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 14
Result – Tigers 22 defeated Rabbitohs 6
North Queensland Cowboys vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Saturday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
The Dragons are in familiar territory here. In recent times they've often started the season strongly, and then limped to the finish line in September. That appears to be happening again, but they aren't limping as much as they used to. They probably peaked in late April/early May, with their impressive victory over the Chooks on ANZAC Day followed by a 20 point win over the Storm. They were fabulous then, but you want your team peaking now. I expect they'll get away with the win here, but it won't be convincing. The Cowboys should have just about defrosted by the time this game is underway. They'll be happier in Towsville after the road trip to Canberra and I wouldn't be shocked if they won this. I can't tip them though...sadly.
Verdict – Dragons by barely enough
Result – Dragons 24 defeated Cowboys 10
New Zealand Warriors vs Melbourne Storm – Sunday afternoon – Mt Smart Stadium
Unusually the Warriors away record this season (7 wins from 9) is vastly superior to their record at home (4 wins from 8). One of those losses was to the Storm and it was their biggest loss all year. The Storm have dragged themselves through Origin season without a single loss this year, at least in part due to the availability of Cameron Smith. Slater and Munster should be back on Sunday, and the Storm are looking like a team who could actually win back-to-back premierships. The Warriors were great against the Broncos but can they be trusted? I can always trust the purple machine.
Verdict – Storm by 10
Result – Storm 12 defeated Warriors 6
Manly Sea Eagles vs Sydney Roosters – Sunday afternoon – Lottoland
Manly were gallant in their loss to the Storm but that was against a team resting key players. A number of Origin stars will be back for the Chooks on Sunday, while Cronk is still a day-by-day proposition (push Tara push!). With the battle for top four positions well and truly alive the chickens will take some licken. Not impossible...but unlikely.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Roosters 56 defeated Sea Eagles 24
Wally Lewis - round nineteen selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- Eels vs BULLDOGS
- SHARKS vs Raiders
- Broncos vs PANTHERS
- Knights vs TITANS
- Tigers vs RABBITOHS
- Cowboys vs DRAGONS
- Warriors vs STORM
- Sea Eagles vs ROOSTERS