Melbourne Storm vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Thursday night – AAMI Park
Both teams lose plenty of troops to game three of Origin but the Storm look better placed to deal with it. James Graham is a collosus but he is just one man, and most of his usual forward pack won't be there with him. Ben Hunt was 'dropped', but stays on the bench for Queensland. The Dragons pack has been one of their key strengths this season, while the Storm will lose just the one back-rower to Origin duty (Kaufusi). The Dragons don't have a great record in Melbourne at the best of times. I'm no Charles Dickens, but this looks the worst of times for the Dragons to be facing off against the purple machine. The Storm get an opportunity to peg back the lead of the premiership front-runner, and they'll take it.
Verdict – Storm by 13
Result – Storm 52 defeated Dragons 30
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Penrith Stadium
Is Hook about to get hooked? The Panthers are undertaking the dreaded mid-year review even though they are in the top four. Some may see that as an over-reaction, but their last two games have been ordinary, their one point win over the Raiders was fortuitous, and 11 of their 15 games this season have been against teams outside the top eight. There aren't many teams in the top eight that look like they could slide out of finals contention from here, but the Panthers are a candidate. They'll be without much of their playmaking prowess on Friday night too, with Cleary, Maloney and Peachey on Origin duty. Meanwhile the Warriors are near enough to full strength, and showed enough last week against the Sharks to suggest they can get the job done here.
Verdict – Warriors by 8
Result – Panthers 36 defeated Warriors 4
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – Belmore Sports Ground
The Bulldogs showed some of that traditional Bulldogs spirit last week with a thumping win over the Knights. Unfortunately their best player in that game was Klemmer (who carted the ball for 200 metres and gave his all), and he won't be playing this weekend. The Raiders are losing plenty of close games this season, but games are (usually) won by teams that score the most points. Only the top two teams on the ladder have scored more points than the Raiders this season, while only two teams have scored less than the Bulldogs this season ( the Eels and the Tigers). Without Klemmer they'll have even less opportunities to be in a position to score points, and the Bulldogs need more opportunities to score than most.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Raiders 32 defeated Bulldogs 28
Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos – Sunday afternoon – Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans probably can't make the top eight this season, but they're good enough to create nuisance value for every team they come up against. They lose a fair chunk of their engine room to Origin with Wallace and Arrow suiting up for QLD, although it looks like Ryan James will now be available. The Broncos lose Wallace and McCullough which weakens them in the middle and they also lose Oates – his runs and yards early in the tackle count will be missed too. I'm sticking with the Broncos who have plenty to play for and plenty of big game experience to draw on despite the absence of their Origin players. This should be tight though, and given the weather and timeslot I think this is the game of the round.
Verdict – Broncos by 2
Result – Broncos 34 defeated Titans 0
Wally Lewis - round sixteen selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- STORM vs Dragons
- PANTHERS vs Warriors
- BULLDOGS vs Raiders
- TITANS vs Broncos