Three things The Thinker learned in round nine
- Before the season started I suspected the Dragons would be the real deal. Ten rounds in and there's no suspecting about it – they are the real deal.
- Fourth through to tenth on the ladder are on equal points – there'll be plenty of jostling for positions before we have any idea what the top eight is going to look like.
- The team with the worst attacking record has scored less points than the Dragons have conceded, and the team with the worst defensive record have conceded less points than the Dragons have scored. That takes a while to sink in, but it reinforces point one above.
Wests Tigers vs North Queensland Cowboys – Thursday night – Leichhardt Oval
The Cowboys thought it would be a good idea to bunker down in Sydney for a while after their victory in Bathurst. Given the headlines around one of their forwards at the minute I imagine they are starting to regret that decision. Team lists aren't available as yet but we know Scott Bolton won't be there. The Cowboys were better last week (probably because I finally stopped tipping them). They weren't brilliant...but they were better. They probably need to improve again to win. The Bolton issue doesn't help but a few other things are in their favour. They get two extra days to prepare for this game, and the stripey cats have lost three games in a row. Two of those losses were narrow but both were against teams that are struggling. The Cowboys have won just once at Leichhardt before, but I'm tipping them to make it two.
Verdict – Cowboys by 2
Result – Tigers 20 defeated Cowboys 12
Newcastle Knights vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – McDonald Jones Stadium
Two sides hoping to bounce back from losses in round nine. Trent Merrin joins the casualty list for the Panthers after all but losing his finger a week ago. He found it...thankfully. Once again the Panthers were slow starters against the Cowboys before getting close. It's an issue that needs to be attended to and I expect they'll be better here. Even without Merrin the Panthers pack looks superior, and the Panthers halves should be able to get the job done on the back of that. Ponga is all class, but the Knights are a playmaker short at the moment.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 29 defeated Knights 18
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Parramatta Eels – Friday night – ANZ Stadium
It's 15th vs 16th but this is one of the more interesting games of the round. The Bulldogs were (probably) unlucky against the Broncos and their coach has a $25000 headache as a result of his reaction to same. That's quite a price to Pay (oh Thinker!!! You've done it again son). Parramatta looked like they were finding their mojo but forgot to play football for about 70 minutes against the Sharks. Ten minutes of actual footy was almost enough for them to win, so if they ever commit to an entire game they are a genuine contender. In any case, I'm with the Bulldogs who will be galvanised after that whopping fine. Two more points for the Dogs and one less headache for the coach.
Verdict – Bulldogs by 4
Result – Bulldogs 20 defeated Eels 12
New Zealand Warriors vs Sydney Roosters – Saturday afternoon – Mt Smart Stadium
One could over-react to the injuries to key Warriors Johnson, Luke and Blair and tip the Roosters this weekend (but here's the but), but the Roosters have been dog ordinary all season, and the Warriors beat the Dragons just a few weeks ago with key troops missing. Mason Lino comes in for Johnson and he looks the goods. I wasn't the only one who thought the Roosters would be premiers this season. I was a long way wrong.
Verdict – Warriors by 8
Result – Roosters 32 defeated Warriors 0
Melbourne Storm vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
The Storm have a better record at Suncorp than they have at home, and their record at home is top-rate. The last time they were in Brisbane they put the Broncos to the sword, so you would think the Titans are in a bit of strife here. Some of you will remember (well I do) that the Titans actually beat the Storm in this corresponding game last year...and I tipped the buggars. I probably peaked as a tipster that day. I might get that preview engraved on my tombstone.
Verdict – Storm by 40
Result – Storm 28 defeated Titans 14
Manly Sea Eagles vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
Manly take a home game away from home, and they haven't won away from home this year – it doesn't read like a recipe for success. The Broncos aren't exactly cooking up a storm either but they've been doing enough to suggest they can do enough on Saturday night too. Jack Bird is on very good coin, and he needs to put his hand up soon. Why not now Jack? Why not now?
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Sea Eagles 38 defeated Broncos 24
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday afternoon – ANZ Stadium
The Nine Network have ignored my advice from last week and doubled down by not showing the Dragons Sunday afternoon game again. Oh well...they'll make the finals so they'll have to show them eventually. This is clearly the game of the round regardless of what Channel Nine thinks, and Sam Burgess returns for the ever-improving Bunnies. I can't see them winning, but they'll make this a game worthy of your eyeballs...if you have Foxtel.
Verdict – Dragons by 8
Result – Rabbitohs 24 defeated Dragons 10
Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks – Sunday afternoon – GIO Stadium
The Raiders had an almost comical start to the season but are getting their house in order in recent weeks. I do have a theory that Sunday afternoons at Canberra brings out the best in the Raiders, and I also have a theory that the Sharks are a better team at night. It's also worth noting that the Raiders beat the Titans quite convincingly last week, and just one week earlier the Sharks got over that opponent by just a solitary point. Wade Graham looks set to re-join Gallen and Lewis on the sidelines. Fifita has been playing well, but he can't carry the Sharks forever.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Sharks 24 defeated Raiders 16
Wally Lewis - round ten selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- Tigers vs COWBOYS
- Knights vs PANTHERS
- Bulldogs vs EELS
- WARRIORS vs Roosters
- STORM vs Titans
- Sea Eagles vs BRONCOS
- Rabbitohs vs DRAGONS
- RAIDERS vs Sharks