South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Wests Tigers – Thursday night – ANZ Stadium
If the Tigers did win by a margin the Rabbits could potentially fall out of the top four. It's unlikely, but the Rabbits need to find some winning form, because four successive losses isn't the form you want to be in before a finals campaign. The Tigers beat the Rabbits not so long ago, but their last two games have been a loss to the Dragons and a narrow win over the Sea Eagles. Bleugh! It's time for the Rabbits to make a statement.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 14
Result – Rabbitohs 51 defeated Tigers 10
New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders – Friday night – Mt Smart Stadium
Ricky Stuart has lasted in the Canberra gig longer than our last four ex-Prime Ministers, and if he's still in the gig next season I expect he'll outlast a fifth. The number nines are proving the difference for these teams in season 2018. Issac Luke has found his mojo across the ditch and the Warriors are a much better team as a result, and the Raiders must wonder what might have been if Josh Hodgson had been available all season. In the last fortnight they've knocked off the Roosters and the Rabbitohs, they're the only team outside the top eight with a positive points differential and they've scored more points than any other side. What may have been. The Raiders are in 10th and whatever happens this weekend 10th is where they will stay. If two of the Panthers, Dragons or Broncos lose this weekend the Warriors can pick up a home final with a win. That's not as unlikely as it sounds. Ricky for PM? He'd make Question Time interesting.
Verdict – Warriors by 10
Result – Warriors 20 defeated Raiders 16
Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – AAMI Park
If the Panthers somehow won this game these two could be playing each other again in the first week of the finals. That's a pretty crappy reward for the black cats. They may prefer to hang on to their tenous grip on a home final in week one, providing they don't slip to 7th or 8th. The Storm could potentially lose the minor premiership, but I could potentially still wear the baggy green for Australia. It's not going to happen Thinker...just let it go mate. The Panthers have played at AAMI Park on seven occasions...and never won. History is against them, and they're not in the sort of form that would have you believing they could defy history on Friday night. The Minor Premiership looks settled...another trophy for the pile.
Verdict – Storm by 7
Result – Panthers 22 defeated Storm 16
Newcastle Knights vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Saturday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
The Dragons are spending plenty of coin on Ben Hunt, and they may have to open the purse strings again and find the young half a good therapist. It looks like all the pressure and criticism is starting to get to him. Newcastle isn't the sort of crowd you want to playing in front of when you're struggling with form, particularly at an Old Boys game. Ponga is hinting he'll put the boots on for this one but he's getting around in a moon boot so it seems unlikely. In any case this is a game the Knights usually lift for, and the Dragons were seriously crap last weekend.
Verdict – Knights by 4
Result – Dragons 24 defeated Knights 14
Gold Coast Titans vs North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday night – Cbus Super Stadium
You can't get a ticket to this game, and I'm not sure if the Titans have ever put the 'Sold Out' signs up before. While it would make more sense for Thurston to play his last game at home, I'm pleased to see he'll be calling time in front of a packed house. If the Cowboys can repeat their performance from last weekend they'll win again. Scott, McLean and Taumalolo chalked up more than 600 metres of go forward against the Eels and again, a repeat of that and the Cowboys win again. Let the Thurston Festival continue.
Verdict – Cowboys by 1
Result – Cowboys 30 defeated Titans 26
Parramatta Eels vs Sydney Roosters – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
The Roosters appeared to be warming up when it mattered, but successive losses to the Raiders and the Broncos may have them second-guessing themselves. Dylan Napa gets to cool his destructive head for three weeks, and the Chooks will need some of their littler big men to step up and take on a little more responsibility while their biggest big man bides his time. Waerea-Hargreaves should be back this weekend, which helps. The Eels probably need to accept the wooden spoon is theirs this season – we've had a few teams disappoint us this year and the Eels are definitely one of those. What's the story Norman Corey? You need a little time to wake up wake up. Well?
Verdict – Roosters by 10
Result – Roosters 44 defeated Eels 10
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Cronulla Sharks – Sunday afternoon – ANZ Stadium
This is probably the game of the round, because these two sides are arguably in the best form in the NRL. The Bulldogs have won four of their last five, and two of those wins were against teams in form (Warriors and Broncos), while the Sharks have won three in a row including a win over the (likely) minor premiers in Melbourne. The Sharks have a top four berth to protect and have a bunch of teams nipping at their heels, so I'm leaping to the conclusion that's motivation enough to perform. Watch for Aaron Woods off the bench...could be fireworks.
Verdict – Sharks by 4
Result – Sharks 30 defeated Bulldogs 18
Brisbane Broncos vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday afternoon – Suncorp Stadium
Two teams have beaten the Roosters and the Rabbitohs in the last fortnight, and this is the other one. Wayne Bennett clearly knows how to put on a good barbecue because the Broncos looked down and out three weeks ago. If they were in the top four they'd be premiership favourites on current form. By the time they take to the field on Sunday the Broncos will know if a home final in week one is a possibility. Given the teams in front of them (Panthers and Dragons) appear to be free-falling it's looking likely. Meanwhile Manly are leaking points like a team with some very serious issues. Perhaps their number one club member, Tony Abbott, is in there wrecking that joint too.
Verdict – Broncos by 20
Result – Broncos 48 defeated Sea Eagles 16
Wally Lewis - round twenty-five selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- RABBITOHS vs Tigers
- WARRIORS vs Raiders
- STORM vs Panthers
- Knights vs DRAGONS
- Titans vs COWBOYS
- Eels vs ROOSTERS
- Bulldogs vs SHARKS
- BRONCOS vs Sea Eagles