Canterbury Bulldogs vs Brisbane Broncos – Thursday night – ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs are still trying hard, and were rewarded for effort last start with a win over a disappointing Tigers outfit, but there's two reasons why they can't beat the Broncos on Thursday:
- The Bulldogs haven't beaten a top eight team all season unless you count the Panthers way back in round three :-)
- With the Bulldogs winning last start, the Broncos won't take them lightly.
In round nine the Bulldogs nearly beat the Broncos (and were unlucky not to), but the Broncos have improved since then while the Dogs have been shedding players and treading water.
Verdict – Broncos by 8
Result – Bulldogs 36 defeated Broncos 22
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers – Friday night – McDonald Jones Stadium
Both sides lost last start to lowly opponents and both sides were ordinary at best (and I'm being polite). The Knights are tough to beat at home but the Tigers still have the sniff of a top eight finish in their nostrils – that should be all the motivation they need. A repeat of their performance against the Dogs and the Tigers season is over, but they're better than that...I hope they're better than that. With apologies to all the Tigers fans on the site – if you're only going to miss one game this weekend make sure it's this one.
Verdict – Tigers by 4
Result – Tigers 25 defeated Knights 16
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Melbourne Storm – Friday night – ANZ Stadium
First plays second and quite a few are talking up this contest in the lead-up...and why not? Here's my reason why not – the Bunnies record against the Storm is truly awful (4 wins from 28), and the last time these sides met was in the lead-up to the 2017 finals series. Back then the Storm won 64-6. We'll have nothing like that on Friday night, because the Bunnies are a serious football team this season, but the history of these sides tells a story and it's telling me to stick with the purple machine. It's a formula that's worked for a very long time.
Verdict – Storm by 8
Result – Rabbitohs 30 defeated Storm 20
St George Illawarra Dragons vs New Zealand Warriors – Saturday afternoon – WIN Stadium
I think this is the toughest game to pick all round. Both sides were convincingly outplayed last Sunday and both have their place in the finals (Dragons – top four and Warriors – top eight) to defend. It's fair to say the Dragons loss to the Roosters looks like stronger form than a loss to the Titans, but the Warriors (potentially) have some very important inclusions this weekend. Adam Blair will be back and Tohu Harris and Issac Luke are likely to be back. If all three return I'm leaning the Warriors way. The Warriors playmakers are a much more dangerous pair playing behind Issac Luke, and the Warriors did beat the Dragons earlier this season when few thought they could. I'm just leaning to the home team, who have a fair run into the finals and still look on track for a top four finish. The Rabbitohs/Storm contest will get plenty of headlines, but this game should create plenty of interest.
Verdict – Dragons by 2
Result – Warriors 18 defeated Dragons 12
Parramatta Eels vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
The Eels are pretty crap, but at least they're playing at home which is the only place they've won a game all year. Perhaps that's why they are favoured to win on Saturday. The Titans are almost always expected to lose, but in their last six games they've won four and scored 30 points or more every time (and two of those were against top eight teams). Their two losses were a narrow (and dodgy) loss to the Chooks and a game they had in the bag but let slip against the Knights. The Eels by comparison have scored more than 20 points just three times all year. They've only done it once since round 8...and they lost. Not for me.
Verdict – Titans by 4
Result – Eels 28 defeated Titans 12
Sydney Roosters vs North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday night – Allianz Stadium
Last week I put my comically over-sized head on the chopping block and suggested the competition was a two-horse race...and now look at the all experts jumping on the Thinker bandwagon and tipping the Storm and the Roosters for the 2018 grand final. Get in line gurus....the Thinker is in town. The Cowboys are in Sydney this weekend and I don't know if they want to be. They jagged a rare win at home last weekend which was a nice little lift for the local fans who have suffered this season, but if that game wasn't the lowest quality contest in round 20 it was sitting right next door to it. Meanwhile the Chooks put the Dragons to the sword. They're winning, they're on track and they're a serious football team. Since Roosters coach Trent Robinson took hold of the clipboard in 2013 his troops have finished the NRL season in the following positions – 2013 (1st), 2014 (1st), 2015 (1st), 2016 (15th), 2017 (2nd). There's only one Craig Bellamy, but he's no slouch.
Verdict – Roosters by 20
Result – Roosters 26 defeated Cowboys 20
Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday afternoon – Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Sharks are in 6th and the Sea Eagles in 14th place, yet Manly have actually scored more points than Cronulla this year. That tells you a few things – Cronulla must be pretty good at winning tight games and when Manly lose they really really lose. Manly were pretty good for much of their game against the Panthers, and then they really really lost while the Thinker boiled an egg. Cronulla lost narrowly to the Broncos but that was a quality contest and they'll be winning this.
Verdict – Sharks by 14
Result – Sea Eagles 33 defeated Sharks 32
Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders – Sunday afternoon – Panthers Stadium
If some challenging officialdom didn't kill the Raiders two weeks ago the Storm certainly did one week ago. A shame really, because when the Raiders are winning, the NRL is a much more entertaining competition. They could actually win this, because Penrith are a baffling riddle. If they start slowly this weekend Canberra are the sort of team that could score a point a minute, and you can't run down a 40 point deficit in the last seven minutes of play. Reagan Campbell-Gillard should be back this week and he's a massive inclusion for the home side. You can't tip the Panthers confidently, but I can't tip against them either.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 40 defeated Raiders 31
Wally Lewis - round twenty-one selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- Bulldogs vs BRONCOS
- Knights vs TIGERS
- Rabbitohs vs STORM
- DRAGONS vs Warriors
- EELS vs Titans
- ROOSTERS vs Cowboys
- SHARKS vs Sea Eagles
- PANTHERS vs Raiders