South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Brisbane Broncos – Thursday night – ANZ Stadium
The cameras will spend as much time watching the coaches as they will the action on the field on Thursday night. Bennett and Siebold should know plenty about the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents – now we get to see which coach can put together a game plan to get the win. It's all good and well to have a game plan, but you need the team to implement it, and thus far the Rabbitohs appear to be responding to their new coach better than the Broncos. The Broncos were dominant against a weakened opponent in round seven, but this is another level. Anthony Milford has calmly potted two field goals in the games where Broncos were a long way in front, but he's struggled for composure in the close games. This will probably be close, and I expect Cody Walker (who should be in the mix for NSW origin selection but never seems to get a mention) and Adam Reynolds will get the Bunnies home. Note that Thomas Deardon makes his NRL debut for Nikorima who has a (cough cough) calf injury. He's highly rated, but this is a big game to be making your debut.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Result – Rabbitohs 38 defeated Broncos 6
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans – Friday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
At least one Queensland team is going to win this round. It's worth keeping your eye out for team changes heading into this game because we may have a couple of very important inclusions. Taumalolo is (potentially) returning from injury earlier than anticipated, and AJ Brimson could be named for the Titans. Jarrod Wallace definitely returns from suspension to boost their depleted forward pack. There are rumours emerging of disquiet at the Cowboys – talk of players and coach not being on the same page. I've heard this before and it's nothing new, but that doesn't mean there isn't any truth to it. I'm still tipping the Cowboys who return home after two weeks on the road. Michael Morgan gets to stake a claim for the coveted number 7 Origin jersey with a decent showing.
Verdict – Cowboys by 2
Result – Cowboys 28 defeated Titans 14
Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm – Friday night – PointsBet Stadium
There's never a good time to face Melbourne, but with Moylan and now Johnson out with gammy hammies this is about as bad as it gets for the Sharks. The Storm aren't playing at their best, but they are still beating just about everybody. The only teams the Sharks have beaten are currently 13th, 14th and 15th on the ladder. The Storm are better than that, and I think they might rack up a tally here.
Verdict – Storm by 22
Result – Sharks 20 defeated Storm 18
Canberra Raiders vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday afternoon – McDonalds Park
I don't live in Wagga Wagga (or 'Wagga' as it likes to be called), but if I were I would definitely be plonking myself down on a patch of turf on Saturday afternoon. This particular venue is unique because there are plenty of good seats on the grass...and I like that. I like the Raiders too, despite their loss to the Sea Eagles and the improved showing from Penrith last week. Jordan Rapana has been named for now, but is nursing a dodgy rib.
Verdict – Raiders by 2
Result – Raiders 30 defeated Panthers 12
Manly Sea Eagles vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday night – Lottoland
The Bulldogs did enough to win last week but it wasn't enough to drag them off the bottom of the ladder. Note that the team they beat are currently fifteenth while the team the Sea Eagles beat are in the top four. Manly are without Cherry-Evans for a while but they lifted without him against the Raiders and I think they'll be just fine. Their pack of forwards are going very well indeed and that's where games are won. Fonua-Blake returns from suspension to make them even stronger.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 8
Result – Sea Eagles 18 defeated Bulldogs 10
Sydney Roosters vs Wests Tigers – Saturday night – Sydney Cricket Ground
Jake Friend is out for a while with a busted bicep, but the Chooks have a more than handy replacement in Victor Radley – if anything the change improves them. The only reason the tricolours lose this is if they put all their energy into the ANZAC Day game and don't turn up this weekend. They're a fairly professional outfit so I'll assume that risk is low. Benji Marshall slots into the halves to replace Reynolds. It probably helps, but more help is needed.
Verdict – Roosters by 10
Result – Roosters 42 defeated Tigers 12
New Zealand Warriors vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Mt Smart Stadium
The Knights surprised us with a big win over the Eels and the Warriors surprised us by hanging tough (but just falling short) against the Storm. If both sides bring similar performances on Sunday it should be a ripper, but will they? The Warriors have three big inclusions (Tuivasa-Sheck, Fusitu'a and Green) this weekend, and they are back at home – four pretty compelling reasons to tip them here.
Verdict – Warriors by 10
Result – Knights 36 defeated Warriors 18
Parramatta Eels vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
The Eels all-time record at Bankwest Stadium is as good as it gets, but it's a small sample. The Dragons were competitive against the Roosters on ANZAC Day and this does look an easier task. In their last four outings they have conceded (on average) less than 12 points per game. Another strong defensive effort can set the platform, and there's enough match winners in that back-line to get them the points. If not for all the huff'n'puff over the coaches in the Thursday night game this would be the match of the round. It could still be.
Verdict – Dragons by 1
Result – Eels 32 defeated Dragons 18
Wally Lewis - round eight selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- RABBITOHS vs Broncos
- COWBOYS vs Titans
- Sharks vs STORM
- RAIDERS vs Panthers
- SEA EAGLES vs Bulldogs
- ROOSTERS vs Tigers
- WARRIORS vs Knights
- Eels vs DRAGONS