Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers – Thursday night – BankWest Stadium
Back to back losses for the Eels will have Parramatta fans a little nervous, although they did improve their defense in round ten after quite the humiliation in round nine. They do need to fire up in attack though, scoring just ten points in their last two outings. That said, ten points may be enough. The Panthers have averaged less than 9 points in attack in their last three games, and conceded a whopping 30 points every single time. You don't win a lot of football games if you concede 30 points. These sides met in round one where the Eels triumphed out at Panthers Stadium. Since then the Eels have probably improved while the Panthers certainly haven't. Just two very narrow wins for the Panthers this year – their season is effectively over and the club can pencil in another enormous financial loss for the year. They were supposed to build an empire, but it's a pretty lousy empire. Meanwhile they can check out the Eels schmicky new stadium on Thursday night, where the Eels haven't lost yet against two Sydney teams that are better than the Panthers. Everything points to the Eels.
Verdict – Parramatta by 14
Result – Panthers 16 defeated Eels 10
Manly Sea Eagles vs Gold Coast Titans – Friday night – Lottoland
Des Hasler, it must be said, is quite the coach. When he first grabbed the clipboard at Manly he took a team that hadn't played finals football for decades and made them a force. The only team that was better than them at the time was the Storm (and we know why). He shuffled over to the Bulldogs and took a struggling team all the way to a grand final. Now he's back at his spiritual home, and with half his salary cap in rehab he has the Sea Eagles on the cusp of the top four. If they beat the Titans on Friday night they have already won as many games as they won all season in 2018. Few expected them to beat the Sharks at Cronulla last weekend but they never looked like losing. Given that performance, it's hard to imagine them losing to the Titans at Brookvale.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 8
Result – Titans 36 defeated Sea Eagles 18
Newcastle Knights vs Sydney Roosters – Friday night – McDonald Jones Stadium
Game of the round stuff here. The Knights are on quite the roll with four wins in a row and, impressively, their last three wins have all been away from home. They're back at Newcastle on Friday night and you'd expect the joint to be heaving. The Roosters had a rare loss last weekend to a team they throttled earlier in the season, but the standard of that game was top shelf...possibly the best game I've seen this year. The Chooks don't look like a team that will lose two in a row very often. Also note that the Knights have a sprinkling of Roosters rejects in their line-up (Pearce, Kenny-Dowall, Watson), and I expect they will all be up for the occasion. Taukeiaho is unlikely to play for the visitors and he's a massive out if that's the case, but the Roosters seem to be able to cover for injuries better than most, and Cordnor and Tupou should be back this week. A Knights win wouldn't surprise me one bit, but I'm tipping the tricolours.
Verdict – Roosters by 7
Result – Knights 38 defeated Roosters 12
Canberra Raiders vs North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday afternoon – GIO Stadium
There are a few form lines you can read when considering this contest. The most obvious one is from back in round four, when the Raiders beat the Cowboys comfortably up in Townsville. The other slightly less obvious form line is through the Rabbitohs. The Cowboys lost to the Rabbits in round nine and the Raiders lost to the Rabbits in round ten. The Raiders loss was, arguably, more competitive, and while the Raiders were playing at home the Cowboys were playing at Suncorp (which is arguably more like home for them anyway). It's not cut and dried, not remotely so. Taumalolo can win a game on his own and he has McGuire back this week who will be keen to impress the Origin selectors. The battle between these two forward packs is worth the price of admission alone. Looks a contest.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Cowboys 22 defeated Raiders 16
New Zealand Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday night – Mt Smart Stadium
Take my tip with a grain of salt here folks, for the Broncos are my achilles heel this season. As I write this I can hear the Broncos training in the background. They sound buoyant and they have every right to be. The win over the Roosters was top class. The win over the Sea Eagles the week before wasn't bad either. At the time I questioned the form of that result, but the Sea Eagles came out and franked the form a week later. It's taken a while but the Broncos are starting to look like the team I thought they would be this season. Winning a premiership from here seems unlikely, but they are clearly a top eight side and then some. The Warriors are usually hard to beat at Mt Smart but they've only won half their games at home this season. Those wins were against the teams currently 14th and 15th on the ladder. Their last two games at home were losses to the Cowboys and the Knights. The Broncos are, at least, as difficult an opponent as those two.
Verdict – Broncos by 8
Result – Broncos 8 defeated Warriors 2
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Wests Tigers – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
Wayne Bennett has always had a pretty impressive winning percentage as a coach, but he's peaking this year at a whopping 90%. You'd have to be a bit of a loon not to tip them here, but call me Loony McLoonface. The Bunnies backline is starting to look a bit cobbled together, with Ethan Lowe likely to slot in for Kyle Turner in the centres (who was basically slotting in out of position himself). The Tigers did everything but beat the Storm last weekend – if their forwards can hold their own against that band of Burgess brothers they can pull off a serious upset here.
Verdict – Tigers by 2
Result – Rabbitohs 32 defeated Tigers 16
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Melbourne Storm – Sunday afternoon – Belmore Sports Ground
A Sunday afternoon at a traditional suburban Sydney game is always a delight, and the Bulldogs will be feeling optimistic about their chances here. They nearly beat the Storm in Melbourne not so long ago, and they ran down a big lead last weekend to get the points over the Titans. The Storm have been inconsistent this season but only by their standards. For the Storm, inconsistent still means 8 wins from 10 games. There's a whole bunch of teams that would kill to be that inconsistent. Jahrome Hughes returns at fullback (although Papenhuyzen looks the goods and keeps a spot on the bench). Christian Welch is out injured but not as injured as everyone thought. In his absence the rest of that mighty Storm pack should stand tall and the match winners in that Storm backline can find a way to be match winners.
Verdict – Storm by 8
Result – Storm 28 defeated Bulldogs 6
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks – Sunday afternoon – WIN Stadium
Neither side heads into the local derby in dashing form but both are likely to lift for this. The Dragons couldn't get much worse, stringing together a bunch of losses and, to my eye, they're getting worse every week. They've conceded an average of more than 30 points per game over the last month and the Sharks are a team that can offer plenty in attack. The only positive I can find for the Dragons is the venue – this is just their second game at WIN Stadium and they did beat the Sea Eagles here in round six. Sadly, they haven't won a game since. Not for me.
Verdict – Sharks by 2
Result – Sharks 22 defeated Dragons 9
Wally Lewis - round eleven selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- EELS vs Panthers
- SEA EAGLES vs Titans
- Knights vs ROOSTERS
- RAIDERS vs Cowboys
- Warriors vs BRONCOS
- RABBITOHS vs Tigers
- Bulldogs vs STORM
- DRAGONS vs Sharks