Sydney Roosters vs Brisbane Broncos – Thursday night – Sydney Cricket Ground
The Broncos engine room under-performed against an under-strength but enthusiastic Dragons pack, and Anthony Siebold didn't spare the French with his post-match spray. You would expect them to respond, particularly with Matt Lodge returning from suspension. The Chooks have named Cronk, Friend and Waerea-Hargreaves. Who really knows if any or all of them are on the park, but if they do play there's some risk they can't finish the game. That might be a bigger risk than resting them, as Keary, Radley and Taukeiaho have all shown they can step up and adapt as required. The Broncos performed about as poorly as they could last week, and still only lost by a point in the last play of the game. They're outsiders at the SCG, as they should be, but I think they can bounce back. Plenty of eyes will be on Pangai Jnr as he faces the team that's made a play for his services.
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Roosters 36 defeated Broncos 4
New Zealand Warriors vs Gold Coast Titans – Friday night – Mt Smart Stadium
The season is barely underway but these two teams would already be feeling the pressure – the Titans remain winless while the Warriors have a solitary win over the under-performing Bulldogs. There is some talk that Ash Taylor may play but I'll believe it when I see it – as things stand the Titans are lacking the spine to make the most of whatever attacking opportunities arise. Without a whiff of confidence I'm with the Warriors, who are a far better side at Mt Smart than anywhere else.
Verdict – Warriors by 2
Result – Warriors 26 defeated Titans 10
Penrith Panthers vs Wests Tigers – Friday night – Panthers Stadium
Phil Gould is 8 years into his 5 year plan to make the Penrith Panthers a powerhouse in the NRL. During those 8 years they have finished in the top four once (in 2014) and made the preliminary finals once (again in 2014). They've lost about $30 million in the process, and haven't got an ounce of silverware to show for it. Given the money that's been spent, the people involved and the enormous catchment of junior talent they can draw upon it's hard to call the plan a success. Despite that Phil Gould is still there, and he's got the coach he (might have) always wanted, even though he turfed him not so long ago. Said coach faces his former club on Friday night, but I have no idea if said Phil Gould will call the game (probably not). Even though I've spent the last ten minutes mocking them, I'm tipping the Panthers on Friday night. The Tigers have a shorter turnaround to prepare, and we've seen time and again teams bounce off a poor performance. The Tigers were poor last weekend too, but that Panthers loss to the Storm in round three couldn't be much poorer. Pretty strange way to find a winner – the Panthers were worse than the Tigers so I'll tip the Panthers. It's a funny game rugby league.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 9 defeated Tigers 8
Manly Sea Eagles vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday afternoon – Lottoland
Tom Trbojevic is just one man...but he's quite the man. We all wondered how much difference his inclusion would make to the Manly Sea Eagles. The answer is clearly lots, but the fact that the win was over a disappointing Warriors outfit muddies the waters a little. This Saturday should give us a clearer indication. They also return to their spiritual sandpit – let's all hope that we don't lose a Trbojevic or an Inglis down a Brookvale sinkhole. The Rabbitohs remain undefeated and I see no reason to drop off them yet, particularly with the inclusion of yet another Burgess brother (George) this weekend. Potentially the game of the round.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Result – Sea Eagles 13 defeated Rabbitohs 12
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday afternoon – 1300SMILES Stadium
The Raiders have conceded 32 points through three games this season, and 22 of those points were against the unbeaten Storm. Meanwhile the Cowboys have conceded 83 points, and each week they are conceding more points than they did the week before. It's a worrying trend, and I can't have them until I see signs of improvement.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Raiders 30 defeated Cowboys 12
Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla Sharks – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
The Eels have struggled ever since Semi Radradra was lured away by a giant novelty cheque and a simpler, lazier life playing provincial rugby in France. It's rare that a winger can make such a difference to a side, but he was a unique and rare talent. While the recruitment of Blake Ferguson raised some eyebrows at the time, you'd have to say that, thus far, it's been a runaway success. In many ways he gives the Eels what Radradra used to do. Maiko Sivo, on the other wing, looks a prospect too. Two good wingers won't usually beat a team like the Cronulla Sharks, but with Moylan unavailable, Gallen unlikely and a question mark on the fitness of Fifita, I'm with the Eels to return to the winners circle.
Verdict – Eels by 4
Result – Eels 24 defeated Sharks 12
Melbourne Storm vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Sunday afternoon – AAMI Park
The Bulldogs got on the board last weekend with a surprise win over the Tigers. This weekend they face the toughest road trip in the NRL. That Bulldogs spine of Meaney, Cogger, Lewis and Marshall-King looks very inexperienced for such a challenge.
Verdict – Storm by 16
Result – Storm 18 defeated Bulldogs 16
Newcastle Knights vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday night – McDonald Jones Stadium
Kalyn Ponga, perhaps not the next Darren Lockyer, has been moved back into the fullback role this weekend. No doubt he'll appreciate the extra wiggle room and a lighter defensive workload. Mitchell Pearce might respond positively too, knowing that he is very much responsible for most of the decision-making in attack. The Dragons were solid in their first win of the year over the Broncos last Thursday but, as mentioned earlier, the Broncos were pretty awful. The Knights may have only won one game this year, but have conceded just 41 points through three games. That tells me their defence is in order, and I'm thinkering that their attack will improve with Ponga at fullback.
Verdict – Knights by 4
Result – Dragons 13 defeated Knights 12
Wally Lewis - round four selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- ROOSTERS vs Broncos
- WARRIORS vs Titans
- PANTHERS vs Tigers
- Sea Eagles vs RABBITOHS
- COWBOYS vs Raiders
- Eels vs SHARKS
- STORM vs Bulldogs
- Knights vs DRAGONS