Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks – Thursday night – GIO Stadium
I learned last weekend that Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is Norwegian, which reminded me that Norway actually has a national rugby league team. It also reminded me of Sonny Mellor, the former North Queenslander who basically introduced rugby league to Norway. Sonny is a bit of a legend, not only because he has spread the game internationally, but he's done it all with one arm. You can read a bit about him here:
Sonny Mellor the one armed legend
It was great to see the Raiders on free-to-air television last weekend, because they are the most entertaining team to watch in the NRL this year. This is a real test for them as the Sharks are looming as a premiership contender and they may have a few players returning here (Johnson and Woods). Despite the possible inclusions for the Sharks I'm with the Raiders at home, who should pull quite a crowd even on a cold Thursday night. A few months back someone said John Bateman has been the best new recruit this season. Someone was right. Incredibly this isn't the game of the round, but you shouldn't miss it anyway.
Verdict – Raiders by 2
Result – Raiders 22 defeated Sharks 20
Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Cbus Super Stadium
The Warriors need a fair few things to go their way for them to win a game on this side of the Tasman. Key players are battling a gastro bug, which is the opposite of going your way. Hopefully the rest of the squad haven't picked it up and start suffering on the flight or, worse still, on the field. Note that Adam Blair plays his 300th game on Friday night, which surprised me I have to say. He's never going to win any popularity contests, but 300 games is quite the milestone for a big forward. The Titans found their mojo after letting Ash Taylor have a break to find his – perhaps he's been holding the rest of the side back.
Verdict – Titans by 4
Result – Warriors 24 defeated Titans 20
North Queensland Cowboys vs Wests Tigers – Friday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
With Scott and McLean unavailable for the Cowboys their pack is certainly weakened, but last week Jason Taumalolo ran for more metres than five of the six starting Tigers forwards (Matulino, Farah, Twai, Chee-Kam and Eisenhuth) put together. He's a handful, and the rest of that starting Cowboys pack is still pretty darn good. While the Cowboys lost last week they lost few admirers. Meanwhile the Tigers couldn't wake the scoreboard attendant.
Verdict – Cowboys by 10
Result – Tigers 27 defeated Cowboys 26
Melbourne Storm vs Newcastle Knights – Saturday afternoon – AAMI Park
Here's our game of the round, and that they have jagged a daytime schedule makes it all better. The Storm have named all their Origin players, and Ponga will be back for the Knights. Speaking of back for the Knights, Aiden Guerra has been named on the bench – an extraordinary return given the state of his ankle the last time I saw him. I have to tip the Storm, who get an opportunity to create a gap between them and the rest of the NRL ladder. The Knights are a serious team, and a win gives them their longest winning streak in 17 years, but that just means the Storm won't take them lightly.
Verdict – Storm by 7
Result – Storm 34 defeated Knights 4
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
It was a lot more fun making fun of Penrith when they kept losing, but all of a sudden they've won three in a row and took down a pretty big scalp in the Roosters last weekend. This is another big scalp, but they're getting them at the right time, with Sam Burgess, Tom Burgess and Adam Reynolds unavailable. Johnston has been named on a very extended bench but seems unlikely. There's still plenty of talent in that Bunnies seventeen, but I suspect Maloney is going to use this opportunity to convince Fittler he should be in the halves with Cleary in Origin game two. As a QLD supporter I hope he does :-)
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 19 defeated Rabbitohs 18
Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
The Broncos have struggled to find a good halfback since the latest Lang Park statue called it a day, and they're struggling all the more with the injury to Tom Deardon. Sean O'Sullivan gets a chance, and he's promising too, but it falls to Anthony Milford to once again captain the ship here. At the very least he has an all star pack of forwards to work behind, and if the Broncos can't win the forwards battle on Saturday night they're not trying. I'll take the Broncos, purely on a hunch that the Parramatta boys may not be super impressed with the move of Tim Mannah to the Tigers. Oates vs Ferguson should make for a tantalising match-up.
Verdict – Broncos by 2
Result – Eels 38 defeated Broncos 10
Manly Sea Eagles vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday afternoon – Lottoland
There's quite a few good games in round 14 and this could end up being the best of the lot of them. The Dragons are a much more entertaining (and competitive) team with Corey Norman back in the fray, while the Sea Eagles have Cherry-Evans and a pair of Trbojevic's to bolster their chances. Both teams won last weekend but should be further improved this weekend, and while the Sea Eagles had some luck on their side against the Cowboys, I do like to tip them on a Sunday afternoon at Brookvale.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 4
Result – Sea Eagles 34 defeated Dragons 14
Sydney Roosters vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Sunday afternoon – Sydney Cricket Ground
With the addition of Watene-Zelezniak to the Bulldogs roster the family club becomes the most hyphenated team in the NRL. Their seventeen on Sunday includes four hyphenated surnames. The Roosters might have one because Waerea-Hargreaves should be back from suspension, but I can't see his name on the team list. Radley starts in the number nine again this week, and Mitchell and Crichton should be back. The tricolours are missing Luke Keary, but they should be winning this against a team that have struggled to get off the bottom of the ladder all year.
Verdict – Roosters by 8
Result – Roosters 38 defeated Bulldogs 12
Wally Lewis - round fourteen selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- RAIDERS vs Sharks
- TITANS vs Warriors
- COWBOYS vs Tigers
- STORM vs Knights
- RABBITOHS vs Panthers
- Eels vs BRONCOS
- SEA EAGLES vs Dragons
- ROOSTERS vs Bulldogs