Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Thursday afternoon – Sydney Cricket Ground
Every year there are always a smattering of NRL games, regardless of the team you support, that are worthy of your attention – and every year this game is at or near the top of that list. It's all the more interesting because both teams head into the contest in winning form. It's highly likely that Luke Keary won't play but he's been named for now, and it's highly likely Mitchell will play in the halves alongside Cronk if that's the case. Latrell* isn't everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying his talent. That Roosters victory over the Storm, given the circumstances, was one of the best victories I've seen by anyone. Even though Keary is unlikely, Friend, Manu and Taukeiaho should return. The only possible change for the Red V is the possible inclusion of Jack de Belin...but I'd be surprised if it happened. Really surprised. The Red V has the better ANZAC jersey, but the Roosters have a better team.
* a bit of Thinker gloating if I may...Over the last seven seasons I've put three kids names up in lights, expecting them to become future superstars. Those three are Latrell Mitchell, Kalyn Ponga and Anthony Milford. The jury is out on the Milf, but the other two are going ok. If only I could tip winners with a 67% success rate :-)
Verdict – Roosters by 7
Result – Roosters 20 defeated Dragons 10
Melbourne Storm vs New Zealand Warriors – Thursday night – AAMI Park
Someone was going to beat the Storm eventually, and it took the 2018 premiers (and golden point) to do it. Unfortunately for the Warriors they have to suffer the consequences, as the Storm have a rich habit of bouncing back strongly from a loss. That this is also the ANZAC Day game, and that the Storm are playing at home, makes them all the more likely to do just that. No changes likely for the purple machine, while the Warriors will probably lose David Fusitu'a to a rib injury. The Warriors haven't won a game away from Mt Smart this season. This looks tough.
Verdict – Storm by 14
Result – Storm 13 defeated Warriors 12
Canterbury Bulldogs vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – ANZ Stadium
The Cowboys have won just two games this season, but the two teams they beat (Dragons and Warriors) both flogged the Bulldogs. While the Cowboys attack isn't exactly firing, their defence looks capable enough to contain a struggling opponent. The very promising Nick Meaney is a doubtful starter with a hand injury, and the Bulldogs don't have a lot of options in key positions at the minute. They've managed just ten points in their last two games. The effort will be there, but effort only gets you so far.
Verdict – Cowboys by 4
Result – Bulldogs 24 defeated Cowboys 12
Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Friday night – Panthers Stadium
No one is talking about the Rabbitohs very much, and I'm sure the coach is pleased about that. They are equal first on the ladder, they are the only team that have beaten the premiership favourites (Chooks), and their only loss was by a solitary point at the Brookvale sandpit. And for all of that, they aren't playing at their best, so how good will they be if/when they do? The Panthers are short of their best too, but they aren't winning. They're harder to beat at Penrith, but I can't tip them on what we've seen in season 2019.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Result – Rabbitohs 22 defeated Panthers 18
Wests Tigers vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday night – Scully Park
Scully Park, for those who aren't sure, is in Tamworth (don't worry I had to look it up too). It's a pretty little country ground by the way, not that you'll see much of it on a Saturday night. I'll leap to the conclusion that there will be more Tigers fans in Tamworth than Titans fans. Robbie Farah should be right to play, while the Titans are going to miss Ryan James and Jarrod Wallace. I think they'll miss them a lot. Teams often bounce back from a bafflingly poor result. Beware the wounded Tiger I say.
Verdict – Tigers by 2
Result – Tigers 30 defeated Titans 14
Brisbane Broncos vs Cronulla Sharks – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
I recognize that the Broncos aren't beating anyone, but the teams the Sharks have been beating haven't been very good. Matt Lodge and Tevita Pangai Jnr return to bolster that big Broncos pack, and the Broncos backline is slowly (very slowly) starting to find patches of form. The loss to the Raiders was competitive, and in the end it was a lucky bounce off a Raiders head that proved the difference. The Broncos aren't winning, but they're close. For reasons I'm struggling to explain with words I feel like the winning starts now.
Verdict – Broncos by 2
Result – Broncos 29 defeated Sharks 6
Manly Sea Eagles vs Canberra Raiders – Sunday afternoon – Lottoland
The Raiders head out on the road again but that hasn't stopped them yet this year. A win at Lottoland might be more challenging than a win at Townsville or the Gold Coast, but the only team to beat the Raiders this year is the Storm. The green machine is back – this is a proper football team.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Sea Eagles 24 defeated Raiders 20
Newcastle Knights vs Parramatta Eels – Sunday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
Blake Ferguson (aka Dr Blake) has advised all that he is monitoring his rib injury and will let us all know if he's going to play on the weekend. If he does he's joining a team that racked up a rare half century last start, and they're taking on a team that's now lost five in a row. The most worrying thing about the run of losses from the Knights is the trend in defence. What started out as low scoring competitive losses has become losses by ever increasing margins. It's not a good look, and it has Nathan Brown scratching his head. Back at home in front of their loyal fans has to help...a bit. Note that both sides have a Nathan Brown in their midst here...that's unusual.
Verdict – Eels by 8
Result – Knights 28 defeated Eels 14
Wally Lewis - round seven selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- ROOSTERS vs Dragons
- STORM vs Warriors
- Bulldogs vs COWBOYS
- Panthers vs RABBITOHS
- TIGERS vs Titans
- BRONCOS vs Sharks
- Sea Eagles vs RAIDERS
- Knights vs EELS