Melbourne Storm vs Wests Tigers – Thursday night – AAMI Park
I predicted the Storm would rack up a score against the Sharks in week eight...I was one week early. Most seasons the Storm have one or two games where everything falls into place and they do what they did to the Eels in Brisbane last weekend. It's fabulous when it does happen, because it shows how entertaining they can be when they really pin the ears back and play football. The Tigers find themselves in the top eight (top six even), which is rarefied air for them in recent years. I suspect their time in the top eight is short-lived, and I say that because in their last two games against top eight teams they conceded 93 points. That's a concern, and what's more concerning is that their next nine games are against the Storm, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Eels and Raiders. The Storm will be without Jahrome Hughes and Curtis Scott, but they've made a habit of finding players to plug gaps as needed.
Verdict – Storm by 10
Result – Storm 24 defeated Tigers 22
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Panthers Stadium
Their roster drips with talent but they sit anchored near the bottom of the NRL ladder and no-one understands why. In seasons past I'd be talking about the Warriors (and I still could be) but I'm actually referring to the Panthers. In round four they went down narrowly to the Tigers and last weekend they were flogged by them. Are the Panthers getting worse? One positive is the return to Panthers Stadium where they have been better. By better I mean less bad, they've won one from three at home, but there losses their were narrow and against teams in the top eight. They're averaging less than 16 points per game in attack so all that drippy talent isn't finding the stripe often enough. The Warriors are doing better than that, and the Nikorima, Green, Tuivasa-Sheck combinations should continue to improve the more they play together. To think I'm tipping the Warriors to win two games in Australia in a row. It's difficult to fathom.
Verdict – Warriors by 8
Result – Warriors 30 defeated Panthers 10
Brisbane Broncos vs Sydney Roosters – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium
I can't recall if I've tipped the winner of the Broncos game this season. I probably have, but I wouldn't be surprised if I haven't. They ran over the top of the Sea Eagles late last start, but by then Manly had well and truly run out of troops, and the troops they had left, gallant as they were, were on the ropes and ready for anyone to knock them out. The Broncos did the same thing to an injury-depleted Sharks a few ago, then came shuddering back to earth the very next week. Jack Bird (who lives down the road and is a good bloke) is out for quite some time, so Thinker Jnr might have to help him out by walking his dog for a few weeks. That James Roberts hasn't come back into first grade to replace tells you that the Rocket is well and truly on the outer at Broncos HQ. Sad really, because I think we all know how good he could be if he was fit (physically and mentally). The Chooks have plenty of injury concerns of their own, so watch for late team changes there. Latrell Mitchell seemed to get over his groin injury, but the Chooks (and Freddie Fittler) will be crossing their fingers on Friday night. It's been an awfully long time since a team has won back-to-back premierships, but the tricolours look well positioned to defy history.
Verdict – Roosters by 10
Result – Broncos 15 defeated Roosters 10
Gold Coast Titans vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday afternoon – Cbus Super Stadium
14th plays 16th in what is probably the toughest game to pick this weekend. I'm siding with the Titans at home for a few reasons. The Bulldogs attack has failed to fire more often than not – scoring ten points or less in four of their last five games. I don't think they can defend their way to a win against the Titans, whose spine of Rein, Taylor, Roberts and Gordon can find points when they need to. AJ Brimson comes off the bench and adds even more spark. Note that the Titans have scored 68 points in their last two games at home. They were competitive against the Sharks and can get the points here.
Verdict – Titans by 4
Result – Bulldogs 22 defeated Titans 16
North Queensland Cowboys vs Parramatta Eels – Saturday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
Eels coach Brad Arthur is about to ink a new two year deal with the club, on the back of a 64-10 mauling where most of the magic came from their opponents. Arthur is 'rewarding' that effort by (most likely) naming the same seventeen this weekend. It's not an entirely silly idea, and perhaps he had no choice, but teams often bounce back from embarrassing performances. The Cowboys are gradually getting better, but they need to start winning (and stringing wins together) to be any hope of playing finals football this season. I'm not going to say they can't, but I'm not tipping them this weekend either.
Verdict – Eels by 2
Result – Cowboys 17 defeated Eels 10
Canberra Raiders vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday night – GIO Stadium
A low single digit weather forecast for Saturday night shouldn't upset too many on Saturday night – there might be more Poms than Australians lacing on the boots here. The Raiders narrowed the margin against the Roosters late last start but the race was run and won by then. The Rabbitohs faced an easier opponent but always looked in control of the game against the Cowboys. Injuries have weakened the Raiders, while the Bunnies have a fairly settled line-up. There is some doubt on John Sutton with a rib injury, but Ethan Lowe slots in as a more than handy replacement. Looks a real contest, but I'll take the Bunnies in what looks the game of the round.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 7
Result – Rabbitohs 16 defeated Raiders 12
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Glen WIllow Oval
Magic Round one weekend and Mudgee the next. These sides met in round four and it was the left foot of Corey Norman that got the Dragons home on that occasion. His left foot, or the rest of him for that matter, won't be playing this weekend. The Dragons have now lost three in a row, a worrying slide given their recent history of slipping out of contention as seasons draw on. Their last loss was to the Warriors, a side the Knights beat comfortably in New Zealand just one week earlier. While the Dragons have lost three in a row the Knights have won three in a row, and they've scored 86 points in the process. The Knights defence has been pretty good all year, and now their attack, with Ponga back in the number one jersey, is coming together. Ben Hunt gets a chance to play himself into (or out of) an Origin jersey. Good luck son.
Verdict – Knights by 4
Result – Knights 45 defeated Dragons 12
Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday afternoon – PointsBet Stadium
Will the least injured team please stand up? Both teams showed gallantry under difficult circumstances last weekend. The Sharks prevailed while the Sea Eagles fell away, although the Sharks may have faced a slightly easier opponent. It looks like both Prior and Fifita will play this weekend, but watch this space. Matt Moylan is a likely return for the home side too, with Dugan shunted out to the wing (not sure how he'll take that). Manly ran out of troops against the Broncos but they get a few back here with Fonua-Blake, Croker and Dylan Walker. Walker, for obvious reasons, will get the most attention of the trio. Des Hasler is doing a great job at the Sea Eagles under difficult circumstances but I have to pick the Sharks at home.
Verdict – Sharks by 2
Result – Sea Eagles 24 defeated Sharks 14
Wally Lewis - round ten selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- STORM vs Tigers
- PANTHERS vs Warriors
- Broncos vs ROOSTERS
- TITANS vs Bulldogs
- Cowboys vs EELS
- Raiders vs RABBITOHS
- DRAGONS vs Knights
- SHARKS vs Sea Eagles