North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Thursday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
Unless something goes amiss with the new stadium development this will be the Cowboys last ever game at this stadium. It's a funny place I tells ya. It's pretty inadequate by modern standards but it's done the job, and for a few seasons at least it became an incredibly difficult place for an away team to get the points. For those not familiar with the history of the joint it was quite an effort to get the venue ready for their first game (against the Bulldogs in fact). The first grade players in 1995 had to go out and lay the turf, and the CEO (Kerry Boustead) had to do a quick run to the shops before kick-off to buy toilet paper for the portaloos. I'm sure the Cowboys lacing up boots on Thursday night will be reminded of this and more, and if that doesn't motivate them enough, here's hoping Matt Scott can make an appearance in the sheds before kick-off. The Bulldogs have been extraordinary in recent weeks, and are somehow in contention for the most unlikely of top eight finishes. I haven't tipped them even once throughout this period, and I'm not tipping them again. Perhaps I'm a slow learner.
Verdict – Cowboys by 2
Result – Cowboys 15 defeated Bulldogs 8
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Mt Smart Stadium
It's the last game at Mt Smart for the season in what has been another disappointing year. Their performances at home have been poor in 2019, although they did beat the Sea Eagles a few weeks ago. James Roberts gets some time on the sidelines to think about what to do (and what not to do) with his forearms, while Sam Burgess, Alex Johnston, Kyle Turner and Ethan Lowe are all back for the Bunnies. Johnston returns on the wing while Doueihi retains the number one jersey. In round four the Bunnies had to come from behind to knock off the Warriors in an entertaining game on the Sunshine Coast. I doubt this will be as close, or as entertaining...unless you're a Rabbitohs fan.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 10
Result – Rabbitohs 31 defeated Warriors 10
Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium
It's business time for the Broncos, but I'm not sure if this team means business. After that narrow loss to the Bunnies, they looked a little too joyous in the sheds for mine. I know it's only a game but I want these teams to be hurting after a loss. They're a warm favourite here, and I understand why, but I can't forget that the Eels destroyed the Broncos earlier this season. I'm not convinced the Broncos are a better team now than they were then. While the Eels lost to the Bulldogs last week it was a quality game from both sides. That was the first Eels loss since they went down to the Sea Eagles in mid-June. Blake Ferguson returns and he's a massive inclusion.
Verdict – Eels by 2
Result – Broncos 17 defeated Eels 16
Newcastle Knights vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
Two teams with new coaches in 2020, although the Knights don't know who that will be just yet. They were spectacularly awful last week, perhaps they were still in shock after the Nathan Brown announcement. If they were, they've had some time to get used to the idea now and you would hope for something better than that. A win here and a win over the Panthers in the final round of the regular season could see the Knights sneak into the top eight this season. But first they have to win this...and they should.
Verdict – Knights by 16
Result – Knights 38 defeated Titans 4
Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm – Saturday night – Lottoland
A few weekends ago the Raiders came from behind to defeat the Storm in Melbourne, and they did it despite playing with 12 men on the park for a fair chunk of the match. Last weekend the Sea Eagles beat the Raiders in Canberra despite being down to 15 men for a fair chunk of the match. So drawing a line through recent performances over the Raiders I'm giving the Sea Eagles a slight edge. They're also at home, and have beaten the Storm already this year. The Storm have effectively sewn up the minor premiership now and I'm not sure we'll see their best this weekend. That said, the battle of these forward packs has my mouth watering.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 1
Result – Storm 36 defeated Sea Eagles 6
Sydney Roosters vs Penrth Panthers – Saturday night – Sydney Cricket Ground
The Panthers need to win their last two games of the regular season to make the eight. It can't get much harder than this. The Roosters form continues to look ominous and they welcome back Latrell Mitchell on Saturday night. To make things even worse for the Panthers, have a look at the scores the Chooks have been racking up in recent weeks when they have played at this venue. They're loving the SCG, and they'll win again.
Verdict – Roosters by 20
Result – Roosters 22 defeated Panthers 6
Cronulla Sharks vs Canberra Raiders – Sunday afternoon – PointsBet Stadium
Paul Gallen, never afraid to put himself up in lights, has reminded everyone in the game that he turned down a big offer to stay at the Sharks this season. I'm sure it's true, but I'm sure he's not the first either. Anyhoo it's Paul Gallen week in the NRL and with that in mind the Sharkies will be super keen to give the old buggar a win in his final game at Shark Park. That gives Gal a chance to talk about it again...and again...and again. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. I actually hope the Raiders win.
Verdict – Sharks by 4
Result – Raiders 15 defeated Sharks 14
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers – Sunday afternoon – Sydney Cricket Ground
If any team currently in the top eight is going to drop out it's probably the Broncos, and if that happens the most likely team to replace them is the Tigers. Their dominant win over the Knights has given their differential an important boost and they can give it another nice little top up here. The Dragons are way way down near the foot of the ladder, but can't possibly fall all the way to last. That leaves them with next to nothing to play for but pride, and they haven't shown us much pride this season..
Verdict – Tigers by 10
Result – Tigers 42 defeated Dragons 14
Wally Lewis - round twenty four selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Cowboys vs BULLDOGS
- Warriors vs RABBITOHS
- Broncos vs EELS
- KNIGHTS vs Titans
- Sea Eagles vs STORM
- ROOSTERS vs Panthers
- Sharks vs RAIDERS
- Dragons vs TIGERS