Wests Tigers vs North Queensland Cowboys – Thursday night – Leichhardt Oval
The Tigers return to Leichhardt Oval for the first time since round one. Back then they beat the Sea Eagles 20-6, which is looking like fair form right now. With a few winnable games for the Tigers at the back end of the season they could find themselves in the top eight this year. Robbie Farah has cleverly announced his end of year retirement before a game at his spiritual home. It's clearly double-dipping, after the Tigers celebrated his 300th game last weekend...and he gets to triple dip because their last game of the regular season is at Leichhardt too. Rod Reddy might call that selfish but still...he's been a bl00dy good player for a bl00dy long time. The Cowboys, a team who have had their fair share of miserable seasons, have had one of their worst in 2019. A few positives to note leading into this game:
- They've actually won more games away than at home, including victories over the Raiders and the Roosters.
- Michael Morgan returns after some concerning concussions – I'm sure everyone hopes he gets through the game in good health.
The Tigers beat the Cowboys by a solitary point up in Townsville earlier this season. Given the circumstances I'm tipping them to get the points again.
Verdict – Tigers by 4
Result – Tigers 28 defeated Cowboys 4
New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders – Friday night – Mt Smart Stadium
Every team wants to finish in the top four, but this year you probably don't want to finish fourth. Fourth is likely to mean a trip to Melbourne for week one of the finals, which isn't mission impossible but it's definitely mission unpreferable. The dream is top two, particularly for a team like the Raiders who would love to play a final at home in front of all those vikings...and that dream is very much alive. I think the Warriors, perennial dreamers each and every season, need to win five of their last six games to make the top eight. That's not easy for anyone, but the Warriors will have to achieve that against the Raiders, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Sharks, Rabbitohs and Raiders.....and the Referees. As the Pet Shop Boys would sing "But it's hard. So hard."
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Raiders 46 defeated Warriors 12
Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium
About a month ago I really put the boot into the Broncos. They haven't lost a game since and seemingly from out of nowhere they're in the top eight. It looks like a turnaround, and it's hard to argue it isn't, but it's worth noting that their last four opponents (Sharks, Warriors, Bulldogs, Titans) aren't in the upper echelons of the competition this season. This is much harder. I can literally hear them training as I write this and there's plenty of enthusiasm. I give them a hope in this, but the Storm have an extraordinary record at Suncorp Stadium, and they're coming off a loss so you know Coach Cranky will have them especially focussed. Gillett and Flegler return in time to bolster a Broncos pack weakened by the suspension to Pangai Jnr. Vunivalu returns for the Storm. Game of the round...surely.
Verdict – Storm by 2
Result – Storm 40 defeated Broncos 4
Manly Sea Eagles vs Newcastle Knights – Saturday afternoon – Lottoland
The Knights have lost their last four games in a row. Three of those games were at home and three of those games were against teams below them on the ladder. When they played a team above them on the ladder it was away from home and they got flogged by 38 points. The Knights face a similar scenario here, against a team that beat them in Newcastle earlier this season. Nathan Brown has got out one of those automatic card shuffling machines you see at Blackjack tables and made about 8 changes to his seventeen this weekend. He wasn't happy after the last start loss – I'm not sure if he's panicking or just angry. The Sea Eagles on the other have have won three of their last four, and their only loss was by a solitary point to a team in the top two. Last weekend they beat the other team in the top two...by a solitary point. They're genuine contenders, and right now we can't say that about the Knights.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 14
Result – Sea Eagles 30 defeated Knights 6
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
It could be a quiet night for the scoreboard attendant here, although the attendant is probably a robot in this schmicky new stadium. The Panthers defence has been quite miserly up until their loss to the Raiders last weekend. The Bulldogs defence has been pretty good in recent weeks too, limiting the Chooks to just 20 points in round 19. The problem for the Dogs is their attack, which rarely gets to 20 points or more. Because of this, even their competitive efforts often end up as losses. This looks like another one of those.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Bulldogs 16 defeated Panthers 8
Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday night – PointsBet Stadium
The Sharks finally jagged a win last weekend but it came at a cost with a hand injury to our Prime Minister. He's been named regardless. Two big (very big) inclusions on Saturday night with Andrew Fifita back for the Sharks and Sam Burgess back for the Bunnies. I'm sure they'll cross paths several times over the course of the 80 minutes. According to the Telstra tracker Paul Gallen spent nearly half the game in round 19 impersonating the letter 'Y'. If he spent more time carting the ball up and less time pleading for help from the referees he'd be a lot less annoying to watch. Because he's annoying I'm tipping the Rabbits. I have other reasons, but that's reason enough.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Result – Sharks 39 defeated Rabbitohs 24
Sydney Roosters vs Gold Coast Titans – Sunday afternoon – Sydney Cricket Ground
A whole lot of grunt has been taken out of the Roosters engine room with Waerea-Hargreaves, Taukeiaho and Cordnor all unavailable. That certainly evens up the contest a little, but when you look at the backlines for both these sides it's hard to imagine anything but a win for the tricolours.
Verdict – Roosters by 10
Result – Roosters 58 defeated Titans 6
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Parramatta Eels – Sunday afternoon – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Only the Titans have conceded more points than the Dragons this year. Only the Storm and the Roosters have scored more points than the Eels this year. It's usually not that simple, but in this case, it is.
Verdict – Eels by 8
Result – Eels 12 defeated Dragons 4
Wally Lewis - round twenty selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- TIGERS vs Cowboys
- Warriors vs RAIDERS
- Broncos vs STORM
- SEA EAGLES vs Knights
- Bulldogs vs PANTHERS
- Sharks vs RABBITOHS
- ROOSTERS vs Titans
- Dragons vs EELS