Melbourne Storm vs Sydney Roosters – Thursday night – Suncorp Stadium
The Storm have escaped the escalating madness in Victoria and resettled on the Sunshine Coast. It's a sensible choice for a whole range of reasons, and on Thursday night they take on the defending premiers at what is likely to be their 'home ground' for the foreseeable future. Both teams bring glistening form to this contest, and both have significant injuries to significant players. The Chooks lose Radley and Verrills for the season, and Isaac Liu is unlikely to play with a broken rib. The Storm lose their most dynamic and enigmatic playermaker in Cameron Munster, and they are also monitoring Addo-Carr, Welch and Kenny Bromwich after head knocks last week. Tedesco will return for the Chooks after his head knock, and Josh Morris has also been named. The Roosters appeared rattled by the injuries to Radley and Verrills during the game against the Dragons, but they were professional enough to regroup in the second half and win fairly comfortably in the end. Clearly this is harder than that, but they've had a week to prepare for the new normal. Last week they moved Manu to fullback and Brett Morris into the centres. They both had blinders and Morris scored three tries, which shows just how adaptable this team is. Obviously it's the game of the round, and I might even drag myself down to Lang Park and watch it with my own eyes.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Storm 27 defeated Roosters 25
Canberra Raiders vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Friday night – Campbelltown Stadium
Some positive signs in attack for both these clubs, despite the losses in round seven. On four occasions this season the Raiders have held their opponent to six points over the 80 minutes. The teams that scored more than that (Sea Eagles 14, Eels, 25 and Knights 34) are nearer the pointier end of the NRL ladder this season. Given the Dragons often struggle in attack, I'll be backing the Raiders defence to do the job it has to do.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Raiders 22 defeated Dragons 16
Parramatta Eels vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – Bankwest Stadium
Only the most ardent of Cowboys supporters thought they would take care of the Knights last weekend. Actually, that's not true - even they didn't see that result coming. This game is at least as hard, and it's in Sydney, and their opponent shouldn't take them lightly now. Mitchell Moses is a big loss for the ladder leaders, but the rest of that spine (Mahoney, Brown and Gutherson) are doing some pretty special things this year. Even more importantly, their defence continues to be a standout.
Verdict – Eels by 14
Result – Eels 42 defeated Cowboys 4
Gold Coast Titans vs Cronulla Sharks – Saturday afternoon – Suncorp Stadium
Those that have been following this site for some time would know that I've never been a big fan of the Sharks. They are the brussel sprout of the NRL - unattractive, unpalateable and a strange choice of vegetable for a football fan when there are so many better vegetables out there. Many of you would also know that I have a bit of a soft spot for the Titans, but right now they look like kale. Neither option appeals to me, but I have to eat one of them. Cronulla Sprouts it is. Better get a bucket, I'm gonna throw up.
Verdict – Sharks by 4
Result – Sharks 40 defeated Titans 10
New Zealand Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday night – Central Coast Stadium
The 59-0 loss to the Roosters looked like the Broncos at their all-time low, but the performance against the Titans last weekend was around the same mark. In response to this, the Broncos look set to drop one winger from their starting side. It's hard to see that making the difference, but what they do have in their favour is an opponent who may have lost heart. Their coach got punted, they're away from home, and they can't go home. As Victoria unravels, the chances of a trans-tasman travel bubble become less and less likely. As a result, the Warriors are trapped a long way from family and a long way from the top eight. Tough going. It's the only reason I'm tipping the Broncos who, against any other team, would almost certainly lose. They can probably win this, but it's hardly anything to celebrate.
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Warriors 26 defeated Broncos 16
Wests Tigers vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
At times the easiest way to line up two sides is to look at who they have played. The Tigers have had a pretty soft draw thus far, with only two games against what I would call genuine top eight sides (and they lost them both). The Panthers, by comparison, have played five top eight teams. They beat three of them, drew with the Knights and went very close against the Eels. The Tigers are going well, but the Panthers have better form.
Verdict – Panthers by 10
Result – Panthers 19 defeated Tigers 12
Manly Sea Eagles vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Lottoland
Both sides disappointed in round seven, although the Sea Eagles loss was slightly less surprising given the injuries to key playmakers. With Turbo and Walker out, much of the pressure lands in the lap of Cherry-Evans. He doesn't seem to mind, but the Knights aren't easybeats. The return to Brookvale for the first time in a long time helps too, but I keep looking at the Newcastle line-up and thinking they have the Sea Eagles covered across much of the paddock. I'm writing off the performance against the Cowboys as an aberration.
Verdict – Knights by 7
Result – Knights 14 defeated Sea Eagles 12
Canterbury Bulldogs vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Sunday night – Bankwest Stadium
As one of the true glamour clubs in the NRL, the Bunnies have had to face plenty of high quality opponents through the early rounds. On the occasions when they have taken on the lesser teams, they have won comfortably. Given the Bulldogs current position on the ladder, I'm willing to put them in the lesser team category.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 10
Result – Rabbitohs 26 defeated Bulldogs 10
Wally Lewis - round eight selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Storm vs ROOSTERS
- RAIDERS vs Dragons
- EELS vs Cowboys
- Titans v SHARKS
- Warriors vs BRONCOS
- Tigers vs PANTHERS
- Sea Eagles vs KNIGHTS
- Bulldogs vs RABBITOHS