Brisbane Broncos vs Sydney Roosters – Thursday night – Suncorp Stadium
The stint of Alex Glenn as captain was short-lived - ferried down the road from Suncorp for a good old fashioned stitch-up. He won't be playing this week, and the last thing the Broncos need is to be missing more forwards. Lodge got through the game okay, but whether he has the frame for this faster version of the game is in question. The Broncos also lose their most potent strike force in the backline with Staggs suspended. A few kids get a chance, but this is a big ask against a side that impressed last start. At the time of writing we await the fate of Victor Radley at the judiciary. In any case, the Chooks have Taukeiaho back for this game which is a big plus. The Broncos will be better for the hit-out, but the Chooks look too strong.
Verdict – Roosters by 8
Result – Roosters 59 humiliated Broncos 0
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Campbelltown Stadium
If you asked me to pick a team in round three that would hold their opponent to zero points, the Warriors would be one of the first I would put a line through. That's amazing, but not as amazing as the Warriors breaking an historic (statistical) record by completing 46 of 48 sets. Who is this team, and why didn't they move to Tamworth twenty years ago? On form the Warriors are specials, but you can't tip the Warriors on form because they're less predictable than a bucket of sand crabs. Hiku and Paasi join an already lengthy list of unavailables for my second favourite NRL team. The Panthers couldn't put the Knights away last week, but this looks a shade easier.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 26 defeated Warriors 0
Melbourne Storm vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Friday night – AAMI Park
Two of our best (and crankiest) coaches will be adjusting the settings all week, following disappointing performances and big losses (by their standards). Im not sure how often the Storm get beaten by 16 points or more, but its not often. Not a lot of changes to the rosters - the Storm lose Asofa-Solomona (aka the biggest man in the world) and the Rabbits look set to quietly slide James Roberts back into their seventeen. More than anything, the Bunnies need Cody Walker back, because without his creativity and decision-making they are a far easier side to contain. The purple machine are pretty skilled at containment, and their spine of Smith (and Smith), Munster, Hughes and Papenhuyzen should do enough things right to see the home side home.
Verdict – Storm by 4
Result – Storm 22 defeated Rabbitohs 8
Parramatta Eels vs Manly Sea Eagles – Saturday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
Have I mentioned I like the Sea Eagles this season? I must have done. Anyhoo, I still do after their dominant performance in round three, albeit against an easier opponent than the undefeated Eels. The new rule around ruck infringements seems to have opened up the middle corridor of the field, so teams that have players who can make the most of those options through the middle will shine brightest. A few players come to mind in this regard: Tedesco, Cook, Tuivasa-Sheck...and Tommy Turbo. Turbo scored an early double last week, and another big performance here seems likely. The Eels have emerged as genuine contenders this season and deserve favouritism in this, but I like the Sea Eagles. Have I mentioned that this season?
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 2
Result – Eels 19 defeated Sea Eagles 16
North Queensland Cowboys vs Cronulla Sharks – Saturday night – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
There should be some feeling in this game, with Valentine Holmes squaring off against his last team. I expect he will handle it - if you grow up in North Queensland with a name like Valentine you get used to a few barbs. This contest has lost some of its lustre, with Taumalolo injured, Morgan still a week or two away and Gavin Cooper in doubt. Meanwhile the Sharks are set to lose Fifita and Townsend, with Moylan named to return in the halves. With Moylan and Dugan actually named in the same starting thirteen, I can only assume one of them will bust their hamstring getting off the bus or putting their socks on, and be a late withdrawal. Watch for late team changes. I rarely enjoy tipping the Sharks (actually that's not true...I never enjoy tipping the Sharks), but I think they can win this.
Verdict – Sharks by 2
Result – Sharks 26 defeated Cowboys 16
Canberra Raiders vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Campbelltown Stadium
It's the game of the round, and it's great to see the Raiders get a slot on free to air television this weekend. It's also the afternoon slot, and the Raiders are a great team to watch in those conditions. They surprised most of us with a big win over the Storm, but it probably shouldn't have done (their record over Melbourne in Melbourne is simply awesome). This weekend they face another undefeated side, strengthened by the return of Ponga and the likely inclusion of Pearce who looks likely to pass concussion protocols. They were gallant without being brilliant last week, but those two inclusions should see the brilliance return. A big wrap to the Raiders for finding us another star Englishman, with George Williams delivering one of the best individual performances of the round last week. This looks a ripper contest, but the Raiders style of play looks suited to rugby league in a post-Covid world, and the Knights might tire late after that extended effort against the Panthers.
Verdict – Raiders by 10
Result – Knights 34 defeated Raiders 18
Gold Coast Titans vs Wests Tigers – Sunday night – Suncorp Stadium
He's not as quick as he once was, but Benji Marshall is exactly the sort of player I was referring to earlier (i.e. players that can take advantage of opportunities in the middle corridor). This could be one of his best seasons in years. and he's got a new book out, so he'll be keen to play well and give that a plug. The Titans tried (as they usually do) last weekend, but they simply lack the cattle to compete with the better teams.
Verdict – Tigers by 16
Result – Titans 28 defeated Tigers 23
Canterbury Bulldogs vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Monday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
Two teams under scrutiny and barring an extra-time draw, one of these sides will notch up their first win for the season. The Dragons coach is said to be under mounting pressure, but he's kept his hand steady on the wheel and stuck with the same side that couldn't get out of the blocks against the Warriors. I actually think they'll win this, and the Dragons did beat the Bulldogs pretty comfortably twice last season.
Verdict – Dragons by 10
Result – Bulldogs 22 defeated Dragons 2
Wally Lewis - round four selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Broncos vs ROOSTERS
- PANTHERS vs Warriors
- STORM vs Rabbitohs
- EELS vs Sea Eagles
- COWBOYS vs Sharks
- RAIDERS vs Knights
- Titans vs TIGERS
- Bulldogs vs DRAGONS