North Queensland Cowboys vs Sydney Roosters – Thursday night – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
The Cowboys aren't under the same sort of pressure as their Queensland compatriots in the capital, but they are under pressure. They were comprehensively walloped by the Eels last week, which is a fair representation of where the Cowboys find themselves when compared with the better teams in the NRL. The Roosters are the only team to beat the Eels this season, so that tells you how hard this will be for the home team. That the Roosters have a few injury concerns, and some doubts about a whole bunch of their forwards (Liu, Cordnor, Waerea-Hargreaves) raises the Cowboys prospects a little, but not a lot.
Verdict – Roosters by 16
Result – Roosters 42 defeated Cowboys 16
Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – CBus Super Stadium
We all like to make fun of wingers from time to time (especially me), so it's only fair that I give one of them a wrap from time to time, especially when someone flies under the radar. Ken Maumalo is proper flying, and has been for some time now. In round eight he made ten tackle breaks, two line breaks, two tries and just shy of 300 metres. In a team that at times struggles to lift themselves, Maumalo is putting his hand up almost every week. I'm tipping the Warriors here, who could easily have the lions share of crowd support on Friday night on the Gold Coast. I'd be more confident if I knew Nikorima was cleared to play, but he looks more likely than not. For the Titans, Mitch Rein is in doubt, but Nathan Peats isn't far away and could be a surprise inclusion.
Verdict – Warriors by 4
Result – Titans 16 defeated Warriors 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Wests Tigers – Friday night – Bankwest Stadium
The Tigers have lost one and possibly two Leiluas for this clash, with Luciano injured and Joey getting reckless (to the surprise of almost no-one). Reckless Joey creates some selection challenges for the Tigers as Jennings is unavailable. There's some chance Chris Lawrence returns and slots into the centres in the interim. The Bunnies are without Braiden Burns for the rest of the year while they rebuild his kneecap. That said, the Bunnies backline are all class, and should do enough in what looks like one of the better games of footy this weekend.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 8
Result – Rabbitohs 18 defeated Tigers 10
Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday afternoon – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
The hamstrings of Matt Moylan, held together most weeks with good intentions and plumbers tape, have come undone once again - he'll be unavailable for a few weeks. Dugan might slot in at fullback, but Kennedy getting the call up seems more likely. Brian To'o is likely to be ruled out with an ankle injury for the Panthers, with Malakai Watene-Zelezniak the logical replacement. The Sharks have strung a few wins together but they have been playing in the shallow end of the pool of late. Now they have to take on a side that has beaten both the Roosters and the Storm this season. It's top shelf form, and the steadying hand (and feet) of Nathan Clearly can get the Panthers the points.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 56 defeated Sharks 24
Brisbane Broncos vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
They've laughed. They've cried. They've gaffed. They've tried. The only thing the Broncos haven't done is win. Plenty of us (me included) thought the Broncos could resurrect their season (to a point) during this run of games against easier sides. They started as favourite against the Titans and the Warriors and lost to them both, and once again they're the favourite to win this game too. They could win, they could win this by 40, but I'll tip the Bulldogs who have half the talent but twice the heart.
Verdict – Bulldogs by 2
Result – Broncos 26 defeated Bulldogs 8
Canberra Raiders vs Melbourne Storm – Saturday night – GIO Stadium
While the Raiders form in recent weeks has been below their best, they have shown for many seasons that, for reasons that are difficult to explain, they are the team with the wood on the Storm (including in round three in Melbourne). The Storm are backing up from an epic contest, and they are without Vunivalu, a vital cog for the Storm when they're trying to gain ground and momentum early in tackle counts. With the Storm now enjoying the weather on the Sunshine Coast a road trip to Canberra on a wet Saturday night doesn't sound like fun.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Storm 20 defeated Raiders 14
Newcastle Knights vs Parramatta Eels – Sunday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
The Knights return to Newcastle for the first time since round one when they kept the Warriors scoreless. This is harder but not impossible, although the injuries to Edrick Lee and Siona Mata'utia don't help. The forwards battle has me licking my lips, and the return of Nathan Brown gives, I think, the Eels a slight advantage. Parramatta coped without Mitchell Moses last weekend and I think they can do it again. It's the match of the round, and I'm happy this contest jagged the Sunday afternoon timeslot.
Verdict – Eels by 2
Result – Eels 10 defeated Knights 4
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday night – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
The suspension of Addin Fonua-Blake is difficult to ignore - he has been one of the form prop forwards in the NRL for quite some time. Taniela Paseka moves into the starting pack. The Dragons are showing signs of life, and while I agree that they are coming off a low base, the green shoots are there and I feel like what they have is the beginning of a competitive football team. They are the outsider in this contest, but I'm giving them a proper chance. Hunt at hooker and McInnes at lock makes sense to me.
Verdict – Dragons by 1
Result – Dragons 34 defeated Sea Eagles 4
Wally Lewis - round nine selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Cowboys vs ROOSTERS
- Titans vs WARRIORS
- RABBITOHS vs Tigers
- Sharks vs PANTHERS
- BRONCOS vs Bulldogs
- Raiders vs STORM
- Knights vs EELS
- Dragons vs SEA EAGLES