Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Thursday night – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Note the change of venue, with Campbelltown Stadium taking sick leave after a heavy workload and a typically hideous Sydney winter. The Rabbitohs have found some form with two comfortable victories in a row. Dominant as they were, those wins were against two of the weaker teams this season. Meanwhile, the Panthers were impressive against competition heavyweights, and Nathan Cleary shone brightly with one of those performances that reminded us he will soon become one of the most important players in the game.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 20 defeated Rabbitohs 12
Melbourne Storm vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Another venue change here, with the Storm upping stumps and heading for the exits before they close the Victorian borders. They were good but not great against the Panthers, but I'm leaping to the conclusion that's fair form this year, and the Storm don't lose two in a row very often. The return of Hughes and Addo-Carr can only help. Former Storm Assistant Coach Stephen Kearney isn't getting a lot of love at the Warriors...from management at least. It sounds like the players haven't taken the news of his sudden departure well, and not surprising given the tumultuous season and circumstances they've been dealing with. They could win this for him, or lose horribly. As we all know, the Warriors are like a box of chocolates.
Verdict – Storm by 14
Result – Storm 50 defeated Warriors 6
Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Friday night – Bankwest Stadium
Tedesco has concussion protocols to pass, but he's been named at fullback for now. Clearly the Chooks are a more formidable outfit with him there, but his absence didn't slow them down against the Broncos a few weeks ago. Brett Morris slots in at the back if required. The Dragons situation bears some resemblance to the Rabbitohs - they've won two games in a row against easier opponents. It's a positive for Dragons fans, but this is a level beyond them.
Verdict – Roosters by 16
Result – Roosters 26 defeated Dragons 12
North Queensland Cowboys vs Newcastle Knights – Saturday afternoon – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Cowboys Coach Paul Green is (apparently) the latest clipboard holder with a tenuous grip on their position. It seems a little harsh, given the squad he's working with at the moment. The pressure will also be on the senior figures in the Cowboys pack (McGuire, Taumalolo, Cooper) to match motors with this Knights pack. I'm sure they'll try, and I'm sure having some fans in the stand will help, but I doubt they can. Bradman Best is ruled out for the Knights following a COVID-19 protocol error, and is replaced by a former Cowboy in Enari Tuala. The Knights are the real deal, and Paul Green might want to put his mobile on silent after full-time.
Verdict – Knights by 22
Result – Cowboys 32 defeated Knights 20
Brisbane Broncos vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
Whatever happened to you SEQ Derby? You used to be cool. While I'm not privy to the inner sanctum at Broncos headquarters I can see it through my window, and I feel like the drums are beating. Should the Broncos lose to the Titans on Saturday night, in front of the loyal 10,000 that turn up, the coach (and dare I say it, the CEO) could be out the door. The question for us tipsters is how will the Broncos respond to that sort of pressure? If they turn up with the same attitude they did against Manly recently, they win in a canter. Or they could be a puddle. The Titans, on the other hand, aren't under much pressure at all despite being last on the ladder. This SEQ Derby is interesting, but it's not cool. With not an ounce of confidence, I'm with the Broncos to do just enough to stop the revolution.
Verdict – Broncos by 1
Result – Titans 30 defeated Broncos 12
Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
There's plenty of interesting games this round, but this looks like the best game of the round. Both teams lost in high quality contests in round six, but the Raiders should have done better against an injury-ravaged Sea Eagles last start. Eels lock Nathan Brown is suspended, but they have a few big men returning this week to help fill the void. The Raiders usually sublime attack seems to have gone missing of late, and the Eels defence this season has impressed me more than anything.
Verdict – Eels by 4
Result – Eels 25 defeated Raiders 24
Manly Sea Eagles vs Cronulla Sharks – Sunday afternoon – Central Coast Stadium
The six week injury for Turbo is now a nine week injury (let's hope there aren't any more bids). This is a major blow for Sea Eagles fans and for those of us mad enough to suggest they were a premiership threat this year (that would be me). That said, this team pulled together after losing three key players during the game, and held on. That they did this against an almost full strength opponent and genuine contender should fill them with confidence. While the Sharks did win last start, it was hardly convincing, and it was the Bulldogs.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 2
Result – Sharks 40 defeated Sea Eagles 22
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers – Sunday night – Bankwest Stadium
The Tigers were red hot for about half an hour last weekend. Up 34-0 over the Cowboys, they put the cue in the rack and held on for the two points. I imagine the chat from the coach at half time was a little more positive than the one at full time. It's difficult to line these sides up right now as both teams have named a reserves list that's almost as long as the starting side. Tolman is out of quarantine and could be a starter, so too Lewis and Meaney. If those three were in the seventeen I'd lean their way, but as things stand I'm with the Tigers whose attack is a little more capable.
Verdict – Tigers by 4
Result – Tigers 34 defeated Bulldogs 6
Wally Lewis - round seven selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- PANTHERS vs Rabbitohs
- STORM vs Warriors
- ROOSTERS vs Dragons
- Cowboys vs KNIGHTS
- BRONCOS vs Titans
- EELS vs Raiders
- SEA EAGLES vs Sharks
- Bulldogs vs TIGERS