Manly Sea Eagles vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – 4 Pines Park (ie Brookvale)
Just the fourth visit to Brookvale (the Oval formerly known as Lottoland) for the season and I'm sure the Manly boys will appreciate being back at '4 Pines Park'. The Cowboys will appreciate it less, particularly with a maximum of just 11 degrees in Sydney expected today. Taumalolo is back this week to bolster the visitors, who have found their feet after a wobbly start to the season. All their Origin players are likely to play - Feldt avoids a suspension but pays a fine for his Origin indiscretion. For the Sea Eagles, Turbo Tom is keen to play after his best on ground performance on Wednesday, and you'd think Cherry-Evans would like to put a disappointing night behind him. I'm with the Sea Eagles here, on the basis of the Cowboys record away from Townsville this season - just one win (against the Tigers) from five games doesn't inspire confidence.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 4
Result – Sea Eagles 50 defeated Cowboys 18
Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Just over a month ago the Panthers beat the Sharks 48-0. If that Panthers team were lining up here this result picks itself, but we just don't know. The Panthers have named six reserves and they all played on Wednesday night. You would think Cleary would like to rest his face...but we just don't know. Without their Origin players the Tigers gave the Panthers a lesson a week ago which surprised me. The Sharks don't have any Origin players, and they were very good against the Titans last week. I'm willing to give the Panthers another chance on the basis that their new halves combination have had more time to get used to it and each other...but we just don't know.
Verdict – Panthers by 2
Result – Sharks 19 defeated Panthers 18
Gold Coast Titans vs Sydney Roosters – Saturday afternoon – CBus Super Stadium
The Titans (potentially) have four times as many Origin players backing up from Wednesday as the Roosters. It doesn't sound right...but it's true. You'd expect Tedesco to play, but there would be some doubts over some (and perhaps all) of the Titans quartet. Since round 5 the Titans have won only 2 (Bulldogs and Tigers) from 8 and are conceding, on average, more than 33 points per game. During the same period the Roosters, battling an injury toll that would unravel most other teams, have won 4 from 7. Two of those losses were against teams in the top three. Given the Titans defensives woes you have to back the Roosters backline to get the job done here. Note that Jared Waerea-Hargreaves plays NRL game number 250 on Saturday - a tremendous milestone for a prop forward. He'd be closer to 300 if he didn't get suspended so frequently.
Verdict – Roosters by 10
Result – Roosters 35 defeated Titans 34
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Newcastle Knights – Saturday night – Stadium Australia
Less than a week ago the Knights played their Old Boys game in Newcastle and lost 40-4 to the Parramatta Eels. One week prior to that the Bunnies played the Eels and beat them 38-20 (and it was 38-10 until the final ten minutes). The Bunnies have named all six (yes...six) of their Origin players in their seventeen but we may want to keep an eye out for late changes (perhaps Murray and Gagai are most likely to be rested). Even with doubts over who plays for the red and green, I have few doubts about the result.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 8
Result – Rabbitohs 24 defeated Knights 10
Canberra Raiders vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday night – GIO Stadium
If I had a functioning time machine, and travelled back in time to visit myself in 2016, and told myself that in five years time the Broncos playmakers would be Karmichael Hunt and Albert Kelly, the 2016 version of me would tell the 2021 version of me to get back in my time capsule and buggar off. "But wait 2016 version of me - I need to tell you about COVID-19 and the Broncos first wooden spoon and Brisbane hosting the AFL Grand Final and a TV show called The Masked Singer'. Hmmm...2016 version of me would say...perhaps the future is not for me.
I'm with the Raiders who are simply awful but Papalii is back and Wighton should be fit to play. If the Broncos think Special K is the answer they are probably asking the wrong questions.
Verdict – Raiders by default
Result – Raiders 38 defeated Broncos 16
New Zealand Warriors vs Melbourne Storm – Sunday afternoon – Central Coast Stadium
The Warriors recently received the green light to return to their actual home ground, but that won't be happening until round 22 (and only then if this latest COVID debacle doesn't get away from us). The seven teams below them on the NRL ladder should take a good hard look at themselves. Rising star Reece Walsh is suspended but the Warriors have a handy replacement in future All-Black star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Another star Kiwi, Nelson Asofa-Solomona is also suspended, and the make-up of the rest of the Storm is far from certain with so many Origin players potentially backing up. Harry Grant would be unlikely but we just have to wait and see. Despite all the uncertainties around the Storm line-up, they have won their last ten outings against the Warriors and I have to tip them here. They're still a real chance of knocking off Penrith in the race for the minor premiership.
Verdict – Storm by 8
Result – Storm 42 defeated Warriors 16
Parramatta Eels vs Wests Tigers – Sunday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
Back in round 4 the Eels defeated the Tigers 36-22. That game was at Stadium Australia while this is at Bankwest - a venue where they have notched up wins over the Storm and the Roosters this season. The Tigers are going through what by their standards is a purple patch of form and have an opportunity to win three games in a row for the first time in a long time. While the win over the Panthers is difficult to get a read on, they do appear to be a team heading in the right direction. That said, most of their wins have been against the teams outside the top eight. This does look like a contest, and I think it's the game of the round, but I'm with the home side.
Verdict – Eels by 2
Result – Eels 40 defeated Tigers 12
Canterbury Bulldogs vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Monday afternoon – Stadium Australia
The Dragons are a vastly improved side with Dufty at fullback - why he doesn't have a future at that club is a mystery to me. These sides met in round 9 where the Dragons prevailed 32-12, and nothing has happened since then that would make anyone think this result will be any different. Following that round 9 loss the Bulldogs played two sides who are well and truly in a rut (Raiders and Titans)...and they still lost.
Verdict – Dragons by 20
Result – Bulldogs 28 defeated Dragons 6
Wally Lewis - round fourteen selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- SEA EAGLES vs Cowboys
- Sharks vs PANTHERS
- Titans vs ROOSTERS
- RABBITOHS vs Knights
- RAIDERS vs Broncos
- Warriors vs STORM
- EELS vs Tigers
- Bulldogs vs DRAGONS