Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights – Thursday night – Bluebet Stadium
A genuine scare for the Panthers last Thursday - getting in a field goal contest with the Broncos with five minutes to go. It was then that Nathan Cleary showed us why he is (arguably) the best playmaker in the game under such circumstances. I found myself in a section of Suncorp Stadium last week surrounded by Panthers fans, who were strangely quiet throughout proceedings, but found their voice in the dying minutes of the game. While the Panthers were below their best, they still found a way to win...as the very good teams usually do. They've also been winning without two key players, and they've both been named on an extended bench this week. There's some chance of a late call-up for Koroisau and/or Edwards here, so keep your eye out for team updates. The Knights got the job done last week against the Sharks, with Ponga giving us glimpses of Ponga in between bouts of gastro. Eugh! Doesn't sound Covid-safe at all. I'm not expecting the Panthers to win this in a landslide, but they should still win.
Verdict – Panthers by 8
Gold Coast TItans vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Friday night – Cbus Super Stadium
I don't know what happened to the Titans last week, and I doubt the Titans know either. Just two of our tipsters thought the Titans would lose in round six, but I can't imagine either of them thought they would lose 36-0. They're better than that...surely they're better than that. The Bunnies had a scare against the Tigers, but much like the Panthers found a way to win. Their only loss this season was back in round one to the Storm in Melbourne - fair form I think. Bennett has had to shuffle his troops a little with Mitchell and Mansour unavailable but they still have an enviable backline and a pack of forwards to fear. The Titans pack is a ripper too, but the suspension to Fa'asuamaleaui could be enough to give the visitors a slight advantage in the middle. Providing the Titans don't repeat what they dished up in round six this is the game of the round.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos – Friday night – TIO Stadium
The venue for this game could be the most important factor of all. The weather forecast for Darwin on Friday is a top of 35 and a minimum of 25. That's pretty warm compared to Parramatta at this time of year, and could be a telling factor late in both halves of the game. The Broncos will be slightly more used to these conditions, but it will be warm even for them. Both these sides surprised me in round six - the Eels dominated the Raiders in Canberra while the Broncos gave the premiership favourites a proper fright. Take note also that these sides have already played each other this season. In round one the Broncos rushed to a 16-0 lead only to be kept scoreless in the second half and run down 24-16. The Broncos are improving I have no doubt, but they have played against top eight contenders on five occasions this season and lost them all. If the Eels have an off night and the weather starts to get to them the Broncos could pull off a low scoring upset, but what's more likely is a competitive loss. I'll be tipping that.
Verdict – Eels by 7
Cronulla Sharks vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday afternoon – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
The Sharks have been competitive in recent weeks without winning but this is a step down in class. Shaun Johnson and Josh Dugan are back for this, with new recruit Will Chambers named as a reserve. Also in the reserves list is young Franklin Pele. I have included a video of some of his highlights - many are comparing him to a young Jason Taumalolo (and you can see why). Sharks...too good here.
Verdict – Sharks by 10
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
The Cowboys have won two games in a row, which is super, but they have beaten the teams that are currently last and second last on the ladder. The Raiders have lost two games in a row, which is terrible, but they were beaten by the teams that are currently first and third on the ladder. Ricky Stuart hasn't been shy about making changes, and the people he has brought into the starting thirteen (Starling, James, Guler) look like proper footballers to me. It's great to see Todd Payten getting some results up north, but the Raiders should be the testing material.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Wests Tigers vs Manly Sea Eagles – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
It's fine for me to keep saying how important Tommy Turbo is to the Sea Eagles, but it only actually means anything if they get results. Last week they did...and then some. I'm not sure if I should write off that performance as an anomaly or the new normal for Manly. We'll know more on Saturday night, but for now I'm punting on the Turbo boosting the Eagles again.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 10
Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday afternoon – Sydney Cricket Ground
Both sides coming off losses heading into the ANZAC Day game, but we have a genuine contest here. The Roosters held on for as long as they could against the Storm before the floodgates opened, while the Dragons were competitive against an almost flawless Warriors (more on that later). Ben Hunt has been named on the reserves list so he clearly heals quickly - given that he play much of a game with a broken leg I shouldn't be surprised. Blake Lawrie adds some starch in the middle for the Red V. The big news for the Chooks is the return of Verrills - a genuine first grade dummy half can only boost their prospects. I'm leaning slightly to the Roosters whose only losses this season have come to genuine top four sides. While the Dragons look finals bound to my eyes they are also a shandy below the quality of the very best in the competition. A great game though, and the occasion is likely to bring out the best in everyone.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Melbourne Storm vs New Zealand Warriors – Sunday night – AAMI Park
40 from 40. That's the completion rate for the New Zealand Warriors in round six against the Dragons. That doesn't happen every day. In fact, it doesn't tend to happen at all. I need David Middleton to back me up here but I heard that this is the first 100% completion rate in a game of NRL since we've been calling it the NRL. An amazing effort, and not the sort of thing the Warriors are renowned for. What worries me is that despite playing near perfect football they could only beat the Dragons by 6 points. This is a tougher contest than that, so we'll need some more perfect football if the Warriors are to cause an upset. The absence of Papenhuyzen will help a little, but the Melbourne Storm are still a team packed full of rockstars. We may have more Kiwis than Australians on the field for this game, but you can't spell ANZAC without NZ.
Verdict – Storm by 10
Wally Lewis - round seven selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- PANTHERS vs Knights
- Titans vs RABBITOHS
- EELS vs Broncos
- SHARKS vs Bulldogs
- Cowboys vs RAIDERS
- TIGERS vs Sea Eagles
- ROOSTERS vs Dragons
- STORM vs Warriors