Brisbane Broncos vs Penrith Panthers – Thursday night – Suncorp Stadium
The Broncos, on average, are conceding more than 25 points per game. That's not great, but it's really not great when you consider that in one of their games they didn't concede any at all. What makes that figure even more disturbing is that after five games the Panthers have conceded only 26 points. That's 26 points across five games, including victories over the Storm and the Raiders. While the Panthers are playing beautiful football, I am going to give them a grilling over one thing. The way some of their players celebrate their success is, in my insignificant opinion, not cool. It's all very well and good to sing when you're winning, but you can do it without getting in the faces of your opponents. It's ugly, and if I were Ivan Cleary or Phil Gould I'd be getting them to pull their heads in. That said, they haven't lost a game this year, and there's no chance in heckity they'll be losing this either.
Verdict – Panthers by 30
Result – Panthers 20 defeated Broncos 12
Newcastle Knights vs Cronulla Sharks – Friday night – McDonald Jones Stadium
It's not official, so I'm hoping I can backtrack on this and say I got it completely wrong, but it looks like Sharks coach John Morris will be (or has been) punted by his club. Morris, getting paid less than ex-footballers offering sideline commentary on Fox Sports, has I think done a pretty good job with the team he has at his disposal. He was keen to stay and the players were keen to work with him...so it all seems a bit stoopid to me. Anyhoo, unofficially he will be replaced by Roosters Assistant Coach Craig Fitzgibbon and Panthers Assistant Coach Cameron Ciraldo. No-one at Cronulla has told Morris yet, but they will soon (probably after this game). The Knights have been poor in recent weeks but have a few important players expected to return for this - Jacob Saifiti returns from suspension and Bradman Best and Kurt Mann should be back. Meanwhile the Sharks are set to rule out Wade Graham and Josh Dugan following head knocks. Given the likely team changes, I'm with the Knights at home.
Verdict – Knights by 4
Result – Knights 26 defeated Sharks 22
Melboure Storm vs Sydney Roosters – Friday night – AAMI Park
I've given a few kids a wrap before they've made their NRL debuts over the years. Sometimes I get it wrong (most notably, one of them is getting dropped from first grade this week). I probably got it right with Kalyn Ponga and Latrell Mitchell. After two games, it looks like I might be right about Sam Walker. If only my footy tipping had that success rate. In only his second game of NRL he has orchestrated a come from behind win over the Sharks...and he's 18. It blows my tiny enormous mind that a kid barely out of high school is willing to take ownership of a game in a club full of experience and success. It's beyond my tiny enormous mind that it worked. This is another step up for the kid, against the defending premiers and a pack of forwards that won't give him an inch. Walker gives the impression the circumstance won't get to him, but this is next level NRL. Lindsay Collins is back for the Chooks, but the tricolours must have run out of hookers by now (insert joke here). With Friend forced into medical retirement and Keary out for the season, a lot is resting on the shoulders of Sam Walker. It will get heavy soon. Meanwhile there is no shortage of hookers for the Storm (insert same joke here). The greatest hooker ever retires and they still have Brandon Smith and Harry Grant to slot in. The purple machine names the same purple seventeen, and I have to tip them at home in a contest that often delivers a game of football you would be silly to miss.
Verdict – Storm by 4
Result – Storm 20 defeated Roosters 4
Manly Sea Eagles vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday afternoon – Glen Willow Oval (Mudgee)
The return of Tommy Turbo and his troublesome hamstrings is timely, given the injury to Dylan Walker (a hamstring issue of all things). I've spoken of his value to this club - they are a much more competitive outfit with him out there. Because he is returning the Titans won't take their opponent lightly, particularly after their win over the Warriors in round five. The Titans are showing glimpses of the form they displayed at the back end of last season, particularly against bottom eight teams. Even with Turbo the Sea Eagles are probably a bottom eight team. Late last year the Titans put the cleaners through the Sea Eagles at Lottoland and the Titans are a stronger team this year. If Fifita keeps up his form he's in danger of being top tryscorer for the club.
Verdict – Titans by 10
Result – Sea Eagles 36 defeated Titans 0
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Wests Tigers – Saturday night – Stadium Australia
Through five games this season the Tigers have conceded 30, 40, 20, 36 and 34 points. Those 34 points were against a side that hadn't won a game up until that point. You can't win football games conceding points like that. To make matters worse the Bunnies attack is close to the best in the NRL. They scored 35 points last week - without Cody Walker. Cody Walker returns on Saturday night, with Benji Marshall returning to the bench. Even off the bench he'll be keen to show his old side he can still deliver the goods.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 22
Result – Rabbitohs 18 defeated Tigers 14
Canberra Raiders vs Parramatta Eels – Saturday night – GIO Stadium
The Raiders were promising early against the Panthers in round five, but eventually fell short against a very strong opponent. They won't be the last team to get run down by the Panthers this year. Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad has failed his HIA, and will be replaced by Caleb Aekins at fullback. The Eels were poor against the Dragons last week - a worrying sign it must be said. They have made a habit in recent seasons of starting the year well then gradually slipping out of the contending pack as the season progresses. We may be seeing the start of that again. The suspended Dylan Brown is replaced by Will Smith in the halves, and Ryan Matterson is back (fingers crossed he gets through the game without issue). This is a tough game to pick, but I've tipped the home side who have a pretty dominant record against the Eels in Canberra. You have to go back a way to find the last game the Eels won in Canberra - Todd Carney was steering the Green Machine around at the time.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Eels 35 defeated Raiders 10
St George Illawarra Dragons vs New Zealand Warriors – Sunday afternoon – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
I do feel like a bit of a dill for not picking the Dragons last start. Mind you, this game will make you feel like a dill ten times over on any given weekend so you have to dust yourself off and move on. This dill is back on the Dragons train this weekend, who are playing the best football we have seen from the Red V in years - perhaps Anthony Griffin is a better coach than some people will have you believe, and I couldn't be happier for the bloke. Josh McGuire slots straight into the Dragons engine room which is firing on all cylinders at the minute, and their backline knows how to score a try (something the Dragons have struggled with since Wayne Bennett left the scene). They're top four currently, and they'll play finals football this season.
Verdict – Dragons by 10
Result – Warriors 20 defeated Dragons 14
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Sunday afternoon – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Tongan Kiwi Jason Taumalolo has lost his bid to play Origin for Queensland, but he has been named to play for North Queensland. Clearly he's a big inclusion. There were patches of quality football from the Cowboys in their first win of the year in round five, and while it was against a poor opponent, opponents don't get much poorer than the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have probably pencilled this game in as one where they could potentially pick up a win, so they'll try hard, but no.
Verdict – Cowboys by 8
Result – Cowboys 30 defeated Bulldogs 18
Wally Lewis - round six selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Broncos vs PANTHERS
- KNIGHTS vs Sharks
- STORM vs Roosters
- Sea Eagles vs TITANS
- RABBITOHS vs Tigers
- RAIDERS vs Eels
- DRAGONS vs Warriors
- COWBOYS vs Bulldogs