Penrith Panthers vs Melbourne Storm – Thursday night – Panthers Stadium
Breaking News - Nathan Cleary has been ruled out...so read my preview below (and make your selection) with that in mind
A grand final rematch always generates extra discussion - the Panthers haven't conceded a point this season, while the Storm will have their big boy pants on after the loss to the Eels last week. Importantly, Cleary has been named to play after passing HIA protocols - note that the Panthers are on a short turnaround into this game so keep your eyes open for late line-up changes. While all eyes will be on Cleary, I'm just as interested in the battle of the five-eighths. Luai and Munster are, for me at least, exactly the type of number six you want in your team - creative playmakers who want their hands on the ball and are willing to engage the line when the circumstances warrant it. Forwards love playing with playmakers like that, because they know if they do the work (and forwards do all the work) then the team is more likely to get rewarded on the back of it. The Storm don't lose successive games often, but I expect the Panthers to deliver a big performance for a region that's battling mother nature at the minute. Note that SES volunteers can attend this game for free. Should be a ripper.
Verdict – Panthers by 8
Result – Panthers 12 defeated Storm 10
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Sea Eagles – Friday night – WIN Stadium
Manly are yet to register a win but they've faced some top tier opponents in their first two outings...this is easier. The Dragons registered their first victory under the new coach and name an unchanged line-up here. There's some talk that Turbo Tom will be a late inclusion in this game, but I can't see Des Hasler risking his hamstrings on a very wet surface. To my eye the Sea Eagles are looking a bit light on in the engine room, and if this is a slog the Dragons should gain the ascendancy late in the game. I'm with the Red V in their first outing at the Gong.
Verdict – Dragons by 4
Result – Dragons 38 defeated Sea Eagles 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters – Friday night – Stadium Australia
The oldest rivalry in the game is always a highlight, and the Chooks (or the Bunnies) probably haven't forgetten that the Rabbits ran in 60 points when they met in the last game of the 2020 regular season. It smarts just thinking about it. Thus far this season the tricolours have been putting on clinics, but there is a question mark over the quality of their rivals thus far. That said, winning is winning, and they are adding Crichton and Radley to a winning line-up. Jake Friend has at least a week off to rest his head, while the Bunnies have named Reynolds after he passed his HIA assessment. Josh Mansour gets another chance in first grade with his new side. This week Damien Cook, perhaps foolishly, suggested that Latrell Mitchell is a better full-back than James Tedesco. Let's see if Teddy makes him eat those words. In a round of rippers this could be the rippiest contest of them all.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Rabbitohs 26 defeated Roosters 16
Canberra Raiders vs New Zealand Warriors – Saturday afternoon – GIO Stadium
Canberra seems like a pretty embarrassing place to work right now, unless you have a contract with the Raiders. Undefeated thus far and looking every inch a top four side, their heart, soul and co-captain Jarrod Croker returns after shoulder surgery. Under-estimate the value of his inclusion at your peril. A couple of notable hyphens are out for the Warriors, with Harris-Tavita a big blow after fracturing his foot (that will teach for me for giving a bloke a wrap). Taunoa-Brown is suspended, and he'll be sorely missed too given the might of the Raiders forward pack. I'm green.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Warriors 34 defeated Raiders 31
Brisbane Broncos vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday afternoon – Suncorp Stadium
The Broncos have lost 13 games in a row, but I'm about to get bold here - they are going to win this in a canter on Saturday. That poor horse will be exhausted at full time. Exhausted. It's time for Kevvie and the boys to make a stand and make a point. Here they come.
Verdict – Broncos by 26
Result – Broncos 24 defeated Bulldogs 0
Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla Sharks – Saturday night – Bankwest Stadium
While the Eels overall record against the Sharks is woeful reading for Parramatta fans, they did win the last contest (albeit barely) and their record at Bankwest is hard to ignore. Couple that with their come from behind win over the Broncos and an impressive victory over the Storm in difficult conditions, and they pick themselves here. I'm expecting a contest nonetheless.
Verdict – Eels by 4
Result – Eels 28 defeated Sharks 4
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers – Sunday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
He's quite the polarising figure is Mitchell Pearce, but on Sunday afternoon he joins an elite group of footballers that have notched up 300 games in the NRL (for those keeping count he is player number 41). By all accounts he's actually a really nice person who, from time time, makes some bafflingly poor choices. Given that he's mostly well-liked among the playing group I expect the Knights will be keen to win this one, particularly on a Sunday afternoon in Newcastle. As for the Tigers, I wasn't excited by the prospects of their squad at the start of the season, and they've given me no reason to change my mind.
Verdict – Knights by 10
Result – Tigers 24 defeated Knights 20
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans – Sunday night – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Something of a danger game for the Titans here, who haven't won in Townsville in nearly a decade. That said, for much of that decade the Cowboys had a better side than they have currently (while the reverse is true for the Titans). Ashley Taylor is injured so Tanah Boyd gets an opportunity in the halves - a big moment for the youngster. Coen Hess has been named but he's on soft duties all week so a watch on him, and Kyle Feldt is suspended and his omission is significant (for a winger). I'm with the Titans who look like a genuine top eight side this season.
Verdict – Titans by 4
Result – Titans 44 defeated Cowboys 8
Wally Lewis - round three selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- PANTHERS vs Storm
- DRAGONS vs Sea Eagles
- Rabbitohs vs ROOSTERS
- RAIDERS vs Warriors
- BRONCOS vs Bulldogs
- EELS vs Sharks
- KNIGHTS vs Tigers
- Cowboys vs TITANS