Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm – Thursday night – Suncorp Stadium
Chris Lewis personifies, in so many ways, what the Melbourne Storm do so well. He was, to be blunt, a park footballer, plying his trade in the second row with the Thirroul Butchers and the Helensburgh Tigers. He ended up in Caloundra as a history teacher with the local high school and lacing on the boots with the Sunshine Coast Falcons. The Falcons are the Queensland tendril of the Melbourne Storm empire, which meant Lewis the teacher and park footballer was now a part of the most professional sporting club (of any code) in the country. In round eleven of the NRL, Lewis was handed the number six jersey for the defending premiers. The Storm were unable to name any of their first choice spine for the match, so Lewis was paired up with Cooper Johns who was playing just his third NRL match. They also had to travel to Canberra and take on a proper football side in front of the Viking Army. The Storm won in a canter. Lewis will be playing in the six jersey again on Thursday night, alongside Jahrome Hughes who returns for this match. I should probably be talking about the Broncos and their gallant win over the Chooks last weekend. I should probably be talking about journeyman Albert Kelly, a footballer whose ear is barely attached to his head. I should probably be talking about Anthony Milford, who gets his last chance in the halves for the Broncos for what seems like the tenth time. Chris Lewis gets the attention today, because his story is bloody terrific. His opposite number on Thursday night earns thirteen times what Lewis gets paid, and it won't matter one jot. The Storm usually belt the Broncos at Lang Park by about 50. At first glance you wouldn't think that could happen again on Thursday night, but the Storm have scored 220 points in their last five games, so it could.
Verdict – Storm by 16
North Queensland Cowboys vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
How good is Reece Walsh? I'm not the first to ask that question, but I will offer this answer - he's good enough to retain the fullback position while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck plays on a wing. Somehow the Warriors beat the Tigers last week, but the Tigers do have a habit of losing games they shouldn't. The Cowboys have been on a bit of a run of late and are on the fringe of the top eight, but their engine room will have a few cogs (Molo, Taumalolo, and Lachlan Burrmalolo) unavailable this week. Coen Hess (who doesn't rhyme with the others) returns this week but they face a Warriors pack that is strong enough to have Tevaga, Au Mau, Afoa and Murdoch-Masila on the bench. Earlier this year the Warriors beat the Cowboys 24-20 and I'm expecting another close contest here.
Verdict – Warriors by 2
Wests Tigers vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Friday night – Bankwest Stadium
In round 8 these sides met down in Wollongong where the Tigers prevailed 16-8. That losing Dragons side included Dufty, Lomax, Kerr and McGuire - all four won't be available on Friday night. The Tigers side is much the same plus one James Roberts who returns on the wing. Given all that I'll pick the home side in this, although keen followers of my tips will be aware that my record when I tip the Tigers to win is pretty bloody awful.
Verdict – Tigers by 4
Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday afternoon – BlueBet Stadium
You don't need me for this one, do you?
Verdict – Panthers by 58
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Parramatta Eels – Saturday night – Stadium Australia
I haven't had a lot of luck tipping outsiders this season, but I am nothing if not stubborn/determined/deluded. For reasons I cannot understand the Bunnies are a warm favourite in this. When facing top tier teams they have struggled - leaking 56 points last round and 50 points a few weeks prior to that. Even against moderate opposition they have conceded a total of 72 points against the Titans, Raiders and Sharks. The Eels are clearly better than those three sides. I accept that Murray is back for the Bunnies and both he and Mitchell will be out to impress the NSW selectors, but I can't write off the Eels after one heavy loss to a very good side that had every reason to win like rockstars. I also accept that Campbell-Gillard is a big out for the Eels but they can win this, and they're likely to get the majority of the crowd support out at Stadium Australia even though they are the away team.
Verdict – Eels by 4
Sydney Roosters vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – Central Coast Stadium
For a very long time, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has been known as a man who has a fantastic relationship with his players. It seems difficult to fathom, but it's possible that Ricky has 'lost the room'. A good chunk of the starting seventeen 'liked' the instagram post from George Willams yesterday, and while I'm the last person to tip a football team based on what's happening on social media, it appears that the Raiders may be a fractured group. They are certainly playing that way, losing six of their last seven games, with their one victory a narrow win over the Bulldogs. The Roosters have a whole bunch of issues managing their roster too, but at least the players they do have available will all be on the same page.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Cronulla Sharks vs Gold Coast Titans – Sunday afternoon – C. ex Coffs International Stadium
While both these sides won last week, you couldn't argue that a one point win over a depleted Dragons (by the Sharks) and a ten point win over the Bulldogs (by the Titans) is glowing form. Because I was looking for an excuse to avoid washing the car I watched the Sharks beat the Dragons. I should have washed the car. As wins go, that was about as average as they get. They'll need to be better than that, and they haven't been better than that for a while. David Fifita is back for the Titans, and he could score enough points to beat the Sharks on his own.
Verdict – Titans by 14
Newcastle Knights vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium
The Sea Eagles have now won five of their last six and look every inch a top eight side. During that period they have scored 208 points and kept their opponent to 6 points or less on four occasions. Meanwhile the Knights have lost seven of their last nine, with their only victories coming against teams that appear to have issues (Raiders and Sharks). Ponga returns, and perhaps his inclusion will spark the Knights in the same way that the Sea Eagles fullback has reignited their season. Perhaps.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 10
Wally Lewis - round twelve selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Broncos vs STORM
- Cowboys vs WARRIORS
- TIGERS vs Dragons
- PANTHERS vs Bulldogs
- RABBITOHS vs Eels
- ROOSTERS vs Raiders
- SHARKS vs Titans
- Knights vs SEA EAGLES