Canberra Raiders vs Sydney Roosters – Thursday night – BB Print Stadium (Mackay)
There's plenty to play for here and, potentially, nothing to play for at all. The Raiders are currently ninth, and a win put them into eighth place...at least temporarily. Technically the Raiders could lose this game and still make the top eight, but it's so unlikely it's easier to assume they need to win to keep their season alive. The Chooks, currently sixth, can force their way back into the top four...at least temporarily. To stay there, they would need the two teams above them to lose - entirely possible but again not likely. The Raiders kept their season alive with a come from behind win over the Warriors last week, while the Chooks back up from a bruising contest with their oldest rival. The Roosters lost another key player (Manu) in that game after a much-discussed incident, but they do have a bunch of key players returning on Thursday night (Waerea-Hargreaves, Crichton, Morris, Keighran and Ikavalu). Walker moves to the bench, and is likely to create plenty of energy and creativity when he does take to the field. These sides met in round 12 where the Roosters won comfortably. This won't be comfortable, but the Raiders have played top eight sides 11 times this season and lost seven. The four wins were against the Sharks (twice), the Eels during their form slump, and the Sea Eagles when their stars weren't available.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Roosters 40 defeated Raiders 16
Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm – Friday night – Cbus Super Stadium
A win for the Sharks and they make the top eight. They could sneak in with a loss, but they'd love to avoid the nail-biting if they can. The Storm secure the minor premiership with a win - it's a nice trophy but the coach has made it clear he won't leave everything on the park trying to secure it. As such, the Storm are resting a whole bunch of players this week (Munster, Welch, Kaufusi, Addo-Carr, J Bromwich, K Bromwich, R Smith and Eisenhuth). Notably, Finucane and Asofa-Solomona return. The Storm typically bounce back well from a loss - perhaps because their coach puts a rocket up them, and perhaps because they are proper professionals. They wouldn't want to lose back to back games heading into a finals series, but this won't be easy. As for the Sharks, they have everything to play for and their opponent is resting six internationals. The Sharks are rank outsiders and probably should be, but I'll tip them here.
Verdict – Sharks by 2
Result – Storm 28 defeated Sharks 16
Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – Cbus Super Stadium
The Eels are resting a bunch of players on Friday night, while the Panthers have named their best seventeen. Clearly the Eels don't think a top four finish is important. They were tremendous against the Storm last week (and beat them twice this season), but without Gutherson, Moses, Paulo, Blake and Niukore this is virtually a different team. Expect the Panthers to put a gap on their rivals in the first 60 minutes, then put some key players on ice in readiness for next week.
Verdict – Panthers by 26
Result – Panthers 40 defeated Eels 6
Brisbane Broncos vs Newcastle Knights – Saturday afternoon – Suncorp Stadium
The Knights are in seventh place on the ladder and will stay there regardless of the outcome on Saturday night. The Broncos are way down in 15th, but could shuffle above the Cowboys with a win here. That's some motivation, but the bigger motivation should be to give one of their best a win in their final game for the club. Alex Glenn deserves it. Over to you Broncos.
Full disclosure: I don't bet a lot on the football (hardly at all to be honest), but I'll make an exception in this case because I'm dumbfounded that the Broncos are paying $2.60. I'm on. Gamble responsibly.
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Broncos 35 defeated Knights 22
North Queensland Cowboys vs Manly Sea Eagles – Saturday night – Queensland Country Bank Stadium
The Sea Eagles can cement a top four finish with a win, although they may not even have to should the Eels and Roosters lose. Manly will know before kick-off, so that could change things considerably here. Watch for late team changes if Des Hasler feels the need to rest a few. The Cowboys don't have a lot to play for here, but they are at home and would want to give a good account of themselves to the rusted on fans at the ground. I'm with Manly, but this could be one of those sneaky results that surprises a few.
Further disclosure: I'll be ducking up the highway to see this game in the flesh on Saturday night. I'm yet to see the new stadium up there, and I thought I should make an effort to get out and do a few things while we aren't locked down.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 4
Result – Sea Eagles 46 defeated Cowboys 18
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Saturday night – Sunshine Coast Stadium
The Dragons are going so poorly they lost last week to a side that had lost ten games in a row. They haven't won since the sausage sizzle but the Bunnies are giving them every hope in this. Wayne Bennett has pulled nine of his best out of the team and had Mitchell pulled on his behalf. Given all that, I'm actually tipping the Dragons who can (potentially) shuffle themselves from 12th to 11th. It's not much of a carrot, but this is virtually a reserve grade opponent on Saturday night. Now watch Benji Marshall pull out a game for the ages and prove me wrong.
Verdict – Dragons by 1
Result – Rabbitohs 20 defeated Dragons 16
Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors – Sunday afternoon – Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans can still make the top eight, but they'll need to win this and have other results go their way. Those other results will happen before this game, so they will know their fate before they take to the field. If a finals slot is still on the table, they may have to win by a margin to overtake the Sharks anyway. We will know on Sunday. The Warriors season is officially over after the loss to the Raiders, but what a team they have been. I imagine they will be keen to get home (although home is locked down at the minute...so perhaps not). What I am excepting on Sunday afternoon is a lot of points - this game just screams 46-32 scoreline or similar does it not?. Take note that Anthony Don has been named on an extended bench. I doubt he will play, but he's a popular Titan and deserves a fitting send-off.
Verdict – Titans by 8
Result – Titans 44 defeated Warriors 0
Wests Tigers vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Sunday afternoon – Moreton Daily Stadium (Redcliffe)
The Tigers will be disappointed they weren't able to finish in 9th position this season...which is where they usually finish. Oh well, maybe they'll just miss the top eight next season. As for the Bulldogs...the less we say the better. As for fans of both clubs...best of luck next season.
Verdict – Tigers by 2
Result – Bulldogs 38 defeated Tigers 0
Wally Lewis - round twenty five selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Raiders vs ROOSTERS
- Sharks vs STORM
- Eels vs PANTHERS
- Broncos vs KNIGHTS
- Cowboys vs SEA EAGLES
- RABBITOHS vs Dragons
- TITANS vs Warriors
- TIGERS vs Bulldogs