Sydney Roosters vs Parramatta Eels – Thursday night – BB Print Stadium (Mackay)
The fifth-placed Roosters, decimated by injuries and retirements, could still drag themselves into the top four this season. A win over the fourth-placed Eels on Thursday night would make that achievement much more achievable. The Eels loss to the Raiders leaves them in a precarious position given their run home this season. The Roosters run home isn't much easier, but it is easier. Josh Morris and Siosiua Taukeiaho return for the Chooks, while Mitchell Moses is pencilled in for a return next week for the Eels. These sides met in round nine where the Eels prevailed 31-18, in a controversial clash that left Drew Hutchison in hospital and Trent Robsinon seeing red. This time around the Chooks will have a genuine dummy half available in Verrills, while the Eels will miss the kicking, goalkicking and organisational skills of Moses. The good people of Mackay (one of my favourite regional cities) gets a chance to see two very good football teams on Thursday night. I expect the Eels will have more of the support in the crowd but I'm tipping the Chooks in an upset.
Verdict – Roosters by 2
Result – Roosters 28 defeated Eels 0
Wests Tigers vs New Zealand Warriors – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium
The last time the Warriors won a game it was against the Tigers. Unfortunately, that was back in round 11, and they've lost eight games in a row since then. They're playing like a team that are missing home, and I don't blame them. Their captain and best player has gone home, and I don't blame him either. The Warriors are a better team, but the Tigers want this more.
Verdict – Tigers by 14
Result – Warriors 18 defeated Tigers 16
Brisbane Broncos vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium
These sides are backing up from competitive losses against the two best teams in the competition, so we may end up with a pretty good game of football here. They last met in round nine, with the Cowboys prevailing by a solitary point in Townsville. There's been a few changes since then for both teams, but here is the list of Broncos that played in round nine that won't play in this: Milford, Coates, Arthurs, Lodge, Pengai Jnr, Carrigan and Flegler. They have added Staggs and Glenn for this clash, but I'll take the Cowboys in what should be another tight affair. Expect a big game from Tom Deardon against his old club.
Verdict – Cowboys by 2
Result – Broncos 37 defeated Cowboys 18
St George Illawarra Dragons vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday afternoon – Browne Park (Rockhampton)
The Dragons, hanging onto the top eight for dear life, have had a pretty easy draw thus far in season 2021. This is just the second time all season they have played one of the top three teams. When they did play a top three team it was the Storm during Magic Round. The Dragons almost killed Ryan Papenhuyzen but lost the game in what was basically a procession. That Dragons team included Dufy, Ravalawa, Bird, Ramsey, Lawrie, Vaughan and McGuire, and none of them will be playing in this. De Belin joins the group of players unavailable after the most expensive sausage sizzle in NRL history. The Bunnies are resting Cameron Murray - not because they are required to, but because they can. They'll win this easily, and I expect the folk up in Rock-vegas will see the Bunnies crack the half century.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 44
Result – Rabbitohs 50 defeated Dragons 14
Newcastle Knights vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
A team will tell you a lot about their attitude with their defence. In the last three weeks the Raiders have played teams above them on the ladder, beaten them all, and conceded just 44 points. For a while we have been wondering what's wrong with the Raiders, but perhaps it's time to start wondering what's right. The Knights have won two of their last six games. The four they lost were against teams in the top eight and they lost convincingly. That would indicate that where they currently sit on the ladder (11th) is about right. The Raiders may not make the top eight, but they are playing like they will.
Verdict – Raiders by 8
Result – Knights 34 defeated Raiders 24
Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday night – Suncorp Stadium
Both sides won last weekend but not convincingly so - perhaps they were both thinking ahead to this game, which could potentially determine our minor premiership winner this season. These sides met way back in round three in once of the best games of the year, with the Panthers winning by two points in a low scoring contest at Penrith. This game moves to a neutral venue, but it's a venue where the Storm have a better record than they have at AAMI Park. The Storm also have some key players returning on Saturday night in Munster, Finucane and Kaufusi. Meanwhile, the Panthers have lost To'o, Yeo, Fisher-Harris and May...and Cleary is still a way off. If that's not enough, the Storm coach has put an end to speculation about his future and signed on for another 5 years - sensible of him to get that out of the way before the finals series. It's smart. They're smart. They'll win.
Verdict – Storm by 7
Result – Storm 37 defeated Panthers 10
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Gold Coast Titans – Sunday afternoon – Cbus Super Stadium
If I were a Bulldogs fan at least I would be satisfied with the effort of my team. There are a number of teams far less consistent. Consistent they may be, but that doesn't change the fact that their team just don't the quality in their roster to compete and win. Their best player this season, Luke Thompson will be sidelined for three weeks, so it's hard to imagine how they can drag themselves off the bottom of the ladder. This is a Bulldogs home game played at their opponents home ground. Not entirely fair, but it does help keep the Titans top eight hopes alive.
Verdict – Titans by 10
Result – Titans 34 defeated Bulldogs 6
Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles – Sunday afternoon – Moreton Daily Stadium (Redcliffe)
The NRL are on the peninsula - perhaps a sign of things to come if the Dolphins can join the competition in the future. It's not only the former stomping ground of The Thinker, but it's where Daly Cherry-Evans used to ply his trade back when the Broncos didn't think he was good enough. Perhaps Cherry-Evans will return to this ground again with an expansion club. We wait and see. He has plenty of quality footballers, and exciting young prospects, around him at Manly at the minute, and while the Sharks have been notching up some tidy wins in recent weeks they are a class below the Sea Eagles..
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 10
Result – Sea Eagles 40 defeated Sharks 22
Wally Lewis - round twenty selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- ROOSTERS vs Eels
- TIGERS vs Warriors
- BRONCOS vs Cowboys
- Dragons vs RABBITOHS
- Knights vs RAIDERS
- STORM vs Panthers
- Bulldogs vs TITANS
- Sharks vs SEA EAGLES