Canterbury Bulldogs v North Queensland Cowboys @ ANZ Stadium
This game of Rugby League to open round 2 on Thursday night will be like no other.
The Bulldogs and Cowboys run out onto an empty ANZ Stadium with games from this weekend to be played without fans in attendance for the first time in the game’s 112 year history.
Both teams are coming off first up losses in round one.
The Bulldogs went down to the Eels in a low scoring arm wrestle and the Cowboys going down to the Broncos in their Queensland derby despite a late fightback in the first game at their new stadium.
After missing the top eight last season, respective coaches Dean Pay and Paul Green will be drumming home the importance of getting in the winner’s circle this week.
TEAM NEWS: Just one change for the Bulldogs this week with Kerrod Holland being ruled out with a knee injury and rookie outside back Jake Averillo named to make his NRL debut via the bench.
A positive inclusion for the Cowboys with Origin forward Josh McGuire named to return from injury and a suspension which carried over from the end of last year.
McGuire will run out in the front-row pushing John Asiata to the pine and Corey Jensen out of the side.
KEY MATCH-UP: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak v Valentine Holmes
With both teams struggling to generate any quality attack for most of their round one matches, it could be one of these two all-action ball runners that proves the difference on Thursday night.
Watene-Zelezniak was one of the Bulldogs best last week with 198 metres, 6 tackle busts and a line-break.
Holmes had a bit of a mixed bag last week with a try, try-assist and 181 metres, whilst making a couple of errors and at times seemingly limping on his ankle.
That being his first game back from 12 months out of the game, he’s sure to be better for the run this week.
RECENT HISTORY: The Cowboys hold a slight 3-2 edge in the last five played including a 15-8 victory at home the last time they met. Kyle Feldt and Coen Hess have both crossed for three tries in their last five matches against the Bulldogs.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Penrith Panthers @ Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
After opening their season with a loss despite holding a halftime lead at Win Stadium on Sunday night, the Dragons would have been buoyed at the prospect of playing at their other spiritual home this week.
But, of course, that will now hold little significance in an empty stadium.
The Red V will have their work cut out for them bouncing back as they run into a Panthers team who were very impressive in downing the defending premiers at the foot of the mountains first up.
Panthers Coach Ivan Cleary will be confident heading into this one but also wary that consistency will be key to how his team’s season unfolds in 2020.
TEAM NEWS: Winger Mikaele Ravalawa has been ruled out after picking up a knock on his thigh last Sunday night.
Zac Lomax shifts to the wing and Matt Dufty getting another crack at the Red V number one jersey.
Tariq Sims copped a one match suspension for a high shot with Tyrell Fuimaono starting in the second-row and Jacob Host joining the bench.
After starting from the bench last week, Viliame Kikau has been named to start again switching places with Liam Martin.
Despite an impressive win last week, the Panthers have further re-jigged their back-row with James Fisher-Harris named at lock and Isaah Yeo in the second-row with Kikau.
The final change for the mountain men sees Billy Burns join the interchange in place of the suspended Jack Hetherington.
KEY MATCH-UP:Ben Hunt v Nathan Cleary
Expect the battle of the number sevens to prove pivotal here.
Hunt had a self-confessed disappointing opening to his season missing 5 tackles as well as a couple of errors.
This included a shocker of a kick which sprayed off the side of his boot, well over the side-line on the full.
Despite an off night, he still showed glimpses of his class and will be looking to swiftly bounce back with a strong showing here.
Cleary seemed to relish the responsibility of this now being his football team after the departure of James Maloney and steered the ship perfectly for his men last week.
Kicked well all night and laid on the match-winner taking the line on before offloading for big Viliame Kikau to score.
RECENT HISTORY:The Dragons hold a slight 3-2 lead in the last five, but the Panthers have won their last two against the Dragons by a combined margin of 48.
Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Suncorp Stadium
One of last year’s biggest talking points and most hyped matches was when Anthony Seibold and Wayne Bennett’s charges locked horns after the two coaches switched clubs in the lead-up to season 2019.
That moment in time ensures there should be plenty of feeling whenever these two clash in the near future.
Both teams are coming off strong performances to open their campaign.
The Broncos scored an impressive victory over North Queensland with young tyros Payne Haas and David Fifita again living up to the hype and they could well end up being one of the best forward pack duos seen in recent times.
The Rabbitohs were dominant for much of their win over the Sharks but will need to notch a strong 80 minutes here after letting the Sharks back into the contest in the final quarter last week.
TEAM NEWS: With Tevita Pangai Junior to sit out the next four weeks after being suspended, rookie forward Jamil Hopoate gets a chance to start in the second-row.
Skipper Alex Glenn still appears to be at least another week away from returning.
Young prop Ethan Bullemor will debut from the bench.
South Sydney Coach Wayne Bennett has named an unchanged 17.
KEY MATCH-UP: Payne Haas v Liam Knight
Despite running out in different positions on the team sheet, these two impressive young forwards both ply their trade through the middle third and will see plenty of each other come Friday night.
Unsurprisingly, Haas was simply brilliant in the opening game of the season running for 213 metres whilst busting 7 tackles in an 80 minute performance.
He looks set to back up his stellar breakout season from last year.
Moving to the back of the scrum this year, Knight was also impressive to open the season playing with plenty of physicality and showing the ability to offload in traffic.
He also came up with a monster hit late in the contest to force the ball free from the Sharks when all the momentum was going against his team.
Expecting him to take the fight right up to Haas and co in what should be a ripping battle through the middle.
RECENT HISTORY: In last year’s battle of the coaches, it was the wily old Bennett who gained the upper hand winning both encounters.
Bronco’s winger Corey Oates has crossed the stripe on six occasions in his last five games against the Bunnies.
New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders @ Cbus Super Stadium
Unable to return home due to New Zealand’s self-isolation laws enforced on people re-entering the country amidst COVID-19, the Warriors have setup camp in Kingscliff this week and will call the Gold Coast home for this match.
After a disappointing on-field showing going down to the Knights last Saturday, life got a whole lot more complicated for the Warriors.
Unless they can band together and forge some level of siege mentality, they’ll find it tough coming up against last year’s grand finalists.
The Raiders looked strong in downing the Titans in round one and will be looking to put the foot on the pedal here as they continue to build off their strong season last year.
TEAM NEWS: With Patrick Herbert and Peta Hiku flying home to New Zealand to be with their families, Adam Pompey and Adam Keighran come into the side at wing and centre respectively.
After impressing off the bench on debut last week, Eliesa Katoa has earned a run-on jersey on an edge which sees Adam Blair move to lock and Isaiah Papali’i to the bench.
No real changes for the green machine with Corey Horsburgh to suit up at lock and Joseph Tapine on an edge. They played those roles last week despite being named the other way around.
KEY MATCH-UP: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck v Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
If ever there was a game a skipper needed to stand up and lead from the front, it’s this game and it wouldn’t surprise to see an RTS masterclass this week.
He didn’t get many chances in attack last week as his halves failed to pose too many questions with the ball in hand.
You would expect him to take the game by the scruff of the neck and call a lot more ball himself this week.
After sitting behind the New Zealand fullback for years at the Warriors, Nicoll-Klokstad enjoyed a breakout year in 2019 and proved a vital cog in the green machine’s march to the grand final.
He didn’t get off to the best of starts in 2020 after going off and failing to pass a HIA late in the first half.
He will be looking to bounce back with a strong showing against his former club on Saturday.
RECENT HISTORY: The Warriors hold a 3-2 lead in their last five including an upset 24-20 victory in Canberra in the penultimate round last year.
Raiders prop Josh Papalii has scored a try in each of his last three appearances against the Warriors.
Sydney Roosters v Manly Sea Eagles @ Leichhardt Oval
Two of the more fancied teams in this year’s competition will both be looking to bounce back from first up losses in the second installment of Super Saturday.
The back-to-back defending champions fell at the hands of the Panthers in a tough fought contest.
The Sea Eagles also played out a hard tussle with the Storm for most of the contest before failing to match strides with their arch rivals in the final quarter.
It will be a rare occasion with the Roosters running out onto the Tigers home ground from the home sheds and will be a strange feeling for former Tiger James Tedesco in particular.
TEAM NEWS: Sitili Tupouniua is out after a picking up a knee injury in round one. Angus Crichton returns to take his place in the second-row.
Manly will line up with the same 17 that went down to the Storm last week.
KEY MATCH-UP: James Tedesco v Tom Trbojevic
Teddy versus Turbo – What a mouth-watering match-up between two of the attacking stars of the premiership.
The New South Wales team mates go head to head after having somewhat quiet performances in round one – at least by their high standards.
Neither managed to notch an attacking stat last week and it’s hard to recall a time either player has had two games like that in a row. Look for an attacking masterclass by both men in this one.
RECENT HISTORY: The Roosters hold a 3-2 lead in the last five played including coming out victorious in the last three encounters.
Cronulla Sharks v Melbourne Storm @ Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
The Sharks will host their first home game at Kogarah on Saturday night against bitter rivals Melbourne.
This shapes as a new chapter in their recent rivalry following the retirement of club stalwart Paul Gallen.
A bit slow out of the blocks to start the season, coach John Morris’ men will be looking to quickly build off a second half comeback against the Rabbitohs where they came within four points of notching an unlikely win.
They run into a Storm outfit who’ve barely missed a beat again over the off-season.
Craig Bellamy’s charges played out a tough opening 60 minutes against Manly away from home before putting the foot down late to overpower their opposition.
TEAM NEWS: Both the Sharks and Storm have named the same 17 as last week.
KEY MATCH-UP: Andrew Fifita v Jesse Bromwich
Ever since the 2016 grand final when both men crossed the stripe for second half tries, these two bookends have played a key hand in their team’s chances in what has been an intense rivalry between the two clubs.
Fifita has reportedly been strong with his leadership during the off-season but on the field he looked well short of a gallop in the opening round as he struggled to get through just 39 minutes.
He’ll need to lift a couple of gears if the Sharks are to cause an upset here.
Bromwich meanwhile looked typically strong against the Sea Eagles as he ran for 184 metres with 3 offloads.
He’ll be looking to get one over his old foe in this one.
RECENT HISTORY: The Sharks hold the advantage in the last five with a 3-2 advantage. All of them clashes have been tight affairs except for their last match when the Storm ran out comfortable 40-16 victors.
TIGERSv KNIGHTS@ Leichhardt Oval
This won’t have the same Sunday afternoon at Leichhardt feels it normally would, but it still looms as an intriguing contest between two first round winners who look to be on the up in 2020.
The Tigers showed plenty of promise with a squad that looked to have plenty of attack in them as they downed the Dragons in Wollongong on Sunday night despite the absence of halfback Luke Brooks.
The Knights also looked the goods in their season opener with a shutout victory over the Warriors built on the back of an off-season where defence and mental toughness were high on the agenda.
TEAM NEWS: Just the one change for the home team with Paul Momirovski named in place of Michael Chee Kam on the bench.
The Knights will go in unchanged.
KEY MATCH-UP: Benji Marshall v Mitchell Pearce
These two experienced halves are pushing 600 top grade appearances between them and they are both sure to play pivotal roles in the outcome of this one.
In the absence of the Tigers regular number seven, Benji put in an absolute masterclass of halfback play to steer his side home last week.
He scored a try and set two up but it was the wizardry of his short kicking game that proved vital forcing repeat sets at will as he built pressure on the Dragons defensive line.
Pearce led from the front in the Knights first up win with his long kicking game and the willingness to put his body on the line defensively key to their success.
He will know he needs to lift his 5th tackle options when in the Tigers half to match the brilliance of his opposite on Sunday with that area being one of the few negatives in the Knights game in round one.
RECENT HISTORY: The Tigers hold a 4-1 advantage in the last five including a thumping 46-4 victory late last season which was the final nail in the coffin of former Coach Nathan Brown’s tenure in the Hunter.
TITANSv EELS @ Cbus Super Stadium
In the final match of a historic round 2, last year’s wooden spooners host the team many are tipping for a serious premiership tilt this year.
It was ominous signs early in round one for the Titans as their defence let in a couple of rapid fire tries.
They at least showed a bit of resolve to not let the score-line blowout too much against the Raiders and will be looking for a better opening to this contest.
The Eels got the job done in the season opener, but look to have a lot more work to do as they only notched the one try against the Bulldogs.
It was a good hit-out against a physical Canterbury pack last week and they should be a lot better for that outing.
TEAM NEWS: Brian Kelly has been named in the centres switching places with Tyrone Peachey who drops to the bench.
Moeaki Fotuaika has been named to return from injury via the bench replacing rookie forward Jaimin Jolliffe.
The Eels have named the same 17 that accounted for the Bulldogs in round one.
KEY MATCH-UP: Jai Arrow v Nathan Brown
These two lock forwards both lead from the front on a consistent basis for their packs and play with a high work rate and physical nature that many can’t match.
Both with the ability to bust a tackle and offload make this an enticing battle through the middle.
RECENT HISTORY: The Eels have won the last three between these sides by an average margin of 20 points.
With round one done and dusted, fantasy coaches are now in the midst of assessing many members of their 21 man squad.
As we weigh up whether to burn early trades or sit tight for another week, we see if players who were a little underwhelming in round one can bounce back with a decent round two score.
One thing to consider with trades in mind is what effect COVID-19 could have on the fantasy season.
As it stands right now, the footy will go on, but that could change at any second.
When considering trades, be sure to have the casualty ward handy, particularly if you’re looking at a player whose covering for another injured player.
If the competition was suspended for any amount of time, it could effectively change the round that player is due back in. Eg:
Hypothetically, if the comp was to go on hold for two months and a player was listed to return in round 9, by the time the comp re-started that player would be ready to go again and you may well have burned a trade.
Anyway, enough about the crazy world we’re currently living in.
Let’s have a look at who’s in the firing line, ones to whack on your watch list and my base stats buys of the week.
IN THE FIRING LINE
Zane Musgrove – With just 26 minutes of game time and a score of 13, Musgrove who is owned by 17.3% of coaches could be one to consider giving the hook.
He still has a break even of 20 so still is every chance of making some money but there’s certainly a few other cheap options that look more likely to gain you some early increases based on the evidence of round one.
Warriors forwards Eliesa Katoa and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Shark Toby Rudolf could be ones to have a look at as alternatives.
Brayden Wiliame – With many of his 26.6% of owners starting him in the tricky centre position, Wiliame’s lowly 16 points counted to their overall score.
He still carries the same break even of 17 and is only a try or 2 away from gaining some price rises so is probably a hold for now – at least until a better option comes along.
Warriors winger Adam Pompey is perhaps the only other option in the same price bracket but he only averaged 17 fantasy points in his five games last year.
Joe Stimson – With a score of 24 in 69 minutes of game time, Stimson is one to consider parting ways with early on, especially if he’s used in your starting 17.
He’s been named to start again this week so is still a chance of notching you a solid score and making some cash with his break even still at 29.
Has showed fantasy promise in the past but it’s probably worth considering he was getting amongst the tries at times playing at the Storm.
THE KING’S CULL
Latrell Mitchell – The one player I’d be absolutely looking to offload if he was in my squad this week is Mitchell.
The 16.3% of coaches who took the punt on him hitting the ground running this season were left sadly disappointed as he scored just 14 and was taken off after just 55 minutes by Coach Wayne Bennett.
There’s obviously a plan to ease him into the custodian role and it’s unclear at this stage how long it will be before he’s playing out the 80 again.
Sitting on a price tag of 624k and a break even of 66, I’d be getting him out now to free up space in your cap.
Named to start in the second-row this week, both Jamil Hopoate 231k and Tyrell Fuimaono 252k would have raised a few eyebrows when coaches were reading the team sheets this week.
Hopoate gets his chance for the suspended Tevita Pangai Jr but be prepared for Broncos skipper Alex Glenn to come into his position next week.
Similar story at the Dragons with Fuimaono filling in for Tariq Sims who will serve a one game suspension.
Both are capable of making more money off the bench particularly if they post a big score this week.
Just don’t buy them anticipating they’ll be part of your scoring 17 beyond this round.
THE REVERSE TRAP
After a solid score of 43 at fullback, Zac Lomax has unfortunately been named on the wing to cover for the injured Mikaele Ravalawa with Matt Dufty getting another chance at the back.
The ultimate scenario here is Lomax moving back to fullback next week when Ravalawa returns.
There’s always the chance of course Dufty has a cracking game and retains his place but even so, with a break even of 17 Lomax is a hold for this week.
One of the golden rules in fantasy is to never get excited by one good week, but there’s certainly a few worth keeping your eye on this week.
Isaah Yeo 2RF
Base stats 74
Played through the middle in an 80 minute performance last week where he made 33 tackles, ran for 170 metres and busted 7 tackles.
Yeo is well priced at 595k and has a break even of 11 which almost make him a buy right now.
The only thing holding me back at this stage is the fact he’s been named to shift back onto an edge this week.
Last week, James Fisher-Harris started on an edge and has been named at lock this week.
It’s hard to see why Ivan Cleary would tinker with a winning formula that saw his team down the defending premiers so it will be interesting to see where they play once the game kicks off.
Jesse Bromwich FRF
Base stats 50
A former fantasy gun who has been disappointing in the last few seasons for fantasy scores but could he be ready to recapture his best?
Scored 50 in round one all in base stats and with a price of 554K and a break even of 28, he could turn into a solid mid-range option if he can continue to produce the numbers he did last week.
George Williams HLF
Base stats 56
This English half’s style of game always looked suited to fantasy but his awkward price and the unknown of how he’d adapt to the NRL held most coaches back heading into round one, but after a very impressive 64 he’s certainly one to consider.
Busted five tackles on the weekend showcasing his willingness to run the footy, with his 29 tackles and 206 kick metres providing valuable points to his total.
BASE STATS BUYS OF THE WEEK
David Fifita 2RF
Base stats 64
If you weren’t one of the 42% who started with this devastating back-rower in round one, you’ll want to get on now before his price tag skyrockets.
With 150 metres and 8 tackle busts, the all action running forward is sure to post plenty of big numbers this season, even when he’s not scoring 70 metre solo tries!
His price of 717K is still unders but a break even of 28 means his price will continue to soar in the coming weeks.
Corey Horsburgh FRF/2RF
Base stats 59
After being named to start on an edge last week, Horsburgh ended up playing through the middle third.
Joseph Tapine instead played the edge role and they have been named to start that way again this week.
A solid work ethic in tackles and run metres means he has a strong base.
He also has the ability to post consistent offloads and tackle busts which are keys to the best fantasy forwards posting strong scores.
Priced at 499K with a break even of 15, he looks set to make some nice coin in the coming weeks.
The only possible negative is the return of John Bateman to the Raiders pack in a month or so.
I’m willing to take the punt he holds the 13 jersey with Tapine the man to make way when the Englishman returns.
Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors Breakdown
Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors Stats
The Newcastle Knights and the New Zealand Warriors have played each other on 41 occasions; the Knights have won 19 times, the Warriors 21 times and there has been one draw.
After winning 13 of the last first 19 games between the two sides (13W, 5L & 1D), the Knights have won just 6 of the last 22 games between the two sides since.
This includes winning just two of the last of the last eight games between the two sides.
The first clash between the two sides was an easy 48-6 win for the Newcastle Knights in round 5, 1995.
New Zealand Warriors winger David Fusitu’a has 11 tries in 7 games against the Newcastle Knights, including a hat-trick and a quadruple.
The Newcastle Knights biggest win over the New Zealand Warriors was an easy 48-6 win in round 5, 1995.
The New Zealand Warriors biggest win over the Newcastle Knights was a comfortable 52-10 win in round 20, 2007.
Top try-scorer in this clash
Manu Vatuvei (WAR) – 19
Adam MacDougall (NEW) – 13
David Fusitu’a (WAR) – 11
Andrew Johns (NEW) – 9
Clinton Toopi (WAR) – 8
Timana Tahu (NEW) – 8
James McManus (NEW) – 8
Matthew Gidley (NEW) – 7
Kurt Gidley (NEW) – 7
Francis Meli (WAR) – 6
Lance Hohaia (WAR) – 6
Akuila Uate (NEW) – 5
Shaun Johnson (WAR) – 3
Most prolific point-scorer in this clash
Andrew Johns (NEW) – 9 tries, 56 goals & 3 field goals (151 pts)
Kurt Gidley (NEW) – 7 tries & 24 goals (76 pts)
Manu Vatuvei (WAR) – 19 tries (76 pts)
Shaun Johnson (WAR) – 3 tries & 31 goals (74 pts)
Adam MacDougall (NEW) – 13 tries (52 pts)
James Maloney (WAR) – 2 tries, 18 goals & 2 field goals (44 pts)
David Fusitu’a (WAR) – 11 tries (44 pts)
Lance Hohaia (WAR) – 6 tries, 5 goals & 1 field goal (35 pts)
Clinton Toopi (WAR) – 8 tries (32 pts)
Timana Tahu (NEW) – 8 tries (32 pts)
James McManus (NEW) – 8 tries (32 pts)
Players to have played for both sides from this clash
The Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Titans have played each other on 23 occasions; the Canberra Raiders have won 11 times, the Titans 12 times.
The Canberra Raiders need 23 points to reach 600 total points against the Gold Coast Titans.
Conversely, the Gold Coast Titans need 1 point to reach 500 total points against the Raiders.
The Canberra Raiders have won four of the last five games between the two sides.
The Gold Coast Titans have won four of the last six games played at GIO Stadium between the two sides.
The first game played between the two sides was a 28-8 success for the Gold Coast Titans in round 12, 2007.
The Canberra Raiders biggest win over the Gold Coast Titans was a 56-10 demolition in round 18, 2007.
The Gold Coast Titans biggest win over the Canberra Raiders was an easy 36-0 win in round 2, 2013.
Top try-scorer in this clash
Jarrod Croker (CAN) – 14
Anthony Laffranchi (GLD) – 5
William Zillman (CAN/GLD) – 5
David Mead (GLD) – 4
Joel Thompson (CAN) – 4
Albert Kelly (GLD) – 4
Kevin Gordon (GLD) – 4
Kalifa Faifai Loa (GLD) – 4
Anthony Don (GLD) – 4
Jordan Rapana (GLD/CAN) – 4
Most prolific point-scorer in this clash
Jarrod Croker (CAN) – 14 tries & 51 goals (158 pts)
Scott Prince (GLD) – 2 tries & 23 goals (54 pts)
Terry Campese (CAN) – 1 try & 17 goals (38 pts)
Aidan Sezer (GLD) – 14 goals & 1 field goal (29 pts)
Michael Dobson (CAN) – 1 try & 8 goals (20 pts)
Anthony Laffranchi (GLD) – 5 tries (20 pts)
William Zillman (CAN/GLD) – 5 tries (20 pts)
Kevin Gordon (GLD) – 4 tries & 2 goals (20 pts)
Players sent-off/sin-binned in this clash
Michael Weyman (CAN) sent-off in round 4, 2008.
Players to have played for both sides from this clash
Kris Kahler – 2004-2006 (CAN) & 2007 (GLD)
William Zillman – 2006-2008 (CAN) & 2009-2017 (GLD)
Phil Graham – 2002-2009 (CAN) & 2012 (GLD)
Jordan Rapana – 2008 (GLD) & 2014-2019 (CAN)
David Shillington – 2009-2015 (CAN) & 2016 (GLD)
Daniel Vidot – 2009-2011 (CAN) & 2017 (GLD)
Aidan Sezer – 2012-2015 (GLD) & 2016-2019 (CAN)
Dave Taylor – 2013-2015 (GLD) & 2017 (CAN)
Brenko Lee – 2014-2016 (CAN) & 2018-2019 (GLD)
Shannon Boyd – 2014-2018 (CAN) & 2019 (GLD)
Head coaching records
John Cartwright (GLD) – 9/15 (60%)
Ricky Stuart (CAN) – 6/10 (60%)
Neil Henry (CAN) – 2/4 (50%)
Neil Henry (GLD) – 2/5 (40%)
David Furner (CAN) – 3/9 (33.3%)
Garth Brennan (GLD) – 1/3 (33.3%)
Players to have scored three or more tries in one game in this clash
Anthony Don (GLD) scored three tries in round 9, 2015.
Jordan Rapana (CAN) scored three tries in round 6, 2017.
As always, if you notice any issues or if you want more stats added, please let us know.