Warriors vs Panthers (Auckland)
The axe has been swinging in Penrith, with coach Matt Elliott dumping Peter Wallace from the top squad claiming he was ‘out of form’ – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Wallace has been the Panthers best player and was dropped because he signed with the Brisbane Broncos. Elliott has thrown Maurice Blair into the pivot position, but don’t be surprised to see Richie Rich (recently signed from St George) snuck into the top squad. Pritchard lost his spot, and will start from the bench.
The Panthers are re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic right now, so expect to see the Warriors build on their win last week. The NZ Warriors were good in the wet and away from home – now back at home base they will be primed for a good showing.
Verdict: Warriors to win
Manly Sea Eagles vs Bulldogs (Brookvale)
A much anticipated clash here in Sydney, the Bulldogs who are struggling on and off the field will be in ‘Dogs of War’ mode and desperate for a win. Problem is, they are travelling to ‘Fortress Brooky’ and Manly’s defence this year has been bulletproof. Too many changes for the Dogs through this year in the halves, actually right across the park – they’ve chopped and changed plenty. Manly will be too strong and having Steve Menzies back on deck simply makes them stronger.
Verdict: Manly to win
Canberra Raiders vs Cowboys (Bruce Stadium)
The home loving green machine – in their backyard. Always super strong in the ACT, the green machine face they sliding Cowboys. While Graham Murray will have been in lockdown mode all week with the North Queensland team – the carefree Raiders will be too enthusiastic for the Cowboys. Expect the slide to continue for the Cowboys.
Verdict: Raiders to win
Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights (Carrara)
The injury ravaged Titans get some much needed talent this week, with Preston Campbell and Luke Bailey back for the Knights game. This one is hard to pick, as the Knights played well last week on the back of their new young halves combination. Luke Walsh and Jarrod Mullen look the goods for now and the future. I think the Titans forwards will prevent any major rolls for the young Knights halves though, Titans too good at home – with more points due to Presto back on deck.
Verdict: Gold Coast Titans to win
Sydney Roosters vs Parramatta Eels (Aussie)
If you listen to expert tipsters, no one has given the Roosters a chance here. However, had the Roosters not lost Nate Myles due to disciplinary reasons and had Mini and Braith been there, the Roosters were worth the tip. Parra was very ordinary last weekend and were lucky to escape the young inexperienced Dragons. However, the Eels have a much better record at night, winning 80% of night matches – seemingly enjoying the soft dewy surfaces. I fear the Roosters might be in for a long night here, with plenty of youngsters trying to stop the likes of Fui Fui and Cannings. Forwards too strong for the Eels.
Verdict: Parramatta Eels to win
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Cronulla Sharks (Telstra Stadium)
If only the Bunnies had a decent, local home ground. The abyss that is Telstra gives no advantage to the Souths team and even the burrow boys can’t be seen or head from the bleachers at Telstra. Both teams have had good defence this year and will keep it tight, so this should be low scoring. I feel Souths might just have the edge in this game, they showed enough against the Sea Eagles last week and had some ref calls gone their way – they might have won. I haven’t seen enough improvement in Cronulla each week to give them the nod here.
Verdict: South Sydney to win
Melbourne Storm vs St George Illawarra Dragons
Well, I think even the biggest enemies of Saints must be feeling for Brownie and the boys. The red and white school kids head down to Melbourne to cop what should be the canning of the year. If Melbourne are in the mood and fire up, the score could be anything. Saints need to play a slow style game here, kicking for touch on every play and forcing a stop start affair. However, the Saints never ever play this way, and the inexperience will prevent them from mounting any decent strategy.
Verdict: Melbourne Storm to win
Brisbane Broncos vs Wests Tigers
Now this clash should be another beauty. The Tigers didn’t show enough focus last week to put the Titans away after they looked good for most of the match. I feel they are really starting to miss Brett Hodgson and of course the spark of Benji Marshall. The Broncos on the other hand are starting to head north with their form, everything is improving for the 2006 premiers. Expect Brisbane to continue their late run.
Verdict: Brisbane Broncos to win