St George Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs, 7. 50pm Thursday, WIN Stadium
News South Sydney for one more week will be music to the ears of St George Illawarra as they look to force their way back into the top eight.
Kodi Nikorima will play fullback in Mitchell’s absence, while the Dragons welcome back a pair of wingers in Mikaele Ravalawa (hamstring) and Mathew Feagai (illness). Dragons hooker Andrew McCullough earns a start in his 300th NRL game, but expect the Rabbitohs to be too strong as they search for three consecutive wins for the first time this year. Rabbitohs by 12.
Manly Sea Eagles v North Queensland Cowboys, 6pm Friday, 4 Pines Park
The Cowboys’ confidence is right back up again after late last month. and Dragons in third spot on the ladder. Jeremiah Nanai and former Sea Eagle Peta Hiku have to be contenders for rookie and cheap buy of the year respectively. Manly get Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans back and Jake Trbojevic will play his heart out (as always) in pursuit of an Origin recall but expect the North Queensland outfit to have a class edge. Cowboys by 8.
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos, 7. 55pm Friday, AAMI Park
The Storm won’t have Ryan Papenhuyzen , but they will welcome back Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster. The Broncos have turned their fortunes around and are gunning for an eighth straight victory since their loss to Penrith in April. But with halfback Adam Reynolds out with a rib injury, it will take something special to win this one. Melbourne only have a handful of home games left this season. They will want to send a message to the young Broncos that they still have a way to go before keeping up with the premiership-calibre sides. Selwyn Cobbo will be keen to back up his stunning form in Origin with a big display in Melbourne but the Storm will give him very few chances to make his mark. Storm by 8.
Cronulla Sharks v Gold Coast Titans, 3pm Saturday, C. ex International Stadium, Coffs Harbour
Another chance for Cronulla to regain their mojo after a mid-season wobble. By all rights and recent form they should have the Titans on toast. Dale Finucane’s inclusion in the reserves as his comeback from a knee issue nears only strengthens their cause, while flyers Sione Katoa and Ronaldo Mulitalo in the competition. The Gold Coast do welcome back AJ Brimson after he was a late COVID-19 scratching last round, when captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui continued to stand head, shoulders and several feet above his teammates. Justin Holbrook needs 16 more to follow his inspirational lead but it’s hard to see it happening against Cronulla. Sharks by 16.
New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers, 5. 30pm Saturday, Moreton Daily Stadium
Stacey Jones marks his second game at the helm of the Warriors by taking on one of the best modern teams in NRL history. If that sounds tough on paper, it’s likely to be more difficult in the flesh. The Warriors are at their adopted home of Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe but the cool, clear, dry conditions for the twilight fixture are just perfect for the Panthers. They will roll through the middle, do their thing through the halves and cause any number of headaches for the Warriors, who have won just four games from 14 this season. Ronald Volkman at No. 6, Isaah Yeo returns for the Panthers after a week off following Origin. This will get ugly. Panthers by 40.
Parramatta Eels v Sydney Roosters, 7. 35pm Saturday, CommBank Stadium
As bad as , everyone seems to be forgetting the Roosters should have beaten Melbourne. Sitili Tupouniua had done all the hard work when he fielded a perfect chip from Sam Walker before dropping the ball over the line with seven minutes to play. The Tricolours moved the ball well in that match. Joseph Suaalii improves every week and is putting rival teams on alert with his defensive hits. hurts, but Walker and Drew Hutchison are no strangers to playing together. As for the Eels, the less said the better. Dylan Brown’s ankle doesn’t look right. Roosters by 1.
Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights, 2pm Sunday, GIO Stadium
Signs for the ACT might as well read must-win territory for the Newcastle Knights as they head to Canberra this weekend. Adam O’Brien’s side are two wins outside the top eight and a win over the Raiders is crucial if they are to stay in touch with rival finals contenders. It won’t be easy for a side with the worst attacking record in the competition and have won just two of their past 11 games. Josh Papalii returns to the Raiders’ starting side but look for in-form Kiwi international Joe Tapine to have the biggest impact against his former club. Raiders by 10.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Wests Tigers, 4. 05pm Sunday, CommBank Stadium
Two struggling clubs, two interim coaches and two competition points which will go a long way to avoiding the wooden spoon. The rejuvenated Bulldogs will start favourites after thumping Parramatta on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, and Josh Addo-Carr will have one final pitch for a NSW recall. Kurtis Morrin is in line to make his NRL debut, while there’s still no Luke Thompson and Chris Patolo (both concussion) for the Bulldogs. A huge in for the Tigers with Adam Doueihi (ACL) named on the bench for his first game this season. Brent Naden, however, will and Luciano Leilua after a mid-season switch to the Cowboys. The Tigers have won four of their last five against the Bulldogs, at Leichhardt . Bulldogs by 4.
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