NRL Preview: Top-Of-The-Ladder Clash Headlines Blockbuster Magic Round Weekend
It's Magic Round! All the action of Round 10, all in one place. Glorious.
It looks like it's going to be a wet old weekend up in Brisbane so we might see some old school muddy football.
Let's check out what's install at Suncorp Stadium this weekend!
Canterbury Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights, Friday 6pm
I think only Bulldogs and Knights fans are looking forward to this one, and even the loyal supporters of each club are worried about this match.
After a poor start to the season, the Dogs thought their luck had changed with a win against the Roosters a couple of weeks ago, but a loss to the Raiders last round brought them back down to Earth.
The Knights hit a horror injury stretch, with coach Adam O'Brien joking in a recent press conference that he was making up names just to fill in the team sheet. They will start to welcome those troops back over the next few weeks, with Adam Clune back on deck for this game, as well as Mitch Barnett who is returning from a six-week suspension.
The Dogs are playing with a lot of heart and effort, and the Knights put in a much better performance last week. With both teams desperate for a win to boost their position as well as morale, this could turn out to be an exciting match. Or a terrible game that everyone will happy is over and done with early.
I'm going the Knights in a close one.
Manly Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos, Friday 8pm
Last Magic Round Manly smashed Brisbane 50-6. I don't think we will see that again.
Manly are playing some great footy, and with a treble of Trbojevic's now available, their level of awesomeness will only rise.
Brisbane have found some fine form of late and caused two huge upsets, beating the Sharks and the Rabbitohs the last two rounds. Adam Reynolds has well and truly settled into his new club and ready to get them back to being contenders.
To add to the Broncos good fortunes, they get some muscle back in the form of Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell. Patrick Harrigan moves across to lock and Kobe Hetherington takes a spot on the bench. Manly will be pleased that Haumole Olakau'atu is well again and back to help the cause.
Tough one to pick, but I'm going Brisbane to get the biscuits on their home turf.
New Zealand Warriors v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Saturday 3pm
The Warriors have had a few crazy weeks. They were trampled by the Storm, came back to beat the Raiders in golden point, and then went down to a Sharks side that at one stage had 11 men.
Souths haven't had too much to brag about either, losing to the Tigers, beating a 12-man Sea Eagles side, then falling apart last week against the Broncos.
The Warriors will be ecstatic that their captain Tohu Harris finally comes back from his knee reconstruction, being out of action since round 18 last year. Marcelo Montoya is also returning to the side but hie has been out due to suspension. Kodi Nikorima left the Warriors this week...
...and starts on the bench for Souths in his brand-new colours. The Bunnies will be without their captain Cam Murray, who has some issues to his neck and shoulders. Cody Walker steps and has the C next to his name. Tom Burgess and Jacob Host are both back from injury, which will strengthen the side.
I'm expecting a lot more effort from the Warriors this week, but not enough to cause an upset. Souths for the win.
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons, Saturday 5.30pm
The Titans seem to be walking around in circles at the moment, completely unsure of what to do. They come into this match having lost five games in a row and are desperate for a win.
The Dragons were coasting along quite nicely, with three good wins on the trot. Then last week they went down to Melbourne and got completely trampled on by the Storm 42-6. They will be looking to make amends here, with the same squad that faced the Storm.
There are a lot of changes from Titans coach Justin Holbrook, who needs to turn his ship around quickly. Jayden Campbell and Phil Sami are back, and AJ Brimson moves to five-eighth. Kevin Proctor has been dropped to the bench, with no magic this weekend at all for Will Smith, Corey Thompson, Greg Marzhew or Patrick Herbert.
Call me crazy, but I feel an upset here. Titans to surprise everyone, even themselves.
Melbourne Storm v Penrith Panthers, Saturday 7.45pm
Oh.My.Goodness. The match of the round is here.
First vs second. 2020 premiers v 2021 premiers. The Marvels of Melbourne v the Pride of Penrith.
You don't need a run down on either side -you know how good they are, what they are capable of, and just how phenomenal this game is going to be.
Only one small change for the Panthers, with Scott Sorensen coming back into the side. A few movements for the men in purple, with the biggest being the exclusion Ryan Papenhuyzen due to injury. Nick Meany will wear the number one jersey in Pap's absence, and Dean Iremia will jump onto the wing. Reimis Smith is also out with an injured pec, so Marion Seve gets a shot in the big leagues.
This is going to be a sensational match. Both teams will leave nothing in the tank. I am going the Storm in a very, very, very close one.
Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders, Sunday 1.50pm
They were the talk of the town during the week. Will Kennedy was marched for the bulk of the match and Jesse Ramien sent to the sin bin, and the Sharks still managed to pull off one of the grittiest wins in years against the Warriors. They showed what can happen when everyone on the field does their job and plays for the teammates, and definitely showed the rest of the competition what they are made of.
The Raiders celebrated a much-needed victory last week, finally breaking a five-game losing streak. Granted, it was against the Bulldogs, but the played for the entire match, which is something they have really struggled with, and got the win.
With Kennedy and Ramien both not allowed to play, there are a few changes to the Sharks side. Nicho Hynes - who was voted best halfback of the round last week - moves to fullback to cover for Kennedy, with Braydon Trindall wearing the number seven jersey. Connor Tracey jumps across to the centres for Ramien, Royce Hunt moves to the bench and Andrew Fifita is out.
Poor Jarrod Croker can't take a trick at the moment, injuring himself last week in his first match back this season. He is replaced by Seb Kris.
Despite the number of changes to the Sharks, and the effort showed by the Raiders last week, I just cannot get past what Cronulla did last week and cannot tip against them this week.
Sydney Roosters v Parramatta Eels, Sunday 4pm
After a shock loss to the Bulldogs two weeks ago, the Roosters came back last round and thumped the Titans 44-16. They have admittedly been playing below their usual standards, and while it was a win against side also out of form, it would have been a good confidence boost.
The Eels bounced back from a 35-4 thrashing at the hands of the Cowboys, to cause the upset of the season last round to down the Panthers 22-20 and break their unbeaten run in 2023.
Connor Watson returns from injury, and he takes the spot of the Sam Verrills who is out with a damaged collarbone. Lindsay Collins is out suspended and is replaced by Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
The exact same Eels that beat the Panthers have been named for this match - and why wouldn't they be?! Coach Brad Arthur is very fortunate he can stick with the same 17.
It's 5th vs 6th, so there is not a lot between the sides. If both teams play their best footy, then this is going to be a real tough match. I'm going the Eels.....just.
Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys, Sunday 6.25pm
The final match of Magic Round could turn out to be one of the most entertaining.
The Cowboys are flying. Sitting 3rd on the ladder and playing some superb footy, definitely the surprise packet of the season with many punters predicting they would end up with the wooden spoon. They smashed the Eels and then the Knights, and are just firing on all cylinders.
The Tigers hadn't won a match all year, and then put on two huge upsets over the Eels and the Bunnies, to then fall away again to the Dragons and the Sea Eagles. During their wins they showed the team they can be, and during their recent losses they weren't far off the pace.
With only one change for the Tigers team that played Manly, Luciano Leilua comes back into the side, with Alex Seyfarth heading to the bench.
Cowboys coach Todd Payten holds the same fortune as Brad Arthur, not having to do anything to an already winning combination. He has named the exact same 17 that beat the Knights last round.
The Tigers have been showing a lot of heart, and the combination of Luke Brooks and Jackson Hastings in the halves has been working beautifully. But the Cowboys are just on another level at the moment, with the likes of Chad Townsend, Scott Drinkwater, Valentine Holmes and Rueben Cotter leading the way. Cowboys to keep the winning streak rolling along.
Featured Image Credit: NRL.com