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NRL Round 11 Preview: Big Wins Needed At Both Ends Of The Ladder

Danielle Smith

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NRL Round 11 Preview: Big Wins Needed At Both Ends Of The Ladder

After all the magic from last round, it's back to normal for the NRL.

But we are still in for a sensational weekend of footy, with a lot of milestones along the way.

Here's your guide to Round 11.

Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos, Thursday 7.50pm, McDonald Jones Stadium

After two solid wins at the start of the season, the Knights wheels fell off dramatically. Hit with a long list of injuries and looking absolutely lost, they finally broke a horror seven match losing streak last week, albeit against the deplorable Dogs, and scraped themselves off the bottom of the ladder.

The Broncos on the other hand are in top form, and last week thumped Manly 38-0 for their fifth win on the trot. Adam Reynolds has found his feet at his new club, and everyone around him is doing their jobs perfectly. Coach Kevin Walters is looking a lot more relaxed these days!

Newcastle welcomed some much-needed troops back last week and will get to do the same again tonight. Tyson Frizell returns to add some muscle to the forwards, and Dane Gagai has been named on the extended bench after suffering a fractured cheekbone. But it's brand-new recruit Anthony Milford who has been thrust straight into the starting side, playing his first game of the season up against his old club.

Some players are carrying a few bumps and bruises, but the Broncos have named the same 17 that played Manly last weekend at Magic Round.

The Broncos are just very good at the moment and hard to tip against, but this will be their first game away from home for a few weeks. Having some players back, and new five eighth in Milford and playing in front of a home crowd, I'm going the Knights in an upset.

Wests Tigers v Canterbury Bulldogs, Friday 6pm, Leichardt Oval

In case you have been living under a rock, the Bulldogs have had a disastrous week. On Friday they lost to the bottom dwellers Newcastle, by Monday morning their coach Trent Barrett 'quit' and half the squad had the flu, Brent Naden left the club effective immediately and now the whole place is in chaos.

The Tigers have had a rough season so far, full of injuries and poor results. They had a hard night on Sunday up against a red-hot Cowboys, going down 36-12, and adding Luke Brooks and Jake Simpkin to their injury list.

A lot of changes for the Tigers, with Jock Madden to wear the number six jersey for Brooks and Jacob Liddle to take Simpkins place at hooker. Luke Garner moves back into the forwards with Asu Kepaoa returning to the centres after missing some footy due to Covid protocols and Alex Seyfarth has been dropped for the game. And then there is the inclusion of Brent Naden! Yep, he walked out of Belmore and straight into Tiger town, and now faces his old club all in the same week!

The Dogs have brought in Jake Averillo to take Naden's place in the centres, and Jackson Topine comes in for the injured Corey Waddell. There are still a few players suffering with the flu but will be given until before the game to see how they are feeling. But the biggest addition to the Canterbury side is their new interim coach, former Canterbury player and Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter.

You couldn't make this up if you tried - Dogs lose their coach, a player walks and joins their opponents, and then an old Tigers coach is now in charge of Canterbury. God, I love Rugby League.

The Dogs have absolutely nothing to lose, with no one expecting them to win, so all the pressure is on the Tigers. But I think the Tigers will get the job done. And fingers crossed that all the stars align for Alex Twal, who plays his 100th game for the club in front of his home crowd and is desperate to finally cross for his first try. Rumour is if he does, the Tigers fans will storm the field Buddy-Franklin-1000th-goal-style.

Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles, Friday 7.55pm, Commbank Stadium

Both these teams continue to confuse everyone this year, with the ability to play both brilliantly and terribly.

The Eels gave the Roosters a head start in the first half of their match last week, and despite putting on a second half comeback, it wasn't enough and eventually went down 31-24.

Manly just completely forgot how to play, and had their backsides handed to them by the Broncos in a 38-0 smashing. Tommy Turbo still looked out of sorts with his knee, strapped up like a mummy and seemed unable to move freely.

One of Parra's best this season has been Ryan Matterson, who has been brilliant week after week coming off the bench - and has been a regular in my NSW Origin team of the week. He has finally been given a much-deserved spot in the starting line, with Nathan Brown moving to the bench. Bryce Cartwright has been well below par and has been dropped for the game to make way for Fa'amanu Brown who returns from injury.

Manly have named Turbo at fullback - maybe they will let him get around on a Segway? Burbo is out with a busted shoulder, so Morgan Harper takes his spot in the centres. Andrew Davey makes his way into the tarting side and Josh Schuster returns from injury but will be starting from the bench.

Both these sides have the potential to make this a brilliant game, and Manly will want to make up for their humiliating loss. But I think the Eels will turn it on in front of their home crowd, especially for captain Clint Gutherson's 150th game. Eels for the win.

St George Illawarra Dragos v New Zealand Warriors, Saturday 3pm, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Oh boy. This could be interesting.

The Dragons were on a nice little winning streak, and then did everything they could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, to give the Titans a 20-16 golden point win last weekend.

The Warriors hit the snooze button for the first half of their match and let the Bunnies out to a 26-6 half time lead. They clawed their way back but left their run too late, with the Bunnies hanging on for a 32-30 win.

Tyrell Sloan has been dropped to the reserves after a poor performance last week and is replaced at fullback by Cody Ramsey. Michael Molo, younger brother to prop Francis, makes his NRL debut from the bench, and Josh McGuire is out with a groin injury.

The Warriors welcome back Euan Aitken and Tohu Harris is off the bench and into the starting side after getting though his first match from injury last week unscathed.

This is another match that is hard to predict because you just don't know which team is going to get off the bus! The Warriors were terrible last week in the first half and awesome in the second, and the Dragons were just frustrating against the Titans but have been brilliant in the weeks prior. Jezz Tevaga plays his 100th game for the Warriors, and I think his boys may just earn him the win to celebrate.

North Queensland Cowboys v Melbourne Storm, Saturday 5.30pm, Queensland County Bank Stadium

Ok! Now we are cooking with gas! The first of two top of the table matches sees 2nd and 3rd battle it out.

The Cowboys are having a very successful 2023 and continue to prove all their critics wrong that had them marked down for the wooden spoon. They posted their seventh win of the season last round against the Tigers, and just seem to be getting better and better and enjoying their footy more and more each round.

The Storm have been flying and seemed closed to unstoppable. It took injuries to Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jahrome Hughes and Reimis Smith, and a Panthers side on fire to hand them a 32-6 loss - and only their second one for the year.

Hughes comes back into the halves, but Paps and Smith are still out for a few more weeks. The other Smith, the very versatile Brandon, has been moved to front row to cover for the injured Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

As for the Cowboys, well they are just healthy, happy and loving life and have named the same squad that beat the Tigers to run out against Melbourne.

I know, I know. It's the Storm. They never lose two in a row and seem to be able to do anything even when the chips are down. But man, these Cowboys...I just can't tip against them. Especially at home and while Melbourne has a few chinks in the armour.

Sydney Roosters v Penrith Panthers, Saturday 7.35pm, SCG

Once we have recovered from the last match, then we get to move onto this one!

Another top of the table clash, this time 1st taking on 4th. The Panthers sitting on top of the ladder and the Roosters making their way into the top four - this is going to be a sensational battle.

The Tricolours had a brilliant win against the Eels last week. Captain James Tedesco was a bit shaky at the start of the season but has hit his stride, and young Sam Walker is playing like he has been there for years.

The Panthers turned a match everyone thought was going to be a close one into a 26-point thrashing of an understrength Storm. The like of Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo were so good, I don't think it would have mattered it everyone was on deck for Melbourne.

Nat Butcher comes into the Roosters side for the injured Victor Radley, and Lindsay Collins comes back from suspension and takes a spot on the bench.

The exact same Penrith side that smashed Melbourne will be lining up for this one. The only change will be in the coach's box, with Ivan Cleary set to return in the hot seat after missing the last few weeks due to surgery and an infection.

This one is so hard to pick. Both sides are going to come out firing and everyone will be laser focused. Call me crazy, but I'm going for the upset. Roosters to win in an arm wrestle.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders, Sunday 2pm, Apex Oval Dubbo

The Bunnies put on a superb first half of footy against the Warriors and then took their foot off the pedal in the second half. The have been letting inconsistency getting better of them this season and find themselves clinging onto 8th spot.

Canberra had no right to win against an inform Sharks last week, especially after having three players end up in the sin bin, two almost at the same time. But Cronulla were terrible and a far cry from the team that won the week before with 11 men on the field. The Raiders beat the Sharks at their own game, and never game up despite the overlap.

Only one change for the Rabbitohs, with Trent Peoples coming in for the unlucky Jacob Host who has once again injured his shoulder. The Raiders welcome back Jack Wighton from suspensions with Brad Schneider getting pushed to the side who has been one Canberra's best the past few weeks.

In another milestone match, Josh Papalii is playing his 250th NRL game. He will be pumped for a huge game, and I think so will the Raiders. Souths have been too hot and cold for me lately, so I'm going Canberra for the win.

Gold Coast Titans v Cronulla Sharks, Sunday 4.05pm, Cbus Stadium

I still cannot believe how different the Sharks were in their last two matches. To put on such a heroic display to win against the Warriors while down to 11 men, to then turn around a produce a disastrous performance against a Canberra side who found themselves down to 11 men.

And then we have the extremely out of form Titans, who forced the Dragons to golden point and ended up scoring in the 88th minute to claim victory. In a positive for the home side, the have named the same 17 that beat the Red V last week.

After one of the worst calls from Coach Fitzgibbon so far, Nicho Hynes moves back to the halves after filling in at fullback last week. The Sharks missed his leadership and guidance so they will be happy he is wearing number seven again. Lachlan Miller will pay his first ever NRL game and take the fullback spot. Royce Hunt comes in for the injured Dale Finucane, and Teig Wilton takes a spot on the bench to make way for Wade Graham.

The Titans will put up a good fight, but I think the Sharks will be so angry about last week's loss and prove to strong this week. With Hynes back in the halves calling the shots they will have a lot more guidance and a better kicking game. And it's another match with a milestone, with Andrew Fifita playing his 200th game for Cronulla. That will also make the Sharks lift for the win.

Enjoy the footy everyone!

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/NRL.com

Topics: Rugby League, nrl, Australia

Danielle Smith
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