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NRL Round 15 Preview: Which Teams We're Tipping And Why

Danielle Smith

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NRL Round 15 Preview: Which Teams We're Tipping And Why

We are more than halfway through the NRL season and can well and truly see the difference between the top and bottom teams.

But no one can rest on their laurels, as the Parramatta Eels learnt last week.

There is always the chance of an upset, and the ladder can change in a flash.

Let's check out what's install for Round 15!

St George Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Thursday 7.50pm, WIN Stadium

The Dragons have been very ordinary of late and were thrashed 31-12 by the inform Cowboys, slipping down to 10th on the ladder. Ben Hunt is a shoe in for the Dally M, seeing as has been the only player on his team actually trying, so he should be grabbing the 3 points easily every week. His shoulders must be so sore from carrying his teammates.

Souths have been hit and miss this year but are coming off a solid 30-16 win against the Titans. They have made their way back into the top eight and will be doing everything they can to stay there.

In great news for the home side, Andrew McCullough has been named in the starting side for his 300th game, as well as the return of wrecking ball winger Mikaele Ravalawa from injury. Mat Feagai also comes back on the other wing, so Tautau Moga and last week's debutant Jonathan Reuben have been left out. Josh McGuire is broken, Jack de Belin has moved into the front row, so Francis Molo and Moses Mbye will keep the bench warm.

There were whispers that Latrell Mitchell would be back for the Bunnies this week, but Covid protocols put an end to that. Blake Taafe coming onto the bench is the only change for the Souths side that squashed the Gold Coast last round.

While both sides are far from their best, the Rabbitohs seem to be much closer than the Red V. Bunnies for the win.

Manly Sea Eagles v North Queensland Cowboys, Friday 6pm, 4 Pines Park

Manly are still trying to navigate their way through the season without their beloved Tommy Turbo. They have recently enjoyed back-to-back hammerings, but they were against the Warriors and the Tigers so not exactly hard and are still sitting just outside the top eight.

They Cowboys are the surprise packet of the season, sitting in third spot, and just continue to impress. Despite missing a few origin heroes last week, they made light work of the Dragons and showed the depth they have in their squad - including my mate Reece 'why didn't you pick me for Origin' Robson. Should have listened to me Freddy.

DCE is back for the Sea Eagles after being rested after Origin, so Kieran Foran goes back five-eighth and Josh Schuster heads across to the bench.

A few changes for the Cowboys, with Reuben Cotter and Jeremiah Nanai back after missing last week with Origin. Tom Gilbert has been ruled out with an eye injury, along with Helium Luki who will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury. Connelly Lemuelu comes into the second row for Luki.

I cannot with any good conscious tip against the Cowboys. Even though Manly are slowly coming along and this match is at their home, I'm all in North Queensland.

Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos, Friday 8pm, AAMI Park

The Storm has a number of stars on the sideline, but always manage to field a great side. They put on a solid effort to beat the Roosters last week 26-18 and are still snuggled nicely in second spot. And how awesome was Grant Anderson's debut? Bagged himself two tries and his beautiful embrace with his honorary 'Pop' after the match was just perfect.

And then we have the Broncos, who are just next level. Notching up their seventh win on the trot last week against the Raiders, despite being decimated throughout the game and left with only 14 men. They are 4th on the ladder and have shown that they mean business this season.

The Storm will field the same 17 that beat the Roosters last week, with Paps sidelined for another week thanks to a positive Covid test. Felise Kaufusi will be there after being cleared from that 'accidental' elbow on Luke Keary last week.

Adam Reynolds and Herbie Farnworth are out injured for the Broncos, so Tyrone Roberts and Brenko Lee take their spots. In a boost to the side Selwyn Cobbo returns on the wing.

If everyone was on deck for this match it would be spectacular. It will still be a good match but not what it could have been. I'm going the Storm at home.

Cronulla Sharks v Gold Coast Titans, Saturday 3pm, C.ex Coffs International Stadium

The Sharks began the season strong, and then started to fall off the pace. They enjoyed the bye a few weeks ago and then came back from a 12-0 deficit to put on a 38-16 win against the Warriors last round. They are currently 5th on the ladder so still well on their way to finals footy.

The Titans aren't enjoying anything at the moment. Their loss against the Bunnies last week - along with the Dogs miraculous win against the Eels - now sees the Gold Coast coming last in the competition with a huge hill to climb.

After welcoming some troops back last round, the Sharks will keep the same 17 that gave it to the Warriors. Big Tino started on the bench for the Titans last week to ease him back in after Origin, but he will take his spot back in the starting side for this one. AJ Brimson comes back into the number one jersey after missing last week's match due to Covid protocols, so Jamayne Issako moves back to the wing. Moeaki Fotuaika takes a spot on the bench and Esan Marsters has been told thanks but no thanks.

With the game to be played at Coffs Harbour, there is no home team advantage, but Cronulla have taken games there for a while now so they may have built up a bit of a fan base. This should be an easy win for the Sharks, with the Titans in all sorts of strife. Coach Justin Holbrook must be sleeping with one eye open.

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers, Saturday 5.30pm, Moreton Daily Stadium

The Warriors season just seems to be getting worse by the week. Nathan Brown walked out on the club, Shaun Johnson looks like he has no interest in being there anymore, they got smacked by the Sharks last round, and are currently in 14th spot. Club legend Stacey Jones has stepped up to the plate and will coach the side for the rest of the season.

In complete contrast, the Panthers season just keeps getting better. Still sitting at the top of the ladder, they gave the Knights a 42-6 belting last week, and show no signs of slowing down. They had six players represent NSW in Origin one, and never missed a beat while their stars were away.

Bunty Afoa comes in for Ben Murdoch-Masila who dislocated his elbow last round, and Josh Curran takes the place of Euan Aitken who has been ruled out due to concussion. Ronald Volkman will make his debut at five eighth, with CHT moving to the bench. Rocco Berry has been hooked and Jesse Arthars comes into the centres.

Only one change for the Panthers, with captain Isaah Yeo back after being rested post Origin, with Matt Eisenhuth taking a spot on the bench.

There is no nice way to say this, but the Warriors will get smashed. Panthers are just too good, and the Warriors are a shambles. Getting back home can't come soon enough.

Parramatta Eels v Sydney Roosters Saturday 7.35pm, Commbank Stadium

When the Eels want to embarrass themselves, they sure know how to go about it! They walked into last week's match expecting an easy win against the Dogs, and instead had their pants pulled down with a 34-4 hiding. Sitting in 6th spot, and just looking a bit vulnerable.

The Roosters are still the hot and cold side this year and are coming off a tough loss to the Storm last round. They are clinging onto 8th spot and will be desperate to not fall any further.

Parramatta are sticking with the same 17 that played against the Dogs but will be hoping they bring an attitude adjustment with them this time round. Sam Verrills is finally back as hooker for the Roosters, with Drew Hutchison taking a seat on the bench. Luke Keary has been named but will be closely watched leading up to the game after the concussion he copped from Felise Kaufusi's elbow last week. Paul Momirovski has been given the boot, and Billy Smith comes into the centres.

This would have to be the match of the round. Two good teams coming off losses and wanting to get back into the winner's circle. After the performance the Eels put on last week, I'm going with the Roosters.

Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights, Sunday 2pm, GIO Stadium

The Raiders had a woeful stretch early on and seemed to only play 40 minutes of footy each week. They managed to snap out of it and strung some good wins together, but slipped back into their old ways when they couldn't get the job done against a depleted Broncos outfit last week. They have slipped down to 11th and will be looking to turn that around.

And then we have the Knights. My goodness, what a train wreck this club is. Full of injuries, a coach under a tonne of pressure, and they have only notched up four wins this year. They were annihilated by the Panthers last week and find themselves sitting in 12th.

Only one change for Canberra this week, with Jordan Rapana returning from suspension. Lachlan Fitzgibbon has been dropped for Newcastle, so Kurt Mann is set to play at lock and Mitch Barnett moves to the second row. Kalyn Ponga has been named at fullback but will be monitored this week after failing a HIA when he tried to stop a rampaging Viliame Kikau last week and came off second best.

I'd love to see the Knights turn it around, but I can't see that happening down in Canberra. They are just awful, and the Green Machine will be looking to make amends for their last couple of losses. They should be able to do that in front of a home crowd.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Wests Tigers, Sunday 4pm, CommBank Stadium

Barrett who?! In just their fourth week under interim coach Mick Potter, Canterbury played like the Dogs of old and put on a brilliant display against the Eels for just their third win of the season. It also saw them jump off the bottom of the ladder and gave them a much-needed morale boost.

The Tigers on the other hand would be very low in that department, after losing their coach Michael Maguire as well as their tenth match of the season last week against Manly. Brett Kimmorley would have jumped into the driver's seat hoping for the best but had to endure a 26-point thumping.

Kurtis Morrin makes his NRL debut on the bench for the Bulldogs, and Corey Waddell will be sitting right next to him after making way for Raymond Faitala-Mariner in the starting side.

Luciano Leilua left the Tigers this week to begin his life in Townsville half a season earlier, so Kelma Tuilagi comes in as his replacement. But in a huge boost Adam Doueihi has been named on the bench for his first game back since a knee reconstruction last year. Jock Madden has been dropped with Fa'amanu Brown coming into the side.

A few weeks ago, we all would have said this game will be terrible. But if the Tigers can fire up and the Dogs can play like they did last week this could turn into a good one. In saying that, I think Canterbury will be too strong, and will get their first back-to-back win since 2019

Featured Image Credit: Supplied

Topics: Rugby League, nrl, Australia

Danielle Smith
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