By Danielle Smith
Round 9 of the NRL competition is here! With a favourite son ready to face his former team and a few big names set to return from injury, I think we are in for a sensational weekend of footy.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos, Thursday 7.50pm, Accor Stadium
We have been waiting for nine rounds for this, and tonight we finally get to see Adam Reynolds up against his old club. He missed their opening round one match due to injury but is now ready to face the Bunnies.
Souths have been a real mixed bag this season and will looking to steady the ship. They won last week 40-22 over a Manly side who only had 12 men, and the previous round they went down to the Tigers 23-22. They are currently sitting 6th on the ladder and won’t like not being in the top four.
Brisbane come into this match looking for their third win on the trot. After a shock 16-7 victory over the Sharks last round, the Broncos snuck into 8th spot for 24 hours before the rest of the weekend’s results pushed them back down to 9th.
Brisbane will be going into the match without two of their big boys. Payne Haas is out after injuring his shoulder by playing footy, and Kurt Capewell is out after injuring his neck in the not as common fashion of drying himself with a towel. Souths welcome back Liam Knight from injury, and Latrell’s brother Shaquai Mitchell has been left out of the side.
As impressive as their win was over the Sharks, I think missing the likes of Haas and Capewell will prove too difficult to overcome. And with the likes of Cody Walker and Damien Cook back in top form, it should be the Bunnies for the win.
Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs, Friday 6pm, GIO Stadium
When 14th plays 15th, we can either be in for an absolute dumpster fire or an exciting match.
The Bulldogs have been full of heart but low on execution. They finally broke a sixth game losing streak last week with a 16-12 win against the Roosters and celebrated like they had won the grand final.
The Raiders have been woeful. Last week’s 21-20 loss to the Warriors was their fifth in a row and yet another match where they led at halftime and then decided they didn’t feel like scoring any more points that day.
Both sides have a few changes coming into this game, including welcoming back their captains for this must win battle. The Bulldogs were without Josh Jackson for their last match due to Covid protocols, and the Raiders have been without Jarrod Croker all season, and will be hoping he can inject some much-needed leadership into the team.
Elliot Whitehead also comes back into the Canberra side, but a huge omission is Jack Wighton who was a naughty boy and got suspended. Adam Elliott will be wearing the number nine jersey and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is back wearing number one.
Brent Naden returns on the wing for the Bulldogs after missing last week’s match due to the birth of his son Onyx. Sending a big congratulations out to him and his wife.
Despite the inclusion of Croker, I don’t think it will be enough to spark a Raiders win. They just seem in all sorts at the moment and Canterbury will start to find their feet after their win last week. Two points for the Dogs.
Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels, Friday 7.55pm, BlueBet Stadium
This battle of the west is usually a heated one, but I have a bad feeling this one could be a fizzer.
Penrith have been untouchable this season, remaining the only undefeated team. Despite their 18-4 win against the Titans last week, it came on the back of a performance well below what we are used to seeing from the reining premiers. They even found themselves scoreless after the first half but hit back to put 18 unanswered point on the board and take the win.
Parramatta were also cruising along quite nicely, until a last-minute loss to the Tigers and then last week’s thrashing at the hands of the Cowboys derailed things a bit. Despite having many players out injured, there were questions over coach Brad Arthur’s son Jakob’s role at five eighth and moving Dylan Brown to the centres. With the return of Tom Opacic this week, Brown can go back to his normal role in the halves and Jakob finds himself on the bench.
The Panthers have the named the same team that beat the Gold Coast last week, but there is a chance that injured Panther Brian To’o could make a return, after being named in the 24-man squad.
I think with the Eel’s injuries and recent form, and the Panthers wanting to make up for a terrible first half last week, this could be a Penrith whitewash. I hope I’m wrong, and we get a cracker of a Friday night game.
Manly Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers, Saturday 3pm, 4 Pines Park
After two thrilling victories to finally get the monkey off their back, the Tigers were brought back down to earth last week with a 12-6 loss to the Dragons. Manly had to play with a man down for most of their match against Souths, with the overlap proving too strong to overcome and going down 40-22.
In a boost to confidence - Tommy Turbo is in the house! Manly welcome back their star fullback for this round, and Rueben Garrick who has been filling in for Turbo will head back across to the wing. The youngest Trbojevic brother Ben comes in for the injured Brad Parker.
The Tigers are missing Luciano Leilua who has been making a real impact for the team and is replaced by Alex Seyfarth. Stefano Utoikamanu returns from injury, and Jake Simpkin comes back in at hooker with Jacob Liddle getting dropped.
Manly put in a tonne of effort with only 12 men last weekend, and the Tigers really lost the spark that they had shown in their previous two matches. But something tells me they will bounce back from their loss and put on a better performance against the Sea Eagles. Call me crazy, but I’m going Tigers for the upset.
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans, Saturday 5.30pm, BB Print Stadium
I love my footy, I really do. But I’m not going to lie, I won’t be counting down the seconds until kick off for this one.
The Roosters have been poor this season, but the Titans have been terrible. Both teams are coming off last round losses, with the Roosters shocked by the Dogs and the Titans not so shocked by the Panthers.
Daniel Tupou returns from suspension for the Tricolours, and Adam Keighran’s return to the team last week was short lived with him now being ruled out with an injured ankle.
It’s the Titans though who will be missing their biggest star, with David Fifita set to sit out the next four matches with an injured knee. The one that has me scratching my head though is the fact Kevin Proctor has kept his spot in the 13 - coach Justin Holbrook obviously didn’t see my comment last week that he should be cutting the oranges.
Maybe the teams will surprise us and put on a spectacle for all the locals up in Mackay, but I doubt it. Roosters to win.
North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights, Saturday 7.30pm, Queensland Country Bet Stadium
The Cowboys are on fire at the moment! Playing some sensational footy, shutting down all their critics and enjoying their view from 3rd spot. They smashed the Eels last week and have every right to do it again this week against the Knights.
Newcastle come into this game in all sorts of trouble. Plagued with injuries, low on confidence and seemingly out of effort, their last round thumping at the hands of Melbourne was their sixth loss in a row.
The same Cowboys team from last week will run out on Saturday night, and why wouldn’t they? Everyone is playing superbly - Scott Drinkwater is in fine form, Valentine Holmes is playing like he’s gone back in time, and Jason Taumalolo is back to his wrecking ball best.
The poor Knights have had to put together another makeshift halves’ combination, with Tex Hoy and Phoenix Crossland coming in for Jake Clifford and Adam Clune. In positive news, Dominic Young and Lachlan Fitzgibbon have been named in the side, both returning from injury.
I’m sure the Knights will put in a better performance against the Cowboys, and maybe even score a try. But not be enough win. Cowboys will get the two points very comfortably.
Melbourne Storm v St George Illawarra Dragons, Sunday 2pm, AAMI Park
The Storm are just on another level to most of the competition, winning their last two games 120 – 14. Not that you would expect anything less from a side with the likes of Munster, Grant, and Paps in it.
The Dragons have hit a bit of a purple patch themselves, with last week’s victory over the Tigers their third in a row. Ben Hunt is in fine form, guiding his team around the park and putting his hand up for Origin selection.
Not too many disruptions for either side, with Jordan Grant taking the spot of the injured Tepai Moeroa on the bench for the Storm, and Jack Bird named for the Red V but not a certainty to play while still dealing with an injured knee.
I think the Dragons will play well, but then the Storm will kick into another gear and do what they do best. A Storm victory to help celebrate Kenny Bromwich’s 200th game.
Cronulla Sharks v New Zealand Warriors, Sunday 4pm, PointsBet Stadium
A very interesting match to finish out the round.
Cronulla were one of the inform teams of the comp, whose past few performances have seen them lose some traction. After a surprise loss to the Broncos last week, they will be looking to turn things around.
Despite sitting 11th on the ladder, when it comes to the Warriors you just never know which team is going to get off the bus. Two weeks ago, they got smashed 70-10 by Melbourne, and last week they clawed their way from behind to beat the Raiders 21-20 in golden point.
Another star set to return from injury is Shark’s captain Dale Finucane, with Cam McInnes moving to the bench. Sitting alongside McInnes will be Wade Graham, who came back last week from a long break due to a head knock and got through the match unscathed.
Another player coming back after a head knock is Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who lost a fight with Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s knee in the Warrior’s match against the Storm on ANZAC day.
Cronulla should win this, with the Sharks wanting to get back into some winning form. But if the likes of Shaun Johnson and Reece Walsh take control of the match, it could be much closer then many predict.
Featured Image Credit: Manly Sea Eagles/Alamy