We are getting closer to finals time!
A few teams are cruising, some some fighting tooth and nail to make the top eight, while others doing their best to hang on – and the rest just playing for pride.
Here’s what is install for Round 20 – Women in League Round.
Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters, Thursday 7.50pm, 4 Pines Park
Hooley Dooley. Something that was designed to include all has really divided everyone.
This game should have been one of the best of the round, with the Roosters just clinging onto the top eight and Manly sitting right behind in 9th spot trying to push their way in.
Instead, it has turned into a soap opera, after the Manly Pride Jersey fiasco took on a life of its own. Seven big name players have stood down from tonight’s match, leaving the Sea Eagles pack decimated.
Manly are coming of a 20-16 loss to the Dragons, while the Roosters smashed the Knights 42-12 last round.
The Sea Eagles have been patched together with inexperience and forgotten names, including James Segeyaro who hasn’t played in the NRL since 2019. In a positive, they welcome back Jurbo, Lachlan Croker and Andrew Davey who all missed last week. The Roosters are firing on all cylinders, with Joey Manu and Lindsay Collins back on deck.
This would have been a close battle, but after everything that has happened, it should be a tricolours thumping.
New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm, Friday 6pm, Mt Smart Stadium
Storm have lost four games in a row. My fingers even struggled typing that.
Their recent form slump has them sitting in fifth spot on the ladder, and desperate to get back into the top four. The Warriors have had a shocker of a season, currently 13th and pretty much now just playing for pride. Both sides lost last week, with the Storm getting done by the Bunnies 24-12 and the Warriors squandering a 14-0 lead to lose 26-14 to the Raiders.
Reece Walsh is back in the number one jersey for the home side, and the Storm have named the same starting pack as last week with Jordan Grant coming onto the bench.
This would be the perfect chance for the Warriors to cause an upset, playing at home and coming up against an out of form Melbourne. Despite all of that, I just can’t write off the Storm. I know, I’ve said that they past few weeks, but I just can’t. Storm to bounce back in this one.
Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers, Friday 7.55pm, CommBank Stadium
I love a good battle of the West!
Parramatta’s hot and cold season continues, putting in a woeful effort last week to go down to the Broncos 36-14. They are in seventh spot and need to work out whether there are contenders or pretenders.
The Panthers on the other hand are flying. Coming off a 20-10 victory over the Sharks, they are leading the comp eight points clear of the pack. Close to unstoppable, only losing one match this season. That match was back in Round 9 – against the Eels.
Bryce Cartwright is back for the Eels, with Jakob Arthur to sit out. Jarome Luai is out for the Panthers with a knee issue, and Stephen Crichton had surgery this week after almost losing his ear to a Shark (Ha! Get it?) They are replaced by Sean O’Sullivan and Robert Jennings.
Penrith should win, but I smell an upset. Parramatta to turn it on here.
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders, Saturday 3pm, Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans season just gets sadder and sadder.
It’s been a disastrous year for the Gold Coast and doesn’t look like it will improve anytime soon. They released Kevin Proctor after he filmed himself vaping in the change room toilets during their 36-26 loss to the Bulldogs last week. Yep, I know. They are second last and trying to avoid the spoon. The Raiders fought their was back to beat the Warriors last week and now sitting in tenth and trying to climb higher.
Just a few changes for the home side, with Big Tino moving into the front row, Erin Clark to wear the 13, Brian Kelly jumping into the centres with Patrick Herbert hanging out on the wing. The Green Machine have kept the team sheet as last round.
The Titans showed some promise last round against the Dogs, but Canberra will be too strong for them here. If the Raiders really turn up, it could be a cricket score.
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Saturday 5.30pm, PointsBet Stadium
This one will be a beauty!
The Sharks put up a good fight against the premiers last week, and despite their loss are still third on the ladder. Souths were too good for the Storm, with their win moving them up to sixth.
Dale Finucane is out and will spend two weeks in the naught corner, with his replacement at lock yet to be confirmed. Daniel Suluka-Fifita comes into the Bunnies staring side for the injured Mark Nicholls.
Both teams are playing some great footy. Cronulla have kicked back into gear after a sluggish middle of the season, and Souths are going from strength to strength since the return of Latrell Mitchell. I think this match will only have a pint or two in it, with the Bunnies to just sneak home.
Brisbane Broncos v Wests Tigers, Saturday 7.35pm, Suncorp Stadium
My goodness, those poor old Tigers.
It’s been a tough time in Tiger town this year, underperforming, have had many out injured and are coming last. But last week’s heartbreak after the Bunker Blunder saw them go down 27-26 to the Cowboys after the siren takes the cake. The Broncos were on the right side of the scoreboard against the Eels and are loving life in fourth spot.
Jordan Periera is out for the Brisbane with an illness, so Delouise Hoeter comes onto the wing. A big out for the Tigers is Luke Brooks, who could potentially miss the remainder of the year. Luke Garner makes way for Alex Seyfarth in the Tiger’s back row, and interim coach Brett Kimmorley returns after missing last week with Covid.
The Broncos should win this every day of the week. But something tells me the Tigers are going to be so fired up after last week’s loss, that there is well and truly an upset on the cards here.
Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bulldogs, Sunday 2pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
One started the season off well, the other terrible. How the tides have turned.
The Knights horror run continues, sinking to 14th after getting smashed by the Roosters and their list of injuries gets more severe. They now face playing the rest of the season without Kalyn Ponga after he suffered yet another concussion last week. The Bulldogs had a great win against the Titans, have moved up to 12th and are coming home with a wet sail thanks to superstars Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr.
Tex Hoy will wear the number one jersey in place of Ponga, and Brodie Jones come into the back row for the injured Lachlan Fitzgibbon. Corey Waddell will miss the next five games for Canterbury after getting suspended, but Jake Averillo is back into the side after missing last week with Covid.
The way both of these sides are playing, the Bulldogs could put on a million against the Knights. My heart will always tip Newcastle, but the Foxx could have a field day on Sunday and score 1000 on his own. Bulldogs win.
St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys, Sunday 4.05pm
A great match to finish the round on.
The Dragons had a solid win against Manly last week and find themselves in 11th spot. We all know what happened in the Cowboys match last round, and they are still sitting in second.
The Red V will be without Cody Ramsey was hurt last round, so Moses Mbye will play fullback and jack Bird moves to the centres. Tyrell Sloan comes into the 17 for the injured Jayden Sullivan. Tariq Sims is named in the staring side with Aaron Woods being pushed to the bench. No changes to the Cowboys who are close to full strength. Reuben Cotter is on the reserves list, but unsure if he will be fit enough to play.
There is a lot on the line for the Dragons who are desperate to stay in finals contention. Ben Hunt is in fine form and leading the side beautifully. The Cowboys have been nothing short of brilliant and were given a scare by the Tigers. They will be out to turn that around and will come out on Sunday and get the job done.
Featured Image Credit: Supplied/NRL