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NRL Round 21 Preview: Big-Name Stars Return To Action

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NRL Round 21 Preview: Big-Name Stars Return To Action

We are in the home stretch footy fans!

Let’s see what is install for Round 21 of the NRL.

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos, Thursday 7.50pm, Sydney Cricket Ground

The Roosters got the chocolates last week against Manly, but quite unconvincingly. Playing a side missing seven of regular starters, many thought it would be a higher victory as opposed to the 20-10 result. Regardless, the win has them in the top eight and they are determined to stay there.

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The Broncos were left stunned by the Tigers on Saturday night, going down to the bottom dwellers 32-18. The loss moves Brisbane down to fifth on the ladder and wanting to get back into the top four.

Roosters will be without Lindsay Collins thanks to a concussion he received against Manly last week, with Matt Lodge coming into the starting side. Egan Butcher is also out after being put in the naughty corner for a week after a high tackle on James Segeyaro.

With the four-match suspension Pat Carrigan copped after his hip drop tackle on Jackson Hastings, Kobe Hetherington will wear the number 13 jersey in his absence. Selwyn Cobbo is back on the wing for the visitors after missing the past couple of matches with a concussion.

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This will be a great game, with both sides fighting for their desired top eight spots. The Roosters didn’t impress me last week, and I think the Broncos will come out firing after their shock loss to the Tigers. Brisbane for the win.

Credit: Supplied/NRL
Credit: Supplied/NRL

Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans, Friday 6pm, AAMI Park

The Storm are back in the top four after downing the Warriors 24-12 and avoiding their fifth loss in a row. The Titans miserable season continues after their 36-24 loss to the Raiders, sinking back down to last on the ladder.

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Melbourne’s player woes persist, with Ryan Papenhuyzen’s replacement Nick Meany now also injured, and Justin Olam is out of action with Covid. In a boost to the side, Brandon Smith returns from suspension and borrowed West Tiger David Nofoaluma jumps straight into the starting side.

Justin Holbrook has decided to rest Toby Sexton (nope, I don’t get it either), with AJ Brimson and Tanah Boyd to partner in the halves and Jayden Campbell returns to fullback.

This is the first time these two sides have met this season. Despite the number of big names still missing for the Storm, I can’t see the Titans pulling a win out of their hat against a team that still has a Munster and a Hughes. Melbourne to go back-to-back.

Credit: Supplied/NRL
Credit: Supplied/NRL
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Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels, Friday 7.55pm, 4 Pines Park

Manly had seven of their stars stand down last week after the Pride Jersey debacle. The rest of the side lost an important match to the Roosters that could impact their finals chances after slipping to tenth spot.

The Eels jumped back into the winner’s circle with a huge 34-10 upset against the Panthers. They moved back up to sixth spot with the top four now in their sights.

The Sea Eagles welcome back six of their missing seven, with Josh Aloiai still not named. They are also boosted with the return of Jake Trbojevic from injury. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has named his son Jakob to fill in at halfback with Mitch Moses ruled out with a broken finger.

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When these two faced off back in round 11, the Eels snatched a late 22-20 victory in the final minutes. Despite their win against Penrith last week, they were quite poor in the second half against a 12-man side. Now missing Moses and with Manly close to full strength, I’m going the Sea Eagles at home.

Credit: Supplied/NRL
Credit: Supplied/NRL

South Sydney Rabbitohs v New Zealand Warriors, Saturday 3pm, Sunshine Coast Stadium

The Bunnies hot streak came to an end after they were left heartbroken losing a 21-20 golden point thriller to the Sharks last round. It was their first loss in five matches and saw them slide down to seventh.

The Warriors loss to the Storm last round confirms they will not make the final this year, sitting in 13th and too far off the pace.

Mark Nicholls comes back into the 17 for the suspended Tom Burgess. Taane Milne will start in the centres and Blake Taafe has been named on the bench.

Lots of changes for the Warriors, with Chanel Harris-Tevita Bayley Sironen, Aaron Pene and Jack Murchie and Jazz Tevega all out. Wade Egan jumps into five-eighth and Freddy Lussick goes into dummy half.

The Warriors gave the Bunnies a care when they met in Magic Round, almost causing an upset in the final minutes. Souths should get the win here, but with the Warriors just playing for pride, they may throw caution to the wind, play some exciting footy and give the Bunnies another run for their money.

Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers, Saturday 5.30pm, GIO Stadium

The Raiders are coming home with a wet sail after a great win against the Titans find them just outside the top eight. They have some standouts in Joseph Tapine and Hudson Young and are homing in on the finals.

The Panthers had a round they would like to forget, losing only their second game of the year once again to the Eels, but also losing star playmaker Nathan Cleary after copping a five-week suspension for a dangerous spear tackle. They are still at the top of the food chain so life’s not all bad.

Only the one change for Canberra, with Jordan Rapana returning from suspension. Penrith are missing their dynamic duo in Cleary and Luai, with Sean O’Sullivan and Jaeman Salmon to fill the void. Stephen Crichton comes back into the side after his surgery to fix his ear after his head clash with Cronulla’s Dale Finucane.

The Panthers smashed the Raiders 36-6 back in round 7, but this time I’m going all in on the Green Machine. They are at home, playing some great footy and are up against a Panthers side minus two of their stars. If there was ever a time to topple the premiers, it’s here.

Credit: Supplied/NRL
Credit: Supplied/NRL

Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra, Saturday 7.35pm, PointsBet Stadium

The Sharks have kicked up a gear of late and celebrated an 87th minute win against the Bunnies that jumped them up to third on the ladder. It seems the opposite is happening to the Dragons, who were sitting inside the eight a few rounds agio but now find themselves in eleventh spot after a 34-8 loss to the Cowboys.

Kade Dykes makes his debut for the Sharks, filling in for Will Kennedy at fullback who had surgery this week on his ankle. Braden Hamlin-Uele comes into the starting side for the injured Royce Hunt, and Braydon Trindall earns a spot on the bench.

With Cody Ramsey still another week away, the Red V keep the same 17 that got thumped by the Cowboys last week.

The Sharks were too strong back in round 3, with a solid 36-12 victory against the Dragons. This should be another easy victory against a Red V side that keep looking at poor Ben Hunt to do everything

Credit: Supplied/NRL
Credit: Supplied/NRL

Canterbury Bulldogs v North Queensland Cowboys, Sunday 2pm, Salter Oval Bundaberg

The Bulldogs have come to life at the back end of the season. Trent Barrett is well and truly in their rear-view mirror and the enjoying their time under Mick Potter. Playing smart and entertaining footy, they made it back-to-back wins against the Knights last week with a 24-10 victory and are now sitting in 12th.

The Cowboys overcame their near-miss against the Tigers for a solid 34-8 thumping of the Dragons on Sunday. Sitting in outright second spot, they are the surprise packet of 2022 with so many punters having them favourites for the spoon at the start of the season.

Canterbury are sticking solid with the same squad from last round, while Todd Payten gets to bring the Lamborghini out of the garage as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow jumps onto the wing for an injured Kyle Feldt. 

The Bulldogs got away with a lucky 6-4 win when these two sides faced off at the start of the season. This game will be an electrifying match with both sides playing some beautiful attacking footy. The Bundaberg crowd will love getting to see these two exciting teams live and watching the likes of The Foxx and The Hammer flying down the sidelines. I’m predicting a high scoring game with a Cowboys win.

Wests Tigers v Newcastle Knights, Sunday 4.05pm, Campbelltown Sports Stadium

The Tigers are trying to put a terrible year behind them and are playing with confidence. Unlucky against the Cowboys, they bounced back with a superb win against the Broncos last week that saw them come off the bottom of the ladder. The win was tarnished however with a season ending injury to Jackson Hastings.

There is nothing good to say about the Knights right now. Ravaged with injury, playing terribly, a coach on the edge and club in crisis. The got done by the Bulldogs las round and have slipped down to 14th.

With Hastings and Luke Brooks both broken, Fonua Pole will partner Adam Doueihi in the halves. And there is a lot of excitement around 26-year-old Tom Freebairn coming up from NSW Cup to make his debut.

In a very weird turn of events, the Knights have dropped David Klemmer for disciplinary reasons, so Jacob Saifiti comes into the front row. In a boost for the visitors, Bradman Best is back in the centres after suffering with a broken thumb, so Enari Tuala moves to the wing.

The Knights convergingly beat the Tigers 26-4 back in round 2. They are a far cry from how they played back then. If both sides play the same way as how they have the past fortnight, the Tigers will blow the Knights off the park.

Featured Image Credit: Supplied/NRL

Topics: Australia, NRL, Rugby League

Danielle Smith
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