You can read Troy Dodds’ preview of Panthers v Bulldogs here, but Peter Lang takes a look at the rest of Round 20…
Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys
The Tigers form has been erratic all season, they go from looking like world-beaters one week to a team which couldn’t beat time with a stick the next. So which team will turn up to keep their season alive against the Cowboys this Thursday night? Who the hell knows and that’s the problem. North Queensland will be bolstered (love that word) by the return of Michael Morgan who is the side’s only real ‘X-Factor’ in the backline. If he fires and gets his running game in order, he could win the match for the Cowboys all on his own. Well, you know what I mean. TIP: TIGERS
New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders
What a refereeing ‘master-class’ it was for the Warriors last week, sorry I meant another word starting with ‘master’ there. Now while the Raiders were the better team in their clash against the Panthers, they too benefited from some questionable refereeing calls that went their way. With both sides boasting talent to burn in the forwards and the backs, something as simple as a refereeing blunder could decide the winner. God let’s hope not. The winner of this game is genuinely hard to pick, so I’m going for the old chestnut of home ground advantage to decide the victor. TIP: WARRIORS
Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm
Finally my faith in the Broncos has been rewarded. I’ve picked them so many times and got kicked up the ‘khyber-pass’ for it that it’s nice to see them win well for a change. Of course when you put the victory into context it doesn’t look so flash. I mean they did play the Titans who are nothing short of a basketcase at the moment. So I’m dismounting from the ‘bucking Bronco’ and putting all my money on their opponents, the Melbourne Storm this weekend. They lost by a single solitary point last Saturday and the one thing the boys in purple don’t do…is lose two in a row very often. TIP: STORM
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights
Manly showed their true mettle by defeating the Storm on their home turf in one of the games of the season last weekend. The Knights on the other hand showed themselves right out the door by exiting the Top 8 in unspectacular fashion against the Tigers. Even with six games to go, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, if Newcastle lose this game, they will not make the finals this season. Now I don’t know if the Sea Eagles won the hearts and minds of the rugby league public last weekend but they’re sure as hell going to win this one. TIP: SEA EAGLES
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sharks players and supporters finally had something to sing about after Cronulla recorded their first win in five outings against the Cowboys last weekend. It was still a scratchy performance but it showed plenty of grit which was also mixed in with some obvious on-field problems between certain players. It looked like a few of the elder statesmen in the team hung on to the ball instead of passing it to their younger counterparts while in positions to score. All this unrest will be music to the ears of the Bunnies who are searching for their third win on the trot and I think they’ll get it. TIP: RABBITOHS
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
I can see the Titans giving this game a really good shake and coming up with a tremendous win. Really? NO…I’m being a smart ar**e. I’m running out of negative things to say about this team and it annoys me because ‘on paper’ they have more than a few handy players in their line up and should be a lot more competitive than they are. Seriously, if the Chooks turn up with their minds on the job, they should run up a cricket score against this rabble passing off as a football team. Oh look, there you go, I can think of more negative things to say about the Titans. TIP: ROOSTERS
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels
The Dragons put in a far superior performance last Friday night to agonisingly go down to the Rabbitohs with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. Whether the boys from Illawarra can pick themselves up from such a gut-wrenching defeat and beat a resurgent Eels side firmly ensconced in the top 8 is another matter. Halfback Ben Hunt played better in patches but still looks a long way off his best while Gareth Widdop played exceptionally well at five-eighth in his first game back from a long absence. He truly is a class act. Look I think Saints are due for a win and I think they’ll get it this weekend. TIP: DRAGONS
Rumours of the Week
* I’ve heard that a team located west of Sydney is looking to move a couple of its contracted backline players on for 2020. They’re big names too. Watch this space.
* A prominent Titans forward who is proving unpopular with his teammates, may find himself on the outer when new coach Justin Hoolbrook takes the reins for 2020. It’s not the first time this forward has been ‘on the nose’ with his teammates, he also wasn’t very popular at his previous club either.
* The drums are beating louder and louder that former first grade coaches David Furner and Garth Brennan will both be back in the NRL in 2020 as either assistant first grade coaches or head coaches in the Canterbury Cup. I know I’m having an each way bet here!
Rumours from the web: Here are some rugby league rumours doing the rounds on social media.
* Dragon Tyson Frizell to join the Roosters for 2020.
* Raiders Jordan Rapana is being chased by the Sharks for next season
* Brisbane are after Melbourne Storm super sub Ryan Papenhuyzen