You can read our preview of Panthers v Broncos here, but here’s Peter Lang’s take on the rest of the round…
Manly Sea-Eagles v Wests Tigers
With both sides having a loss in round 21, both teams will be fired up and ready to rumble in an effort to grab the vital two competition points on offer. Manly need them to make a run for the top 4 while the Tigers need the win to stay in touch with the Top 8. There is plenty to play for here and I expect both teams to bring their A game. While the Tigers are a tenacious side, the Sea Eagles boast some of the most talented players in the competition in the Trbojevic brothers, DCE and Dylan Walker. The cream always rises to the top and while it may be an arm wrestle early, I’m tipping the home side to prevail in this one. TIP: SEA EAGLES
Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels
The Titans finally showed signs of life and put in an improved performance against the Dragons last weekend. It still wasn’t good enough to win the match but it was a small step in the right direction. They will need to keep improving and raise the level of their game even higher if they are any hope of upsetting a red-hot Eels outfit this weekend. The loss of powerhouse winger Blake Ferguson doesn’t seem to have affected the form of Parramatta either. Personally, with a Top 4 spot beckoning I can’t see Parramatta letting this game slip through their fingers. Although stranger things have happened. TIP: EELS
Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys
I can’t believe the Knights have lost six in a row and have all but tumbled out of finals contention. What the hell is going on in Newcastle? On that score, the Cowboys are also down in the dumps but at least they have the excuse that in 2019 they just don’t have the talent across the field to match with it the top sides in the competition. Newcastle will have to ‘bring it’ on Saturday if they are to avoid a seventh straight defeat, this one on home soil. The Cowboys on the other hand just have to win to keep the naysayers away from their coach Paul Green, who is on the radar of being replaced if his team doesn’t show a vast improvement in 2020. TIP: KNIGHTS
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart last weekend declared his team could win the competition if they played this weekend. Well his side will never get a better chance to prove that statement than this weekend when his rampant Raiders come up against the soaring Storm. What an entertaining clash this looks like being. My mouth is salivating at the prospect of seeing two of the best attacking and defensive teams in the competition going at it hammer and tongs down in purple country this Saturday. I actually think this is the game of the round and a win is vital for the Green Machine if they want to finish in the Top 4 at the end of the regular season. TIP: STORM
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
For the first half of the year the Bulldogs looked more lost than found with a squad that appeared like it was headed for the wooden spoon. The injection of DWZ and the promotion of a few fresh faces from reserve grade has turned the Blue and Whites season around. They have won four of their last six matches and every week are looking for another scalp to add to their list. The Bunnies are also hungry and have way too much to play for to be the Doggies next meal. However to be certain of victory players like James Roberts, Daine Gagai and even Damien Cook have to become far more involved in attack. They’ve been just a little quiet of late. TP: RABBITOHS
Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors
Now if this game was being played in the Land of the Long White Cloud than I would’ve almost been tempted to tip the erratic but always entertaining Warriors. At the SCG though, only a brave person would pick them. They looked spectacular and in total control last week against the Sea Eagles up 18-0 before another brainless decision by the referees bunker saw Adam Blair sent to the sin bin. Playing a man short, the Warriors were almost beaten by a resurgent DCE led Manly side. The Roosters on the other hand, absorbed everything that was thrown at them early in the Nation’s Capital before wrestling back control of the ruck and then eventually, the game. TIP: ROOSTERS
Cronulla Sharks v St George-Illawarra Dragons
The Sharks had their pants pulled down by a youthful and exuberant Panthers outfit last Friday night, so with a Top 8 spot on the line, there’s no way Cronulla will go into this local derby with the Dragons anything but 100% prepared and ready. It’s amazing how a footy team can play after they have a win and all eyes will be on St George-Illawarra this week and what improvement they show after their first win in six weeks last Saturday afternoon. Granted, it was against fellow stragglers the Gold Coast Titans but if I were the Sharks, I wouldn’t be taking Mary’s men too lightly or like they did last round, they will pay the price once again. TIP: DRAGONS
Rumours of the Week
* Last week I reported that Manly hooker Api Korisu was in hot demand. Well this week I can add that another team from Sydney’s west may soon throw their hat in the ring for the talented rake.
*Roosters’ Lachlan Lam, son of Adrian Lam, himself a former Rooster appears as if he may not be at Bondi in 2020 ever since the Chooks signed Shane Flanagan’s son Kyle on a two-year deal starting next season. Don’t be surprised if young Lachlan doesn’t stick around and looks for an opportunity elsewhere.
* There could be up to three first grade coaching jobs up for grabs in 2020. The Dragons, Cowboys and Knights have all put their current coaches on notice. While former first grade coaches like Geoff Toovey, Anthony Griffin and David Furner lie waiting in the wings.
Rumours from the web: Here are some rugby league rumours doing the rounds on social media.
* The Warriors are chasing the signature of Bulldogs and former NSW Origin star Josh Jackson
* Dragons fullback and super sub Matt Dufty has been given permission to negotiate with other clubs for 2020.
* Could Melbourne centre Curtis Scott be headed to the Knights next season?
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.