You can read Troy Dodds’ preview of Panthers v Roosters here, but here’s Peter Lang’s look at the rest of Round 24…
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
The Cowboys played with plenty of passion and easily accounted for a Panthers side which looked all out of energy and ideas after a turbulent season. This week North Queensland will be up against a side which is really on a roll and playing well above their roster. The Dogs are hungry and hunt as a pack (pun intended). Their defence is outstanding and their attack is improving with every victory. I honestly don’t think the Cowboys can muster (pun intended again) another emotion charged win two weeks in a row. At home they’ll be tough to roll but if the Dogs mind is on the job, they should pick up another two competition points here and edge ever closer to an unlikely finals appearance. TIP: BULLDOGS
New Zealand Warriors v South Sydney Rabbitohs
One team has a top four finish to play for, the other is well out of finals contention and simply playing for pride. The one advantage the Warriors have is that they’re playing this game at home and have a fairly good record over the Bunnies over the last few years. The Rabbitohs finished with a late flurry against the Broncos last Friday night on the back of some scintillating runs by their hooker Damien Cook. He will need to be at his explosive best again if the Rabbitohs are to win this match. The Bunnies also need more out of James Roberts and Dane Gagai who have been very quiet all season. If the Warriors can nullify Cook’s involvement and win the wrestle in the middle, an upset could be on the cards. TIP: RABBITOHS
Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels
Both sides are coming off a last round loss so motivation won’t be a problem for this game. On paper it’s also a fairly even match with a slight edge going to the Broncos forward pack, which despite some injuries and suspensions is easily one of the best in the competition. There’s no doubt that the Eels have been the far more consistent side of the two with the Broncos season resembling a yo-yo, up-and-down, up-and-down. I actually think that Brisbane can win this one and win it comfortably if it can maintain its up-tempo style of play for the full 80 minutes. They’re a side which can run any team off its feet and the Eels are as susceptible as anyone to this tactic. On the flipside this Eels team will not lie down for anybody. TIP: BRONCOS
Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans
Geeze where do I start with this one. The Knights looked as flat as a tack against the Tigers last weekend and played like they didn’t turn up mentally switched on and ready to play. The Titans have looked like this all season but really had a dig against the Storm on Sunday and at one stage an upset looked on the cards. Both teams have a coach who won’t be there next year, both sides have had a disruptive season for one reason or another but both sides need to show up, if nothing else, than to show their incoming coach that they are made of sterner stuff. This need not be a dud game but it will be up to the players as to how they perform not only individually but as a team. Everyone just needs to put their best foot forward. TIP: KNIGHTS
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm
Well these two sides have plenty of history together, I mean who could forget the infamous ‘Battle of Brookvale’ on 26 August 2011. Only a few weeks ago Manly pulled off an incredible one-point victory over the Storm in Melbourne and you can bet your bottom dollar that coach Bellamy will be planning to spoil the Sea Eagles party with a win this time around. You have to work hard to beat the Storm once, let alone twice in a season. If anyone can come up with a game plan to do it, it’s Des Hasler who in my opinion, is close to winning Coach of the Year. A win here will help his cause no end. TIP: STORM
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Canberra Raiders
Duh Dum Duh Dum dumdumdum….(insert Jaws music). Well here come the Sharks people, as predicted by many, the boys from Cronulla-Sutherland are fully fit and making a real charge towards the NRL Premiership. Meanwhile the Raiders suffered a close defeat against the Sea Eagles and will be itching to bounce back with a big win at Shark Park or whatever it’s called these days. Going against the Raiders is the fact that they’ve played some pretty tough teams over the last six weeks and a bit of mental fatigue may be settling in. Cronulla on the other hand are yet to play their best football and if they do so here, it’ll be curtains for the Green Machine. TIP: SHARKS
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers
The Tigers were impressive in their demolition of a very disappointing and disjointed Newcastle Knights side last weekend and they’ll be looking to keep their charge towards the Top 8 going with a win against another side out of finals contention in St George-Illawarra. With so much to play for and with solid form on the board this should be a walk-in-the-park for Madge’s men. It should be but it won’t be, Despite a first half collapse against the Roosters last week the Dragons are going to be tougher to beat at home than many might think. I still like the look of St George-Illawarra’s team and I think they’ll be up for the challenge on Sunday. TIP: DRAGONS
Rumours of the Week
* I’m hearing that Cowboys coach Paul Green could have as little as six rounds of the 2020 season to keep his first grade job. If North Queensland don’t start the year on fire, he could be the first coach sacked.
* A big name forward in a city club could soon be heading out west on a two-year deal despite having a year to run on his current contract?
* Don’t be surprised if the subject of relocating a Sydney club comes up on the NRL agenda in 2020. The whispers just won’t go away despite denials from the top brass at headquarters.
Rumours from the web: Here are some rugby league rumours doing the rounds on social media.
* Jason Ryles to replace Paul McGregor as Dragons coach for 2020
* Rooster Zane Tetevano to join the Bulldogs next season
* Titans halfback/five-eighth Tyronne Roberts to return to Newcastle next year
* Young Brisbane forward David Fifita is a big chance of being squeezed out of Red Hill due to mounting salary cap pressures.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.