Not even the great Nostradamus would have predicted some of last week’s results with several upset and a few mind-boggling scorelines. Brisbane kicked it off with a record 59 point loss to Parramatta in the opening game and the upsets just kept coming. The Eels emerged from round 4 as the NRL’s only unbeaten team but only after a controversial forward pass ruling which denied Manly a last gap win over the Eels. The Sharks, Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans are 14 losses in a row and the Bulldogs all sprung upsets to close the round. Dragons coach Paul McGregor’s job was under debate after his team failed to fire a shot against the Bulldogs. This week the Broncos need to hit-back hard against Manly after they came under fire from fans and former players who savaged the players and coach Anthony Seibold. If McGregor is to survive, his players need to produce something better against the Sharks on Sunday. Perhaps they just need to go out and play park football. They have the players do it.
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NRL Tipping – Thursday, June 11
Brisbane Broncos v Manly Sea Eagles
Venue: Central Coast Stadium | Start: 7:50 PM
Brisbane Broncos: Brisbane has their backs to the wall after suffering the humiliation of the club’s heaviest defeat (59-0) at the hands of the Roosters last week. The fallout has been very cutting and nobody has missed out, especially coach Anthony Siebold who has copped it from all quarters. The reality is Brisbane have a lot of young players not yet experienced to handle the pressure of first grade, and some senior players who are performing poorly as well as injuries to contend with. They also appear to be struggling to come to terms with the new repeat six ruck rule which has quickened the game. Siebold has switched powerhouse winger Corey Oates into the back-row with big Joe Ofehengaue and elevated Matt Hodge to starting front-row beside Payne Haas in a bid to get some much needed go forward against Manly’s big pack which held its own against Parramatta last weekend. Brisbane welcome back strike centre Katoni Staggs but they can’t afford to have Anthony Milford running around in circles on the fifth play or dropping off tackles. Milford needs to get back ot his running game and find some creativity. With no Fafita and no Jack Turpin there’s no way you can tip Brisbane on last week’s performance but I bet they are ready to rip in for this game. It will be interesting to see what Seibold does with former Brisbane premiership winner Benny T’eo if he plays his first league game in six years.
Manly Sea Eagles: You can debate it until you are blue in the face but Manly will still be hurting after the dubious forward pass call which cost them a win against Parramatta last weekend. For what it is worth, I thought to pass was ok, borderline at worst, but in the end, it was deemed forward and Manly missed out on the points. That will ensure they are on their game against Brisbane and aware how badly the Broncos will be feeling after being belted by the Roosters. Complacency should not be an issue for Des Hasler as his side, unchanged from last week, is very experienced and full of leaders including Daly Cherry-Evans and Trbojevic brothers Tom and Jake. It will be a massive battle up front between the rival front-rowers Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake who will clash with Payne Haas and Matt Lodge who will be out to lay the foundations for a big upset
NRL Tipping – Friday, June 12
Nth Queensland Cowboys v NZ Warriors
Venue: Central Coast Stadium | Start: 6:00 PM
Nth Queensland Cowboys: How much did the metres provided by wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo and to a lesser extent Cohen Hess count last weekend against the Sharks after they showed some quality against the Titans the previous week. Hess (ankle) should be back and Taumalolo (bone bruising) is a 50-50 chance if he gets through the club’s final training session. Fullback Valentine Holmes had an ordinary night against the Sharks but he doesn’t often put two average games back-to-back so I am expecting some patches of brilliance from him. North Queensland’s halves Drinkwater and Clifford is still working on their combination and it is a work in progress. Coach Paul Green would have identified issues with the Cowboys attack and will also make some adjustments in defence with the Sharks finding too many holes. This is a toss of the coin game because you just don’t know what you are going to get from the Warriors from week to week.
NZ Warriors: Well, what are Stephen Kearney’s weird Warriors going to dish up this week. Who knows? Seriously, it is easier picking Lotto numbers than picking when the Warriors are going to be on and or off. Full marks for shutting out the Dragons 18-0 but then the Dragons only scored two points in their next game so maybe the form was misleading. Still, the Warriors were nothing more than fodder for Penrith who brought them back to earth with a 26-0 win last weekend. Kearney gets a few handy troops back including prop Agnatious Paasi and Peta Hiku but it’s more getting their heads right and playing 80 minutes without dropping off to sleep. If they turn up and play like they did last weekend against the Panthers, the Cowboys will put the cleaners through them.
Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 7:55 PM
Parramatta Eels: Unbeaten in four games The Eels survived a controversial finish to beat Manly in a heart-stopper last weekend. They are billing this as the Battle of the West and it has all the hallmarks of a classic clash given Penrith’s last start victory. The news is all good for the Eels who will welcome the return of uncompromising lock Nathan Brown back into the pack. Brown is a big addition as he is not only a leader of their pack and an enforcer, he is also a dangerous ballplayer. Eels halfback Mitchell Moses has been building a case for representative honours with his early-season form and the way he leads Parramatta around the park and combines so well with fullback Clint Gutherson creates some serious problems. Parramatta’s defence has be the best in the competition as well.
Penrith Panthers: Jerome Luai takes over the No.6 jumper from the luckless Matt Burton who has been in great form but will come off the bench against the Eels. The big inclusion for the Panthers is star halfback Nathan Cleary who has served his COVID suspension. This is an early Origin selection trial between Cleary and Eel’s halfback Mitchell Moses who has been in outstanding form this season. It shapes as a special game also for skipper James Tamou who plays his 250th game. Dylan Edwards is a late chance of grabbing a spot in the 17 if he hamstring passes its final test. If the Panthers play to their best they can stop Parramatta’s early-season roll.
NRL Tipping – Saturday, June 13
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Gold Coast Titans
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 3:00 PM
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Coach Wayne Bennett did not seem too downcast after the Rabbits loss to Melbourne and often he learns more about his team when they are beaten. He said Cody Walker would slip straight back into the No.6 this week and his attack will be bolstered by the return also of speedster James Robert whose inclusion should help Latrell Mitchell’s game as well. This is a big game for the Rabbits who have lost three straight and can’t afford to take the Titans lightly given the energy they showed against the Wests Tigers last round. They aren’t the same pack as they were with Sam Burgess and John Sutton so they need to play a little differently than their power game.
Gold Coast Titans: Finally ended a 14-game game streak and they did it in fine style against a very disappointing Wests Tigers. Titans coach Justin Holbrook has rewarded the side by not making any changes. A win can do wonders and they came from 12-0 early after looking in big trouble to play some great football. The thing to like is they came back twice to win the game from 12-0 down and down by 10 points in the second displaying a lot of character. The move of Ash Taylor to NO.6 worked well and usual Tyrone Peachey looked very dangerous. Jai Arrow, who is headed to South Sydney next season, was great and former Storm youngster Young Tonumaipea just keeps improving.
Newcastle Knights v Melbourne Storm
Venue: Central Coast Stadium | Start: 5:30 PM
Newcastle Knights: Have been a bit of surprise packet in some ways and there would not be too many times in recent years they have gone up against the Melbourne Storm placed high on the ladder (2nd v 6th). Coach Adam O’Brien has done a great job with his squad unearthing a few real talents in the likes of Bradman Best to compliments fullback Kylan Ponga who are working well with halfback Mitchell Pearce. Three wins and a draw confirm the Knights are top 8 if not top 4 chances and their impressive victory over highly-rated Raiders last week only back that up. They play a nice style of football, moving the ball, attacking and marshalling well in defence when needed. If they can add Melbourne’s cap to that of Canberra’s in successive weeks they wil have legitimate claims for a shot at the titled.
Melbourne Storm: The jury remains out on Melbourne for now but there is no doubt once they find their groove they will be in the finals frame. Were better last week beating South Sydney but coach Craig Bellamy has axed halfback Jharome Hughes and slotted Ryley Jacks into the number 7 jumper looking for a bit more spark. Cameron Munster was outstanding last week against the Bunnies and as long as he continues with his running game the opposition will have issues. One battle which will play a big part in the result will be the clash of fullbacks with Ponga up against Ryan Papenhuyzen who last week showed glimpses of what he can do with very little space to work with. As usual Cameron Smith with call the shots and he is adjusting to the new rule changes like everyone else. Tough game.
West Tigers v Canberra Raiders
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium | Start: 7:35 PM
West Tigers: Coach Michael Maguire has dropped a selection bombshell here by axing veteran playmaker Benji Marshall. It can only be a tactical decision given Marshall has been playing quite well for the Tigers. His spot has gone the Josh Reynolds, who has again been in the headlines for off-field indiscretions this week. Being the first team to lose to the Gold Coast in a year has prompted some changes, many of them, especially playing last year’s grand finalists. With Luke Brooks, Reynolds and hooker Harry Grant who is playing great out of dummy half, the Tigers have enough running men to cause some problems around the ruck. The Rockhampton-born Grant has been a revelation coming out of dummy half and he is creating space for the players around him. Big Russell Packer back on the bench gives them some punch.
Canberra Raiders: OK, what happened to Canberra in the first half against Newcastle last weekend? The Knights played well, but that was not the Raiders we know and they should hit back hard against the Tigers. Coach Ricky Stuart labelled his players as “kids” and that criticism will hit hard, and so it should. So many things were missing in the first 40 minutes and it wasn’t until the games out of reach that the real Raiders made an appearance before losing 34-18. Stuart would not have been a happy camper after the game and the Tigers should be braced for a green machine backlash. The Raiders have a quality side and the Tigers will need to be at their defensive best given the blast Stuart would have delivered to his players post-match.
NRL Tipping – Sunday, June 14
Canterbury Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 4:05 PM
Canterbury Bulldogs: Showed plenty of pride and spirit to post their first victory of the season over a struggling St George last weekend and they deserved to celebrate. But one fears for them against a rampant Roosters who savaged Brisbane 59-0 barely raising a sweat. The Dogs are dour when they can drag rivals into a bash fest but the Roosters have far too much armoury across the field for them to contain. Moving Will Hopoate to fullback last week against the Dragons paid dividends and obviously the return of Kieran Foran in the No.6 makes then a much better team, but not good enough to stop the rampaging Roosters I am afraid.
Sydney Roosters: Where do you start? Ok, Brisbane weren’t great, but they weren’t hopeless and to put 59 unanswered points on any team in 80 minutes is an amazing effort. And they did it without superstar fullback James Tedesco who probably scores 3-4 tries in that game the way Sydney opened up the confidence-shot Broncos. It will be interesting to see how they back-up from such a big win but they have Tedesco back in the No.1 and a forward pack which is ready to dominate the premiership. Points everywhere, Power up the middle, speedsters out wide, no relief for the Dogs. A busy day for the scorekeeper again.
St George Dragons v Cronulla Sharks
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium | Start: 6:30 PM
St George Dragons: It’s a terribly tough time for supporters of the big Red V and for coach Paul McGregor who admits he is at loss for answers. The Dragons were unable to mount any pressure against the Bulldogs last week and are playing schoolboy football and paying the price. They have gone tryless in over 180 minutes of football and against the Sharks robust defence will find points hard to come by in their present frame of mind. Players like Ben Hunt and Corey Norman need to go and play some park football and see if they can get some soul into the Dragons players. At the moment they are like a rudderless ship bobbing in the ocean.
Cronulla Sharks: This is normally a big clash but with the Dragons in such poor form it is hard not to look at the Sharks as specials here, especially after they upset North Queensland 26-16 last weekend with a strong performance. With Chad Townsend returning, Matty Moylan goes back to fullback. Andrew Fafita is back at starting prop so the Sharks looks to be getting back to their best side. Hunt’s clash with Shark’s playmaker Shaun Johnson will be a key. Both need to get more involved, especially Hunt who is wearing a lot of criticism. Can only see a Sharks win here.