I was reminded last weekend why rugby league tipping is a mug’s game after my girlfriend, who likes the game but has limited knowledge, tipped the perfect eight from eight while this co-called expert finished the round with 5-8. Still, that’s the challenge us expert tipsters face every week and it’s not getting any easier with some teams, like North Queensland and South Sydney performing inconsistently. Melbourne upset the Sydney Roosters in a sensational game last weekend and Parramatta confirmed they are genuine 2020 contenders with another win to make it seven from eight. Manly had every reason to feel dudded, losing 14-12 to the Newcastle Knights in controversial circumstances.
This week it’s not the top teams who will clash in the match of the round but the lowly places Brisbane Broncos (14th) and the last-placed Bulldogs — two clubs desperately in need of two premiership points to kick-start their seasons. Brisbane’s woes have been well documented while the Bulldogs are playing well but can’t get enough points to grab a much-needed victory for coach Dean Pay. The game of the round though rolls around on Saturday between the under-performing Canberra Raiders and Melbourne Storm who found a way to snatch a golden point win over the Roosters last weekend. At 37 years old, Cameron Smith still knows how to get a team home in a tight finish. Canberra, on the other hand, has lost three of their last four games and just held on 22-16 against the Dragons last weekend after leading 22-0.
Watch Live: Kayo Sports
SEND TIPS WITH ODDS COMPARISON TO YOUR EMAIL
NRL Tipping – Thursday July 9
Cowboys v Roosters
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville | Start: 7:50 PM
Cowboys – Coach Paul Green has made the call to switch Valentine Holmes to the wing and promote young speedster Hamiso Tabaui-Fidow to fullback after the Cowboys were pumped by the Eels last week. The only other change is Connelly Lemuelu who comes into the centres for the injured Tom Opicec. Holmes needs more playing time before he returns to fullback but he could switch around during the game. The Cowboys have been rocks and diamonds this season and they just can’t see to get it right two weeks in a row. Against the power of the Roosters, they will need to be on the game from the get-go and strike early and hard. They have the size and fire-power upfront to go blow-for-blow with the Roosters and Josh McGuire will have to match the fire of Jared Wearea-Hargreaves in the middle with some help from the improving Francis Molo. Lock Jason Taumalolo will be expected to churn out some big metres and bend the line in the middle to help his halves, Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater create to opportunities. This is a big opportunity for the Cowboys to prove they are a top eight side this season but they will need to go hard for 80 minutes against the polished Roosters.
Roosters – Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner will sit this game out as part of a plan to help get over some niggling injuries while lanky try-scoring winger Daniel Toupu is out for an extended period with an ankle injury opening up a return to the wing for Englishman Ryan Hall. The Roosters coped with the twin-losses of class forwards Victory Radley and Sam Verrills last week now they have to cover for skipper Cordner. The Roosters have set the benchmark this season even though they were beaten in Golden Point last week by the Melbourne Storm who they led 22-12 in the second half. The Roosters pack has been relentless this season under the new six re-set rule and have been trampling their rivals through the middle. But a drain on their troops, Radley, Verrills, Cordner and others is eating away at their power game a little and they are not able to drive home the advantage as easily. Still, they have a tremendous armoury and so much strike it is hard to tip against them at the moment. They lose very little if anything with premiership-winning utility Mitch Aubison coming into the back-row and I like young Lachlan Lam on the bench for late in the game when fatigue comes into play.
NRL Tipping – Friday July 10
Titans v Warriors
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast | Start: 6:00 PM
Titans – The Gold Coast cam climb a few steps up the ladder here if they can beat the resurgent Warriors who gained a lot of confidence in their victory over Brisbane. The Titans played some good football on the first half last weekend against Cronulla but could not go on with the job in the second off as the Sharks cranked up their attack with five tries. The Titans only trailed 12-10 at half time so it was disappointing they led the Sharks put on 28 unanswered second-half points. It’s an area the Titans can work on, especially against the Warriors who can leak plenty of points at any time. Corey Thompson retains the fullback duties with Goodna Eagle junior Treymain Spry handed his NRL debut on the wing. Beau Fermor made his debut in the pack but has been switch out into the centres to add some defensive muscle to the backline. Tyrone Peachey finds himself back in the super-sub role off the bench. As always a lot will depend in Ashley Taylor’s game. He has looked good running the balls and is rediscovering his deadly kicking game. Big winger Anthony Dom will fancy himself a chance of scoring a few tries if the ball comes his way.
Warriors – Turned in a great performance to inflict more pain and suffering on the Brisbane Broncos, producing a late charge to score an impressive win against a desperate opponent. Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is back from suspension and Chanel Harris-Tavita take over the five-eighth duties from Kodi Nikorama who suffered a heavy head knock last weekend against his old Brisbane cub. We keep saying it every week but if the Warriors could learn the secret to playing the full 80 minutes every week they would be in the finals every year. They have a stack of talent and play a brand that can be very hard to defend but their also drift in and out of games and they always give their opposition a chance to win instead of putting games to bed. Still, having said that, they can make it back-to-back wins against the Titans. It was a strange thing for the Titans owners to publicly state they would not be signing Blake Green next season after Green was instrumental in the win over Cowboys. Green has been amongst the Warriors best players all season and it seems odd the club would announce mid-season he is being cut. It may inspire Green and his teammates but it could also prove disruptive.
Rabbitohs v West Tigers
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney | Start: 7:55 PM
Rabbitohs – Have not been overly convincing in recent weeks but got the job done. Wayne Bennett will have just about had enough of the handling errors and poor completion rates from his players and I expect to see a far more disciplined Rabbits turn up for this clash. Cody Walker had a quiet first half but came to life in the second 40 minutes as Souths got the better of the Bulldogs 26-10 last week. The Bulldogs dragged Souths into a bit of a scrappy affair and fell into the trap at times and it affected their flow. Latrell Mitchell continues to struggle at times to get into the rhythm of the game but Bennett will persevere with the talented ball-runner, aware he can be destructive at times. James Roberts showed a few glimpses he is close to being back to his best and the Tigers won’t want to let his fire up the turbos. Likewise, Alex Johnson is back in try-scoring mode and opposite winger Dane Gagai grabbed his 50th try last weekend against the Dogs. The clash of the forwards should be absorbing here with Tom Burgess continuing to smash out good metres for halfback Adam Reynolds to work with. Cam Murray hasn’t got a try for a while so I would be looking to his to be probing near the line.
West Tigers – No doubt the Tigers will have taken plenty of heart from their fighting loss to Penrith last week when ill-discipline cost them any chance of springing an upset over the Panthers. They have to put that behind them and regroup for a similar effort against Souths. They will miss the fire and aggression of big Joey Leilua but not his ill-discipline acts which have again landed him on the sidelines. Michael Kee-Cham replaces him in the centres in a big back-line change. Big Luciano Leilua has been named in the back-row after a head-knock last week while veteran Chris Lawrence is back on the Tigers bench. Probably the match-up of the game will be Wests hooker Harry Grant, one of the finds of the season, up against South Sydney’s Origin No,9 Damien Cook who teams have been working over by send ing a lot of traffic his way. Grant, who is “on loan” from Melbourne, has been playing some great football, directing players around the park and defending extremely well in the middle. His is a ready-made footballer, who plays what he sees and his instincts out of dunny half have been great to watch this season. The Tigers need to stay in the fight to give themselves a chance of snatching a late win.
NRL Tipping – Saturday July 11
Sharks v Panthers
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney | Start: 3:00 PM
Cronulla Sharks – Took their time but eventually trashed the Titans with a five-try to nil second-half performance last weekend built on some good work from their forwards and some constructive play from Shaun Johnson who is getting more involved in every game. When Johnson runs the football, things happen. Unfortunately for Matt Moylan his hamstring nightmares have resurfaced forcing Josh Dugan back to fullback for the first time this season with Ronaldo Mulitalo on the wing after returning from a knee injury. It is Andrew Fafita’s turn to start ahead of Braden Uele but that could change late. It seems Moylan’s hamstrings are a major concern and his future may be coming off the bench in short bursts. Johnson’s battle with Penrith star Nathan Cleary will be pivotal as they both play very similar roles and are also their team’s first choice goalkickers. How Cronulla handle Villame Kikau will also be crucial as he can be very difficult to handle close to the load and he has such a great off-loading game. He was a little quiet against the Tigers last week but I am betting that will not be the case against the Panthers.
Penrith Panthers – Are building into some really good form even though they battled to shake off the Wests Tigers 19-12 last weekend. A few players were slightly down on form and metres in the game but that was due to some good Tigers defence which was undone by some late poor discipline. Robust winger Brian To’o is set for 6-8 weeks after suffering an ankle injury which is a real shame because he was starting to show some excellent form with the ball in hand and he was defensively strong. The good news is strike weapon Dean Whare returns in the centres with Brett Naden retained the wing. Look for a big game on the edges by Villame Kikau whose running metres were way down against the Tigers last week. His is such a powerhouse and picks his times to inject himself into the attack. Cleary continues to grow as a quality leader and he stepped up last week against the Tigers when it got a bit tough and the game was in the balance. Looks to hooker Apisai Koroisau to scamper out of dummy half a few times as he did last week, setting up a crucial match-winning try for teammate Dylan Edwards when the game was on the line. Cronulla always causes Penrith problems and this will be a good tussle across the park.
Broncos v Bulldogs
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane | Start: 5:30 PM
Brisbane Broncos – There’s nothing much more you can say about Brisbane other than they desperately need a win to take some pressure off the players who have been to hell and back during a six-game losing streak. Coach Anthony Seibold has come under attack. Key players Anthony Milford, Darius Boyd and Brodie Croft are being hammered by social media and the media and it is up to them to fight their way back. Bagging the coach and players is pointless any longer, they need some positive support as they try and plot their way back. Seibold has stood firm in his faith of his squad and he knows in a few weeks he will have a few players back in the field who can make a difference. One of those is centre Katoni Staggs who could play against the Dogs and he would give them some much-needed strikeout wide. Seibold hasn’t pushed the panic button, even after losing to the Warriors last weekend. He has moved Tevita Pangai jnr to prop and winger Corey Oates will start in the second-row with Thomas Flegler dropping to the bench. A decision on whether Matt Lodge (knee) plays will be left until game day but he would be a big inclusion even off the bench. Brisbane is fast running out of time to stay in finals contention and to say a win against the Dogs could be season-defining is an understatement.
Canterbury Bulldogs – It’s doubtful any coach has the odds more stacked against him that Dean Pay with the absolute mess the Bulldogs are in with a disjointed board and no sponsor, leaving Pay with his hands tied. Still, the Bulldogs are a club known for their grit in tough times and they will relish to opportunity to inflict some more pain on the Broncos. Unfortunately, they will be without one of their more dangerous players in lock Adam Elliott who could be done for the season after dislocating his shoulder last weekend in a cruel blow. This game will be decided largely in the middle with Dylan Napa, Aiden Tolman and Josh Jackson commissioned to stop Tevita Pangai_Junior, Payne Haas and Oates in what should be an interesting battle. A lot rests of the skills of playmaker Kieran Foran’s running game and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s ability to ignite some good kick-returns. This is a real pressure game for both clubs.
Raiders v Storm
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra | Start: 7:35 PM
Canberra Raiders – Playing below their best even their 22-16 win, after leading 22-0, against the Dragons was less than convincing as the Dragons almost ran them down. It’s not the style coach Ricky Stuart wants after they were one of the NRL’s best defensive sides last season. Still, they can quickly turn things around and they will need to be a lot, lot better against the Storm who give your very few chances as the Roosters discovered last weekend. Hooker Josh Hodgson is not getting the space and time he enjoyed last season and as a result, Canberra’s running game is not as sharp. The Raiders rely heavily on Hodgson for direction but halfback George Williams and five-eighth Jack Wighton can also take the reins at times and launch attacking raids. Two outstanding backlines here with Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klopstad, who leads the NRL in runs (180) is in great form and a real threat if the game opens up a little. I like the Raiders but Melbourne have the team to shut them down. A ripper clash this one.
Melbourne Storm – Well, Cameron Smith can do it all. He looked at home last week at halfback at times against the Roosters as he led them to a game two-point victory with his cool head. These two teams match up well across the park. Their halves are classy and they have players who make good decisions under pressure. Melbourne missed Cameron Munster last weekend but managed to cover well for him and they will need to be on their game again against a dangerous Raiders outfit here. Fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen is a constant threat and never stops looks for gaps off quick play-the-balls. Samoan international Marion Seve gets another crack at the NRL called up to replace the injured Sia Soliola who is out with a facial injury. These two forward packs will go at it for 80 minutes and whoever gains the bragging rights up front will probably win.
NRL Tipping – Sunday July 12
Knights v Eels
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle | Start: 4:05 PM
Parramatta Eels – The fourth-placed Knights get a chance to see where they really are against the table-topping in-form Parramatta. The Knights have been very good this season but they will need to lift even more to lower the Eels’ colours given their hot form. Mitchell Pearce and Kurt Mann have snuck under the radar are bit and have bee been doing some good things together, building pressure and forcing repeat sets. Bad luck for giant winger Edrick Lee who suffered a broken arm last weekend in Newcastle’s narrow 14-12 win over Manly. Local junior Tex Hoy takes Lee’s place on the wing after playing very well against Manly when he came into the game. No doubt Kalyn Ponga will need to be heavily involved and his battle from the back with rival Clint Gutherson will be a classic. Ponga is one player who could put Parramatta on the back foot if he gets a little room to work with. The Knights play well and stick to a structure but Parramatta will ask a lot of questions of them defensively. The big question is, will they the answers?
Newcastle Knights – Have only dropped one game all season and that was to the red hot Roosters. Had no troubles covering for injured playmaker Mitchell Moses, who will be absent again this weekend, when thet hammered a disappointing North Queensland 42-4 scoring seven tries to one in a dominant display featuring a four-try haul to big winger Maiko Sivo who will terrorise the Knights outside defence again. Parramatta welcome back hard-running forward Nathan Brown who has vowed not to change his aggressive style despite a few suspensions already this season. There’s no doubt the Eels are a better team with Brown ripping into the opposition forwards. I liked the manner in which Dylan Brown stepped up and took a lot more responsibility in Moses’s absence last week and he needs to repeat that against Newcastle to take his team forward. Junior Paulo and Shaun Lane have both been great with their off-loading game’s creating a lot of second-phase attack which keeps opposing sides on the back foot. Two good packs here Regan Campbell-Gillard and Paulo in for a tough afternoon against David Klemmer and the in-form Daniel Saifiti. I think the Eels get home in this one.
Dragons v Sea Eagles
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney | Start: 6:30 PM
St George Dragons – The battling Dragons came home with a wet sale last weekend before losing 22-16 to the highly fancied Canberra Raiders, a performance which would have been good for their confidence after looking down and out early when they trailed 22-0. It’s hard to get too enthused about the Dragons this season and they sit in 13th place although only four points outside the top 8. There’s nothing wrong with their playing roster they just can’t see to get it together for 80 minutes. Halfback Adam Clune is getting better each week and it now seems Ben Hunt has found his position as dummy half with Cam McInnes at lock. Looks the Dragons have ample players with enough experience they just need to gel and maybe get some more shifts happening at various stages of the game. Matt Dufty, Corey Norman, Hunt and McInnes are players who can all make in-roads into the game while forwards Paul Vaughan Tyson Frizell and Tariq Sims all have a wealth of experience to call upon.
Manly Sea Eagles – Totally out of luck last weekend when 14-12 losers to Newcastle in highly controversial circumstances. Playing wounded with their gun fullback Tom Turbo Trbojevic but you can’t question their desire or intensity. One thing about Manly and about Des Hasler sides is they are always in for the fight. They love it when the going gets tough. Manly will still be burning about the emotional way it ended. Unfortunately, they have lost quality forward Addin Fonua-Blake who offensive outburst to the referee at the end of the game has proved extremely costly. You just wonder how much adversity Manly can absorb as Fonua-Blake was as important in the middle as Trbojevic is out wide. Tanelia Paseks has the task of filling Fonua-Blake’s boots but Manly will miss his off-loading game and aggression. It will be tough, but I like to way Manly dig in when people think they can’t win.