I started off last week’s preamble by suggesting it would be a tipster’s “dream round” Well, it turned out more like a nightmare for tipsters with the Roosters and Parramatta both going down in upset results and a few other games, including South Sydney 20-18 defeat not going to script. I can’t recall the last time the Brisbane Broncos were $8 to win a game but that is how bad things are going at Red Hill and they are playing Melbourne Storm. Surprisingly, they’re not to biggest roughies of the round though with the Warriors rated $10 underdogs against the Roosters. An all-up bet on the Eels, Storm, Roosters, Raiders, Knights and Panthers at just over $5 looks a good bet this weekend. The Eels should get over the Wests Tigers to kick off round 11. I cant see the Broncos beating the Storm, the Roosters should stomp on the Warriors. The Newcastle Knights should be too strong for the Bulldogs and even with a weakened side the Panthers will bury the Titans at Cbus Stadium. It’s a huge round for both the Broncos and Warriors who, while they probably can’t win, need to turn in performances that give their fans some hope. It won’t be easy for either club given they play sides in the top 4 who are going great.
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NRL Tipping – Thursday July 23
Eels v West Tigers
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 7:50 PM (AEST)
Parramatta Eels – One of three teams on eight wins but handed over the outright lead when ambushed at Lottoland last weekend by Manly 22-18. Still, they are playing quality football and can bounce back. Mitchell Moses returns to the Eels halves and while they have coped well without him he is a match-winner and a game-breaker who will be welcomed back against a Tiger’s side which put the cleaners through Brisbane last weekend. Dangerman Ryan Matterson returns to the pack and will add some running attack on the edges. Jai Field makes way for Moses but he has handy in the No.7 and will be handy later in the season. The Eels forwards were found out at times by Manly’s middlemen, especially Marty Tapau and they will need to muscle up better against the Tigers who will adopt similar aggressive tactics. It’s not like Parramatta dropped their bundle, more like they weren’t ready for Manly’s punishing start. Coach Arthur was less than impressed and you can bet stern words have been exchanged with his players about turning up ready to go hard from the opening tackle. Looks for big games from Junior Paul, Nathan Brown and Regan Campbell-Gillard while Shaun Lane’s ability to off-load under assault could be telling.
West Tigers – Were ruthless at times against a disorganised Brisbane Broncos. Put almost 50 points in Brisbane with nine tries while keeping them scoreless which is no mean feat. Benji Marshall’s recall was a winner with the veteran playmaker providing a point of difference and working well with the find of the season Harry Grant who just continues to grow as an NRL player. Billy Walters was a good inclusion in the halves and the Tigers look to have a good spine with fullback Adam Doueihi also in good form. Russell Packer and Luciano Leilua were strong for the Tigers and provided a good platform for the young Tiger’s halves to work with and they enjoyed the time and space. A lot of the credit goes to young Grant has been outstanding and now leads the Dally M Player of the Year voting after another cracker game against Manly. The Tigers are a side that can run with Parramatta and they will come out of the blocks looking to jump their more fancied rivals.
NRL Tipping – Friday July 24
Cowboys v Sea Eagles
Venue: Qld Country Bank Stadium | Start: 6:00 PM (AEST)
Nth Queensland Cowboys – Has been an interesting week with coach Paul Green resigning and talks of a rift between him and star player Michael Morgan but those “rumours” always surface when turmoil hits a club. Green walked out the door so obviously there are internal issues with the Cowboys head office. Josh Hannay has stepped into the top coaching job and he has previous coaching experience in the Queensland Cup. The Cowboys have problems, representative prop Josh McGuire has twice come out publicly urging his teammates to look in the mirror and while it worked the first time when shocked the Knights in round 7 it failed to fire them up last week when they followed a 42-16 loss to the Roosters with a 22-10 loss to Penrith. Even though last week’s performance was a lot better they will need to be on their game against a Manly side which showed a lot of heart last week to upset Parramatta 22-18 when most people had written them off following an ordinary 30 point loss to the Dragons. Some teams who lose a coach often fire up for their new coach but there is just something missing at the moment and it is hard to warm to them right now. Young fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow lived up the hype last week scoring one of the solo tries of the year and can’t wait to see him again.
Manly Sea Eagles – Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Lottoland Des Hasler pulls off another ambush and the Sea Eagles record yet another epic win, this time over Parramatta. Manly had to hold off the fast-finishing Eels but they were great in the first half setting up the win. They are missing Tom Trbojevic no doubt and also Dylan Walker but Cade Cust is doing an excellent job in the No.6. Manly will revel in the return of big, bullocking prop Addin Fonua-Blake who is one of the best front-rowers in the competition and a player who can power his way over near the line of providing an off-load for a try. Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans rebounded from an ordinary game in the heavy loss to the Dragons to play a major hand in the upset win over the Eels. When Daly is in that frame of mind and his forwards are giving him some room, he is very dangerous. His kick game, like Moses’s for the Eels, will have a big bearing on the outcome. There is a 40-20 in him every game and you can bet he will orchestrate a few repeat sets that will keep the pressure of the Cowboys.
Broncos v Storm
Venue: Suncorp Stadium | Start: 7:55 PM (AEST)
Brisbane Broncos – I tipped Brisbane last week expecting a big turnaround in attitude and energy against the Wests Tigers but they were even worse than previously. A lot of fans from rivals clubs will be enjoying Brisbane’s misery and will be hoping Melbourne bury them on the Suncorp Stadium pitch. They may get there wish too unless the changes made by under siege coach Anthony Seibold has some positive effect on the team which to be honest right now looks hopeless lost and leaderless. Shifting Milford to fullback is not a bad move given he seems unable to make much happen in the halves. Kotoni Staggs is a big bonus back in the centres as he can break the line and score tries while many fans will be keen to see how Tom Dearden goes in the halves with Brodie Croft who really needs a big game against his former NRL club. Never in Brisbane’s 32-year history have they gone into a game at such big odds as $8 or have they received almost 20 points start from their opposition. The Brisbane board came out through the week and said Seibold had to win five of his last 10 games, a ridiculous statement that just adds more pressure on the coach. All they had to say was his job was safe until the end of the year when they would review his position. Hopefully, the board will take a good look at its own performance at the end of the year too. It is impossible to tip Brisbane to win this game but I do hope they are able to play well enough to avoid another damaging loss.
Melbourne Storm – One thing Storm coach Craig Bellamy will stress on his players before this clash is not to take any notice of Brisbane’s form or lack of it. His message before the game to his players will be “make sure you are ready to play” and not give Brisbane any head start. This is a total mismatch on paper and that can sometimes lead to a little complacency and a poor attitude but I am pretty sure thah will not be happening un Bellamy and skipper Cameron Smith. The 2006 Grand final loss to Brisbane was 14 years ago but for Smith and Melbourne fans every time they clash with Brisbane there is a score to settle. With Melbourne, you never really have to worry about too much. Their forwards are big, mobile and can off-load and when big Nelson Asofa-Solomona rips in off the bench look out. You Tina Fassuamaleaui is growing in confidence and he has become a real handful at times. Melbourne definitely has a big edege on the bench and are playing classes above Brisbane. You worry this could be a cricket score and if Melbourne gets far enough ahead they will have no sympathy at all for Brisbane’s plight.
NRL Tipping – Saturday July 25
Warriors v Roosters
Venue: Central Coast Stadium | Start: 3:00 PM (AEST)
NZ Warriors – Life is not great for the Warriors and it is reflecting on the football field. The club has sacked it’s coach, told some players already they won’t be required in 2021 and a few players have requested to return home. To expect them to be playing their best football under those circumstances if a lot to ask. It showed last weekend against Cronulla that their minds are not on football right now and it is hard to build a case for them against probably the best team in the competition. The way the Sharks savaged and mauled the Warriors a week again it’s hard to see a team like the Roosters not serving up an even bigger winning scoreline than last week’s 46-10 debacle. There was no aggression in the Warrior’s play last week and you need bucket loads of it against the Roosters. We know the Warriors on their day can be brilliant but this season those days haven’t rolled out too often.
Sydney Roosters – The Roosters have dropped a few games in recent weeks since a few key injuries but they won’t be losing this one I wouldn’t think. Went down in a hard-fought contest 24-20 to the Canberra Raiders at the SCG last weekend and they had excuses. Coach Trent Robinson has made a few little injury-forced changes but the side looks fairly settled and need to get back into the dominant early season form. The forward battle, as usual, will have a big bearing on this game and that is wearing the Roosters have a decided edge through Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sosiua Taukeioho, and the mobile Mitch Aubison who is back in the second-row. Young halfback Kyle Flamagan has been great in recent weeks and Luke Keary just continues to set up tries lining with his speedy outside men. And what about the Morris twins, Brett and Josh, how you stop them scoring tries and saving tries, they are playing like they are just starting their careers not getting closer to the end. Whichever way you look at this game it always comes up an easy Rooster’s victory.
Sharks v Dragons
Venue: Jubilee Stadium | Start: 5:30 PM (AEST)
Cronulla Sharks – Both these teams come into the local derby showdown off a last start win and with both teams sitting just outside the top 8 halfway through the season a win here is vital. Cronulla has been a little hot and cold this season but they ran the cleaners through an apathetic Warriors last week almost cracking 50 points. Centre Jesses Ramien grabbed a double while forward Bradin Hamlin-Uele was powerful with his charges which the Sharks will need against a very good Dragons pack of forwards. These games are always hard to pick and this one is no different. Two strong packs going at it, with Hamlin-Uele and Aaron Woods, expected to share the heavy workload against the like of Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizzel. Halves Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson hold the key with their running and kicking games, particularly Johnson when he gets his attacking head on and takes on the line. Josh Dugan needs to get involved a bit more and use his big body to soften up some of the Dragon’s outside backs. Both teams have points in them if the game opens up and hopefully, it will not develop into a dour arm wrestle and provide an entertaining game.
St George Dragons – The Dragons are slowly closing in on a top 8 spot winning four of their past six starts. These derby clashes usually bring the best out of the Dragons and after surviving a scare from the last-placed Bulldogs last weekend they will be out to set the record straight against the Sharks. If it wasn’t for Corey Norman’s lucky late try things could have been far different but a win is a win and the Dragons will be ready to 80 minutes this weekend. Utility Tyrell Fuimaono gets his debut for the Dragons in the back-row but the 23-year-old has already played NRL for South Sydney and Penrith so he obviously is talented. The Dragons have a side capable of playing finals football and coach Paul McGregor will remind them how hard that will be if they stumble now being so close to grabbing a top eight spot. Bent Hunt looks comfortable at dummy half and Adam Clune has stepped up in the No.7 which has taken some pressure of Corey Norman who can look for opportunities. Matt Dufty poses a real threat with his sizzling speed at fullback and he has added another weapon with his face-ball pass which is very difficult to defend at times. There will not be much in this battle I don’t think.
Raiders v Rabbitohs
Venue: GIO Stadium | Start: 7:35 PM (AEST)
Canberra Raiders – Great 80 minute effort to upset the Roosters and prove they are still in the premiership race despite the season-ending injury to hooker Josh Hodgson. The way the Raiders players dug in over the last 10-15 minutes last week was a sign they haven’t lost any hope or belief and neither should their fans. Jack Wighton continues to inspire his team with moment plays that constantly lift the Raiders. So too does the amazing Josh Papalii, surely one of the toughest and most tireless forwards in the game. When Papalii decides to inject himself it often leads to something good happening. Ricky Stuart has had to move Jordan Rapana into the centres this week o cover a hamstring injury to Michael Oldfield. Semi Velemei gets a run on the wing. It doesn’t matter where Rapana plays he is a real threat and a player who is aggressive. Siliva Havili stepped into the dummy half role last week and did an excellent job for the Raiders. He kept the attack straight up the middle and will only get better with more games under his best. I am sure Stuart would have been happy with his effort and his work rate. He faces a real test this week against the quicksilver Damien Cook who has to be watched closely out of the ruck.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – Talk about letting a game slip. Down 20-0 with 15 minutes to play the Rabbits suddenly decided to play some football and they almost pulled off a remarkable win over the Newcastle Knights who hung on bravely. I’m not sure what to make of South Sydney at the moment but any team which can score 18 points in 15 minutes has to be respected. Unfortunately, Souths are without speed men and strike weapons James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell so they are missing some sting in the attack. But the good news is Campbell Graham returns from a facial injury and will start in the centres. One thing Souths can ill-afford is another sluggish start against Canberra who has their tails up. Tom Burgess, Sam Tatola and Jaydn Su’A all need lots of running metres against a Raider’s pack with plenty of run in them.
NRL Tipping – Sunday July 26
Knights v Bulldogs
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium | Start: 2:00 PM (AEST)
Newcastle Knights – When they play their best football the Knights are a very dangerous side and they are capable of matching it with the gun sides. The manner in which they piled on 20 unanswered points last week against South Sydney suggests they can dispose of the lowly placed Bulldogs who were unlucky last round against the Dragons. Let’s face it, fourth against last is usually a mismatch and all things equal this should be another two premiership points to keep the Knights in the top 4. Kalyn Ponga showed last week he is back to his best and he is the key to Newcastle’s running game. The Knights halves Mitchell Pearce and Kurt Mann are going gangbusters. Mann has made the jump to playmaker well and he is playing with so much more confidence and running to the ball and troubling defences. The addition of former Broncos Andrew McCullough has stiffened up the middle third to the Knights and he has been a valuable mid-season acquisition. If the Dogs don’t do a good job defensively on young centre Bradman Best the flood gates could open. Across the park, the Knights appear to have edges in key positions and if they turn up hungry then they should have too many points in them for the Bulldogs.
Canterbury Bulldogs – Had every right to feel aggrieved last when they lost in the dying minutes to St George Illawarra. It was the performance of a forgettable season so far. They will have to work their butts off against Newcastle who likes to play at high speed and keep the pressure on their opponents for 80 minutes. One thing the Bulldogs can do is drag teams down a level and get them in a grind but that will be very hard to do if the Knights get a bit of ball and attack with their speed players Pearce and Luke Keary who is in great form. Dylan Napa, Josh Jackson Aiden Tolman and Luke Thompson all have a dig. You can’t question the commitment of Kieran Foran who never stops trying and takes a beat of a hammering for the team. Lachlan Lewis is back at halfback and gives the Dogs a bit if size and a better kicking game. They will need everything to go their way and a lot of luck to cause a big upset here,
Titans v Panthers
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium | Start: 4:05 PM (AEST)
Gold Coast Titans – Upsets do happen as last week clearly showed and with the Panthers having a few players out injured they could chase an upset. They will, however, need to improve their own game which has been lacking in recent weeks. The Titans forwards will have to go up a few notches on recent displays against a Panther’s pack which is one of the best in the competition. In this regard, Kevin Proctor and Jai Arrow will carry a lot of responsibility but they need support from their teammates who can’t sit back and watch them do all the heavy work. It will be a tough afternoon also Ash Taylor will have to take on Nathan Cleary who has rediscovered he Origin form in the past few weeks. Taylor has to back himself and take a few risks for the Titans to unsettle the Panthers.
Penrith Panthers – The Panthers look the best bet of round 11 despite a few players out injured Fullback Dylan Edwards (hammy), Dean Whare (groin) along with busy hooker Api Koroisau (elbow) who has been replaced by Mitch Kenny. Those are three very significant injuries but Penrith’s pack is still superior and provided they get an even share of position it is hard to see to likes of James Tamou, James Fisher-Harris, Isaah Yeo and Villame Kikau not shredding the Titans middle third and providing Cleary with the space he needs to work his craft. Cleary and young Jerome Luai are both dangerous around the rucks and Cleary’s ability to spot a mismatch or jump out of dummy half and open up holes is a joy to watch. Even though Penrith are down on troops they should still be way too good for the battling Titans.