We did well last week tipping 7-8 but I reckon a lot of tipsters notched a golden 8-8 with the Bulldogs providing the only real upset knocking off a disappointing Newcastle in poor conditions. Melbourne powered to their fifth straight win over the Brisbane Broncos who did not pay all that poorly but were run ragged in the second half. The Panthers claimed top spot on the NRL ladder but were made work extremely hard by the Gold Coast Titans who turned in one of their better performance since the COVID resumption.
This week looks like a favourites round again with a lot of teams like the Wests Tigers ($1.15), Sydney Roosters ($1.05), Canberra ($1.35), Parramatta ($1.12) and Melbourne ($1.12). For mine, the game of the round could be Manly up against ladder-leaders Penrith at Lottoland. You can bet Manly mentor Des Hasler has a few surprises in store for the Mountain Men and this could be a real physical battle.
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NRL Tipping – Thursday July 30
Dragons v Rabbitohs
Jubilee Stadium | 7:50 PM (AEST)
St George Dragons – Coach Paul McGregor has had to do some reshuffling of his backline to cover the absence of halfback Adam Clune. Ben Hunt shifts back to his familiar No.7 role while Cameron McInnes returns to the dummy-half duties. The other significant change is the return of Tariq Sims in the pack. The changes are not serious ones because both Hunt and McInnes are very familiar with the positions so it means minimal disruption to the way the Dragons play. Tristan Sailor has earned a recall on the wing and this kid can play. The Dragons were lucky winners over the Bulldogs in round 10 and last weekend they battled hard before losing to Cronulla who got home a controversial try ruling from the bunker which was later shown to be a “clanger” After passing the halfway mark of the season the Dragons can ill afford another loss because they would slip six-point out of the top 8. The match will be Corey Norman’s 200th and given it is the NRL’s Indigenous round you can expect something special from him. How good is Zac Lomax playing? The Dragons are playing well enough to trouble a South Sydney outfit which just can’t see to hit in straps at the moment.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – The Bunnies will welcome back Latrell Mitchell for Indigenous Round after the young fullback served out his two-week striking suspension. Like all indigenous players, Mitchell is extremely proud of his heritage and if he can channel his emotions in a positive way, he could prove a real handful for the Dragons defence. Souths have also named Alex Johnston on the wing but he still needs to pass a head assessment exam before being cleared to play. Big Liam Knight is a good inclusion for coach Wayne Bennett on the bench and his impact in the middle has been missed while he has been sidelined with an ankle injury. For some reason, the Rabbits just can’t seem to get their game right but if and when they do, they have a big score in them. Rabbits hooker Damien Cook is not making as many metres out of dummy half but that could because he is being worked over by teams in the middle. Not surprisingly he leads the NRL is tackles this season 545 defensive stops. If he can shake the shackles and work in tandem with Cody Walker and involve Mitchell whenever possible it will go a long way towards a South Sydney victory. Look for Tom Burgess to be at his aggressive running best and for Jaydn Su’A to serve up some off-loads. I have a feel Cam Murray will cross for a try in this game.
NRL Tipping – Friday July 31
West Tigers v Warriors
Campbelltown Stadium | 6:00 PM (AEST)
West Tigers – Coach Madge McGuire has shown faith his young players by naming Billy Walters in the halves ahead of Josh Reynolds who has been named in the 18 jersey for his first game back after a two-week suspension. There’s a possibility Reynolds could be a late addition to the 17 off the bench to ease the workload on young Grant McGuire has made three changes to his starting back with enforcer Russell Packer coping his second suspension of the season. The Tigers were competitive against Parramatta last weekend and at times they looked the better side before losing 26-16. If they produce that form against the Warriors they should bank another valuable two premiership points to stay in touch with the top eight. On-loan hooker Harry Grant continues to guide the Tigers around the park. He and young Walters seem to have a good understanding which, with the return of experienced leader Benji Marshal has made their attack more effective. The Tigers have a forward pack which is not full of stars but it is one which toils hard for every metre gained. This is where the battle will be one up against a big Warriors pack.
NZ Warriors – Despite all their dramas on and off the field the Warriors show plenty of fight last weekend before going down 18-10 to the Sydney Roosters. It was a big improvement from the Warriors who can sometimes throw in the towel when the going gets tough but they took it up to the Roosters and at one staged threatened a massive upset. The game was in the balance until Roosters centre Joseph Manu scored with just over 10 minutes of play remaining. What I liked about the Warriors last week was their attitude and refusal to be pushed around by the Roosters. Jack Hetherington, who is on loan from the Penrith Panthers, took some big strides towards a possible contract offer from the Warriors with his great battle against Roosters hard man Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves, refusing to take a backward step. He refused to be intimidated by Hargreaves and won a lot of admirers. The Warriors will need a similar performance from his and his teammates to beat the Tigers. They for the Warriors is starting well.
Broncos v Sharks
Suncorp Stadium | 7:55 PM (AEST)
Brisbane Broncos – Brisbane just keep getting hit by the bad luck stick. This time it is young halfback Brodie Croft out with a worrying shoulder injury forcing coach Anthony Seibold, who is already running low on troops to reshuffle his line-up, including his spine. It is not ideal. Veteran Darius Boyd returns to his old fullback role, Herbie Farnworth moves into the centres and the new winger is Richie Kenhar. In the pack, Seibold has also made changes with Jake Turpin resuming his hooking/dummy half role and Issac Luke joining Ethen Bullemore on the bench. While they are struggling for form, it is worth noting Brisbane have won their last six meetings with the Sharks so they do match up well on them. With eight losses from their past nine starts, this is their grand final. There was some talk David Fafita may play, but word is he won’t be rushed back and given he has signed a three-year multi-million dollar deal with the Gold Coast Titans, you could understand if Seibold preferred to groom another you player for 2021. It’s hard to have any confidence in Brisbane right now the way they are performing. Their defence is terrible and their attack not much better. They do have some ability however and cannot be written off just yet.
Cronulla Sharks – Can push for a top-four spot with a win over the Broncos and they come to Suncorp Stadium in good form and full of confidence. Their recent record against Brisbane is not flash but they have never met them at a more vulnerable time and the incentive to win is high. They had a bit of luck in their tight win over the Dragons last weekend but they do have five wins from the last six outings so that would suggest they are going along nicely. They will halve to win without their organiser Chad Townsend (calf) who spot has gone to Connor Tracey. Still, they have the magic man Shaun Johnson and Wade Graham to create opportunities and Josh Dugan will be primed for a big match celebrating his 200th NRL game. The Sharks pack has been going great guns in the past six weeks and they will be keen to get over the top of a young Broncos pack being led by Payne Haas and Tevita Pangai Junior.
NRL Tipping – Saturday August 1
Roosters v Titans
SCG | 3:00 PM (AEST)
Sydney Roosters – Had to work extra hard last week to beat the Warriors 18-10 and didn’t shut the game away until the final 10 minutes. Still, they got the job done against a much-improved Warriors outfit who took them on up the middle. It will be a similar story against the Titans who after snaring the prized signing of Brisbane representative forward David Fafita showed a lot more commitment the ladder topping Penrith Panthers who slugged out a 22-14 win in testing conditions at Cbus Stadium. Veteran Brett Morris is out with a back injury presenting Englishman Ryan Hall, a try-scoring machine in the English Super League with the opportunity to grab his first meat pie in the NRL. Despite his 11 game drought he is only $8.50 to get over the line first. James Tedesco as usual represents the biggest threat to the Titans as he can attack you from any part of the ground. While much is made of Tedesco’s attacking brilliance a lot of the Rooster’s tries are created by Luke Keary whose ability to skip across the field and deliver the right pass is as good as anyone in the game. As always the Titans will have to wrestle the supremacy in the middle from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho who invariably control the middle third game.
Gold Coast Titans – Showed a lot of improvement in many areas against Penrith last round and really took it to the Panthers before losing by only 8 points. Their defence was very good and they kept turning up against Penrith. There’s a possibility AJ Brimston may play his first game this season after being diagnosed with a career-threatening stress fracture (broken back) cut him down earlier this year. The 21-year-old is an outside chance of making a stunning injury comeback if the coach makes a late change. One player who obviously enjoys taking on the Roosters is winger Anthony Don who has collected six tries on 9 games against the chooks. Halfback Ash Taylor looked more comfortable last week behind a forward pack who lifted against the Panthers and who will have to lift even more against the Roosters big men.
Cowboys v Raiders
QLD Country Bank Stadium | 5:30 PM (AEST)
Nth Queensland Cowboys – The Cowboys appear to be struggling but they are a team who can throw in a good game every now and then. They didn’t offer a lot against Manly (24-12) last weekend and they will need more than a dozen points to beat the Raiders who are playing well despite the loss of Josh Hodgson. One bonus is the expected return of skilful utility Josh Asiata who returns to the pack after being sidelined with a knee injury. The Cowboys have managed just three wins this season and lost their coach earlier this month as a result of their poor form. It is hard to understand with their roster why they are struggling so badly and with Josh McGuire, Cohen Hess and Jason Taumololo in the engine room they should be doing so much better. The Raiders look to have an edge in the forwards and in the halves so it shapes as another tough night for Cowboys fans who haven’t had a lot to get excited about this season.
Canberra Raiders – Impressed with their grit in a tough 18-12 over South Sydney when they defended their goal line tigerishly in the second half when the Rabbits were coming to get them. Coach Ricky Stuart has done a great job in instilling confidence and belief in the Raiders who many feared would struggle to make the top 8 after losing their English hooker Josh Hodgson to an ACL season-ending injury. Instead, the Raiders have regrouped and bonded and last week’s win was proof they have a new resolve. They have had to make another key change with quality fullback Charnze Nicholl-Klopstad out with a finger injury. Jordan Rapana moves to fullback and he kicks returns will be a feature. Curtis Scott could return in the centre but needs clearance from his doctor for an infected arm. The big “in” for the Raiders though is quality Englishman John Bateman expected to return from shoulder surgery. He will be reunited with fellow English import Elliott Whitehead who has been in great form in recent weeks. With Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui leading the charges in the middle the Raiders should get away with a win here.
Sea Eagles v Panthers
Lottoland | 7:35 PM (AEST)
Manly Sea Eagles – This looms as a game Des Hasler will his players revved up to win and they could be a better chance than many think. Have been able to win a few games without Tom Trbojevic and they love a dog fight which they could drag the Panthers into at Lottoland where they love to play (six wins last eight games). Manly have a willing pack and when Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Tapau take it upon themselves to roll up their sleeves they can cause their fair share of middle damage. Fonua-Blake, in particular, bends the line nearly every run and his off-loading skills are very dangerous. Daly Cherry-Evans is back to his scheming best and a 40-20 could be on the cards the way he is playing. But if there is one player who is surprising Manly fans it is five-eighth Cade Cust who has been impressive. He is a running five-eighth and can break the lines and also set up his supports with a nice short or long pass. It will be a tough ask with Penrith on top of the ladder but they won’t shirk the hard work and the Panthers will have to go the full 80 minutes.
Penrith Panthers – This could be a State of Origin preview between opposing halves Nathan Cleary and Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans with both players in excellent form. Cleary, in particular, seems to be playing with renewed confidence and his kicking game is also spot on. Up from the Panthers has so much power through James Tamou, James Fisher-Harris, Isaah Yeo and of course Villame Kikau, the Panther’s strike forward who is so hard to stop close to the try line. Centre Stephen Crichton is one of the NRL’s more exciting players and he will need containing along with Josh Mansour, the ever-improving Brent Naden and Crichton who to me seems a try , hungry young man. The danger for Penrith will be letting Manly control the game tempo which they are experts at. They also punish sides for their mistakes. Has all the makings of a terrific clash and could be the game of the round.
NRL Tipping – Sunday August 2
Bulldogs v Eels
ANZ Stadium | 2:00 PM (AEST)
Canterbury Bulldogs – Had the moment in the sun last weekend upsetting Newcastle in poor conditions. Taking nothing away from the win, they won’t be a getting an 18-0 lead over the Eels like they did against the Knights who grabbed two late tries to make the final score respectable. There no doubt the Bulldogs will make life difficult if you keep them in the game and they worked hard last weekend to finally end a decent losing drought with their second win of the season. Backing it up against the Eels will be tough. Tim Lafai is a welcome return to the backline and he can score a try or two with his turn of speed and footwork if not marked closely. The Dogs have a roster that may lack a bit of quality but they don’t lack heart and they will see this as a chance to prove they are a club on the up with a new coach and some new players heading to Belmore in 2021.
Parramatta Eels – Parramatta continued their winning-way last weekend with a solid 26-16 win over the Wests Tigers to retain a top-four (third) place on the leader at the halfway mark. There is something about the way the Eels play that makes then hard to defend and they are one of the most potent attacking sides. Good to see Mitchell Moses back in action last week and with that game under his belt look for him to involve himself, even more, this week. A big night for veteran Josh Dugan who will play his 200th NRL game. There’s every chance we could see one his familiar backflips to celebrate a special try. Kane Evans is back on the bench and will be a handy injection when coach Matthew Arthur throws him into the battle. I like the Eels here provided they don’t go into their shell and try and get physical with the Bulldogs who love to rumble.
Storm v Knights
Sunshine Coast Stadium | 4:05 PM (AEST)
Melbourne Storm – Won their last five in a row and there is no more professional organisation the NRL than the Bellamy-coached, Smith-skippered Storm. Like a lot of NRL sides Newcastle doesn’t boast a great record against the Purple warriors whom they have not beaten since 2015. In recent weeks the Storm has beaten both of last year’s grand finalists Roosters and Canberra and they are scoring tries at will. They put almost 50 points on Brisbane last weekend and the Broncos didn’t play terribly. Cameron Smith is an absolute marvel, playing within himself at 37 years ago. His control on the field last week was a treat to watch and he shows no signs of slowing down. Even if he does, he is quicker between the ears than most players. Melbourne’s danger men, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and jet-like fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen all in super form. How to stop Melbourne is the challenge for Newcastle who showed some worrying signs last weekend. Hard to tip against the Storm.
Newcastle Knights – They will need to turn up in a better frame of mind than they did against the Bulldogs last weekend who Melbourne will put more points on them than the Dogs were able to. A loss could see their hard-earned spot in the top under threat although they have a three-point buffer over the 9th placed West Tigers and 10th placed South Sydney. Fullback Kalyn Ponga and Storm flyer Papenhuyzen will be key players with their ability to cut defences open and bob up anywhere and anytime. The pressure is always on Ponga and against a side like the Storm, he has to make sure he brings his A-game.