Matt Trodden, NRL.com
Canterbury Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons
The Bulldogs put their Hunter horrors behind them last Friday night, showing some of the spark that led them to a minor premiership with a 24-14 victory over the Broncos in wet and greasy conditions. They only lose one player to Origin duties, with Josh Morris replaced by Mitch Brown in the centres, and Drury Low coming in on the wing.
The Dragons’ inconsistencies continued last Saturday night with one of their most deflating performances in some time, going down 19-0 to the Panthers at WIN Jubilee Oval. They travel to ANZ Stadium minus Brett Morris and Trent Merrin, but are boosted by the addition of Matt Prior and the continued form of Josh Dugan, who will be keen to prove he is still up to Origin.
If you think...the Bulldogs’ home form has been tremendous when at full strength and Ben Barba will want to prove a point to Queensland selectors, tip Canterbury.
If you think...the Dragons can rebound from a disappointing home loss like so many teams did last weekend, tip St George Illawarra.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Newcastle Knights
The Rabbitohs’ wave of momentum came to a grinding halt on Monday night, seeming all at sea as they fell to Cronulla 14-12. It was their most ill-disciplined game in some time, and despite losing Greg Inglis, Chris McQueen, Ben Te’o, Sam Burgess and now John Sutton for this clash, they enter heavy favourites to stay atop the NRL ladder.
The Knights were similarly disappointing across the ditch last week, defeated by the Warriors 28-12, and it was a costly loss. Aku Uate and Kurt Gidley are both injured, that latter ruled out of the NSW Origin side, while Darius Boyd, also carrying an ankle injury, is on Queensland Origin duty, but Jeremy Smith does return from a six week suspension.
If you think...last week was but a minor blip on the Rabbitohs’ long-term premiership radar, tip Souths at home.
If you think...the Knights can again respond from a poor performance away from home, tip Newcastle.
Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys
The Titans were very impressive in Mudgee against Parramatta last Sunday, blowing them away in the second half with Albert Kelly and Jamal Idris running wild. They’ve lost their entire back-row to Origin duties, however Dave Taylor is back in the side and Mark Minichiello is a more than handy back-row replacement.
The Cowboys were unlucky at Leichhardt against the Tigers, but were also guilty of not putting a desperate side away when they had the chance. They’ve lost Johnathan Thurston, Brent Tate, James Tamou and Matt Scott to Origin duties, and Matt Bowen and Gavin Cooper to injury, causing a major reshuffle to their side, including the recall of Clint Greenshields, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Michael Morgan.
If you think...the Titans returned to true form last Sunday and will only get better, particularly at home, tip the Gold Coast.
If you think...a new-look Cowboys team will be able to shake any away game hoodoo that exists, tip North Queensland.
Brisbane Broncos v Warriors
The Broncos entered a typically turbulent Origin period with a poor loss against the Bulldogs last Friday night, but have a raft of changes ahead of a return to Suncorp Stadium. Scott Prince is back at five-eighth, however the loss of Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Matt Gillett will be hard to cover.
The Warriors took down the Knights at Mt Smart Stadium last Sunday, putting on some of their typical flair, but also displayed some steely defence to keep the visitors scoreless in the second half. They are completely unaffected by Origin, with only Konrad Hurrell returning this week, and have put in some good performances at Suncorp Stadium in recent years.
If you think...the return of the Prince will appease the loss of some Origin stars and turn around Brisbane’s fortunes, tip the Broncos.
If you think...the Warriors have finally found the right mix of flair in attack and fight in defence, tip the Kiwi boys in an upset.