Parramatta Eels v Sydney Roosters
The Eels are coming off the bye in Round 12, but have been given a massive shake-up after coach Ricky Stuart informed up to a dozen players their services aren't required for next season. In light of this decision, unsurprisingly, there are a number of changes this week, with Luke Kelly and Junior Paulo dropped, while Ryan Morgan, Brayden Wiliame, Jake Mullaney, Pat O’Hanlon and Kenny Edwards all received call ups. Maitua could be a late withdrawal.
The Roosters also had the bye in Round 12, recovering from a bruising loss to the Storm in Round 11. They’re unchanged from that game, with Michael Jennings, James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce all backing up from State of Origin on Wednesday night.
If you think...the midweek player roster shake up will kick the new-look Eels into gear at home, tip Parramatta.
If you think...the Tricolours can get themselves back on track after a minor hiccup against Melbourne, tip the Roosters.
Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
The Knights’ inconsistent form continued last Saturday night against the Rabbitohs, with Newcastle taking an early 12-0 lead before being outclassed 25-18. They welcome Origin star Darius Boyd back at fullback, while Chris Houston has earned a reprieve after Alex McKinnon’s high ankle sprain.
The Dragons had a tumultuous week following a heartbreaking defeat to the Bulldogs last Friday night, with five-eighth Jamie Soward given time off training early in the week before being dropped to the NSW Cup. Brett Morris and Trent Merrin are likely to return from NSW duty, while a backline reshuffle sees Chase Stanley at five-eighth and Nathan Green in the centres.
If you think...the Knights’ home form is too hard to resist, tip Newcastle.
If you think...the new-look St George Illawarra halves pairing will produce results, tip the Dragons on the road.
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury Bulldogs
An understrength Dragons side were outplayed last Sunday by the Gold Coast, and the pressure is growing on coach Neil Henry. They welcome back five Origin stars, including star playmaker Johnathan Thurston, for this home game against Canterbury, a team they took down in the opening round on the competition at Gosford.
The Bulldogs held on for an important victory over the Dragons last week, with their forward dominance proving vital in the middle of the park. They welcome back Krisnan Inu in the centres, with Drury Low out of the side, however NSW players Josh Morris and Josh Reynolds haven’t been named and are expected to back up.
If you think...a bruised and battered Cowboys team will relish a return to 1300SMILES Stadium and get their season back on track, tip North Queensland.
If you think...the Bulldogs have found the momentum that they so sorely lacked in the opening rounds, tip Canterbury.
Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers
The bye came at the worst possible time for the Panthers, who were on a three game winning streak with victories over the Warriors, Storm and Dragons. Ivan Cleary has unsurprisingly stuck with the same side that dismantled the Dragons 19-0, as they look to take down the Tigers for the first time since Round 7 2010.
The Tigers also had the bye last week, and while they did get a win over the Cowboys in Round 11, their injury crisis has worsened as they lost James Tedesco, Liam Fulton and Bodene Thompson from that game, followed by captain Robbie Farah from the State of Origin game on Wednesday night. Sean Meaney and Jared Farlow have received call ups, while it is expected Masada Iosefa will replace Farah at dummy half.
If you think...the Panthers are on a roll and will be buoyed by their recent form on home soil, tip Penrith.
If you think...the Tigers will rally as a group and produce a big performance in this western Sydney derby, tip the black, white and golds.
Warriors v Manly Sea Eagles
The Warriors produced the performance of the weekend last round, downing the Broncos 56-18 at Suncorp Stadium as their attacking flair clicked all at once. They’ve stuck with the same side for the 2011 Grand Final re-match, with Konrad Hurrell retaining his spot in the centres and Dominique Peyroux again on the bench.
The Sea Eagles will travel across the ditch full of confidence after a tight win over Canberra at home two weeks ago. They have Anthony Watmough backing up from Origin duties, but have a settled lineup who will be out to defend their very good record in Auckland, where they haven’t lost since 2007.
If you think...the Warriors attack has clicked for this year, tip the Kiwi boys.
If you think...the dogged Manly side are starting to grind out victories as they commonly do, tip the Sea Eagles.
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks
The Storm got themselves back on track with a win in Round 11 before a bye prior to Origin in Round 12. This week they’re back home and unchanged, with four Origin stars set to back up from Wednesday night’s game. The Storm have won eight of the past ten meetings between the two sides, and will be looking to continue their great home record against them.
The Sharks have hit form even without their stars Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis, winning their last four straight before a bye in Round 12. With Gallen suspended, expect Chris Heighington to start at lock, with Tyrone Peachey to come onto the bench, while Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita will probably start from the bench.
If you think...the Storm will continue their unbeaten record against the Sharks at AAMI Park and push back towards the top of the ladder, tip Melbourne.
If you think...the Sharks are starting to look a quality side even without Gallen, tip Cronulla on the road.
Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos
After some good form not too long ago, the Raiders seem to have hit a snag on the field, with back-to-back losses leading into the Round 12 bye. They’re unchanged from Round 11, with David Shillington and Blake Ferguson both expected to back up and take on Brisbane, where Canberra are looking to beat the Broncos for the fifth time in six matches in the nation’s capital.
It’s a different looking Broncos side to that which were dismantled 56-18 by the Warriors at home last Monday night. Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett and Corey Parker have all been named to back-up, while Justin Hodges hasn’t been named and isn’t likely to be a late inclusion. The Broncos will be searching for just their third win outside of Queensland this season.
If you think...the Raiders ability to pile on the points at home will have the Broncos remembering last week, tip Canberra.
If you think...the return of their Origin stars will turn Brisbane into a different team, tip the Broncos on the road.