Penrith Panthers v Brisbane Broncos
Two last-start winners will duke it out for a top eight spot in Friday night football, but come into the game in contrasting form. The Broncos haven’t lost since Round 18, with three wins and a draw reviving their lost season, while the Panthers have won just one of their last five but remain in the hunt. The Broncos haven’t been successful at Centrebet Stadium since 2009, however have won four of the last six meetings between the sides.
If you think...Centrebet Stadium will be able to keep the Panthers faint hopes of finals alive, tip Penrith.
If you think...Josh Hoffman and Corey Parker will tear the home side up through the middle of the park, tip the Broncos.
Souths Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury Bulldogs
We’re back at ANZ Stadium for a clash between two competition heavyweights and a replay of last year’s preliminary final. Souths may have been successful in Round Four, but it was just their second win over the Bulldogs in seven games, all of which were at ANZ. Last week’s win was the Rabbitohs first in three weeks, while the Bulldogs have looked more dangerous with Josh Morris at fullback winning four of their last five.
If you think...Souths have found their groove with Inglis and Sutton back in the side, tip the Rabbitohs.
If you think...the Bulldogs are clicking with Josh Morris at fullback and can repeat their preliminary final win from 2013, tip Canterbury.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers
We’re back at the SCG for a clash between these old rivals, and while the Dragons regular hero against the Tigers Jamie Soward has left, they will revel in their good recent record in home games against Wests. The Black, gold and whites haven’t won an away game against St George Illawarra since 2008, also the year of the Tigers’ last win at the SCG. The home side are on a four match losing streak, the visitors a six match one….take your pick whose will end this week.
If you think...the new look Dragons backline can tear apart the visitors like their predecessors did 50 years ago, tip St George Illawarra.
If you think…a beaten and bruised Wests can end their losing run and start regaining some pride, tip the Tigers.
Gold Coast Titans v Warriors
The Titans’ momentum heading into the finals was halted by the Cowboys last Saturday night, but the return of Albert Kelly will certainly give them a boost ahead of this week’s clash. The Warriors however, have become somewhat of a bogey side for the Gold Coast, having won the past five clashes, including two at Skilled Park, all stretching back to the 2011 Qualifying Final at the same venue.
If you think...the Gold Coast will be buoyed by the return of halfback Albert Kelly, who can spark their attack, tip the Titans.
If you think...the Warriors can rebound from a disappointing home loss and keep their season alive, tip the Kiwi boys.
North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights
Amazingly since telling Neil Henry his services weren’t required for 2014, the Cowboys have fired back into finals contention. The Knights and their 7th position are in the home side’s sights, although they’ll have a tough job in Townsville, having won just three times at 1300SMILES Stadium in the past 10 seasons. Prior to Newcastle’s Round Three win this year the Cowboys had won the four of the past five games, but North Queensland haven’t lost since Henry’s sacking.
If you think...the Cowboys wave of momentum can help them pick up another two points at home and move into the top eight, tip North Queensland.
If you think...an upset may be on the cards in Townsville this week, tip the Knights.
Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles
As the common rugby league narrative goes, you sack the coach mid-season and the team starts winning. It will be Manly’s job to stop that from playing out this Sunday, and all evidence points to them completing that job - the Raiders have won just two of 12 games against the Sea Eagles and not in Canberra since 2004. Canberra have also lost their last two at home, while the Sea Eagles are searching for four wins straight on the road.
If you think...the sacking of David Furner can galvanise the Raiders team and deliver a win at home, tip Canberra.
If you think...the Sea Eagles will be fired up after their controversial game last week and will come out firing, tip Manly.
Melbourne Storm v Parramatta Eels
It was only four years ago that these two teams met in the season’s decider, however it’s a totally different equation now. The Storm have won their past three after a mid-season stumble, while Parramatta have won just once in the past 12 games. It was the return of Jarryd Hayne that spurred them on that night, and his absence will prove vital in this clash. The teams have traded wins recently, but crucially the Eels haven’t won in Melbourne since 2005.
If you think...Melbourne are timing their run into the finals perfectly and won’t be troubled by the 16th placed Eels, tip the Storm.
If you think...the Eels could just cause the upset of the season and move one big step away from back-to-back wooden spoons, tip Parramatta.
Cronulla Sharks v Sydney Roosters
Only a last-gasp try from Andrew Fifita was able to get the Sharks home last week, while the Roosters annihilated an undermanned Wests Tigers to hold onto top spot. The Sharks form has been indifferent recently, but they’ve found a way to win (like last Saturday where they made 18 errors and completed at just 55%). The Roosters have won eight on the trot, including a 40-0 win over the Sharks just five weeks ago.
If you think...the Sharks got the wake up call they required against the Dragons last week and won’t lose at home, tip Cronulla.
If you think...the Tricolours are simply unbeatable in current form and won’t be worried about the loss of Luke O’Donnell, tip the Roosters.