Big match-ups: Round 10
Rabbitohs v Storm: Greg Inglis v Billy Slater
The Human Highlight reels – Greg Inglis and Billy Slater have been in so many highlight packages throughout their careers they would be deserving of a sport in the Sportscentre Hall of Fame. On Friday night the two will line up as opposing fullbacks, and the neutrals among us will be hoping both dig into their deep bag of tricks.
Inglis has 677 kick return metres for the year, the most of any player in the competition as well as 8 line breaks (5th in the NRL). Slater has shown these past three weeks why he is the Australian and Queensland No.1, averaging 211 meters with a total of 5 line breaks. Both men are in form and should turn on a Friday night fullback spectacle.
Broncos v Titans: Nate Myles v Josh McGuire
Two men who both play well above their weight, Myles and McGuire could be Maroons teammates when the team is named next Monday but for now they are two opposing bulls ready to butt heads in the very middle of the paddock.
In a well beaten forward pack last week McGuire could hold his head high with a valiant 132m and 42 tackles while Myles fought hard to rack up 117m and 38 tackles amidst an unrelenting red-and-green wave. There's nothing too fancy about either of these props and while Myles has the height advantage (187cm to 180cm), McGuire tops the weight count by one kilogram. The pretty boys may get the plaudits but these two will help decide who gets to dictate territory and possession.
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Eels v Dragons: Jarryd Hayne v Josh Dugan
Laurie Daley's NSW team for Game I will have been more or less picked, but that doesn't mean the last word - and bragging rights - aren’t on the line when the top two candidates for the fullback spot meet face-to-face on Saturday afternoon.
Debate has intensified in recent weeks over whether there is space for both, and the mouth-watering clash between two attacking spearheads will only add more fuel to the fire.
Sharks v Wests Tigers: Jeff Robson v Luke Brooks
The old dog takes on the young pup this weekend at Remondis Stadium. Jeff Robson's return to the Sharkies outfit in Round 5 saw Cronulla return to their best. Without Todd Carney's presence in the team in recent weeks, Robson has been trying his best to steer the team around. In five games this season, the Sharks halfback has produced a line-break, four offloads, six try-assists and three line-break assists.
Taking on the young gun this week in the form of Tigers halfback Luke Brooks, Robson will have to be wary of his opposite No. 7, especially with Wests skipper Robbie Farah returning. Brooks has scored two tries and produced a line-break, six try-assists and five line-break assists in his debut season.
Cowboys v Roosters: Johnathan Thurston v Sonny Bill Williams
This is just one of a host of exciting match-ups across the park. Up front it’s Scott and Tamou versus Waerea-Hargreaves and Moa, the capped custodian Anthony Minichiello opposite newbie Michael Morgan, an Origin pre-cursor with Tate facing Jennings...
But you really can't go past 'JT' versus Sonny Bill. How will Thurston tackle that thing? How will SBW keep up to Thurston’s artistry? We think it will be by committee on both accounts.
Raiders v Panthers: Terry Campese v Jamie Soward
Two former NSW State of Origin five-eighths will line up against one another at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon, both with plenty to prove, particularly Campese. Reverting to the no. 6 jersey to accommodate the inclusion of Josh McCrone at halfback, the Raiders skipper will need to turn in a huge performance if his side are to reverse their recent form.
Statistically, both Campese (2706 kick metres & four try assists) and Soward (2843 kick metres & six try assists) have posted similar numbers in 2014. But it was Soward’s strong showing in Round 9 (467 kick metres, four tackle breaks, a line break and a try) which indicates he is one of the form five-eighths of the competition. It remains to be seen which of these men will fire come Sunday, but their offensive output will go a long way to determining the result.
Bulldogs v Warriors: Tim Lafai v Konrad Hurrell
The two 22-year-old centres come off spectacular performances last week and are the key strike weapons in this match. There was hardly a Raiders player on the park who could tackle Hurrell last Saturday, with the Tongan international breaking eight tackles and breaching the line on three occasions. His solo efforts stand out, but Hurrell is also the equal-highest Warrior in terms of try assists, with four.
Lafai too was in a league of his own last up, scoring a hat trick of tries and busting through six tackles. The Samoan-born star has been averaging 125 metres per match, providing the Bulldogs with a reliable right-side option to compliment Josh Morris on the left.
Sea Eagles v Knights: Darius Boyd v Brett Stewart
Two fullbacks, two senior players (the latter acting captain). The former is an incumbent Kangaroo and Origin player, the latter may have played the last of his eight Origins and is highly unlikely to add to his one Test. But with a stunning 11 try assists, eight line break assists, two tries and four line breaks in six games it is Stewart who is proving a massive boon for his team and is one of the form players of the competition.
The numbers for Boyd are concerning for Newcastle fans given the importance of the fullback in the modern game: despite having played one more game than his opposite number Boyd has just one try, one try assist, one line break assist and two line breaks. The Knights desperately need him to provide the spark and bring a Stewart-like level of influence to his team's performance if they want to win this one.