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With Nathan Stapleton leaving the Sharks, the goal-kicking duties are expected to fall to Daniel Holdsworth this weekend in VB NSW Cup action.

Illawarra Cutters Vs Newcastle Knights
WIN Jubilee Oval, Saturday, July 5, 2.40pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ

The fourth placed Illawarra Cutters will play host to the eighth placed Knights at WIN Jubilee this Saturday in a clash that may have major finals ramifications for both sides. The Knights have strung together three consecutive wins, and as a result have jumped back into the eight, but such is the closeness of this year’s competition, a loss here could see them fall out of it once again. The Cutters continue to grip onto a top four spot, and with a second bye still up their sleeve, they are in the box seat to hold onto that spot over the concluding rounds. With that said, they will still need to keep winning games. The Cutters attack had a field day last Saturday at Brookvale Oval as they ran in 11 tries. In fact, the 46-12 score line may well have been much bigger except for the strong winds that hit Sydney over the weekend, which made it a tough day at the office for Sam Duggan, who only managed to convert one of the tries. The Knights also clicked into gear, posting 34 points against a good Wenty outfit. Unlike Duggan, Mantellato was able to master the blustery conditions up north and kicked five from six, with most of those from out wide and seemingly un-kickable in the conditions. In what looms as a close clash perhaps the Italian international’s right boot may prove to be the difference.

Hard day’s Knight: The Knights recent good run of form will well and truly be tested on Saturday. No less than six players will be unavailable, all of which would certainly be starters in this side. Tyler Randell and Chanel Mata’utia will both be stood down as they were selected in the VB NSW Cup Representative side while Michael Dobson, Marvin Filipo, Matt Hilder and Travis Waddell are all unavailable for a variety of reasons, although given the importance of this clash, we wouldn’t be shocked to see one or two of the afore mentioned players rushed back. Interestingly, it was announced today that the club had also signed former Raider Sam Mataora effective immediately, but it won’t be known until game day if he is to be rushed into this side.

Prediction: Have to tip the home side purely based on players available, but the Knights will be up for the fight and an upset may well be on the cards. Cutters by 2.

Newtown Jets Vs Cronulla Sharks
Henson Park, Saturday, July 5, 3.00pm
Referee: Matt Cecchin
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (

The ninth placed Jets host the seventh placed Sharks in a clash that both sides will be viewing as a must-win game. The Jets stayed within touching distance of the eight last weekend with a professional 40-26 win over Wyong, while the Sharks were outplayed by the Bulldogs, going down 37-24. Neither of these two sides have ever really gotten anything going so to speak this season with consecutive wins tough to come by at times. Given the compact nature of the bottom half of the eight it would be likely that both of these sides would need to win at least half of their remaining games to feature in the finals. In team news, Nathan Stapleton played his last game for the Sharks last weekend, and would have been in line to face his old club here, having signed with the Roosters mid-week, however his selection in the VB NSW Cup Representative side scuttled any chance of that happening. The Jets will also not have the services of Willis Meehan, who was also named in the rep team, while Jets regulars, Kane Evans and Heath L’Estrange will play for the Roosters. For the Sharks, Josh Portlock comes into the backline to replace Nathan Stapleton while Tim Robinson has also been selected in the VB NSW Cup Representative side and will be unavailable here.

Filling the hole: Not only has the Sharks lost a very capable outside back in Nathan Stapleton, but as a result they will now be without their first choice goal kicker. One would assume that Daniel Holdsworth would take over those duties given that he has a history, particularly in England, as being a serviceable shot at goal. He has big shoes to fill, hopefully he has been working on it at training this week.

Prediction: Going with the Sharks, but with very little confidence. Sharks by 4.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Mounties
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, July 5, 3.00pm
Referee: Chris James
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (

Another intriguing clash here between two sides at different ends of the ladder. Mounties rocketed home like a steam train last weekend at Campbelltown to knock over the Tigers, while the Bulldogs showed that they can match it with anyone on their day, knocking off a classy Sharks side 37-24 at Henson Park. The biggest problem this year for the Bulldogs has been their inconsistency from week to week. Big wins, such as the one they posted last week, have often been followed up by disappointing showings the following week. The Bulldogs are still very much alive for a finals berth but as they currently sit seven points behind the eighth placed Knights, the Bulldogs will need to win seven of their eight remaining matches to have any chance. A quick glance at the Dogs run home shows that they have games against the three sides immediately above them on the ladder in Manly, Wyong and Newtown as well as a game against the Bears who sit in last place. So while winning seven of their remaining eight games may seem a bridge too far, it is not beyond the realms of possibility. Despite sitting in fifth on the ladder, Mounties will do it tough this week, as they will lose several players to Representative duties. Jack Ahearn, Mitch Cornish, Jake Foster and Mark Nicholls have all been selected in the Representative side set to face QLD prior to game three of the Origin series, so Mounties depth will certainly be tested this weekend.

Fast Start: When these two sides last met back in Round 11, the Bulldogs spotted Mounties some 26 points head start before rattling home to eventually fall short by just the two points, going down 38-36. A faster start here will be the message from Andy Patmore pre-game.

Prediction: As we alluded to above, the Dogs are tough to catch on any given week, but we think they can get it done at home. Bulldogs by 6.

Wyong Roos Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Morry Breen Oval, Saturday, July 5, 3.00pm
Referee: Chris Sutton
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via

Any slim chance Manly had of playing finals football in 2014 most likely went out the window last Saturday when they went down 46-12 to the Cutters. While they do still sit above the Bulldogs by a single competition point entering Round 17, they have had both of their byes, so the Bulldogs are effectively above them in a sense. Wyong also came up short against the Jets in a game they would have loved to have won but they can’t dwell on that result now and will need to be on their guard at home this weekend. This is effectively a four point game for the Roos, as they will enjoy the bye, and the two points that come with it next weekend. So a win here should see them still in the hunt for the eight when they return to action in Round 19. For the second year running, Mitch Williams has been selected for the VB NSW Cup Representative side which is a wonderful feather in not only his cap, but the club in general. Unfortunately for the Roos, in addition to Williams, they will also be without Jay Florimo, Bennett Leslie and Tekina Vailea who will all miss here through suspension. Manly are not without their own issues, with Clinton Gutherson set to miss due to representative duties while Jack Littlejohn has been named to play first-grade.  

Metre-Eater: Wyong’s Magnus Stromquist continues to be one of the competitions most underrated forwards. The man with the name that makes him sound like he should be competing in a ‘Strongest Man’ competition in Europe somewhere has led the league this year in hit ups, with 207, which is 20 more than the second placed Lachlan Burr of the Bulldogs. Look for the nugget prop to lead from the front once again on Saturday.

Prediction: A real coin toss but the loss of Mitch Williams is a big one for the Roos and perhaps swings the pendulum ever so slightly in the Sea Eagles favour. Sea Eagles by 2.

Wests Tigers Vs Penrith Panthers
Leichhardt Oval, Sunday, July 6, 11.00am
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (

The Wests Tigers will be smarting following their late capitulation against Mounties last weekend. The Tigers led the match 26-6 with less than 20 minutes remaining, however, Mounties posted four late converted tries to steal the win and hand the Tigers their first defeat in some two months. The Panthers pulled one out of the fire against the Warriors after they trailed 14-6 late in the match but a late try to Kevin Kingston was enough to see the Panthers continue on their winning ways. The Panthers not only continued a trend of winning but they also continued their trend of winning close affairs. The Panthers will be without Sam Anderson, Waqa Blake and Isaah Yeo for this clash after all three were selected in the VB NSW Cup Representative side, but they will still field a side that won’t lack for class. Despite being named here for the Tigers, the rumour doing the rounds is that Mitchell Moses will be handed an NRL debut this weekend, so that will further affect this Tigers VB NSW Cup side who will already be without Jack Buchanan and Nathan Brown (VB NSW Cup Rep side) as well as a couple of others who have been elevated to cover for the loss of Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah.

Where to for Eto: Nabuli is off contract at the end of this season, and while the former Fijian porter has not quite reached the same heights in 2014 that he did in 2013, he would still make a nice addition to some clubs Top 25. It would seem his future lies elsewhere otherwise you would imagine that the powers that be at the foot of the mountains might have re-signed him by now. That being the case, every match is a potential job interview for Nabuli now and there have been some signs in recent weeks that he is getting back to something like his best. Look for Nabuli to be a prolific try scorer over the competitions concluding rounds.

Prediction: Both sides have lost players but the Panthers look to have covered for their losses better. Panthers by 8.

Wentworthville Magpies Vs North Sydney Bears
Ringrose Park, Sunday, July 6, 3.00pm
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H FM (

Wenty relinquished its share of top spot on the ladder last weekend, going down to the Knights 34-14 while the Bears were sitting at home with their feet up thanks to their second bye of the season. The Magpies will need to be at their best here as their side is ravaged by injury. Luke Kelly, Kelepi Tanginoa and Fuifui Moimoi have all not been named while several other are still unavailable either because of injury or are just being rested having played NRL in recent weeks. The Bears will also be without a number of regulars, with several fringe players moving into the NRL this week to cover for the loss of Origin players within South Sydney’s ranks. It will be interesting to see how the Bears approach the rest of the season given that they are zero chance of participating in the finals series. Hopefully, the Bears will now throw caution to the wind and play some exciting football as to at least give their diehard fans some enjoyment over the concluding stages of what has been a tough season for the red and blacks. Both clubs have had to call upon players from their respective Ron Massey Cup squads this weekend so it will be interesting to see who steps up to the plate.

Top of the Pops: Bureta Faraimo grabbed his 14th try of the season last weekend against the Knights and now sits equal second alongside Sami Sauiluma and just one behind Marika Koroibete. With Koroibete having left the Tigers and joining the Storm, it may well now be a race in two between Faraimo and Sauiluma to claim top spot over the final eight rounds. Koroibete might still feature but given it is unsure how many, if indeed any appearances he will make for the Sharks, your money would have to be on one of these two.

Prediction: If the Bears are ever going to knock over one of the big guns, it will be this week. Bears by 4. 

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