Big Match-ups: Round 17
Bulldogs v Sea Eagles: Jack Littlejohn & Kieran Foran v Mick Ennis and Josh Jackson
In the red corner you have two quality halves, and in the blue corner you have two quality footballers being asked to play in the halves. It seems a bit of a mismatch but if Ennis and Jackson – and Damien Cook at hooker – can't find a way to put in some quality fifth-tackle kicks and control the game as well as their opposite numbers, things could get ugly for the Bulldogs.
Dragons v Cowboys: Benji Marshall v Michael Morgan
While Cowboys custodian Michael Morgan will be buzzing about his inclusion into the Maroons team at 19th man, Benji Marshall is happy just to be back in the NRL. Morgan has made the most of his time in the No.1 jumper this season, as his 13 try assists, six tries, 10 try saves and 11 line break assists attest, and it bodes well for his move into halfback this weekend. On the other side of the ledger is Marshall who has been solid without being spectacular in his six appearances in the Red V jumper this year. The 29-year-old has assisted in six tries and produced six line break assists and will only get better as he becomes more comfortable in the club's structures.
Roosters v Sharks: Sonny Bill Williams v Wade Graham
If SBW's showings against former club the Bulldogs are anything to go by, the big man loves nothing more than a square-up, so it's safe to say he won't have forgotten the big 'don't argue' he copped from Sharks centre Ricky Leutele that left him for dead back in Round 7 on Sharks turf. With three tries, a line break assist a game and an average of 125 running metres in his past five starts, Williams is already in fearsome enough form without any added motivation, and the unenviable task of keeping him quiet will likely fall on stand-in captain Graham, one of Cronulla's few consistent performers this year. Graham's four tries, 29 tackles and 100 metres per game in a seriously underperforming Sharks outfit have seen him marked as an Origin player of the future, and he'll need to be at his best in shaping up to one of the game's genuine superstars.
Wests Tigers v Panthers: Martin Taupau v Adam Docker
In a league where their biggest names are exalted on a stage far bigger than that clubland can muster, Tigers prop Martin Taupau and Penrith lock Adam Docker are a couple of small-time talents. But if we're talking literal bang for your buck, then these two blokes are certain to provide some human fireworks on Sunday afternoon. Taupau, a fearless and vocal runner of the ball, versus Docker, a fearless folder of all things that move – this ain't a match made in heaven. It's a match that's about to be lit up.
Rabbitohs v Titans: John Sutton v Maurice Blair
Two players who started their careers in the centres, have flirted with stints in the back row, both kick off their left foot and are now the ones largely responsible for the direction of their respective teams; there are a lot of similarities in what John Sutton and Maurice Blair bring to their football sides. After starting the season at lock Sutton's move back to five-eighth has led to a much more cohesive Rabbitohs' outfit and he has come up with five try assists in his past four games. While Adam Reynolds is responsible for much of South Sydney's kicking game Sutton's left-foot option becomes more dangerous the closer his side gets to the tryline. Likewise, Blair has proven in the past fortnight that he is adept at finding the in-goal with his left boot and should complement the direct style of Daniel Mortimer perfectly. They will operate on opposite sides of the field but both will be integral in establishing the formation of their team's attack.