Just the four games this weekend as we head towards State of Origin I.

St George Illawarra Dragons vs Brisbane Broncos

Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, 7:50pm, Thursday June 3

Team News: Matt Dufty is back, shifting Cody Ramsey to the wing, Brayden Williame moves into the centres, and Jack Bird has been named in the back-row. Jack de Belin will play his first NRL game in nearly 1000 days via the bench, replacing Jaiyden Hunt. Mikaele Ravalawa and Josh Kerr return from suspension, coming in for Jordan Pereira and Billy Burns.

MORE: De Belin charges DROPPED!

Tyson Gamble and Matt Lodge return from suspension in lieu of Anthony Milford and Payne Haas. Skipper Alex Glenn slots into the back-row, pushing Keenan Palasia to the bench and Dale Copley a reserve. Exciting winger Selwyn Cobbo will debut on the wing in place of Origin star Xavier Coates.

Prediction: Some look at these Origin rounds as a downer, but it's a chance to unearth new stars. There's massive wraps on Brisbane Broncos youngster, Selwyn Cobbo, his playing style likened to a Greg Inglis or Latrell Mitchell.

RELATED: Origin Watch - Queensland

But there's no doubt Jack de Belin is the storyline here. Nearly 1,000 days since his last NRL game, the spotlight will be on the controversial former Origin forward.

The big in here is Matt Dufty. So much of the Dragons attack goes through the fullback, his cut out balls are as classy as they come. Brisbane will have some confidence heading into this clash despite last week's result against Melbourne, however, Ben Hunt will be eager to try and win a spot back in the Origin side with a dominant display. Paul Vaughan is hitting some form and if de Belin is close to the player he was three years ago, Brisbane are in big trouble here. Dragons by 12

Wests Tigers vs Penrith Panthers

Leichhardt Oval, 7:55pm, Friday June 4

Team News:  Joe Ofahengaue is in Origin camp, giving Alex Seyfarth a starting spot at lock, and Stefano Utoikamanu re-joins the bench. Luciano Leilua will have to beat a charge at the judiciary to play.

Penrith have lost a whopping seven players to Origin as well as Moses Leota to a suspension. Matt Burton and Tyrone May are the new starting halves, with Dylan Edwards' return at fullback pushing Stephen Crichton back to the centres, while Jaeman Salmon is the bench utility. Spencer Leniu, Scott Sorensen and Matt Eisenhuth start for Leota, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo.

Robert Jennings plays his first game for the club since 2015, replacing Brian To'o on the wing, while Mitch Kenny is the hooker with Api Koroisau the Blues 18th man. J'maine Hopgood joins the bench, as does debutants Lindsay Smith and Izack Tago.

RELATED: Origin Watch - New South Wales

Prediction: Don't buy into those 'bold predictions' - Penrith are missing some troops but that doesn't make this an easy clash. The Tigers have only lost recruit Joe Ofahengaue to Origin, and have really been building since Adam Doueihi moved to the centres and Moses Mbye won the five-eighth spot. Their attack is clicking and they'll definitely head into this clash knowing it's a winnable one. The Panthers are rolling out an entire new spine from the one that won last weekend, the Tigers have a shot.

Unfortunately for Michael Maguire, the Panthers have arguably the best depth in the competition, their next-man-up mentality a massive positive heading into this clash. Still carrying the likes of Dylan Edwards, Viliame Kikau and James Fisher-Harris, the Panthers will win their 13th straight game to start the season, and leave the Tigers licking their wounds. Penrith by 14.

Melbourne Storm vs Gold Coast Titans

Sunshine Coast Stadium, 7:35pm, Saturday June 5

Team News: Dean Ieremia starts on the wing for Josh Addo-Carr, and international Kenny Bromwich returns to the side in Felise Kaufusi's place.

Ash Taylor returns to the side in place of Tanah Boyd at five-eighth, while Jayden Campbell debuts at fullback for the Origin-bound AJ Brimson. Sam Stone takes David Fifita's back-row spot, Sam McIntyre starts at lock for Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Jaimin Joliffe takes Moe Fotuaika's spot at prop. Joseph Vuna debuts on the bench, while Jai Whitbread replaces the injured Beau Fermor.

Prediction: For a side that showed so much promise, it's not looking great for the Titans. They've got shocking defensive resolve, leaking close to 40 against Cronulla. They're in a very similar predicament to South Sydney, they're happy to let their defence fall away because of their confidence in outscoring their opponent. Unfortunately for Justin Holbrook, they don't have the star power or class of the Bunnies, they need to toughen up when they haven't got the footy.

Melbourne are... Melbourne. They're a point-scoring machine, and only lost two players from last week's line-up to Origin, with Cam Munster and Harry Grant missing the past few weeks of club footy through injury. The team just steps up and does their job, regardless of who's wearing what jersey. Nicho Hynes and Brandon Smith were both destined for bench roles this season, yet are arguably the Storm's form duo. Especially without Fifita and Tino, the Gold Coast look toothless here and could get blown off the park in another dominant Melbourne display. Storm by 20.

Newcastle Knights vs. Parramatta Eels

McDonald Jones Stadium, 4:05pm, Sunday June 6

Team News: Newcastle have lost Daniel Saifiti to Origin, Dave Klemmer to suspension and Tyson Frizell to injury, promoting bench forwards Sauaso Sue and Jacob Saifiti to the front-row and Brodie Jones to an edge. Kurt Mann, Simi Sasagi and Jack Johns join the bench.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard returns from suspension in place of New South Welshman Junior Paulo, while Haze Dunster starts on the wing for the dropped Blake Ferguson. Marata Niukore starts at prop with Oregon Kaufusi dropping to the bench, while Dylan Brown returns in place of Jakob Arthur. Will Smith replaces Joey Lussick on the pine.

Prediction: Can Newcastle repeat the effort they gave against Manly? Will Parramatta lose in a third consecutive week? The short answer - no, to both. The Knights were resilient last week against Manly, but it was a win built on their middle forwards. Losing Saifiti and Klemmer is such a massive loss, especially coming up against a returning Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Dylan Brown is a massive in for the Eels, who will have the likes of Clint Gutherson and Reed Mahoney available in the Origin round. Ferguson's dropping will hopefully fix their defensive issues on the right. Hopefully, for Parramatta's sake, Waqa Blake remains on the left edge, becasue Bradman Best hasn't crossed the stripe since Round 1. The Knights may make a game of it early, but Parramatta will walk away with a relatively comfortable win. Parramatta by 16.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. With only one bye this season, the draw & amount of Penrith players chosen in SOO. Just a set up to make sure Penrith would lose games during this time.
    After last season, it would seem obvious that Penrith would have a good number of players unavailable due to SOO this year. So why wouldn’t Penrith be given a game in the second half of the split round, when a number of their players could still play?
    It was the same type of thing in 2004, the year after Penrith won a Premiership. There were 2 byes back then. However, Penrith were scheduled to play every game , before the SOO games.

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