St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Sydney Roosters
WIN Stadium, 7:50pm, Thursday August 6
Team News: Corey Norman has been dropped, with Ben Hunt shifting to five-eighth and Adam Clune returning at halfback, while Trent Merrin replaces Jacob Host on the bench. Josh Morris’ return pushes Sitili Tupouniua to the back-row, Nat Butcher to the bench and Daniel Fifita dropped. Kyle Flanagan is out, with Lachlan Lam starting at halfback and Drew Hutchinson on the bench.
Prediction: This year’s ANZAC clash will commemorate the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine, with the regular April 25th game not played due to the COVID shutdown. The Roosters have lost JWH late, but they still seem to have too much firepower in the forwards against a Red V outfit missing Paul Vaughan.
They rushed out to a handy lead last week the Dragons, though last the final 60 minutes 32-8. Dropping Norman is a statement but is Hunt and Clune the answer? Luke Keary always stands tall when missing his halves partner, he’ll have a blinder in ‘Aubbo’s 300th. Roosters by 20.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles vs. New Zealand Warriors
Lottoland, 6:00pm, Friday August 7
Prediction: Blake Green has left the Warriors on the Central Coast for a quick trip down the M1 to Newcastle for the remainder of 2020, and boy they’ll miss his steady hand. It gives Chanel Harris-Tavita a chance to shine but does he and Nikorima have enough experience to really control a match?
On the flip side is DCE, who alongside Nathan Cleary, is the best halfback in terms of grabbing a match by the throat. Cade Cust returns and is a great foil for Cherry-Evans, who’ll have a mammoth game as the club bounces back from the drubbing from Penrith. Manly by 19.
ANZ Stadium, 7:55pm, Friday August 7
Team News: South Sydney are unchanged, with Adam Reynolds overcoming a burner, and Jaydn Su’A set to fight the judiciary. If Su’A is suspended, expect Jack Johns to come into the 17. David Fifita returns in the back-row, shifting Joe Ofahengaue to the bench and Ethan Bullemor out. Anthony Milford’s hamstring injury sees Brodie Croft return at five-eighth.
Prediction: Wayne Bennett vs. Anthony Seibold? Nah nah, come on down Jason Demetriou. Bennett has been banned for two weeks due to a COVID breach, with the former Brisbane assistant Demetriou making his debut. The Rabbitohs did extremely well to bounce back last week, missing Adam Reynolds and trailing 16-0, coming out victorious 32-24.
However, Brisbane’s pack is the best its looked this year. Haas, Flegler, Ofahengaue, Fifita, Pangai Junior, Carrigan, Te’o and Lodge likely to come onto the bench. With Su’A suspended, expect Jack Johns to start, with other starting second-rower Bailey Sironen combining for less than 20 NRL games.
Souths will be vulnerable on the edges, but Brisbane’s issue lies in the halves pairing of Croft and Dearden, neither have that spark, they’re too similar in how they play. Their forward pack can lead the horse to water, but the halves won’t be able to make it drink. A returning Reynolds will have a big influence. Souths by 4.
Melbourne Storm vs. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Sunshine Coast Stadium, 3:00pm, Saturday August 8
Team News: Nico Hynes, Brandon Smith and Justin Olam start in place of the missing Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Smith and Marion Seve, with Albert Vete and Ryley Jacks on the bench. Ofahiki Ogden and Sione Katoa start with Aiden Tolman and Jeremy Marshall-King on the bench, with Reimis Smith replacing Jack Cogger on the interchange.
Prediction: Melbourne are resting Papenhuyzen and have lost Cam Smith to hooker, but their depth is quality. The Dogs fought hard against Canterbury and continue to show heart in all their performances, but effort doesn’t always translate into points.
Melbourne are such a well-drilled side, they’ll perform regardless of who is playing where. They’ve always had wonderful ‘next man up’ mentality and that’ll be on show in Queensland on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be courageous, but it takes more than that to topple the Storm. Melbourne by 32.
Newcastle Knights vs. Wests Tigers
McDonald Jones Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday August 8
Team News: Blake Green comes in at five-eighth, shifting Kurt Mann to hooker and Chris Randall out. Bradman Best is hurt and Tautau Moga has been dropped, with Enari Tuala and Gehamat Shibasaki the centres and Starford To’a on the wing.
Brodie Jones replaces the suspended Pasami Saulo. Mass changes at the Tigers, Harry Grant is out, with Moses Mbye moving to hooker, Tommy Talau to centre and debutant Asu Kepaoa on the wing. Luke Brooks start at five-eighth with Billy Walters on the bench, Joey Leilua’s return pushes Chris Lawrence to the interchange, Alex Twal is injured with Matt Eisenhuth at lock Russell Packer starts for Oliver Clark, while Sam McIntyre starts in the back-row with Luke Garner dropped.
Prediction: It almost feels unfair to move Kurt Mann away from five-eighth amidst a breakout season, though Blake Green’s entry to the side gives Mann a chance to show Kevvie Walters his versatility with an eye on the Queensland 14 jersey.
It’s a must win for both sides. The Tigers loss to the Warriors really hurts their finals chances, while a Newcastle defeat could see the Knights slip out of the eight at the end of the weekend. It’ll be a high scoring affair just as their second round clash was, but no Harry Grant will cost the Tigers big time, with a depleted backline, the Knights should win this just, with Luke Brooks to have a blinder. Knights by 8.
Panthers Stadium, 7:35pm, Saturday August 8
Prediction: This should be a cracker. While both outfits will be depleted in the backs, their halves and forward pack are firing, with Bateman and Harawira-Naera both big boosts for the green machine last week. Nathan Cleary is the best player in the competition right now, with Stephen Crichton in a battle with Grant for rookie of the year. There’s a lot to like about both sides, but the Panthers have lost one game in 12 rounds this year for good measure, and will get the points in a tight contest to stay top of the table. Panthers by 7.
Cbus Super Stadium 2:00pm, Sunday August 9
Team News: Sam Lisone replaces Sam Stone on the bench. Michael Morgan comes straight in for Jake Clifford, while Tom Opacic is in at centre, pushing Justin O’Neill to the wing and Murray Tualagi out of the side. Josh McGuire returns at prop pushing Francis Molo to the bench. John Asiata, Gavin Cooper and Shane Wright are out of the team, with Mitch Dunn starting at second-row, and Jake Granville and Emry Pere join the bench.
Prediction: If it wasn’t for Michael Morgan’s inclusion, this would be anyone’s game. The Cowboys have looked rudderless with the young spine while the Titans showed promise against the back-to-back premiers, falling short only just. Fogarty will shine again at home but Morgan adds class and their current pack won’t stop Taumalolo from running 250m+ again, they’ll have the momentum from the get go. Cowboys by 14.
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, 4:05pm, Sunday August 9
Team News: Matt Moylan returns for rookie Braydon Trindall in the halves, with Josh Dugan and Jesse Ramien the centre pairing, pushing Siosifa Talakai to the back-row and Jackson Ferris injured. Briton Nikora has been dropped. Ray Stone returns on the bench for Parramatta with Brad Takairangi dropping out.
Prediction: Perfect match for a Sunday afternoon, both clubs snuck home against bottom four sides last weekend. Shaun Johnson v Dylan Brown will be a great preview for Kiwi fans of the nation’s future halves combination, both electric within their side. Matt Moylan is a massive in for Cronulla, though all eyes will be on his fitness after another injury setback.
Expect some point scored, with a host of great personal battles across the park, though it’s Parramatta’s bench that’ll win them this game. The clash has a 22-20 feel about it, with the Eels sneaking home. Parramatta by 2.