Penrith Panthers vs. Gold Coast Titans
Panthers Stadium, 6:00pm, Friday July 12
Team News: Dean Whare starts at centre, pushing Isaah Yeo to the back-row and Frank Winterstein to the bench. Dale Copley replaces Jesse Arthars at centre.
Prediction: There is a feeling that James Maloney may be rested, with the game coming less than 48 hours after Game III. Nathan Cleary has been named in the reserves, but he surely won’t be 100%. The Gold Coast is unpredictable, but have had some success in Sydney in recent weeks, and they’re a big chance of pulling an upset here. Brimson is coming into his own and Tyrone Roberts is playing good football, the Titans will sneak home. Gold Coast by 8.
Newcastle Knights vs. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
McDonald Jones Stadium, 7:55pm, Friday July 12
Team News: Lachlan Fitzgibbon is out, which sees Sione Mata’utia return to the back-row, Kurt Mann slot in the centres and Mitchell Pearce return at halfback. Kieran Foran is out, meaning Brandon Wakeham starts in the halves, with Renouf Toomaga join the bench.
Prediction: Their three Origin forwards are listed in the reserves and Kalyn Ponga is still out, but Mitchell Pearce is a big in for the Knights. Their biggest issue is finding permanent positions for Connor Watson and Kurt Mann, who have been thrust into multiple positions this year. The Bulldogs, despite winning last start, are a basket case, and their line-up shows. McDonald Jones Stadium is becoming a fortress, and Canterbury won’t go anywhere near toppling Newcastle. Knights by 16.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
ANZ Stadium, 3:00pm, Saturday July 13
Team News: Adam Douiehi replaces Corey Allan at fullback. George Burgess is suspended, which means Tevita Tatola starts at prop, Ethan Lowe drops to the bench, and Sam Burgess returns in the second-row. Manly are unchanged.
Prediction: South Sydney are slowly gathering their troops back, they lose George Burgess for nine weeks to suspension but his poor form means he isn’t a huge loss. Brother Sam’s return is a huge inclusion for the Rabbitohs as they look to snap a four game losing streak. Tom Trbojevic has been in wonderful from, as has sibling Jake, but it depends how the pair, along with DCE, get through Origin. This is anyone’s game, but expect Wayne Bennett to get the Bunnies back in form post Origin. Rabbitohs by 4.
Brisbane Broncos vs. New Zealand Warriors
Suncorp Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday July 13
Team News: Brisbane’s Origin trio of Fifita, Oates and Ofahengaue return, as does Anthony Milford. Milford slots in at fullback, with a halves pairing of Darius Boyd and Jake Turpin, with Sean O’Sullivan injured. Gehamat Shibasaki is out, with Herbie Farnworth shifting to the centres and Xavier Coates retaining his wing spot. Isaac Luke moves into the starting side with Karl Lawton out, meaning Chanel Tevita-Harris joins the bench.
Prediction: It doesn’t feel that long ago that Brisbane got the win over the Warriors in a low scoring affair, but much has changed in Red Hill since. Milford will run out as a fullback, and no Bronco fan would have picked there’d be a time where their team’s halves pairing would be Darius Boyd and Jake Turpin. Darius played one of his bets games of the season last week, and while the Warriors should be fresh after losing no one to Origin, they won’t stop the Broncos at home. Brisbane by 12.
Melbourne Storm vs. Cronulla Sharks
AAMI Park, 7:35pm, Saturday July 13
Team News: Melbourne welcome back their six Origin reps, meaning Sandor Earl, Justin Olam, Billy Walters, Tui Kamikamica, Albert Vete and Tino Faasuamaleaui drop out. Paul Gallen is out injured, which sees Jack Williams start at lock, Andrew Fifita returns at prop, and Aaron Woods drops to the bench. Wade Graham returns in the second-row, which sees Kurt Capewell drop to the bench, and Kyle Flanagan out of the side.
Prediction: Cameron Smith’s 400th game. It’s a monumental occasion, a feat no player in 112 years of rugby league has accomplished. Does that guarantee them a win? Not at all. But by the way, Cronulla are playing, maybe. They’ve lost three in a row despite scoring more tries in all three games. Their goal kicking is shocking, but that’s not the Sharks biggest problem. They have too many play makers, Moylan, Townsend and Johnson all want the ball in the hand, and it’s overcomplicating their attack. They’ll be better, but Melbourne always rise for milestone games. Storm by 14.
Sydney Roosters vs. North Queensland Cowboys
Central Coast Stadium, 2:00pm, Sunday July 14
Team News: James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner are being rested. Jake Friend returns, which sees Victor Radley shift to lock, and Isaac Liu back to the interchange. Taukieaho also returns. Josh McGuire starts in the front-row, which sees Scott Bolton drop to the bench. Matt Scott also joins the pine, replacing Corey Jensen.
Prediction: The Cowboys have such a good side on paper, it’s anyone’s guess why they aren’t living up to expectations. No Tedesco or Cordner will bring this game more level, and the likes of McGuire, Scott and Taumalolo on a roll should scare teams. They’ll want to win for Gavin Cooper’s 300th. But the Roosters finally get back Jake Friend. Which also unleashes Radley at lock. It should be a high scoring affair on the Central Coast, but expect a Roosters win. Roosters by 10.
Wests Tigers vs. Parramatta Eels
Bankwest Stadium, 4:05pm, Sunday July 14
Team News: Moses Mbye replaces Paul Momirovski in the centres. Parramatta are unchanged.
Prediction: The third big milestone of the weekend as Benji Marshall plays his 300th game. It’s somewhat of a mutual ground, and it’s great to see a day game at Bankwest. The ground has come under fire recently for its slippery conditions during night games, so a dry surface should make for a fast game between two sides that lose only two players to Origin between them. The Eels will be confident after a win over the Raiders in Darwin, but Benji deserves a win in his 300th, and his side will get him home. Wests by 1.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Canberra Raiders
WIN Stadium, 6:10pm, Sunday July 14
Team News: Corey Norman and Tariq Sims have been named to start, with Korbin Sims dropping to the bench. Nick Cotric replaces Sebastian Kris in the centres.
Prediction: This should be a tight contest. It depends on the Dragons Origin players, who have Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Ben Hunt all in the reserves. Provided they play, it’ll be a close contest, but in Wollongong with both halves there, it’ll be a narrow win for the Red V in another upset. Dragons by 2.