Sunshine Coast Stadium, 6:00pm, Friday July 23
Jack Johns takes Dave Klemmer's bench spot.
Prediction: It must be a rollercoaster supporting the Knights. They unveil their full-strength spine and beat the Cowboys 38-0, only to come up against a heavyweight and get thumped. They're locked firmly in that seventh to thirteenth category, don't really have the cattle to contend with the top teams, but enough to put a score on the lower sides. Unfortunately for them, the Roosters are the former.
James Tedesco is a massive in at fullback, forcing Trent Robinson to make the tough but fair call to drop Josh Morris. Billy Smith is a long term option for the Chooks, and Jmoz has truly dropped off the pace. Victor Radley is so key to this side, his presence makes Sam Walker so much better, buying him a few extra seconds with the ball in hand by simply being the 'link man' at first receiver. They are such a classy outfit, whereas the Knights are built on grit and some flashy play, the Chooks just have this killer instinct, they do just enough to win. This will be no different.
Roosters by 14.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Melbourne Storm
Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 7:55pm, Friday July 23
Team News: Despite being named, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow needs immediate surgery, leaving the door open potentially for reserve Daejarn Asi to come into the side at fullback. Javid Bowen has done his ACL, which sees Murray Taulagi move into the three-quarter line, and Kane Bradley debuts on the wing. Heilum Luki returns from suspension on the bench in lieu of Peter Hola.
Josh Addo-Carr replaces the injured George Jennings. Christian Welch returns as does Ryan Papenhuyzen on the bench. Cameron Munster has been rested with Cooper Johns named at six. Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane also miss the clash.
Prediction: There's no way to say this gently - the Cowboys are going to want to forget this game straight after full time. Melbourne Storm are as dominant as we've seen them, scoring points at will, amassing 632 points in 17 games, nearly 38 points scored per game. The Cowboys aren't in great form either, this may be reminiscent of the 66-16 flogging the Storm handed the Tigers a few weeks ago.
Cameron Munster is quite the out but Cooper Johns has been admirable when called upon - but don't be surprised if he misses out here. There's every chance Bellyache could spring a late change and start Papenhuyen at fullback with Nicho Hynes moving to six. Regardless of what side they trot out, Melbourne will win handsomely here. There's no more consistent side in this game than the Storm, and they'll continue on their point-scoring ways in Townsville.
Storm by 40.
Sunshine Coast Stadium, 3:00pm, Saturday July 24
Team News: Latrell Mitchell returns in place of Blake Taaffe at the back. Alex Johnston has been hamstrung and is replaced by Josh Mansour on the left edge. Taane Milne moves back to the bench with Braidon Burns dropping out, handing Jaxson Paulo a starting spot out wide. Jai Arrow takes Liam Knight's spot on the pine.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will miss the match after a big concussion, Kodi Nikorima takes the reigns at five-eighth. Adam Pompey starts in the centres for Rocco Berry, while Jazz Tevaga will play hooker with Wayde Egan sidelined. Bunty Afoa and Taniela Otukolo join the bench.
Prediction: Two very different words to label each side's efforts last round. The Rabbitohs were poor against the Dogs, while the Warriors were brave against Penrith, Matt Lodge was forced to play 80 minutes. There might be some fatigue in their side, and it gets tougher without the club's two most consistent players in RTS and Tohu Harris. The Bunnies were poor and still scored 32 points, and they get Latrell back. Scary.
The last time these clubs played at this venue, Cody Walker scored four tries, and while he won't go to that extreme again, he'll be the mastermind behind this win. Having Latrell back will certainly help, but it feels like Walker is in everything in the moment. Tipping Josh Mansour to score his first Rabbitoh double as the Bunnies run away with it late in a high-scoring thriller.
Rabbitohs by 16.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Wests Tigers
Suncorp Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday July 24
Team News: Tom Trbojevic slots into the number one, pushing Reuben Garrick back to the wing, and Moses Suli out of the side. Daly Cherry-Evans is also back after a deserved rest, pushing Josh Schuster back to the back-row, with Karl Lawton out injured. Jake Trbojevic returns at lock, and Josh Aloiai is on the bench.
The Tigers are unchanged.
Prediction: Wests Tigers scored 42 last round, Adam Doueihi relishing a return to the halves. Yet, it looks like they might be on the other end of that score line this round. Tom and Jake Trobejvic return, as does Daly Cherry-Evans and Josh Aloiai, this is the best side the club has fielded all year. Watch out, Wests.
There's some really good signs from the club, especially in the recruitment/retention market, finally shopping around some of their overpaid, underperforming players. The club has shining lights, Douehi, Daine Laurie and Stefano Utoikamanu to name a few, but even they can't contend here. This will be a slaughter. The Tigers will have patches where they score a few and look a chance, but Manly have it in bucket loads and can produce for an entire game. Josh Schuster adds so much, he'll put in another starring performance as the Sea Eagles win big.
Sea Eagles by 28.
Suncorp Stadium, 7:35pm, Saturday July 24
Prediction: Surprisingly, when these clubs met earlier in the year, Brisbane led at halftime and only lost by 8. After losing by 18 to the Tigers, the Broncos need to find that kind of performance again. They looked really good at times last week, discipline their undoing, but they simply let Wests run over them late. They can't afford that against a side like Penrith, even without Nathan Cleary.
Jarome Luai returns to the side in quite a boost, though unfortunately they can't call up Tevita Pangai Junior until next week. A massive mid-year signing, he'll be an impact player for the Panthers off the bench. Expect Penrith to start fast, score in the first ten minutes and lead the rest of the contest. Payne Haas vs. James Fisher-Harris is mouthwatering, but regardless of the outcome of that match-up, the Panthers will win this well.
Panthers by 22.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Gold Coast Titans
Cbus Super Stadium, 1:50pm, Sunday July 25
Team News: Jayden Sullivan replaces Corey Norman, Matt Dufty comes in for Tyrell Sloan, Matt Feagai in for Brayden Williame while Jackson Ford's place at lock is taken by Josh McGuire, with Tyrell Fuimaono joining the bench.
Prediction: It's so hard to tip the Dragons when they have to make so many changes to their side each week via COVID suspensions. They started well, but Ben Hunt couldn't carry them to a win against the Sea Eagles. Matt Dufty is back but they lose another handful, the Titans aren't exactly flying but they've got the x-factor to get past the Red V here.
The Gold Coast are so David Fifita centric. When he gets involved and pushes himself, the Titans can be so domiant but when he goes missing, so do they. Toby Sexton has been on the cusp of an NRL debut for a while now, finally rewarded with a first-grade jersey. With Ash Taylor expected to exit the club after 2021, Sexton has the opportunity to put his hand up and stake a claim for next season. Expect AJ Brimson to get himself involved, and run away with the two competition points.
Titans by 8.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs vs. Cronulla Sharks
Cbus Super Stadium, 4:05pm, Sunday July 25
Prediction: There's more to this clash than meets the eye. The Bulldogs actually beat the Sharks earlier this season, and they really showed up against an error-ridden South Sydney last round. Young Bailey Biondi-Odo was electric off the bench, he and Jeremy Marshall-King could be a really strong rotation at rake over the rest of this season. Royce Hunt is a big inclusion on the bench for Cronulla, he and Siosifa Talakai were wrecking balls in 2020 off the bench.
Shaun Johnson really needs to make a big impact here, if Cronulla start slow and the Bulldogs make this a grind, there could be an upset on the cards, at the very least a close contest. It'll either be something along the lines of a 32-10 Cronulla victory, or a 20-16 game which could go either way. It depends on the opening quarter of the contest, but the Sharks are a safe bet, and should get past the Dogs. Unfortunately, Canterbury struggle to put games like last week together in succession. They'll be playing 'up, up Cronulla' on the Cbus Super Stadium speakers on Sunday night.
Sharks by 13.