Team News: Corey Jensen replaces Shaun Fensom on the bench. Darius Boyd returns to fullback, shifting Jamayne Isaako back to the wing, with Gehamat Shibasaki debuting at left centre with Jordan Kahu dropped. David Fifita starts in the second row with Tevita Pangai jnr dropping to the reserves. Joe Ofahengaue starts at lock for the suspended Josh McGuire. Sam Tagataese and Patrick Mago are the new names on the bench.
Injury Watch: Shaun Fensom will miss the clash with concussion.
Prediction: Well here we are. Brisbane and North Queensland have been the standout rivalry in the NRL over the last five years, and Jonathan Thurston has been in absolutely everything, with the 2015 Grand Final the obvious main event. This Thursday marks his final clash with Brisbane, and it should be a cracker with Sam Thaiday playing his 300th. Ignore form, this will be tight. Brisbane need to win this, but Thurston will win his final clash against Brisbane, with another golden point field goal to sink the Broncos. Cowboys by 1.
New Zealand Warriors vs. Newcastle Knights
Mt Smart Stadium, 6pm, Friday August 10
Team News: Peta Hiku replaces Sam Lisone on the bench. Pasami Saulo has been named to debut for Newcastle on the bench, with Herman Ese’ese starting, and Josh King dropped.
Injury Watch: Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce are both under injury clouds.
Prediction: New Zealand will take confidence out of their maiden win in Wollongong last weekend, but it’s easy to forget all their tries were scored while St George Illawarra were down a man. Newcastle were beaten at home by the Tigers, but will be eager to bounce back. Provided Pearce and Ponga play, it should be a close affair, but expect Isaac Luke to have a blinder in his 250th. Warriors by 8.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Sydney Roosters
ANZ Stadium, 7:55pm, Friday August 10
Team News: Richie Kennar returns on the wing, shifting Hymel Hunt to centre with Adam Doueihi injured. The Sydney Roosters are unchanged.
Injury Watch: Robert Jennings will miss a month with a hamstring tear, while Adam Doueihi’s season is over after tearing his ACL.
Prediction: This could well be a Grand Final preview. South Sydney looked shot after a loss to the Tigers and only just claiming victory over Parramatta, but were dominant in their victory over Melbourne, while the Roosters were scrappy their six point win over North Queensland. However, the Roosters were sure to have had an eye on this clash, and that should see them perform on Friday night. The Rabbitohs were great last weekend, but team’s are generally knackered the week after playing Melbourne, especially if they snag a win. The Roosters will be ready for a big one. Roosters by 10.
Team News: Keegan Hipgrave returns in the second-row, pushing Will Matthews to the bench, and Jai Whitbread out of the side. Reagan Campbell-Gillard starts, pushing Moses Leota to the interchange bench.
Injury Watch: No immediate concerns.
Prediction: Rugby league is a funny game. If Garth Brennan stuck around in the Penrith system for another year, he’d probably be making his NRL coaching debut on Saturday afternoon. Instead, Cameron Ciraldo will coach an NRL side for the first time. Tyrone Peachey will play his future club, following another standout performance at the back last weekend. When a club brings in a new coach midseason, they usually have a habit of winning on debut, and this clash will add to that trend. Penrith by 14.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles vs. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
McGrath Foundation Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday August 11
Team News: Manly are unchanged, while Jeremy Marshall-King returns at halfback in place of Matt Frawley. David Klemmer returns, pushing Danny Fualalo to the bench and Greg Eastwood to the reserves.
Injury Watch: No immediate concerns.
Prediction: Manly have renamed their stadium for Women in League Round, and unveiled one-off pink jerseys, which a few clubs will don this weekend. Both bottom four sides are battling to distance themselves from the wooden spoon, and both picked up rare wins over top eight sides last weekend. This one comes down to home ground advantage, despite the Bulldogs good record at Lottoland. Manly’s spine is in form, and should win this clash. Manly by 4.
Parramatta Eels vs. St George Illawarra Dragons
ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm, Saturday August 11
Team News: Jaeman Salmon starts at five-eighth, shifting Corey Norman to fullback, Clint Gutherson to centre, Jarryd Haye to the wing, and Bevan French out. Will Smith returns on the bench. Paul Vaughan is out, which sees Leeson Ah Mau start in the front-row, and Blake Lawrie join the bench.
Injury Watch: Paul Vaughan will sit out a month with an ankle injury.
Prediction: Parramatta have made the odd decision to reshuffle their whole backline, despite snaring a rare win last weekend. The Dragons are in freefall, but should pick themselves up in this one. Vaughan is a huge loss, but the Dragons did not concede a single try last weekend while they had the full thirteen players on the park. The Eels are good, but the Dragons are better. Simple as that. Dragons by 16.
Canberra Raiders vs. Wests Tigers
GIO Stadium, 2pm, Sunday August 12
Team News: The Raiders are unchanged. Malakai Watene-Zellezniak replaces the injured Corey Thompson on the wing. Luke Garner starts in the back-row, with Elijah Taylor shifting to lock, and Matt Eisenhuth dropping back to the bench. Robbie Rochow replaces Jacob Liddle on the bench.
Injury Watch: Corey Thompson will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
Prediction: These two teams always turn it on when they play each other. Canberra pumped the Tigers earlier this year, but with Wests still in the hunt for the finals and Canberra conceding 40 in back-to-back weeks, the Tigers will win this one on the road, with David Nofoaluma to have a cracker of a match. Tigers by 13.
Melbourne Storm vs. Cronulla Shark
AAMI Park, 4:10pm, Sunday August 12
Team News: Suliasi Vunivalu returns in place of Cheyse Blair, while Cronulla are unchanged.
Injury Watch: No immediate concerns .
Prediction: Sorry Cronulla, but Melbourne don’t lose to in a row. South Sydney stopped the Storm in their tracks last weekend, with Melbourne surrendering a 10 point lead, that doesn’t happen too often against Craig Bellamy’s men. Nor does leaking 30 points. This will be a tight contest where neither side will score three tries. It’s got a real ’12-10′ feel about it, with goal kicking to decide the match. Melbourne by 2.
Point To Prove: Sam Thaiday. Brisbane’s most experienced forward will line-up for his 300th NRL game on Thursday night, in his final derby against ‘little brother’ North Queensland. Coming off a heavy loss to the Bulldogs, Thaiday will need to lead from the front if he is to snare one final victory over JT, and propel the Broncos towards the finals.
Struggle Street: Ken Sio. The Newcastle winger has made this list a few times in 2018, but after another shocker against the Wests Tigers, his first-grade place must surely be under threat. Sio managed to kick the ball not once, but twice dead last Friday, as well as spending the final minutes of the game in the sin bin. Set to mark up against the in-form David Fusitu’a, Sio is set to have another bath this weekend.
Photo of the Week:
Quote of the Week: “It is not an issue … so let’s get through to October and we’ll see what happens after that” – Wayne Bennett, on him possibly joining the Penrith Panthers.
Best Bet: Brisbane/North Queensland draw. It’s a long shot, but these two sides have a Golden Point history in recent years, and in Jonathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday’s final derby, it should be a cracker. While one is fighting for a top four spot and the other is fighting not to get the dreaded spoon, ignore the form, this will go down to the wire.
Rumour of the Week: I’m sure we’ve all heard it already, but Penrith have offered Ivan Cleary a four-year deal, in a bid to keep star half Nathan Cleary at the club long-term. The question is, will Ivan rejoin the club that sacked him, knowing he’s only been offered the role because Gus Gould wants to keep Nathan? Expect him to knock the Panthers back, and continue the Wests Tigers rebuild.