Brisbane Bronco vs. St George Illawarra Dragons
Suncorp Stadium, 8:05pm, Thursday March 28
Team News: Brisbane are unchanged, while Korbin Sims replaces Josh Kerr on the bench for the Dragons.
Prediction: Something's gotta give soon for St George Illawarra. Paul McGregor is being criticised on the daily for the make up of his spine, with Gareth Widdop even throwing his own coach under the bus last weekend. Brisbane bounced back last weekend with a big win over their arch rivals, and on home turf, should be primed for another good performance. Korbin Sims will help the Dragons, but it won't be enough to stop Tevita Pangai Jnr and co. Dragons by 8.
Canberra Raiders vs. Newcastle Knights
GIO Stadium, 6:00pm, Friday March 29
Team News: Joe Tapine is out with a broken thumb, shifting John Bateman to the back row, Ryan Sutton to lock and Hudson Young joins the bench. Newcastle are unchanged, though Connor Watson has been ruled out.
Prediction: This is a toughie. Down in the nation's capital, the Raiders can often be hard to beat. Newcastle weren't bad last week, but they weren't great either. Ponga and Pearce are still finding their feet, while Jack Wighton's transition to five-eighth has been a little smoother. That will be the difference in this one, expect Canberra's left edge to fire. Raiders by 4.
Parramatta Eels vs. Sydney Roosters
ANZ Stadium, 8:05pm, Friday March 29
Team News: Parramatta's only change sees Michael Jennings return from suspension in place of Josh Hoffman. Cooper Cronk and Jake Friend return for the Roosters, pushing Victor Radley back to lock and Lachlan Lam out of the side. Brett Morris is out with a minor knee injury, replaced by Matt Ikuvalu on the wing.
Prediction: Cooper Cronk has been ruled out again, which brings this clash back down to Earth. Or does it? Luke Keary has absolutely fired when he takes the field as the dominant half in recent times, his game against Manly last weekend was breathtaking. Parramatta were fairly good against the Bulldogs, and sit 2nd on the ladder, but they're yet to face any real elite opposition. This will be a big test for the likes of Mitchell Moses, and though he'll step up to the plate, the Chooks will pick up their second win of the season on the same turf they won the premiership on. Roosters by 12.
Manly Sea Eagles vs. New Zealand Warriors
Christchurch Stadium, 3:00pm, Saturday March 30
Team News: Tom Trbojevic returns at fullback pushing Brendan Elliot out of the side. Fonua-Blake returns from suspension at prop, pushing Toafofoa Sipley to the bench and Kelepi Tanginoa out of the team. The Warriors are unchanged, though Sam Lisone will fight a suspension at the judiciary on Wednesday night.
Prediction: This one will be emotional. Manly take their home game to Christchurch, the location of a horrific mass shooting a few weeks ago. The Warriors will take the field as a team on a mission, and in front of a Christchurch crowd, they'll be a united team. Manly have been well below par in the opening weeks, and while the return of Tom Trbojevic will help big time, the Warriors will bounce back from their loss to the Tigers and win a tight clash here. Warriors by 6.
North Queensland Cowboys vs. Cronulla Sharks
1300SMILES Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday March 30
Team News: Te Maire Martin shifts to fullback, opening the door for Jake Clifford at five-eighth. Both centres in Opacic and O'Neill have been dropped, with Kahu and Hampton the new three-quarter pairing. Jason Taumalolo will miss up to ten weeks with a knee injury, which sees Coen Hess start in the back-row, Josh McGuire start at lock and Corey Jensen join the bench. Cronulla are unchanged.
Prediction: Paul Gallen makes history this weekend when he becomes the most capped Cronulla Shark in history, playing his 329th game for the club. North Queensland have lost Jason Taumalolo for up to ten weeks in a huge blow to their season. They luckily have the likes of Josh McGuire to step into the 13 jersey, but it won't be enough to hold a Sharks outfit raring to go for their captain. Sharks by 4.
Penrith Panthers vs. Melbourne Storm
Carrington Park, 7:35pm, Saturday March 30
Team News: Josh Mansour returns in place of Malakai Watene-Zelezniak on the wing, while Frank Winterstein takes Isaah Yeo's starting spot, with Yeo missing a week with concussion. Tyrell Fuimaono joins the bench. Melbourne are unchanged.
Prediction: Match of the round. Out in Bathurst, these two teams face off in different statures. Melbourne are undefeated after wins over Brisbane and Canberra, while Penrith scraped past Newcastle last weekend to get the win. The Panthers normally lift in Bathurst, but with the likes of Cameron Munster and Cam Smith in their, Melbourne should get the win in the west. Storm by 10.
Wests Tigers vs. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Campbelltown Stadium, 4:05pm, Sunday March 31
Team News: Wests Tigers are unchanged. Bulldogs have made mass changes, starting with Nick Meaney starting at fullback, pushing Hopoate to the centres and Marcelo Montoya. Jayden Okunbor makes his NRL debut on the wing in place of Christian Crichton. Rhyse Martin returns in the second-row, pushing Fatalia-Mariner out of the 17. Ofahiki Ogden and Chris Smith join the bench in place of Danny Fualalo and Suaso Sue.
Prediction: Finally, the Bulldogs have made changes. Tigers finished on top of the table for the first time in their history last weekend, and will want to stay their with a win over Canterbury. Dean Pay has dropped five players and released a new look team sheet. It's only Round 3 but the Dogs are already fighting for their season and their coach, and in the upset of the round, they'll get the win. Bulldogs by 6.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Gold Coast Titans
ANZ Stadium, 6:10pm, Sunday March 31
Team News: Both teams are unchanged.
Prediction: This one will get ugly. The Rabbitohs have scored 60 points between their opening games, both of which against finalists from 2018, one of them the premiers. The Titans have scored a singular try, a dummy half dash from Brenko Lee. Wayne Bennett has South Sydney in red hot form, and while the Titans might put another try on the score board this weekend, it'll be a dominant display from the red and green to end the round. Souths by 26.
Point To Prove: Blake Ferguson.
The NRL's premier metre eater has gone bang in his start with the Eels, specifically last weekend with a 279 metre, two try haul. It's rare the Roosters let a good one go, and having gone from the premiers to the reigning wooden spooners, Fergo will be out to show the Chooks what they've lost.
Struggle Street: Daly Cherry-Evans.
No Jake Friend, no Cooper Cronk, and the NRL's highest paid half still couldn't find a way to steer his side close to a victory. Cherry-Evans is known for starring when partnering a formidable half (Kieran Foran, Blake Green) but has struggled when an inexperienced five-eighth is named. He needs to learn a lot from Luke Keary. Without Friend or Cronk, Keary controlled the game and stood up, and played structured football. Cherry-Evans tries to play too adlib, and his side is suffering because of it.=
Rookie Watch: Jayden Okunbor.
He may have a striking resemblance to former Bulldog Jamal Idris, but they are two very different players. Okunbor has been fighting his way up through the Canterbury lower grades in recent seasons, and finally earns his debut this Sunday. A powerful winger, expect a battle of strength (and interesting haircuts) when he lines up opposite Mahe Fonua.
Best Bet: Rabbitohs to beat the Titans 13+.
South Sydney are averaging 30 points a game in attack over the first two rounds. Gold Coast are scoring 3 per game. With the Titans leaking over 20 points a game over the last fortnight, expect a rampant Rabbitohs' attack to topple the Titans with ease.
Rumour of the Week
Which ex-Sydney Roosters star currently has a video floating around of him and an illicit substance? Nothing has come of it yet, but another scandal is the last thing the NRL needs.