Origin is done for 2019 and it is all about the race to the finals ahead of NRL Round 17.
A full programme of eight games gets underway with Penrith Panthers v Gold Coast Titans and includes a Saturday night showdown by Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks.
We preview all eight games:
Penrith Panthers vs Gold Coast Titans
The Panthers look to keep their winning momentum going as they continue their push towards the top eight against the Titans on Friday night. Apart from competition leaders Melbourne, the Panthers are the hottest team in the competition at the moment, winning their last five games. The Titans are currently level on 10 points with the Bulldogs as the two teams appear locked in a battle for the wooden spoon at this stage. Gold Coast won their last clash against Penrith back in Round 5, but the Panthers are a much better team now. At home and on a big winning streak, I’d be shocked if Penrith don’t make it six victories on the trot.
Prediction: Panthers by 13+ ($2.68 TopBetta)
Newcastle Knights vs Canterbury Bulldogs
Dropping out of the top four after their depleted side went down to the Warriors last week, can the Knights return to the winners circle on Friday night against the struggling Bulldogs? The Bulldogs have won their last six games against Newcastle before the Knights prevailed by 12 points earlier this season during Magic Round. The pressure is on the Knights, because this is a game they simply must win, but they should be able to handle it.
Prediction: Knights by 13+ ($2.58 TopBetta)
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Manly Sea Eagles
It’s been a horror last month for the Rabbitohs as they cling onto a top four position heading into this week’s big showdown with Manly. Souths put together a blistering start to the season as they surged to the top of the ladder, but they are currently on a four-match losing streak that has seen Melbourne take a near-unassailable lead at the top of the competition. Manly actually handed Souths their only loss in the first two months of the season back in Round 4, and in their current form, they will fancy themselves to do it again. Souths, for whatever reason, have lost steam and look a bit flat at the moment. Wayne Bennett will surely turn it around soon, but it will be a tough ask to do it against an in-form Sea Eagles side.
Prediction: Manly win ($2.38 TopBetta)
Brisbane Broncos vs New Zealand Warriors
A must-win game awaits for the Broncos and Warriors as the top eight hopefuls clash for the second time this season. Both sides claimed important victories last week away from home, with the Warriors overcoming Newcastle and an understrength Brisbane posting a surprise win over Cronulla. This is a really tough game to pick. Both teams have been poor in 2019, but they are coming off a win and know the importance of going back-to-back here. The Warriors typically play well in Brisbane and have a lot of Kiwi support in the city – I’m going to back the away side in a tight one.
Prediction: Warriors win ($2.42 TopBetta)
Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla Sharks
Competition leaders Melbourne will be determined to celebrate Cameron Smith’s milestone 400th game with a victory when they face bogey team Cronulla on Saturday night. Arguably the greatest player in the history of the NRL, Smith’s remarkable longevity hits another peak as the veteran hooker chalks up an incredible 400th game for the Storm. The Sharks have had the wood over Melbourne in recent meetings, winning three of their last four encounters, along with famously taking out the 2016 Grand Final. But they are in terrible form at the moment, clinging onto eighth spot for dear life after losing to bottom-placed Canterbury and a depleted Broncos side over the last two months. John Morris should galvanise his team for this one, and their grinding style of play should be effective against Melbourne again, but you can’t go past the Storm in this sort of situation.
Prediction: Storm by 1-12 ($3.10 TopBetta)
Sydney Roosters vs North Queensland Cowboys
Melbourne might have built up an unassailable lead in the race for the minor premiership, but the Roosters will still believe they can catch the frontrunners if they can emerge victorious against a desperate Cowboys outfit on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys are sitting on 14 points after their last-start loss to the Dragons and the bye last week. The Roosters should be starting to get back into top form, so it will take a big performance from North Queensland to stop them.
Prediction: Roosters by 13+ ($1.96 TopBetta)
Wests Tigers vs Parramatta Eels
Preview to follow.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Canberra Raiders
It’s crunch time for the Dragons. They are in 12th place on the ladder with a minus 56-point differential. Even this far out from the finals, another loss here could see them drop to 14th on the ladder and a long road back to be in finals contention. The Raiders need to win this one to remain in the top four and will be out to prove to themselves that they are more than capable of closing out a game. If the Dragons can reproduce last week’s defensive effort, they are right in this. If Canberra’s backline gets a roll-on, the score could be anything.
Prediction: Raiders win ($1.85 TopBetta)