NRL ROUND 18 PREVIEW
BYES: Sydney Roosters, Newcastle Knights, St George Illawarra Dragons, New Zealand Warriors, Gold Coast Titans, Wests Tigers, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Canberra Raiders.
BRISBANE BRONCOS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Friday 12th July, 7:45pm, Suncorp Stadium
Broncos: Corey Norman, Jordan Kahu, Corey Oates, Josh Hoffman, Lachlan Maranta, Scott Prince, Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire, Alex Glenn (c), David Stagg, Mitchell Dodds. Interchange: Ben Hunt, David Hala, Dunamis Lui, Lama Tasi, Jarrod Wallace, Nick Slyney, Scott Anderson
Sharks: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Stewart Mills, Jonathan Wright, Nathan Stapleton, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson, Bryce Gibbs, John Morris, Sam Tagataese, Jayson Bukuya, Wade Graham (c), Chris Heighington. Interchange: Isaac De Gois, Tyrone Peachey, Mark Taufua, Ben Ross, Ben Pomeroy
It’s the last of the pre-State of Origin split rounds and once again time to run through the representative absences of the teams.
Starting with the Broncos and it’s Thaiday, Parker, Hodges and Gillett all heading off to the QLD Origin camp leaving a heavily depleted side behind.
One positive is the return of David Stagg from a knee injury and Ben Hannant from his calf injury and both will line up in the starting 13 for this match.
The Sharks have been without Paul Gallen since Origin 2 and now Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita leave the side to join the Blues camp. On the injury side of the absences and Beau Ryan will miss another game as his knee injury once again leaves him unready to play.
Michael Gordon has been once again named as the fullback and the club seem confident that he will indeed play this week.
Although it’s played on Broncos’ home soil, I can’t go past the Sharks in this one. They suffer less from representative losses and Todd Carney really played himself into top form last week against the Tigers. Plus if you go back to Round 12 when the Broncos played without their State of Origin stars you’ll remember that the Broncos were annihilated by the Warriors 56-18.
Mike’s Tip: Sharks
PARRAMATTA EELS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Saturday 13th July, 5.30pm, Parramatta Stadium
Eels: Jake Mullaney, Ken Sio, Ryan Morgan, Willie Tonga, Brayden Wiliame, Ben Roberts, Luke Kelly, Tim Mannah, Matt Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Reni Maitua, Daniel Harrison, Darcy Lussick. Interchange: Kaysa Pritchard, Peni Terepo, Matt Ryan, Junior Paulo
Panthers: Matt Moylan, James Roberts, Brad Tighe, Dean Whare, David Simmons, Isaac John, Luke Walsh, Nigel Plum, Kevin Kingston (c), Tim Grant, Matt Robinson, Lewis Brown, Adam Docker. Interchange: James Segeyaro, Cameron Ciraldo, Mose Masoe, Clint Newton, Ryan Simpkins
Contrasting situations have befallen these two teams after last week.
The Parramatta Eels must contest the match without the help of halfback Chris Sandow who has been dropped to NSW Cup by coach Ricky Stuart due to poor form. Jacob Loko is out thanks to his knee injury.
The Panthers on the other hand have continued their somewhat meteoric rise to form and now sit 7th on the ladder just 3 points away from 4th place.
With the Eels having only won 3 games all year I can’t find a reason to tip them here, especially when playing without the likes of Jarryd Hayne. The Panthers have all the momentum in the world behind them and will be even stronger thanks to the return of Lewis Brown; a man I’ve been impressed by all year, even when the Panthers were in a slump. The Panthers have won 4 from their last 5 games against the Eels including 2 on the road at Parramatta Stadium.
Mike’s Tip: Panthers
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Panthers -9.5 @ $1.83 (Centrebet)
Mike’s Best Bet: None
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS v MELBOURNE STORM
Sunday 14th July, 3:00pm, ANZ Stadium
Bulldogs: Ben Barba, Mitch Brown, Tim Lafai, Krisnan Inu, Sam Perrett, Joel Romelo, Trent Hodkinson, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Dene Halatau, Josh Jackson, James Graham, Dale Finucane, Tim Browne, Martin Taupau
Storm: Justin O’Neill, Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Mahe Fonua, Brett Finch, Ben Hampton, Jesse Bromwich, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Bryan Norrie, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Slade Griffin. Interchange: Jordan McLean, Junior Moors, Siosaia Vave, Mitch Garbutt, Junior Sa’u, Tim Glasby
Out for the Bulldogs: Josh Reynolds.
Out for the Storm: Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Gareth Widdop, Jason Ryles and the irreplaceable Cameron Smith.
So looking at those differences it’s understandable why the Bulldogs are $1.25 favourites when playing at home against a decimated Storm outfit.
There are not many betting opportunities to be had and this game might be best for punters to just sit back and relax in front of.
I’ll be particularly keen to see how youngster Ben Hampton plays for the Storm. Hampton has been named at halfback after an impressive debut fullback in round 15. Hampton showed no fear that night and has clearly earned the respect of Coach Craig Bellamy.
I won’t be betting on this match but that’s not to say the Storm are dead and buried already. If they can stay tight on the flanks in defence they can focus on the battle up the middle. This would probably be their best chance of victory by stopping the Bulldogs forwards as I’m not sure that the Storm understudies will have the attacking nous to pull off a better performance than the Bulldogs.
Mike’s Tip: Bulldogs
Mike’s Suggested Bet: None
Mike’s Best Bet: None
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
Monday 15th July, 7:00pm, 1300SMILES Stadium
Cowboys: Clint Greenshields, Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Ray Thompson, Robert Lui, Ricky Thorby, Anthony Mitchell, Glenn Hall, Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo, Joel Riethmuller. Interchange: Rory Kostjasyn, Gavin Cooper, Tariq Sims, Scott Bolton, Michael Morgan
Sea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, David Williams, Kieran Foran, Peta Hiku, Brenton Lawrence, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Jamie Buhrer, Justin Horo, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Richie Fa’aoso, George Rose, James Hasson, Ligi Sao
We know that the Cowboys tend to suffer when Johnathan Thurston is off playing Blues and Maroons but just how will Manly fare without Daly Cherry-Evans at the helm? Peta Hiku has been chosen as the man to replace Cherry-Evans. Hiku has played just 6 games of NRL and all of them were as the fullback. I still favour Manly for the victory but Hiku as halfback is one of those mysterious elements that could change the game in a way that I can’t possibly predict.
The Cowboys are still essentially the team that they were in Round 1. They have a great base on which to form a team thanks to a huge pack of forwards but lack any serious attack. Without the likes of Scott and Tamou due to Origin, and Ashton Sims missing on a suspension, that base practically disappears and the team falls apart. I can’t quite envisage them winning but in a game played in Townsville, stranger things have happened.
Mike’s Tip: Sea Eagles
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Sea Eagles/Sea Eagles in Half Time/Fulltime betting @ $1.80 (Centrebet)
Mike’s Best Bet: None