The following are previews with betting tips for Round 21 of the 2023 NRL season. Best bets for the round are also provided.
Dragons v Tigers
Thursday, July 20, 7:50pm AEST
Thursday night will bring a desperate clash between two struggling clubs in the Tigers and Dragons, and with both teams sitting 16th and 17th respectively on the competition ladder – this result will be crucial in deciding who wins the dreaded wooden-spoon. St George enjoyed a bye last week, but a courageous last-start loss to fourth-placed Canberra showed some positive signs for incoming coach Shane Flanagan. Wests were poor against the Knights last week and with off-field drama plaguing the club’s administration – long suffering fans will be eager to see their club fight to avoid last-place.
St George will be boosted by the return of Tyrell Sloan and Jacob Liddle at fullback and hooker respectively as well as captain and Maroons star Ben Hunt at halfback. An injury to Ben Murdoch-Masila will see Dan Russell promoted into the starting second-row, with Jack Bird also returning from a knee injury on the bench. Meanwhile, Wests will replace struggling playmaker Will Smith with Daine Laurie at five-eighth with David Nofoaluma returning on the wing from a shoulder injury and rookie Tallyn Da Silva recalled on the bench in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
While St George have struggled this year, their depth of playmaking talent is the envy of Wests, who are struggling to find a competitive halves combination going forward, particularly with Luke Brooks set to depart the club. Both teams are capable of producing a victory but Wests will struggle to match their oppositions’ attacking output. St George to get the win.
Betting Tip: Dragons -3.5 @ $1.90 (Unibet)
Warriors v Raiders
Friday, July 21, 6pm AEST
Friday night will bring a mouth-watering blockbuster clash between the Warriors and Raiders in a dogfight for a top-four berth. The Kiwis were impressive in a dominant 46-10 victory over the Eels last week and will be fired-up given a win this week will elevate the club into the top-four. The Raiders had a bye last week but were solid in their last-start victory over the Tigers and on the hunt for their fourth consecutive win – Ricky Stuart’s troops will be primed to consolidate their ladder position.
The Warriors will be boosted by the return of Marata Nikore and Bunty Afoa to the starting side from suspension and injury respectively, pushing Mitch Barnett and Tom Ale to the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ forward pack will also receive a massive boost with the return of Corey Horsburgh and Josh Papali’i to the middle-rotation with Pasami Saulo also included on the bench.
With a relatively soft run into the finals, the Warriors are a huge chance of breaking into the top-four. Andrew Webster’s impact on the New Zealand club has been enormous as the rookie mentor firms for Dally-M coach of the year, but Ricky Stuart’s troops will be acutely aware of the danger of losing their coveted top-four berth and will be bringing a finals intensity to this contest. This match could go either way but expect the Warriors to continue their run to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Raiders +7.5 @ $2 (bet365)
Rabbitohs v Broncos
Friday, July 21, 8pm AEST
Title heavyweights Brisbane and South Sydney will face-off in a blockbuster clash that could be decisive in the make-up of the top-eight. The Rabbitohs have faced a torrid period without some key stars with disappointing losses to the St George, Cowboys and Bulldogs in recent weeks seeing them drop to eighth on the competition ladder – two wins outside the top-four. Their opposition in Brisbane showcased their impressive depth in a powerful victory over the Bulldogs without their representative stars – but both clubs will benefit from the return of some key reinforcements to boost their premiership campaign.
Souths will welcome back nine players into their squad from both Origin duties and injury, with Cameron Murray, Cody Walker, Damien Cook and Keaon Kolomatangi returning from Blues camp after the club’s bye last week. In a further boost, superstars Latrell Mitchell, Jai Arrow, Campbell Graham, Hame Sele and Jacob Host will also return from injury. For Brisbane, the return of Origin trio Patrick Carrigan, Payne Haas and Reece Walsh will provide a massive boost with this game shaping as a sneak finals-preview.
The Broncos have been consistent this season but have failed to make a comprehensive statement against a top-four team since their field-goal win against Penrith in round one. Souths have been through a tough run with injuries but with the return of their key players, particularly Latrell Mitchell and Jai Arrow returning from long-term absences – expect Jason Demitriou’s troops to produce their best football on a warpath back into the top-four. Souths to get the win.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -3.5 @ $1.78 (bet365)
Titans v Roosters
Saturday, July 22, 3pm AEST
After a highly controversial referee blunder cost the Titans victory against Parramatta last week in a heart-breaking field-goal loss, the Titans finals chances are on life support – particularly given their tough run home including games against the Cowboys, Warriors, Sharks, Panthers and Storm. Their opposition in the Roosters were dominated by Melbourne last week as the Sydney glamour-club continues to struggle this season with only seven wins to their name.
The Titans were dealt a huge blow with captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui set for a lengthy suspension for a shoulder-charge. Erin Clark will shift to the starting side as cover with Joe Stimson set to join the bench. AJ Brimson will also return at fullback after he was rested last week. Meanwhile, the Roosters will benefit from the return of James Tedesco at fullback with Terrell May also set to join the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad.
While the Roosters will enter this match as favourites, they should be highly cautious of a Titans outfit sure to produce a fiery response to being robbed of what would have been an impressive victory against Parramatta. Fielding their full-strength spine, expect the Titans’ energy and their unconventional attacking-style to unbalance the Roosters and come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Titans +3.5 @ $1.95 (Playup)
Knights v Storm
Saturday, July 22, 5:30pm AEST
Newcastle have surged back into form in recent weeks in a desperate bid to break into the top-eight and sitting 10th on the competition ladder and two wins behind eighth-placed South Sydney – virtually every game is a must-win for the Knights to make the finals. They will face a massive task against an in-form Melbourne outfit who were impressive in a powerful last-start victory over the Roosters.
Newcastle’s only change comes with the return of veteran Dane Gagai from a foot injury at centre in some welcome squad-continuity for the club. Meanwhile, Melbourne have unsurprisingly named an unchanged line-up.
While their form has impressed enough to ease pressure on coach Adam O’Brien, Newcastle will need to summon a Herculean performance to take down a Storm outfit whose top-four berth is far from assured. Expect a focussed performance from Craig Bellamy’s troops at the business end of the season to contain their opposition’s enthusiasm. Storm to get the win.
Betting Tip: Storm -8.5 @ $1.91 (bet365)
Cowboys v Eels
Saturday, July 22, 7:35pm AEST
The Cowboys’ warpath into the top-eight continued last week as they recorded their fifth consecutive win in an impressive performance against Manly. Their opposition in the Eels kept their finals hopes alive with a controversial field-goal victory over the Titans last week and with both teams sitting on 24 competition points – the result of this game could be decisive in both teams finals aspirations.
The Cowboys have named an unchanged 17 for this game, and the continuity in their squad – particularly amongst their playmakers as they benefit from a full-strength spine – is underpinning much of their form at the moment. Meanwhile, Parramatta were dealt a blow with Blues prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard facing a lengthy suspension with Ofahiki Ogden coming into the front-row as cover. Maika Sivo will also be absent after he was cited for a high-tackle by the judiciary with Haze Dunster or Waqa Blake his likely replacement in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
Parramatta have faced enormous upheaval and will be hoping to emulate their opposition’s determination and resilience to fight back into form with the Cowboys suffering a similar form at the start of this season. This game shapes as an intense physical contest but expect the Queenslanders to continue their momentum for their sixth consecutive win.
Betting Tip: Cowboys -7.5 @ $1.91 (bet365)
Panthers v Bulldogs
Sunday, July 23, 2pm AEST
Canterbury have the unenviable task of facing the reigning premiers after a disappointing but courageous loss to the Broncos last week. The Panthers again showcased their wonderful depth with a solid victory over a gritty Dolphins outfit, despite the absence of several Origin stars.
Kyle Flanagan will shift to halfback for the Bulldogs to cover the injured Toby Sexton, as an injury to Braidon Burns also brings Paul Alamoti into the centres. Both Josh Addo-Carr and Viliame Kikau could yet be late inclusions to return from injury after they were included in the reserves. Meanwhile, Penrith will welcome back Origin stars Brian To’o. Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo but the biggest in for the Panthers will be the long-awaited return from injury of superstar halfback Nathan Cleary in a massive boost.
While Canterbury have struggled this season, they have also shown many positive signs and with another pre-season, talented coach Cameron Ciraldo is inching closer to his vision for the club. Expect a dominant performance as Penrith gear-up for their premiership defence leading into the finals. Panthers to get the win.
Betting Tip: Bulldogs +29.5 @ $1.90 (Colossalbet)
Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sunday, July 23, 4:05pm AEST
Cronulla’s top-four and premiership aspirations took a crushing blow last week with a woeful 32-point loss to a red-hot Warriors seeing the Shire club slip to sixth on the competition ladder. They will face a Manly squad in a dogfight to break into the top-eight and after a disappointing loss to the in-form Cowboys last week, Anthony Seibold’s troops cannot afford to concede many more losses if they want to keep their finals hopes alive.
After their woeful defensive performance against the Warriors, Sharks mentor Craig Fitzgibbon has blown-up his left edge, sensationally dropping Matt Moylan and Siosifa Talakai and replacing them with Braydon Trindall at five-eighth with Connor Tracey at centre. Talakai will be retained on the bench with stalwart Dale Finucane also set to return at lock in a welcome boost. In another huge blow, Teig Wilton is out for the season with Jesse Colquhoun promoted to the starting second-row as cover. Meanwhile, Manly’s only changes come with Roosters import Matt Lodge and Sean Keppie to add some impact to their bench.
Cronulla’s struggles against the competition’s elite teams will see them enter this contest as heavy favourites given Manly sit 11th on the ladder. Both teams will be desperate to bank as many premiership points as possible and will need to go on a significant run to achieve their finals aspirations. This match could go either way but expect the Sharks’ positional changes to bear fruit with Cronulla to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sharks -8.5 @ $1.91 (Boombet)
Bulldogs +29.5 @ $1.90 (Colossalbet)