By Stephen Gallagher
THURSDAY: Brisbane Broncos V Saint George Illawarra Dragons – Suncorp Stadium, 21.50NZT
The Brisbane giants stood up last week, but consistency has to be their focus.
The Dragons steam rolled them in the finals last year, and that taste will still linger.
For St George Illawarra, they’re not panicking with their winless start, but a win here would really mean a lot.
Norman and Hunt have the jump on Nikorima and Milford, so who ever can control the game from the get go is the team who will likely come up trumps.
TIP: Broncos 1-12
FRIDAY: Canberra Raiders V Newcastle Knights – GIO Stadium, 20.00NZT
I see a lot of similarities between these two sides this year.
Both have a very competitive core, and players that can make a big difference in close games.
The Raiders at home is always a hard one for oppositions.
The Hodgson V Levi hooker battle will be really interesting. Both strong ball runners, and their teams thrive off the back of it.
The team that is sharper around the ruck on defence will more than likely strangle the opposition.
Expect a strong start by both sides.
TIP: Raiders 1-12
Parramatta Eels V Sydney Roosters – ANZ Stadium, 22.00NZT
Parramatta fans will absolutely love what they’ve seen from their side thus far, but here comes the first real test.
Their backline has been sensational, and you can see them ooze confidence off the major signing of Blake Fergusson.
The Roosters have their general Cronk back, and hooker Jake Friend.
I’ve been impressed with the Eels – they’ve got a lot of heart. The Roosters will be well aware of this.
If the Roosters can dictate the state of play, they’ll put a lot of pressure on Parra. Will be interesting to see how they react to a tough side.
TIP: Eels 1-12
SATURDAY: Manly Warringah Sea Eagles V New Zealand Warriors – Christchurch Stadium, 17.00NZT
In the city’s first significant sporting fixture since the terror attacks two weeks ago – I am sure there will be a lot of emotion from both sides.
The Sea Eagles will be delighted to have the return of Tom Trbojevic, who will add a lot more spark to their dire backline.
The Warriors only have one change with Sam Lisone out suspended.
Their reality check last week will be just what the doctor ordered, but in saying that, Manly have a fantastic record over the New Zealand side.
TIP: Warriors 1-12
North Queensland Cowboys V Cronulla Sharks – 1300 Smiles Stadium, 19.30NZT
All the headlines have been around Jason Taumalolo’s injury, and just what that means for the Cowboys.
It comes at a cruel time, against a Cronulla side who have been strong up front in the first two weeks.
I can’t imagine the Cowboys game plan to change, but the execution will be for more players to step up.
The Sharks celebrate Paul Gallen’s 329th game – and would like to do it with a win.
TIP: Sharks 1-12
Penrith Panthers V Melbourne Storm – Panthers Stadium, 21.30NZT
If there’s a team that can take down Melbourne, it’s Penrith.
They have had some really great battles over the last couple of years, and coach Ivan Cleary has the best record in the league against the Storm.
Penrith have made a couple of forced changes, whereas the Storm remain the same after their solid win last week.
The Panthers are the team that can go toe to toe in the trenches with the Storm. I think this has the potential to be the game of the round.
TIP: Storm 1-12
SUNDAY: Wests Tigers V Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – Campbelltown Stadium, 18.10NZT
The Tigers looked absolutely sensational last week. The Bulldogs, not so much. That’s they’ve had a few changes in their side.
Bulldogs have to try something new. Whatever’s happening isn’t cutting it, and two big losses to open the season looks very bad.
They’ll come out swinging, but the Tigers have to just play their own style for 80 minutes, and just keep forcing the Doggies backwards.
The Tigers need to keep the ball rolling with another big win.
TIP: Tigers 13+
South Sydney Rabbitohs V Gold Coast Titans – ANZ Stadium, 20.10NZT
No surprises the Rabbitohs continue to have the same 17 from last week.
For the Gold Coast, their side remains unchanged too – but I think that comes from lack of depth.
The Titans have only scored one try this year, and they have rarely threatened the try line.
Souths are such a strong force all over the park. They have the defence to sustain what the Titans can throw at them, and the attack to push them back for eighty minutes.
TIP: Rabbitohs 13+
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