By Stephen Gallagher
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs V North Queensland Cowboys – Belmore Sports Ground – 21.50NZT
A massive match to kick things off.
With a win, the Cowboys could leap frog the Bulldogs in to fourth spot.
Belmore is the spiritual home ground of the Bulldogs, and it is a shame they don’t play all their home games at this venue.
Canterbury Bankstown have to play with more desperation if they want to claim a win.
Cowboys are back in to form, and want to fight hard to defend their title from last season.
There’s plenty at stake for this match. The Bulldogs have lacked in execution close to the line all year, and will need something special to get through the big Cowboys defence.
TIP: Cowboys 1-12.
Melbourne Storm V Brisbane Broncos – AAMI Park – 21.50NZT
A win here gifts Melbourne the JJ Giltinan Shield as they will finish the season in first place.
Brisbane have made the play offs too, but a win here will definitely help them on their way.
These two have been very good over the last fortnight.
The Storm are very good at all the small clinical things, which is what Brisbane have been slowly getting getting back to their dominant best. So there’s going to be a lot left out on the field.
Overall, Melbourne are just too good. The Broncos are the sort of team who can throw everything at them and get the win, but not this time.
TIP: Storm 1-12
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles V Canberra Raiders – Brookvale Oval – 17.00NZT
The Sea Eagles can just give it their absolutely all in this and try upset the Raiders.
Manly’s season has been extremely poor by their standards.
Canberra are just in such phenomenal form that I find it hard to believe they will drop this match.
Their left and right edge are dynamite and can attack from all over the field.
Manly just have to give the ball some air. Get some early points and try hold on for 80.
The Raiders don’t mind coming back from behind, which we saw last week.
TIP: Raiders 1-12
Gold Coast Titans V Penrith Panthers – CBUS Super Stadium – 19.30ZT
A very big game here. Both sides look to have done more than enough to make the playoffs, and are enjoying their footy at a crucial period of the season.
I don’t think in terms of points scored, Hayne has added too much – but off the field I think his professionalism has given the Titans another edge.
This Penrith side are young but getting the job done in a big way.
This match is practically a finals match, and winner can go on to another week of footy.
The Titans have to match the pace of Penrith, and if they can’t – they might be playing catch up from early on.
TIP: Panthers 1-12.
New Zealand Warriors V Wests Tigers – Mount Smart Stadium – 16.00NZT
Both teams are out of finals contention, so I am expecting a lot of points to be put on the board.
The Warriors have been woeful over the last two weeks, their defence has been torn to pieces with ease.
Wests are just as bad, but their attack has less to offer.
I’ll be interested to see how both these two teams approach this one – I could see 80 or so points put in the board in a high scoring affair. It’s only fair that they both get some good tries on the board.
The home factor should come in to this, with the Warriors picking up a win.
TIP: Warriors 1-12
Newcastle Knights V South Sydney Rabbitohs – Hunter Stadium – 18.00NZT
Another incoming loss for the Knights.
Souths have been really successful across the past fortnight because they have gone back to basics.
They’ve been bashing teams in the trenches and reaping rewards because of it.
If they can run all over Newcastle in the first 15 minutes – then they will run all day.
For Newcastle’s sake, I hope they put up a fight. This is the single worse season by any club since the Gold Coast Seagulls managed one win in 1993.
TIP: Rabbitohs 13+
Parramatta Eels V Saint George Illawarra Dragons – Pirtek Stadium – 21.00NZT
Two teams with terrible seasons about to end.
There is a lot of work to be put in to these two teams in the off season. Parramatta need to lay off the wallet, and the Dragons need to use theirs.
For the last Monday night match of the year, I hope it’s not a stinker.
Both sides are capable of a solid performance, but it’s whether they turn up and put it on for 80 minutes.
The Eels will want to get up for their home fans, after a disappointing loss last week in Canberra.
The Dragons defence needs a lot of work, and on their line they need to front up.
TIP: Eels 1-12
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