By Stephen Gallagher
THURSDAY: South Sydney Rabbitohs V Wests Tigers – ANZ Stadium – 21.50NZT
Here’s a game that could go absolutely any way!
There’s no doubting, in my mind that the Rabbitohs have lost their enjoyment for rugby league. A club that’s built a reputation of success over the last five years is starting to struggle. Last weeks frustrations boiled over, and so did the scoreline eventually.
What Souths need is to go back to what works for them, and that’s being able to play as a team. There are too many individuals in this side at the moment, all trying to win the game themselves.
And the Tigers? Well, they can’t be any worse than what they were on the weekend. A 60 point drubbing.
This is a team that has gone away from their success recipe too. There’s no support play anymore. The confidence is down and out. The one positive remaining is they can’t (surely) get any worse. They can only get better.
Their forwards have been weak. Grant and Seumanufagai are both going backwards. They’re desperate now. They have to start going forward to help Brooks and Moses out.
TIP: The Rabbitohs are going to get back in to the winners circle. It won’t the the best win, but it will help down the line. Rabbitohs 1-12.
FRIDAY: Parramatta Eels V Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – ANZ Stadium – 21.50NZT
Firstly, how this is a ‘Parramatta home game’ at the Bulldogs home ground is beyond me.
Secondly, this is going to be a bloody good match up.
Sitting fifth and sixth on the table respectively – the Eels need to rack up as many wins they can this season, as they’re likely to be docked points for rorting the salary cap.
The Bulldogs scraped by, after their match against the Titans went in to golden point.
Both sides will have a lot to improve on this week if they’re wanting to win.
For Parramatta, they need to go back to their direct line of play. Tackles one, two, three need to be up the guts before the likes of Jennings or Radradra get it. Make the impact early.
The Bulldogs forwards are also in a semi-slump. They’ve been quiet two weeks in a row, which means they’re out to get some metres this week.
James Graham is the key. The fiery red-headed gingernut Englishman is a fierce competitor – and when he lays it on the other forwards they have to stand up and be counted.
TIP: Curtis Rona to score first, and the Bulldogs to win 1-12.
SATURDAY: Penrith Panthers V Canberra Raiders – Carrington Park, Bathurst – 17.00NZT
The Penny Panthers may be 12th on the table, but boy they’ve got some heart this season.
The change of coach has worked, and Anthony Griffin has been a good pick up. They’ve been in everything lately, and when they’re losing it is usually less than a try.
Penrith know they have a mammoth task on their hands, trying to cull the Green-hot Raiders.
The Canberra juggernaut has mainly been on the back of English hooker Josh Hodgson – in Blake Austin’s absence has been the go to man when they’re in trouble. His dummy half darts, and vision to ensure an impeccable kicking game has been dominant to say the least. There’s a reason why he is leading the Daly M points.
At the special venue of Carrington Park, the West Sydneysiders will hope to bring some magic.
TIP: First try scorer, Pita Hiku – Canberra Raiders to win 1-12.
Sydney Roosters V Newcastle Knights – Allianz Stadium – 19.30NZT
Get excited! It’s the battle of the spoon! How blessed are we to see who will be in last place after this game.
I know it’s going to be the Knights though. They’re going to have no answer to the Roosters.
Actually, Sydney were unlucky not to win their ANZAC Day clash.
Hard to believe both these sides have only one win to show for their toil this year.
The Knights are looking very skinny. Another couple of losses could knock their confidence, and see them not pick up many more at all.
The Roosters are getting some players back, so will be wanting this game to springboard their comeback.
The Knights have to work on their defence, they cocked up and let in some soft ones the last few weeks.
TIP: Boyd Cordner to score the first, and the Roosters to win by 13+
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles V North Queensland Cowboys – Brookvale Oval – 21.30NZT
To round off Super Saturday – we get treated to this one.
The Sea Eagles are a good side, as they start to stick some wins together. They’re slowly starting to imitate that style of the side in the mid to late 2000’s.
The Cowboys want to make their own legend, they want to be the first side to go back to back since the Broncos in the late 90’s.
They’ve got a bloody good chance too, and a good measure would be to pick up a win here.
The backs are starting to click, Coote is wanting to have his contract renewed before he’s snapped up elsewhere.
Manly’s D are putting in work. They’re standing strong on their line, and forcing their opposition in to making errors.
This match up could be the game of the round for me. Two sides that are truly excellent.
TIP: Manly will score first through Dylan Walker, but they will fall short. Cowboys 1-12.
SUNDAY: New Zealand Warriors V Saint George Illawarra Dragons – Mount Smart Stadium – 14.00NZT
Here’s an interesting match!
After being flogged beyond belief on Monday – the Warriors will be out for redemption, except they come up against a side they have an abysmal record against.
It’s fair to say, since the merge in 1999, the Dragons have had the Warriors number easily.
The Warriors side has a fair few changes, some forced, some through form – but they will be licking their wounds and wanting to come out with a roar.
The Dragons have a balanced side that is still under construction, but with four wins they’re getting the job done despite some mixed matches.
They’ll do what they can to unsettle the hosts, look for a kicking game to try pin the Warriors in their own half.
TIP: The bounce back factor comes in to it. Warriors win 1-12.
Gold Coast Titans V Melbourne Storm – CBUS Super Stadium – 16.00NZT
The Titans are now reeling. They’ve now bounced four on the trot, despite their best efforts.
So what’s a better test of character than to take on a Melbourne side who will be gleaming after an emphatic dispatch of the Warriors earlier this week?
It’s safe to say the Titans have some pressure associated to their name in this clash, not wanting to drop five straight after a strong start.
There are guys that are working hard, with little to no resolve. The Storm will want to crash the party.
In their best performance of the season, they will want to back that up to show they are deserved of third spot on the ladder.
It’s a combination that’s worked for a long, long time now in Melbourne, but their boisterous forwards are getting the job done – and making it easy for their fast finishing backs.
The Titans will have to get to work early. Any inch given to the Storm must be taken back.
TIP: Titans half time/Storm full time. Storm 1-12
Cronulla Sharks V Brisbane Broncos – Southern Cross Group Stadium – 18.00NZT
Incoming match of awesomeness!
Note, there’s no Monday night match this week – but this game will finish off round nine in style! What a match up!
Both sides have been unbeatable in the last five weeks, a feat that is not easy to manage in the NRL.
The home side will still have their work cut out for them, against the league leaders.
Cronulla are finding ways to win, and that’s the key in this competition. Doesn’t matter how you get that W, you just gotta do it. They’ve been strong all over the field, with standouts being Andrew Fifita, and Ben Barba.
The Broncos won’t be over thinking this match. They’re a steely side who know all too well how these matches can play out.
This outfit is tough. Deadly. On their day, they can de-rail the best of sides. Watch out Cronulla.
Townsend and Maloney V Milford and Hunt. What a combo this is. Worth watching this match just for these four blokes running around.
TIP: I am tipping the Sharks. I believe they will win. This is going to be a brilliant game. Looking forward to this one! Sharks 1-12.
Follow Stephen Gallagher on Twitter