North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights
A big blow for the Knights here is the loss of young gun Bradnam Best, while Hymel Hunt is back on the injury list adding further pain as they head north to take on the Cowboys. The Knights add the experience of veteran Blake Green, but it’s far from an ideal preparation for a side which hasn’t won in Townsville since 2015 and won only one of their past 15 games in Queensland. The Cowboys have been playing some solid footy in recent weeks. They’ve lost only twice in the past six weeks, one of which was a slender loss to the Warriors and the other being last week’s credible performance when going down to the Roosters. With Kalyn Ponga still on the sidelines it’s hard to see the Knights being too competitive in Townsville.
Suggested bet – 1u Cowboys -6.5 at $2
New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers
Interesting match with the Warriors installed as favourites – a position they’ve struggled to live up to with seven losses out of their past 10 when the market elect. I still believe the Warriors are genuine finals contenders, but they’ll need to find some consistency and win games such as this against bottom eight sides. While the Warriors have lost their past two, it has been against an in-form Manly side and a high-flying Parramatta outfit. The Tigers have a good record against the Warriors, winning five of their past seven, but I think they’ll have their work cut out continuing that recent dominance. The Tigers do have the luxury of going in unchanged, but the Warriors’ strong forward pack will cause headaches for a questionable Tigers defence.
Suggested bet – 1.5u Warriors win at $1.53
Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons
Another fascinating clash (this time for the wrong reasons) with the Sharks gifted an opportunity to snap a six-game losing streak against a Dragons’ side decimated by suspension. The Dragons will be without Josh McGuire (five weeks), Tyrell Fuimaono (five weeks), Mikaele Ravalawa (two weeks) and Tariq Sims (one week), while fullback Matt Dufty (shoulder) is also sidelined. It’s a golden opportunity for the Sharks, but it’s also a chance for the Dragons second-tier players to stand up. Sadly, since John Morris was ditched as coach the Sharks have been deplorable – and not even the Dragons’ personnel losses make them a betting prospect. Similarly, it is hard to ignore the Dragons’ own form in recent weeks (lost four of last five), so it’s even hard to back them at the big price or line.
No suggested bet
Gold Coast Titans v Canterbury Bulldogs
The Titans have lost their way in recent weeks, losing four of their past six. It has brought warranted question marks about whether they can push for finals. Fortunately, they come up against the lowly Bulldogs to turn around their form, but they do lose Herman Ese’ese (three weeks) and Tyrone Peachey (two weeks) through suspension and David Fifita is still sidelined. While the Bulldogs only have one win to their name so far this season, they almost brought down the Raiders last weekend and there’s been a string of acceptable performances peppered into their season. This is a difficult match to assess given the Titans inconsistency.
No suggested bet
Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos
There’s some respite from the Roosters’ injury-plagued season with only one change for the clash against the Broncos. They face a Broncos side which put in another insipid effort last week to be thrashed at home by Manly. This week has again been marred by more personnel changes and off-field whispers for the besieged Broncos. It’s another set of negatives for a side which has not won in Sydney since 2019 and have lost 14 consecutive games away from Suncorp Stadium. While the Roosters remain hugely understrength, they continue defying the odds, with their only two recent losses coming against Melbourne and Parramatta. It’s mighty hard to see the Broncos showing any semblance of competitiveness here.
Suggested bet – 2u Roosters -21.5 at $1.90
Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm
Some big-name suspensions for Canberra with Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii and Josh Hodgson all sitting this one out. It’s another blow for a side which barely scraped past the Bulldogs last week to snap a five-game losing streak. Despite losing the past two encounters between these two sides, the Raiders have proved up to the task of beating the Storm in recent times. But given the suspensions and key players remaining on the injury list, it’s hard to see the Storm being overly tested here. There are a few queries which make me hesitant to bet here. Ryan Papenhuyzen is on the sidelines for the Storm and the forecast freezing weather for this night game makes it hard to take them at the minus.
No suggested bet
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers
The first of two cracking Sunday fixtures has the Rabbits hosting the undefeated Panthers. Latrell Mitchell is a key inclusion for the home side as they look to snap a three-game losing streak against the Panthers. Interestingly, the past five clashes between these sides have been very close, with four of them decided by four points of less. There seems to be no stopping the clinical Panthers and they are further bolstered by the return of Kurt Capewell. However, the Rabbits have proven this year that their best is good enough to test any side in the competition – even the high-flying Panthers. I’m backing them to be competitive here.
Suggested bet – 1u +9.5 Rabbitohs at $1.90
Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles
There’s no denying the Sea Eagles have been a vastly different side since the return of Tom Trbojevic, but it’s also clear the Eels are a different class of opponent. Despite Manly winning two of the past four encounters between these two sides, overall the Eels have won nine of these past 12 clashes. Manly has won five of their past six after a lousy start to the season, but the majority of those victories have come against sides likely destined for the bottom eight. The loss of five-eighth Keiran Foran is also a big loss. I think this will be a crash back to earth for the Sea Eagles.
Suggested bet – 1.5u Eels -7.5 at $1.95