Round 13 is a split round due to State of Origin. There are four matches with eight teams enjoying a bye.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos
The Dragons have recalled forward Jack de Belin as they look to arrest a three-game losing streak. De Belin will play his first NRL match since the 2018 finals and will no doubt still be coming to terms with the pace and fitness of the elite level. However, he could be an interesting inclusion for a side looking for an injection of confidence after losing six of their past seven as they let a positive start to the season slip away. Matt Dufty (shoulder), Mikaele Ravalawa and Josh Kerr (suspension) join De Belin to further bolster the Dragons, but they’ll be without Tariq Sims due to Origin commitments. For the Broncos, halfback Tyson Gamble and prop Matt Lodge return from suspension while Payne Haas and Xavier Coates are on Origin duty. Highly-touted rookie Selwyn Cobbo has also been named to make his debut on the wing. The Dragons seem to fare best at the selection table and the Broncos have a hideous record at this venue – not winning here since 1998. This is a golden opportunity for the Dragons to return to winning form that they cannot pass up.
Suggested bet – 1.5u Dragons -7.5 at $1.85
Wests Tigers v Penrith Panthers
After 12 straight wins to start the season, the Panthers are vulnerable with most of their stars on Origin duty. The Panthers’ depth will be seriously tested with Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Api Koroisau and Kurt Capewell all preparing for Origin. Their replacements look capable of filling the void, but there’s obviously big question marks on how they gel in what will be a makeshift side. The Panthers have won seven of their past eight games against the Tigers but this is clearly a different scenario so many key personnel unavailable. The Tigers will enjoy home ground advantage and have shown glimpses of form in recent weeks, winning three of their past five. They should be competitive against a Penrith side really scrambling to fill the gaps left by their Origin stars.
Suggested bet – 1u Tigers +6.5 at $1.90
Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans
The Storm will be without Origin players Felise Kaufusi and Josh Addo-Carr, adding to an already lengthy list of players unavailable through injury. Kenny Bromwich is a strong replacement for Kaufusi in a Storm side which simply can’t be underestimated. They have simply proved time and time again they can overcome adversity and finds ways to win. Interestingly, the Titans are more impacted by Origin than the Storm, with David Fifita, AJ Brimson, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Moeaki Fotuaika all part of the Queensland side. With these star players missing, and the Titans already producing extremely patchy performances in 2021, the Storm should be building on their unbeaten run of six from six at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Suggested bet – 1u Storm -22.5 at $1.90
Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels
The Knights found winning form last week when upsetting the Sea Eagles, but given it was just their third win at home this season, it’s unlikely that playing on familiar turf is a key pointer here. The Knights are proving a very hard team to assess and it wouldn’t surprise if they were the side which really made a surge towards the back half of the season. Perhaps last week’s win over the Sea Eagles outlined the blueprint for the Knights to resurrect their season? The downside this week is they take on one of the competition’s high-flyers, with the third-placed Eels suffering only three defeats this season. Two of those losses have come successively in the past two weeks at the hands of the Sea Eagles and Souths. The Eels will be wanting to hit back here against a Knights side hit with Origin duties, suspension and injury. In contrast, the Eels gain Reed Mahoney who has been released from Queensland duties, while five-eighth Dylan Brown and prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard return from suspension.
Suggested bet – 2u Eels -11.5 at $1.85