Saturday 24 March 2018 / 11:40 AM


RABBITOHS V EELS — Friday 26 May, 7:50pm @ ANZ Stadium

The Storyline: Two teams that have struggled for rhythm and consistency, trying to find their identity before they lose touch with the group fighting it out for the bottom of the eight. Both sides need to get their act together if they are to make anything of their seasons.

The Stat: The Rabbitohs have had the Eels’ number in recent times, taking out nine wins from the last 11 meetings.

It’s a big game for: This time last year Adam Reynolds was gearing up to make his Origin debut. This season, he was barely in the discussion. The poor overall form of the Bunnies has no doubt made his job tougher, but Souths need more than the pedestrian efforts he’s put forth recently.

Last time they met: The Eels, fresh off the tumultuous period which saw them cop the fallback from their salary cap issues, were able to score a comfortable 30-12 victory over Souths in Round 15 last year, exacting revenge after losing five weeks early

The Verdict: Funnily enough, these are the of the three teams unaffected by Origin, so their previous form can be accounted for. Even still, getting a read on either team is pretty difficult due to their wild inconsistencies. Beating Souths comes down to winning the middle third and tiring out their pack. Holes start to open up thereafter, and the Eels have the forwards to halt the momentum. That’s banking a lot on Mitchell Moses, but Souths haven’t been good enough to believe in. Eels 1-12 

WARRIORS V BRONCOS —Saturday 27 May, 5:30pm @ Mt Smart Stadium

The Storyline: Two teams at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. The Broncos have been superb in setting a foundation for their season heading into the turbulent Origin period, playing their best footy in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the last fortnight has seen the fruition of the narrative that has plagued the Warriors for as long as memory serves, their lacklustre second half seeing them give up a massive lead against the Panthers backed up by an all-round dreadful showing against the Dragons.

The Stat: The Warriors, forever feared for their ad-lib style, have been unable to generate any dangerous attack: 23 tackle busts (16th) and 5.5 offloads (15th), two areas they usually the dominate. The Broncos look their best when they get rolling, and a far superior in these categories (33.5 TB and 10.7 OL). If the Warriors can get theirs going and restrict Brisbane, they’ll be in the driver’s seat.

It’s a big game for: Currently unsigned for next season, Jordan Kahu gets a golden opportunity to demonstrate his value playing at fullback. As one of their rep guys who is still available through Origin, Brisbane need Kahu to fire in order to keep the attack above water.

Last time they met: Just under a year ago, both teams were in pretty were similar form, with the Warriors struggling for consistency (shocks) coming through and stunning the Origin-weary Broncos with a comfortable 18-point win at home.

The Verdict: It’s insane to think the Broncos might be better positioned even without their 6 Origin players and Andrew McCullough, but with a full-strength team and home-field advantage, it’s too hard to tip the young Broncos to travel to NZ and steal a win. Somehow, even after the Warriors have laid multiple eggs, we still believe in them. They might blow this like only they can. Reluctantly, Warriors 1-12

SHARKS V BULLDOGS — Saturday 27 May, 7:30pm @ Southern Cross Group Stadium

The Storyline: This will be ugly, but full of heart. Styles make fights, but these teams are quite similar — both love a tight, scrappy game and are stout on the defensive end. Maybe the two squads who most resemble themselves from last season, built upon workmanlike forward packs and grinding the other team out of their style.

The Stat: The Bulldogs average a surprise 12.3 offloads per game (second in the league). Their offensive struggles are well documented, and the second-phase play often moves sideways rather than through the line — evidenced in their bottom-four ranking in line-breaks, line-break assists and try assists. The Bulldogs have the defence to hold the Sharks out, so whether they can utilise their opportunities will be telling.

It’s a big game for: Picked for the Test, left out of the Origin team — this will be Valentine Holmes’ statement game. His form has been underrated since making a seamless transition to fullback and is one of the most thrilling runners in the league when he gets going. Plenty to prove.

Last time they met: A late-game corner try from Ricky Leutele set up an after-the-buzzer conversion for James Maloney, who split the sticks to get the Sharks out of jail 20-18.

The Verdict: This is going to be a gruelling affair, and no one does that better than Cronulla. Even without their featured strike weapons, it’s hard to see the Bulldogs having enough points to trouble the reigning premiers. By nature of these teams, expect a dour affair and a tight result. Sharks 1-12

RAIDERS V ROOSTERS — Sunday 28 May, 4:00pm @ GIO Stadium

The Storyline: The league’s two most potent attacking forces collide in a high-octane clash with important finals implications.

The Stat: When on song, the Raiders are explosive in attack. Their 37.6 tackle breaks a game is a shade under first in the league, and if the understrength Roosters have any hope, they need to restrict the momentum the Green Machine generate through the middle.

It’s a big game for: Without their two best forwards Dylan Napa and Boyd Cordner, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be counted on the lead the attack against a fearsome Raiders pack. JWH has yet to have a trademark, dominating performance this season, and while his form has been solid he’s only cracked the 200m once. His battle with Paulo and Boyd is sure to entertain and Waerea-Hargreaves needs to stamp his authority to reclaim the reputation he once had as the most menacing prop in the game. Has to run for 200+ to give the Roosters a shot.

Last time they met: A thriller way back in round 2 last year, the Raiders were able to overcome a host of injuries, including both their halves, to score a one-point win courtesy of a 77th-minute field goal from Sam Williams.

The Verdict: At full strength, the Roosters are a more refined version of the Raiders product, but the missing talent will be too much to overcome. Cordner, Napa and Pearce’s contributions are so deeply engrained in the style they play that they might struggle to find a rhythm without them. The Raiders can’t afford to give up any more ground on the top four and should get up in front of their home crowd. Raiders 13+

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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