Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles – 6.00pm (AEST), Friday 21st April @ GIO Stadium
The Storyline: Two teams looking to consolidate their top 8 spots. The attack-laden Raiders will be looking to put more misery on a middling Manly side that sit 9th.
The Stat: In the 25 games between the two teams, it’s a very close 13-12 record in favour of the Sea Eagles.
It’s a big game for: Jarrod Croker. The centre’s ultra consistent performances mean he is on the radar for a possible Australian debut. Another solid outing will help his case when the side is named next week.
Last time they met: Manly prevailed in a high-scoring affair at Brookvale last year, winning 44-30 in Round 25.
The Verdict: Expect the Raiders to continue their momentum with another big win. Raiders by 16.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos – 7.50pm (AEST), Friday 21st April @ ANZ Stadium
The Storyline: The Broncos are dashing away up the ladder and face a sorry South Sydney, who have lost three of their past four this year.
The Stat: The Broncos have outscored the Rabbitohs 107-30 in the teams’ last three clashes.
It’s a big game for: Kodi Nikorima. The Kiwi international halfback played a fine hand last week against the Titans, scoring a try and controlling the game well.
Last time they met: Brisbane crushed the Rabbitohs 30-10 in Round 19 last year.
The Verdict: The Broncos’ outside backs will have too much pace and power for their South’s counterparts. Broncos by 10.
Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers – 3.00pm (AEST), Saturday 22nd April @ ANZ Stadium
The Storyline: Two teams feature in a must-win clash to improve their chances of stay in touch of the top teams. The Eels have levelled out after winning their first two matches, while the Panthers have shown glimpses of promise but sit in 13th spot.
The Stat: Parramatta have lost four of their past five games. Last start was a 26-22 win against the Wests Tigers.
It’s a big game for: Nathan Cleary. Can the Panther’s young halfback shake his team’s funk and get a win, instead of a fourth straight defeat?
Last time they met: The Panthers snuck a 20-18 win away to Parramatta in Round 5, 2016.
The Verdict: Penrith have too many good players to continue losing. They will see a clash against the Eels as a chance to put in a strong performance, and shake off the off-field distractions over the past two weeks. Panthers by 4.
North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights – 5.30pm (AEST), Saturday 22nd April @ 1300SMILES Stadium
The Storyline: North Queensland are slipping with two losses in a row. But they face a Newcastle team who are stuck in a losing rut. The Knights have had a couple of encouraging performances, but their ability to sustain 80 minutes of quality football is a concern. The Cowboys have missed Johnathan Thurston but have enough talent across the park to put in a dominant performance.
The Stat: It’s been more than 600 days since the Knights win two in a row. They are aiming to do this on Saturday.
It’s a big game for: Michael Morgan. The Cowboys five-eighth did an admirable job in Thurston’s absence. He needs to remain strong again and support forward John Asiasta, who filled in at five-eighth last round and will play again this weekend.
Last time they met: A deafening 46-16 win by the Cowboys at home in Round 13 last year. Thurston kicked 7 from 8 as Kyle Feldt and Ray Thompson scored doubles.
The Verdict: It won’t be the same score line like last time they met, by the Cowboys should get the job done against the Knights in a professional performance. Cowboys by 14.
Cronulla Sharks v Gold Coast Titans – 7.40pm (AEST), Saturday 22nd April @ Southern Cross Stadium.
The Storyline: A Sharks team back to their premiership-winning form of 2016 face up to a Titans side full of attacking promise but lacking in execution. Cronulla have managed to beat Melbourne at AAMI Park – probably the hardest challenge in the NRL – and kept them try-less too. It doesn’t bode well for the Gold Coast, however the visitors could welcome back Jarryd Hayne, Kevin Proctor and Konrad Hurrell from injury this weekend.
The Stat: 5 from 16: that is the Titan’s record against the Sharks. They have 3 wins and a draw from 10 matches. It’s not much better.
It’s a big game for: Konrad Hurrell. The hard-running centre could ignite some of their attack which has been ebbing and flowing.
Last time they met: An entertaining 18-all draw last year in the Gold Coast.
The Verdict: Cronulla will smell blood. Sharks by 18.
Wests Tigers v Canterbury Bulldogs – 4.00pm (AEST), Sunday 23rd April @ ANZ Stadium
The Storyline: An intriguing battle awaits. Both teams have had fluctuating seasons so far, with storylines around coaches, player retention and form dominating headlines. But with Ivan Cleary (Tigers) and Des Hasler (Bulldogs) confirmed to lead their teams, this should be a close match and one of the highlights of the round – if only for mystery value.
The Stat: The Bulldogs have dominated the Tigers, winning 20 of their 31 clashes. In recent times, it’s even better: 8 from their last 10 matches against Wests.
It’s a big game for: Aaron Woods. The Bulldogs have the better pack, but if Woods can inspire his more mobile forwards to win the ruck, then this could be closer than we all think.
Last time they met: Canterbury scored a decisive 32-22 victory in Round 18, 2016, at ANZ Stadium.
The Verdict: An even game early, but Canterbury to outlast their Sydney neighbours. Bulldogs by 8.
Sydney Roosters v St. George Illawarra Dragons – 4.00pm (AEST), Tuesday 25th April @ Allianz Stadium
The Storyline: A keenly anticipated match-up between two traditional rivals. Excitingly for fans, both teams have had excellent starts to the season – the Dragons are in top spot, while the Roosters sit in fourth.
The Stat: The Roosters have won seven of the past 10 clashes between the sides, but only three of the past five.
It’s a big game for: Russell Packer. He featured as one of the players Kiwi coach David Kidwell thought had a stand out game last round. If he can have another powerful performance, his prospects of a Kiwi call-up will be enhanced so close to the Anzac Test.
Last time they met: The Roosters handed out a 42-6 thrashing at the Sydney Football Stadium in the Anzac Day clash last year.
The Verdict: A potential slip-up game for the Dragons. But I think they will lift to an even greater level for this special day. Dragons by 8.
Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors – 7.00pm (AEST), Tuesday 25th April @ AAMI Park
The Storyline: This game always features as a must-watch event, despite the Warriors’ middling performances this year. The Storm are thundering along as they tend to do at the start of the year, with a solitary loss against Cronulla their only black mark for the year. The Warriors’ faded badly in the second half against the Raiders after leading 8-6 in Canberra and will be conscious of finding their attacking form again.
The Stat: Melbourne has only lost 5 of their last 20 games at AAMI Park. The Warriors last won their in 2014.
It’s a big game for: Ben Matulino. The former Kiwi international was named on the Warriors’ extended bench after a long period with injury.
Last time they met: The Storm played smart football in torrential rain to win 26-10 in Round 2 this year at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Verdict: As much as the Warriors raise their game against Melbourne, this one looks too tough to predict another upset. Melbourne by 8.