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We swear - he's not taking the piss... Paul's back with his previews of the next round of NRL fixtures.
Look back through the NRL teamlists for Round 13 here, and check back here on the weekend for LIVE updates of each game.
Parramatta Eels v Sydney Roosters
Parramatta Stadium, Friday 7:35pm
Fortress Parra? Don’t laugh. The Eels have quietly amassed a record of 3 wins from 4 starts at Parramatta Stadium this season. Quite an effort considering how bad some of their overall performances have been in 2013 but they’ve somehow been inspired when defending the Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling hills. Well, they’ll need all the inspiration they can muster on Friday night to open round 13.
The 8 and 3 Roosters are coming to town and bringing the second best attack in the comp with them. Will this attack be on song and ready to deliver? Hard to say with their 7 and 6 just 48 hours removed from one of the biggest games of their lives but if Maloney and Jennings have their legs, the Eels and their new found fortress are in trouble. Reni Maitua plays his 150th first grade game in what must be a bittersweet moment. Maybe just bitter.
My tip: Roosters 28-12
Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
Hunter Stadium, Saturday 5:30pm
Saturday night football from the Hunter brings you another dose of Wayne Bennett v former understudy Steve Price. In their last meeting, Saints were hot to trot from the beginning and held on for a big win at Kogarah. In just two short months since that match, the Dragons have lost 5 from 7 and also lost their star playmaker. Jamie Soward dropped to the Illawarra Cutters in another example of why the NRL’s contract signing system is a failure.
The Knights have not fared much better since round 5, but will be very happy to come home after a fortnight of struggles against the Warriors and Bunnies. They’ll start favourites and rightly so with the Dragons not slick enough in attack to threaten for sustained periods. The Nathan Fein / Chase Stanley combination is unproven and unimpressive. Hunt and Weyman v Mason and Snowden one of the few highlights here.
My tip: Newcastle 24-10
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
1300SMILES Stadium, Saturday 7:30pm
The Bulldogs will travel to Townsville as favourites on Saturday night and with the number of Cowboys backing up after Origin, combined with their recent struggles, it comes as no surprise. They’ve lost 4 in a row and averaged just over 12 points in attack over that span. Not good numbers for a club boasting the Australian number 6, the NRLs reigning try scoring champion and a bunch of forwards that should be beating the crap out of people every week.
So, this match pits 9 v 12 on the ladder but momentum is huge here with the visitors winners of 5 from their past 6. Good form to take to 1300SMILES Stadium and they’ll need it. The Cowboys will be desperate and with Neil Henry in his third year away from the distraction of the Queensland Origin team, the club will be expecting something positive. They may not get it. The Bulldogs forwards should enjoy the conditions up north and Ben Barba should see some space.
My tip: Canterbury 20-12
New Zealand Warriors v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday 2:00pm AEST
The Warriors seem to be getting their flow on lately. 3 weeks ago they were flushed by the Panthers but since that moment, it’s all been golden. They dominated the Knights at home and then left a stench on the Broncos last Monday night that will be very difficult to wash off. They now take this form home to Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday afternoon to face the visiting Eagles but this task could see them again leaking points.
Ably led by whiz kids Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke, the home side will come out hoping to slash Manly to pieces, but they’ll be disappointed. The Eagles may have travelled far but to their fans relief, they’ll be ready to go in this one. DCE and Kieran Foran will lead the way here against a Warriors side busting with confidence but with the visitors defence ranked 2nd in the competition, Manly finish number 1 in this match.
My tip: Manly 28-20
Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers
Centrebet Stadium, Sunday 3:00pm
The stench of democracy has finally left the foot of the mountains and it’s been replaced by the wonderful smell of dictatorial success. Ivan Cleary looked up to the heavens and said, “Gus, lemme do it my way” and the heavens responded with a resounding, “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes”. ‘Vale’ Michael Jennings, ‘au revoir’ Luke Lewis and ‘pack your bags’ Michael Gordon. What the mighty Panthers have at their club now is one voice and a 3 match winning streak.
Ladies and Gentleman, the Penrith Panthers sit in 8th spot on the NRL ladder. Believe it; they’re in semi-final contention and in for a bright future. Speaking of the Panthers future, this Sunday afternoon has them facing the bottom of the table Tigers at Centrebet Stadium. The Tigers had lost 7 in a row before sneaking one away against the Cowboys at Leichhardt but this could be too big of a mountain to climb for Robbie Farah and his rag tag collection of footballers.
My tip: Penrith 18-8
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
AAMI Park, Sunday 6:30pm
As always, we’ll have to wait until kick off to find out if Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy starts with, or even plays his Origin representatives. For the Sharks, we may hazard a guess and suggest that Captain Paul Gallen may miss this one and Luke Lewis might be a little too exhausted after his Man of the Match performance on Wednesday night. Either way, two defensive minded teams will look to out-grind each other on Sunday night at AAMI Park.
The Storm are heavy favourites mid-week but with the Sharks’ spine intact and on a 4 match winning streak, this one will go down to the wire. Australian Captain Cam Smith plays his 250th 1st grade game but while he is taking a bow at this achievement, Todd Carney and the visitors will be plotting his demise. And they’ll succeed in both your match of the round and your upset of the week. Cronulla get revenge for last year’s Melbourne miracle in the corresponding fixture.
My tip: Cronulla 12-8
Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos
Canberra Stadium, Monday 7:00pm
Only in Canberra can you get this kind of promotional genius. Supporters of the mighty Green Machine, as well as the 14 Broncos fans in attendance on Monday night, can enjoy a Toboggan ride, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts. A Winter Wonderland at Canberra Stadium to celebrate the capital’s centenary but with temperatures set to fall below 5 degrees, there will be no celebration for the visitors. The Broncos are coming off the worst loss in club history.
They’ll be hard pressed to stop a Raiders team after a fortnights rest. Josh Papalii plays his 50th first grade game whilst Blake Ferguson celebrates a big week by running out for his 100th. The Raiders have lost two in a row but challenged in all 160 minutes. If they start with a bang here it could be trouble for the Broncos. Reece Robinson a stand out as always – if they give him a sniff it’s an automatic 4 points. Josh Hoffman v Ferguson a highlight.
My tip: Canberra 25-18
The Gold Coast Titans and South Sydney Rabbitohs have the BYE.