25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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St George Illawarra Dragons V Penrith Panthers Friday 29 May 2009 19:35 - WIN Stadium Referees: Jason Robinson & Steve Lyons Sideline Officials: Paul Holland & Chris James Video Referee: Sean Hampstead
DRAGONS: 1. Jason Nightingale 2. Brett Morris 3. Chase Stanley 4. Matt Cooper 5. Wendell Sailor 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 8. Jarrod Saffy 9. Luke Priddis 10. Dan Hunt 11. Dean Young 12. Beau Scott 13. Neville Costigan Interchange: 14. Mickey Paea 15. Jon Green 16. Mathew Head 17. Michael Lett; Reserves: 18. Trent Merrin 19. Nick Emmett
PANTHERS: 1. Jarrod Sammut 2. Brad Tighe 3. Geoff Daniela 4. Maurice Blair 5. Shane Elford 6. Wade Graham 7. Luke Walsh 8. Tim Grant 9. Paul Aiton 10. Frank Puletua 11. Trent Waterhouse (c) 12. Frank Pritchard 13. Nathan Smith Interchange: 14. Lachlan Coote 15. Gavin Cooper 16. Joseph Paulo 17. Matthew Bell; Reserves: 18. Masada Iosefa 19. Sam McKendry 17. Andrew Emelio
The shortened round of football commences in Wollongong this weekend as the high flying St.George Illawarra Dragons host the Penrith Panthers. Both sides lose key personnel for the encounter due to State of Origin with the Dragons hit hard losing both starting props Michael Weyman and Justin Poore. Weyman and Poore have been sensational in the metres gained department and their solidly laid platforms have gone a long way in allowing the Dragons to succeed with their current playing style. Ben Creagh is also out for the Dragons due to Origin, along with Jeremy Smith and Matt Prior to injury manufacturing a new look backrow. Beau Scott comes into the backrow giving much maligned local junior Chase Stanley another opportunity at centre. Brett Morris will again be one to watch this weekend as his try scoring abilities have really come to the fore in recent matches. The Panthers have also been hit hard for this match losing inspirational skipper Petero Civoniceva, backrower Luke Lewis and the electric Michael Jennings to State of Origin. The game plan will no doubt change from the mountain men as they will need to play the game more tight, not having the luxury of throwing it to Jennings on the left. The tandem fullback combination of Jarrod Sammut and Lachlan Coote looks to continue as both youngsters continue to impress. Sammut has also been playing some dummy half at times, and the Dragons will need to be wary of both the exciting Panthers. VM
Vlado: Saints by 6 Paul: Dragons by 7
EELS: 1. Luke Burt 2. Eric Grothe 3. Taulima Tautai 4. Ben Smith 5. Etu Uaisele 6. Joel Reddy 7. Jeff Robson 8. Nathan Cayless (c) 9. Matthew Keating 10. Fuifui Moimoi 11. Nathan Hindmarsh 12. Joe Galuvao 13. Todd Lowrie Interchange: 14. Daniel Mortimer 15. Josh Cordoba 16. Tim Mannah 17. Brendan Oake 20. Jeremy Latimore
SHARKS: 1. Nathan Stapleton 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Matthew Wright 4. Reece Williams 5. Luke Covell 6. Trent Barrett 7. Scott Porter 8. Kade Snowden 9. Tony Caine 10. Johnny Mannah 11. Atelea Vea 12. Luke Douglas 13. Anthony Tupou Interchange: 14. Mitch Brown 15. Grant Millington 16. Jacob Selmes 17. Terence Seu Seu
The Eels without Jarryd Hayne? That is the big question heading into the match for the Parramatta Eels against cellar dweller Cronulla Sharks. Hayne was a shining light for the Eels last weekend during their draw against the Rabbitohs. A staggering 328 metres, 2 line breaks and 2 tries will not be available this weekend as the Eels attempt to win a game they are expected to. Prop Nathan Cayless however returns to the line up from injury for the Eels in a much needed boost for the home side who look to continue with the Joel Reddy five-eighth experiment. Another positive for the Eels was the return last week of enigmatic winger Eric Grothe and his powerful dummy half chargers will help the Eels coming out of their own territory. As for the Sharks, there are mass changes. A team that only has a round 1 victory to their name, the Sharks have fallen remarkably from their performances of 2008. The backline is sprinkled with rookies with Nathan Stapleton, Matthew Wright and Blake Ferguson getting their chances. The Sharks will also have a debutant in the halfback position with Scott Porter sending Blake Green back to the NSW cup. No-one can blame Ricky Stuart for making these changes as it is time to see what some of these younger players can do and the renewed enthusiasm could be just the tonic for the Sharks. VM
Vlado: Sharks by 4 Paul: Eels by 4
New Zealand Warriors V Wests Tigers Sunday 31 May 2009 16:00 [NZT] 14:00 [AEST] - Mt Smart Stadium Referees: Gavin Badger & Brett Suttor Sideline Officials: Daniel Eastwood & Gerard Sutton Video Referee: Chris Ward
WARRIORS: 1. Wade McKinnon 2. Kevin Locke 3. Patrick Ah Van 4. Jerome Ropati 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Joel Moon 7. Stacey Jones 8. Sam Rapira 9. Aaron Heremaia 10. Jesse Royal 11. Simon Mannering 12. Jacob Lillyman 13. Micheal Luck (c) Interchange: 14. Lance Hohaia 15. Russell Packer 16. Lewis Brown 17. Ben Matulino
TIGERS: 1. Tim Moltzen 2. Taniela Tuiaki 3. Peni Tagive 4. Dene Halatau 5. Beau Ryan 6. Blake Ayshford 7. Benji Marshall 8. Bryce Gibbs 9. John Morris 10. Todd Payten 11. Gareth Ellis 12. Chris Heighington 13. Corey Payne Interchange: 14. Daine Laurie 15. Danny Galea 16. Rocky Trimarchi 17. Rhys Hanbury; Reserves: 18. John Skandalis
NRL Sunday ventures across the Tasman, featuring a Warriors side who have won just one of their past six up against a Wests Tigers side who pushed the Broncos all the way in the wet last weekend. The Warriors appear a side out of form and possibly looking for answers from coach Ivan Cleary, especially when you consider the personnel on the teamsheet. The Raiders hit the ground running last weekend, before allowing the Warriors back into the game, eventually running out very comfortable victors. The Tigers, inspired by Benji Marshall, came back from 14-0 down, before conceding a late try to go down 20-18. The Warriors performance on the field has left a little to be desired in recent times, however, they are extremely enigmatic and could blow the Tigers away here. After being cold for six weeks, it