The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Paul is back for another look at the weekend ahead. Check out his tips and see if yours will match up...
Below, Paul runs the rule over Rise for Alex Round - NRL Round 19:
Rise for Alex
As we prepare for round 19 of the Premiership, Rise for Alex round is dedicated to Alex McKinnon and also reminds us of the sacrifice, the danger they face each week and the bravery of those we love to watch play the greatest game of all. Perhaps something the likes of ‘Buzz', ‘Kenty', ‘Bulldog' and the rest of those lads from a nameless ‘newspaper' might want to remember. This is for Alex, and this is for them: Roosevelt said it best:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys
Friday 7:40pm at Remondis Stadium, Woolooware
Your Friday night double header has both games from Sydney. You beauty. Firstly, from Remondis Stadium in the Shire comes the Sharks and the Cowboys. Both teams under the pump here. Cronulla are struggling and …. Well… you know the story. The Cowboys are still searching for their first road victory of season 2014 and they won't get a better chance to turn that horrific record around than on Friday night.
As always, any success they have will come from Jonathan Thurston. The poor bloke - he must be buggered by now. Carrying his club side and his state for a decade and then, when each season is over, representing his country and his People with pride. Fingers crossed his forwards aim up against what will be a brave Cronulla pack boasting the return of Andrew Fifita. If Jason Taumalolo and Tariq Sims his peak form, Cowboys win.
Feels like it's been ages since Greg Inglis played for the Bunnies. Well, not only is GI back for Friday night's beauty from Pirtek Stadium, he'll be joined by Souths' number 7 Adam Reynolds, reportedly back to full fitness. The visitors have been great to watch at times this year, with their defence being the standout again, but it will be their attack that will return to good form here. GI will threaten the Eels all over the park.
Speaking of threatening fullbacks, on the opposite side of the field to GI will be none other than his holiness Jarryd Hayne. ‘The Plane' will have enjoyed the 10 days' rest since origin 3 and his team will need him, desperately. Of the very few moments that Souths let Parra into the flow of this game, the home side will need to take advantage. They won't. The Bunnies forwards control this match from start to finish and Souths win their first match in a month.
Saturday afternoon from Allianz Stadium. Broad daylight. Second v Fifth on the ladder and some of the brightest stars in the NRL suiting up for your match of the round as the Panthers head to town to play the defending premiers. RTS set to return and Josh Mansour should prove his fitness. The magical footwork of Dean Whare against the toughness of Mitch Aubusson. Matt Moylan moves into the halves and will be able to hear James Maloney sledge him for 80 wonderful minutes.
You get the picture. But while the outside backs and the halves play tickles with each other, the real highlight here will be the premiership winning forward pack of the Roosters taking on another pack trying to steal their glory, as they have all year long. This time, they'll come up winners for the first time in 4 weeks. SBW and Boyd Cordner get the wood only slightly over Elijah Taylor and Sika Manu on the edges. Tough bastards. Cracking game.
Saturday night from AAMI Park and I haven't tipped this contest right for about 5 years. The Raiders have won their last two at this ground and have beaten the storm 3 out of their last 4 encounters. What the hell?! This time, Melbourne are coming off a heartbreaking loss at home to the Bulldogs where they did everything but score the match winner. Their attack won't find the going as tough here against Canberra's league worst defence.
But who knows - with the mighty Shaun Fensom playing his 100th game for the Green Machine, they may just be fired up enough to continue their good run in Victoria. I'm not game enough to tip them, but the 4 of you reading this (hi mum!) won't be punting on me anyway. So, Cooper Cronk has one of those games where he controls everything from turning on the stadium lights to selling the hot dogs and leads the Storm back to the winners circle.
Saturday night from Suncorp. Read that again you magnificent people - the Broncos play their first Saturday night game in Brisbane since 1991* (* don't quote me, not fact checked). So, get comfortable for the final leg of your triple header as the seemingly unstoppable Warriors travel across the Tasman to face the Broncos. And they are coming over on a 3 match winning streak and as underdogs. This could only be due to the injury cloud hanging over Sam Tomkins.
If Tomkins plays, you'd be forgiven for leaning towards a punt on the visitors, but the Broncos are due. They will be desperate to avoid a 4 match losing streak and considering the form of Ben Hunt and Corey Parker, they look like winners here. A great battle between a couple of oversized centres in Konrad Hurrell and Jack Reed but the return of Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough will be the catalyst for the home side's victory here.
A special day in Newcastle. Sunday afternoon footy comes from Hunter Stadium as the Knights pay tribute to the courage of Alex McKinnon and raise a few quid for his battle. The Titans are in town for the occasion and they won't let anyone down. They've been able to salvage some pride in recent weeks as injuries and plenty of bad luck have destroyed their season. But the bookies don't care - they are rank outsiders here.
Much more at stake than a game of footy, but the Knights turn up and play like a team on a 3 match winning streak, cos they are. Kurt Gidley is enjoying his return to the 7 jumper and Jarrod Mullen looks like he has more space every week. He might be due for one of those games where he appears to have the ball on a string. If he doesn't, the Knights forwards will be knocking the stuffing out of Nate Myles and the Titans so it may not matter.
Your second Sunday match comes from Sydney Olympic Park as the Tigers host the Bulldogs. Tigers' home game - but they are struggling. They've won only 1 from their last 4, a 1 point win over Canberra, and are giving up over 27 points a game in defence over the past 5 weeks. For those of you who love the numbers, here is one more - the home side has not beaten Canterbury in their last 5 attempts. You're welcome.
The bookies know this. They have the Bulldogs set as very firm favourites and even without their star front rower in Aiden Tolman, their representative half in Josh Reynolds and their co-captain in Frank Pritchard, they should get home here. Expect a good shake from Robbie Farah and his crew as they try to get their season back on track, but the Bulldogs defence will be too good. Kasiano and Graham against Woods and Galloway an absolute highlight.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Monday 7:00pm at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
The Dragons have somehow won 4 from their past 5 matches and what a pity former coach Steve Price isn't around to enjoy the fruits of his efforts to bring Benji Marshall to the famous red V. Benji looks like a leader and is showing the characteristics that highlighted his last years at Wests. It helps that Saints have played their last 3 games at home and with the bye in between, have been sleeping in their own beds for a month.
A danger game for the Eagles. Saints will be well rested and as underdogs at Kogarah's Jubilee Oval, they will be primed for a big one. Either way, this will be an absolute cracker and one of the best Monday night games we've seen for ages. Jorge Taufua and Anthony Watmough return for the visitors to add more exciting ingredients to the broth that is already spilling over with the thought of Josh Dugan up against Steve Matai.