The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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NSW CUP MATCH PREVIEWS - ROUND 20
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers
The Crest Stadium, Saturday, July 24
Referee: Adam Devcich
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
In what promises to be the match of the year so far, the second placed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs play host to the top of the table Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers. The Dogs will know a win would see them go top of the table at rounds end while with a victory, the Tigers will be at least three points clear with six games remaining before the finals. Both of these teams head into this one with winning form, particularly the Dogs who have won seven straight. This match comes down to one simple thing, Attack Vs Defence. The Tigers have the best defence in the NSW Cup and allow just less than 20 points per game while the Bulldogs possess the most potent attack in the competition and score a little over 31 points a game. A few outs for the Tigers won't help their cause as Sean Meaney, Lee Bennett and Ryan Carr are all expected to miss here while the Dogs will have the services of Ben Roberts as he returns to football via the NSW Cup following a lengthy injury lay-off. Amazing matchups right across the park and certainly a potential Grand Final preview a few months early.
Melbourne Storm Vs Central Coast Centurions
Olympic Park, Saturday, July 24
Referee: Matt Hawkins
After holding off a determined Sharks comeback last week at Toyota Stadium, the Melbourne Storm will be looking forward to tackling the Central Coast Centurions on home turf. This game looms as one of those matches that defines a side's season, for the Centurions the finals are still very much a possibility but would probably need to win five of their last six while for Melbourne a top four spot is also still achievable but they will need to win these matches to do so. In team news the Storm field a similar side to the one that accounted for the Sharks last week as Rory Kostjasyn and Hep Cahill continue to battle injury and for the Centurions, Aaron Fairweather gains another start on the wing. One of the Storms biggest wins of the year came against the Centurions back in Round Nine at Morrie Breen Oval when they dismantled a hapless Central Coast 64-12, so hosting them at Olympic Park should hold no fears. Neither of these sides can really afford to slip up given their respective positions and it wouldn't come as a surprise if this match were to be played with the urgency of a finals match.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Auckland Vulcans
Ringrose Park, Saturday, July 24
Referee: Chris Sutton
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
Seventh hosting ninth in what should be an evenly matched encounter and also one that has big ramifications with regards to both of these side's finals hopes. The Vulcans sit just outside the eight and with both the Sharks and Wentworthville struggling of late they haven't lost any ground on their nearest competitors. The Wentworthville Magpies will be desperate to register a much needed win having gone four games between drinks and seeing as though this is their first home game since Round 15, they will be pumped up to salute in front of their home faithful. In team news the Vulcans look as strong as they have been for some time with Jacob Lillyman, Joel Moon and Sione Lousi all expected to suit up while for Wenty the versatile Tim Robinson captains from the prop position after playing back row and lock in recent times. The Vulcans know a win here could set them up for a run in the next few weeks with matches against the Sharks (home) and Dragons (away) to come but Wenty can't afford to lose either. Regardless of the result, it promises to be an interesting matchup.
Western Suburbs Magpies Vs North Sydney Bears
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, July 24
Referee: Michael Laverty
The Magpies fell agonisingly short of a brilliant comeback against competition leaders Balmain Ryde-Eastwood last weekend. The Magpies piled on 22 unanswered points in the second half but couldn't muster up a match winning try despite dominating possession and field position in the final minutes. The Bears clocked up their second win in a row against Shellharbour and now have the top eight in their sights and they believe this game is one they can sneak away with. Should the Bears want to grab the two points on offer here they will need to shut down Junior Moors on the fringes. Moors looked ominous in his damaging effort against the smaller Balmain fringe defenders playing a hand in almost all of the Western Suburbs' tries last weekend. Western Suburbs coach Leo Epifania will be looking for another grinding performance from his unheralded back-row of Andrew Pearn, Josh Davis and Jamie Sharkie. All three have been in career best form in 2010 and many at Campbelltown believe they are the reason why the Magpies are in contention for a home final.
Windsor Wolves Vs Cronulla Sharks
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, July 24
Referee: Luke Phillips
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
With Shane Flanagan opting for Scott Porter in the NRL after some impressive performances in the NSW Cup the bulk of the playmaking will now be heaped onto the capable shoulders of Captain Josh Lewis for the Cronulla side. The Sharks were blown off the park by the physicality of the Melbourne Storm last weekend but showed they have the ability to score points and score them quickly, turning a 30-6 deficit with 15 minutes remaining to an eventual 30-24 loss. The Wolves had a game which they would rather forget. They were hammered by a rampant Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs side 46-12 at home and in places the Bulldogs seemed to be scoring at will. Maurice Blair and Nigel Plum have been asked to impress from the NSW Cup by NRL Coach Matt Elliot while for the Sharks, Lancen Joudo slots in at five-eighth for Porter. Windsor desperately needs to get back to their winning ways because Western Suburbs and Melbourne are ready to pounce on their fourth spot and with it, a home final.
Shellharbour Dragons Vs Newtown Jets
Ron Costello Oval, Sunday, July 25
Referee: Rob Bowen
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, July 28, 5.00pm
Newtown head down the coast as strong favourites to claim the competition points against the last placed Shellharbour side. You have got to feel for the Dragons in season 2010. The Origin period was a tough ride with the amount of St George Illawarra team members in representative sides causing a massive drain on the availability of players for Shellharbour. A shining light for them has been Michael Lett. Lett is the competitions top try-scorer in the competitions last ranked side, a true testament to the talent of the young man. Things don't get much easier here for them as they take on a Jets side with the added impetus of Martin Kennedy, Lopini Paea and Brad Takairangi in the forward pack. Shellharbour will be without the services of Joe Vickery who is still recovering from a broken leg. A win for the Jets keeps them on track for a home final while the Dragons will be purely playing for pride as even the top eight looks too much for them at the moment.