The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Central Coast Centurions Vs Shellharbour Dragons
Lyall Peacock Oval, Saturday, September 4
Referee: Shane Charman
The Centurions disposed of the fourth placed Windsor Wolves last weekend running in 10 tries to the Wolves' six. In a real positive for both the Newcastle Knights and the Centurions, youngsters Chanel Mata'utia and Dale Clacherty performed well against a rather formidable Windsor backline. Two try hero Mata'utia retains his spot in the starting lineup this week against the experienced Daniel Jimenez. Both teams will look at season 2010 and think what could have been. The Centurions started with so much promise with a win over the now competition leaders, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, but injuries in the NRL put a strain on their depth and consequently the Centurions struggled in the middle half of the year. The same can be said of the Shellharbour Dragons although representative selections were probably more to blame for them specifically. Both sides have produced some interesting prospects with Centurions centre Simon Williams being the pick of those. Although not the biggest centre, Williams has been devastating in attack and his ability to offload has been the catalyst for many a Centurions try. For Shellharbour, young backrower Jack Bosden has been their rock and shouldn't be too far away from higher honours.
North Sydney Bears Vs Auckland Vulcans
North Sydney Oval, Saturday, September 4
Referee: Matt Noyen
A long season draws to a close for both of these sides when they do battle this coming Saturday. Barring a 200 point win, the North Sydney Bears will be this year's wooden spooners while the Vulcans have had more than enough opportunities in recent weeks to dislodge the Sharks from eighth place on the ladder, and their inability to reproduce their first half performances in the second stanza throughout the year will surely be a key area for end of season discussions. With this said there have also been some positives for both of these clubs. A number of Bears players have received some wonderful NRL experience due to South Sydney's horrific injury toll late in the season while this has also been the case for Auckland with numerous Vulcans players like Alehana Mara and Sione Lousi also getting their chance in 2010. With a view to this match-up, keep an eye out for Norths exciting prospect Kennedy Pettybourne, the cousin of Eddy Pettybourne as he takes on the Vulcans prolific tryscorer Fetongi Tuinauvai.
Western Suburbs Magpies Vs Windsor Wolves
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sunday, September 5
Referee: Adam Devcich
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
In what will be a dress rehearsal of sorts for week one of the finals series, the Windsor Wolves will head across to Campbelltown to take on the Western Suburbs Magpies. Both of these sides will head into this clash knowing they are set to face one another again a week later, but this time at the Windsor Sports Complex, regardless of this result. Windsor will be smarting after suffering a loss to the Centurions last week and after their last minute loss to the Jets a fortnight ago, the club will be desperate not to head into the finals on the back of three consecutive losses. The Magpies kept a dangerous Vulcans side scoreless in the second half last week and managed to scrape home courtesy of a Nathan Waters field goal. The important thing to take from the clash for the Magpies would have been the previously mentioned scoreless half. Not too long ago, Wests had the best defence in the NSW Cup but most recently they have conceded 38 points to the Jets, 42 points to the Dogs and 28 points in the first half to the Vulcans. If the Magpies are to compete for the 2010 NSW Cup, they will need to get back to allowing teams less than 20 points per game as they were doing earlier in the season and I expect them to take that attitude into this match against an ever dangerous Wolves outfit.
Melbourne Storm Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Olympic Park, Sunday, September 5
Referee: Phil Henderson
Potentially the most important and meaningful game of the weekend has been saved for last as the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs only need a win over the Melbourne Storm to secure the Minor Premiership. A loss however would more than likely see either the Tigers or the Jets finish the season as number one depending on Saturday's results. And Melbourne are more than a fighting chance of springing the upset as Coach Tony Adam has named one of his strongest line ups in some time. Gareth Widdop returns to fullback while Luke Kelly has been named as halfback after replacing Brett Finch in the NRL last week. For the Dogs it appears to be business as usual although Corey Payne made his long awaited return from injury last weekend and has once again been named on a five man bench. While there is no doubting Melbourne's talent, this game may well be won by the side that needs it more and surely that must be Canterbury. Melbourne cannot improve or fall from their position of seventh while the Dogs have it all to lose with the real possibility of being in third by 3pm Sunday if that were to be the case.
There's plenty of quality in this competition - to see who's playing this weekend check out NSW Cup Teams - Round 26.