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The last chance for players to press their claims for origin honours as round nine kicks off with the Broncos hosting the Knights at Suncorp Stadium.
Newcastle and Brisbane both played well under strength last weekend and both teams won against the odds but you would think Newcastle will do it tough against Brisbane in Brisbane. Newcastle will fancy their chances though after the drubbing they meted out to the Bulldogs and with Kurt Gidley playing out of his skin, his infectious enthusiasm may well rub off on the rest of his team and lift them to another win. I still think Brisbane will have too much class to let this one slip away. Broncos by 8.
Again the 5.30 slot has been given to one of the marquee matchups of the round with the Bulldogs travelling to WIN Stadium to take on the Dragons who in the last 24 hours have lost both Trent Barrett and Lance Thompson to injury, so Nathan Brown will have to find someone else to slap if things don?t go his way. It also remains to be seen what frame of mind the Bulldogs are in after their hiding at the hands of the Knights last weekend. It seems the Bulldogs take their collective foot off the pedal when opposing teams are under strength so the onus is on Steve Folkes to ensure his players are well motivated for this crucial clash. Bulldogs by 6.
This is my smoky for the round. Brett Kimmorley is the form player in the NRL at present and he will be relishing the opportunity to take on the Roosters under the watchful eye of NSW coach Phil Gould If he has a blinder then he will have assured himself of the number seven in sky blue. I think the Sharks can take the Roosters at Toyota Park and with a parochial home crowd behind them, this should be one of the best games of the round. Ricky Stuart will have the Roosters ready as he does every week so expect some fire and brimstone throughout the match. Sharks by 2.
Wow, this next match fills me with so much excitement, I?ve had to take up smoking to control the nerves. A crowd of about 1500 will be in attendance at Gosford for this ?blockbuster? between two of the NRL?s heavyweights, Souths and the Cowboys. The people of Gosford deserve a better match than this if they are to support Rugby League into the future but instead they are left with a match that will have less atmosphere than the Erina under sixes. For what it?s worth, the Cowboys should win and if they don?t they simply do not deserve to be within striking distance of the top eight come semi final time. Cowboys by 16.
Another bottom of the table clash but I expect this one to be far more entertaining with Manly upsetting the Dragons and the Warriors desperate for a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive. I think Manly are easily playing the better footy at the moment but they aren?t a good prospect away from home although the Warriors form this year has been diabolical which is a crime considering some of the players they have. The Warriors are playing with no confidence and no game plan so if the match is played under heavy conditions, expect the Warriors completion rate to be well under 50% for the fourth time this season. Until the Warriors show some heart, I will not be tipping them. Manly by 10.
This game could be the lowest scoring match in the history of Rugby League. In fact, points could be deducted the way these two sides are playing at present. The Tigers were shut out against the Roosters and the Raiders only managed eight points against the same the team the previous week. Fans expecting a try scoring fest should be warned that this game is not the one for you. Both teams have very one dimensional game plans and no structure in their attack so it could very well come down to a field goal as the only way to score points in a match that will be played exclusively between the 20 metre lines. I tossed a coin and it said Tigers by 1.
You have love administrators like Denis Fitzgerald don?t you? The week his side is playing the Storm, yet he finds it prudent to tell the world he thinks there should not be a team based in Melbourne and they should relocate to the Gold Coast. If ever the Storm needed motivating after the loss to the Sharks last weekend, then look no further than Mr Fitzgerald. Why give the opposition a reason to get fired up? Doesn?t make sense to me but hey, I?m not a CEO and I don?t employ Brian Smith. Parramatta have promoted young Englishman Chris Thorman into the halfback role at the expense of Adam Dykes so there could be a few positives to come out of this for the Eels and if they win, they will keep pace with the competition leaders. Any side that has Nathan Hindmarsh playing will always be a chance such is his value to the Eels. I?ll take the home side because Melbourne are starting to look a little fragile. Eels by 4.