Round 12 - Fridays Preview

Finally, my beloved Raiders get a free to air match for the first time since April 2001. That day, I was booked for speeding after we beat the Parramatta Eels at Bruce Stadium. I?d happily cop another fine if the Raiders could get up tonight and put another jinx to rest.

Sportstab has the Raiders as rank outsiders, which doesn?t bother me one bit. It shifts the weight of expectation back on he Sharks, who have won three on the trot for the first time this year and desperately need a win tonight to stay in touch with the top eight.

I think it will be an evenly matched contest but the sheer size of the Raiders bench suggests the middle stages of the game will be the most crucial and with the sharks missing Chris Beattie, the pendulum shifts in favour of the Raiders. A win tonight for the green machine will see them firmly in the hunt for a top four finish and a home final.

First game tomorrow it will be raining cats and dogs as the Wests Tigers do battle with the Bulldogs at Sydney Showground. Last week?s poor crowd of 4000 odd die hard Tigers fans out at Campbelltown is under threat in this match as the Showground has less attraction than Rookwood cemetery on a Friday night. Apparently, the man and his proverbial dog have been given an all expenses paid trip to the match in the hope of exceeding the 1000 fan mark.

It?s hard to see anything but a Bulldogs victory here with the Tigers the worst attacking team in the comp. However, based on last week?s form, both teams combined scored a whopping four points so field goals maybe the order of the day for this one. Apparently, Bob Dwyer and John O?Neill will be in attendance as they anticipate at least half a dozen field goals and penalty goals. Surely they?d be salivating at the prospect of such a point-scoring extravaganza.

The entertainers take centre stage for the next match. Penrith are out to break their record of six successive wins and a victory over the Warriors will give them a club best seven and the Warriors, who are well down on form, should have a dry track to play on so there will be no excuses if the come up short again. This match is almost a sell-out and why not. The Panthers at this stage last year were running dead last and now they are fourth with an exclamation mark (!). John Lang has his big men firing on all cylinders and his little men are carving the opposition to bits. If the Panthers can survive the early onslaught from the Warriors forwards, they will win by two tries.

Next up is the battle of the cellar dwellers. Parramatta and South's face off and the same man and his proverbial dog attending the Bulldogs v Tigers game has been asked to make another appearance in this clash of the titans. Parramatta have lost their last three games by two points and they are due for a change in fortunes. South's on the other hand, always find a way to lose the game and their loss to the Dragons last weekend keeps them favourites with the bookies to collect the dingy old wooden spoon. Parra by 16 so channel nine can hail this their turning point and have them shown every weekend on free to air until the finals.

The hardest game to pick for mine. St George play the in form Cowboys at OKI Jubilee Oval on Sunday and with the Cowboys successful in three of their past four matches, they have people taking notice for the first time in eight years. A win here and people will start to think they are finals bound and with good reason. A host of homegrown talent is starting to emerge up north and Graham Murray has done a remarkable job in a short space of time to turn around a franchise in decay to one of prosperity and respect.

St George were lucky to scrape home against South?s last weekend and without Barrett, I feel they may struggle in the halves. St George also has a habit of losing the winnable games but they should have their game faces on for this match. I think Saints will win, but not by many and a Cowboys victory would certainly not surprise.

The scene of one of the last thrashings of the Roosters was Olympic Park in Melbourne. On Sunday, the Roosters revisit their demons when they travel south to take on a battle hardened Melbourne Storm pack with plenty to prove. Matt Orford is having a stellar year and his form will not have gone unchecked by Roosters coach Ricky Stuart. The Roosters are coming off the bye and will be fresh for what is sure to be a bone-jarring encounter between two fierce sets of forwards.

The Roosters play a high intensity, low mistake game, while there are question marks over the Storm's outside men in Marcus Bai and Semi Tedulala. Both are powerful runners but are poor under the high ball and both have a very high mistake rate. The Roosters are sure to exploit this with Fittler and Wing in fine form. The Roosters need this win badly and they will get it, but only just.

Last game of the weekend sees the Broncos return to their spiritual home of Lang Park (Suncorp Stadium) and with 48,000 in attendance, the Broncos will be ten foot tall and bullet proof in their new fortress. Newcastle have lost their last three matches and are struggling. Johns is down on his form and I don't think they have the firepower to overcome the Broncos defence, a defence that kept the Bulldogs scoreless last week. That probably won't happen this week but the broncos should win comfortably and christen their new home in winning style.

There you have it. Another week of misguided predictions and I have dropped back to second place in the tipping comp but hey, I'm only human.