Round 14 preview

The aftermath of Origin is the inevitable let down we get from seeing the mere mortals trundle around the field in their team colours pretending to think they are solely focussed on club duties.

Two clubs who provided almost half the NSW side square off in the first match of the weekend. St George Illawarra face the Newcastle Knights in Newcastle and are without Shaun Timmins and Jason Ryles. Both players were unable to back up after the first Origin match while the Knights will be missing Ben Kennedy, who also was unable to back up. It should be fairly close but I think the Knights at home with Johns and Buderus should be able to topple a St George side struggling without their stars.

Cronulla and the Wests Tigers go head to head in the next match and form suggests Cronulla should win easily at home. The Tigers have found a new lease of life in the past two weeks and have scored fifty points in their last two matches to show signs of improvement. Cronulla will be desperate for the two points and a loss would see their already slim finals hopes evaporate before their eyes. Kimmorley should be able to get the Sharks home and keep them in touch with the top eight.

Melbourne run into a rampaging Penrith Panthers at the foot of the mountains as the Panthers attempt to make it nine in a row. Melbourne were walloped by last placed South Sydney last weekend and if they turn up in the same frame of mind, Penrith will rack up 50 in even time. I think Melbourne will be competetive but not enough to halt the Panthers winning run.

I smell an upset between the Eels and Warriors. Form says the Warriors should win easily after they pounded the Sharks last week and Parramatta were given a hiding at the hands of the Raiders. However, as we have seen, this year's competition is very unpredictable and while the Eels are still reeling from a horror injury toll, they may just have enough to keep South's in last place. If the Warriors lose they will find themselves slipping down the ladder and out of reach of the top four while Parramatta can keep their slim finals hopes alive. Parramatta by two in a thriller.

Both Manly and Canterbury will be looking for back to back wins when they clash on Sunday and neither team has been particularly impressive this year and both are sitting on 14 points with four and against the only thing in the Bulldogs favour. The Bulldogs have failed to live up to their pre-season hype and have lost their aura of invincibility while Manly are hanging in there after a big come from behind win against the Tigers last week. The Dogs should be too strong but they won't win by much as they never do.

Roosters v Cowboys? This one should be a great game and the Cowboys are definitely capable of springing the upset on the Roosters who are without Justin Hodges and Chris Flannery while the Cowboys will be missing Paul Bowman, all casualties of the first Origin match. The Cowboys are the season's big improvers and while they lost a heartbreaker to the Panthers in extra time last week, they should be mentally tougher as a result but Ricky Stuart knows how to prepare his team and he should have them in the right frame of mind. The question is, if things don't go his way, how much longer will the club keep paying his fines?

Best game of the weekend to finish on, which sees teams one and two on the table meet at what should be a very chilly Canberra Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Broncos will be nursing a multitude of bumps and bruises while the Raiders will be as fresh as the proverbial daisy after failing to have one player selected for the opening Origin match.

Canberra get a chance to open up a four point break on the Broncos and a victory over Brisbane would see the Raiders qualify for the semi finals and almost certainly assure themselves of s top four finish. This will be no walk in the park though as Bennett's men will be eager to erase the disappointment of losing Origin I with a comprehensive victory over the competition leaders. I still think Canberra will be too good for the Broncos who have never dominated Canberra.

We are past the halfway point and I'm still in second place in the tipping comp so some of the dribble must have missed the bib!