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Round 16 - Fridays Preview
Hopefully, the Roosters and Broncos will provide a better spectacle than Origin II as the Broncos look to focus on the job at hard, which will be inherently difficult considering the pounding they took on Wednesday night.
The Broncos will be out to register their first victory at Suncorp Metway Stadium after losing the opener to Newcastle, the most of the Broncos were on the receiving end in Origin I so thus far, Suncorp has not provided the fortress the Broncos so hoped it would. I can only see a Roosters victory here with Brisbane resting Ben Ikin and most likely Gorden Tallis, it will all be left to Darren Lockyer to get the Broncos home against a NSW dominated Roosters side, who should have too much firepower for the Broncos.
Twelve months ago who would have thought the Cowboys would be the raging favourites for their match against the Sharks? I?ll put my hand up but full credit to the Cowboys who are still well in the hunt for a finals berth a victory after two close losses would be just the tonic. The Sharks on the other hand look to be marking time for 2004 and apparently have big name signing to announce after the June 30 deadline. My tip is Nigel Vagana and Robbie Kearns to be at the Sharks next year. Basically, without Kimmorley, North Queensland will be far too strong for the Sharks in North Queensland.
Melbourne take on the Tigers, who have hit a purple patch of late, winning two of their last four and starting to find their feet against the big sides. Melbourne will be strong but the Tigers have the X factor of unpredictability on their side and if they are in the right frame of mind, they will win. I?m tipping a golden point victory to the Storm in what will be a high scoring affair.
Manly are slowly turning Brookvale into a graveyard and Saints have an awful record there so it comes as no surprise that I am tipping Manly to beat the Dragons, who are never at their best with all their stars on deck and some will still be suffering an Origin hangover. By no means does this mean St George cannot win, far from it but I just think without Lance Thompson they will struggle to keep the middle tight for much of the match. Firman really needs to shine if Saints are to get the money.
This one could be an upset and without Ben Kennedy, Parramatta may just fancy themselves to steal a much-needed victory against their archrivals. This match also marks the return of Parramatta to the scene of last year?s sin binning fiasco where Bill Harrigan sin binned four players and ultimately cost Parramatta a chance at winning the match. Johns is back but so is Hindmarsh. Newcastle will win but it should be a great match and if Parramatta do get the points, they will be back on track for the finals.
The Warriors are back on track after an impressive victory over the Raiders last week and should be too strong for Souths, who are showing pride in the jersey and never give up, no matter how bad the odds. New Zealand need this match to close in on the top four but have a habit of underestimating ?lesser? rivals, much to their detriment. Daniel Anderson should have them firing as the Warriors have a horror run to the finals so they need to get the points while they can.
The last match is easily the best of the round. The resurgent Bulldogs take on the powerful Panthers at Penrith in what looks to be a sell-out crowd. The Panthers are good for the game and their success has re-vitalised the Penrith district, who have not tasted a great deal of success since their maiden grand final win in 1991. The Bulldogs are slowly building towards the finals and a loss to the Panthers could de-rail their title aspirations and make them lose touch with the top four. The forward battle alone should be a ripper with the big Kiwi backrowers in devestating form at the moment and with Craig Gower running to the line, the Bulldogs defence will have to be on their guard for the full eighty minutes. I think Penrith?s speedy outside backs and home ground advantage may just be enough to get them home.