Round 17 preview

Silly season is upon and all the attention has shifted from the actual games to who’s playing where next season and I must admit the level excitement is a good thing for the game.

I find that after the last Origin game, the top sides lift their intensity to a new level in the run home to the finals as they try to build some momentum that will give them an edge over the competition.

Tonight, Melbourne host the Panthers at Olympic Park and it’s been a long time since the Storm appeared on a Friday night game but it is well deserved. Let’s hope the people of Melbourne get out and support their team against one of the premiership big guns. The Panthers have a host of players on Origin duty but their forward pack is a t full strength and there is no doubt the Panthers will try and play the Storm up the middle and the Storm will be relying heavily on Matt Orford and Scott Hill to orchestrate the backline. Without Slater and Smith, the Storm lack the killer punch to overwhelm the Panthers but I think the Storm may just sneak home nonetheless. Storm by 6.

The Eels travel to New Zealand to take on the diabolical Warriors at Ericcson Stadium. Most of the excitement surrounding the Warriors will be whether or not they have signed Steve Price from the Bulldogs. The Eels are missing Nathan Hindmarsh and he is their heart and soul and without him I think they will struggle to overcome the punch drunk Warriors. It will be interesting to see if Monty Betham can keep his fists out of the contest and keep himself out of the sin bin. Personally, I don’t think he can resist the temptation. Warriors by 8.

The Wests Tigers have gone from top eight material to no hopers in the space of a fortnight after conceding a record 106 points in two weeks without scoring a solitary point. The Tigers fans had good reason to be optimistic a few weeks back after they thumped the Warriors but since then they have gone downhill at an astonishing rate and need to stop the slide against the Raiders. Easier said than done as the Raiders are slowly building some impressive form after disposing of the Broncos last weekend and coming within a whisker of beating the Bulldogs the week before. Their defence is starting to regain the 2003 look and that could spell trouble for the Tigers. I think the Raiders will win but it wont be a fifty point hiding as the Raiders aren’t in the same league as the Roosters and Dragons. If the Tigers lose, it may well be the end of their campaign. Raiders by 12.

The Roosters have moved their home game against the Cowboys to Gosford as is the trend these days. The Roosters are missing plenty of players but still have an abundance of talent available to dispose of the Cowboys, who are without strike weapons Matt Sing and Matt Bowen and had they played, I would have backed the Cowboys. Their only hope is the rampaging form of Paul Rauhihi who is playing the best football of his career but a loss could see the Cowboys drop out of the eight if results go against them. In the end, the class of the Roosters will be too much for the Cowboys to overcome but I expect this game to be a lot closer than many people are predicting. Roosters by 4.

The crunch game of the round is between the Knights and Sharks. Both teams need a win to keep their top eight chances alive and the Knights are without Ben Kennedy and Danny Buderus whilst there is a rumour Brett Kimmorley may be a surprise starter for the Sharks. It’s a tough match to pick but the parochial home town Knights crowd should be enough to see the Knights home but if Brett Kimmorley plays, the pendulum will shift in favour of the Sharks, that’s how close I think this game will be. Until I hear otherwise, Knights by 2.

If ever Souths were going to beat the Broncos, this is the week. The Broncos are missing more than half their first grade side and Souths are not going as bad as their loss to the Dragons would suggest. For the Broncos, no Lockyer, Webcke, Carlaw, Carroll, Seymour, Civoniceva and Tate means Souths would be quietly confident of their chances and I think Souths can get the cash. Most people would think I’m crazy, but before you have me committed, let’s wait and see how this one pans out. Souths by 10.

The final match of the weekend sees the Manly Sea Eagles host the Bulldogs at Brookvale but no matter where Manly play, they are no chance against the Bulldogs even though they came within two points earlier in the year. Manly are already looking to next year and with Ben Kennedy and Brent Kite on the playing roster, their fortunes are on the improve but you would think a good portion of the first grade squad would be playing for the futures for the remainder of this year and they really need to make every post a winner.