Round ten is upon us and it sees the majority of sides take to the field very much understrentgh due to representative duties.
Newcastle v New Zealand The first match of the round sees Newcastle at home to the New Zealand Warriors in what could be a hard fought battle for second spot. New Zealand, without Stacy Jones still look much bigger and stronger than Newcastle, who are without Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus, Steve Simpson, Ben Kennedy and Timana Tahu. The loss of Johns alone leaves a gaping hole in the side, but to take out so many other quality players will prove to be a mammoth task for a Knights side who are very brittle without their star halfback. New Zealand will run their big men all night and if they get the lions share of possession, the score could be anything. Overall, the Knights lack creativity without Johns and the Warriors should be able to outmuscle Newcastle in what is easily the match of the round. Warriors by 16.
Newcastle Knights vs Warriors Delayed on Channel Nine at 8.30pm AEST.
Melbourne v Parramatta. Melbourne have not won a game in a month but look good things to knock over a Parramatta side who have eight regular starters missing from their lineup. Missing are Vella, Hindmarsh, Lyon, Moodie, Hodgson, Vaealiki, Dykes and Wagon and they are all qulaity players. The Eels depth will be tested by a full strength Melbourne side who need to get back in the winners circle to keep their semi final aspirations alive. I think they will be too desperate against a delpleted Eels side who have been far from impressive in the first nine rounds. Melbourne by 8.
Cowboys v Panthers North Queensland find themselves in the unfamiliar position of favourite for their game agains the winless Panthers who missed winning by a whisker last week agains the Bulldogs. The Cowboys have played some impressive footabll in the last month and seem to be growing into a formidable side under new coach, Graham Murray. He has started to mould together a great young side who are a realisitc chance of making the top eight for the first time in their eight year history. Penrith, on the other hand a re closer to a win and this may be the game after last weekends controversial loss to the Dogs. I don't think this will be the week as the Cowboys continue their surge up the ladder and on the fringe of the top eight. Cowboys by 4.
St George v Wests Tigers St George are long shots in this match with Luke Bailey being called up on standby for injured Blues prop, Robbie Kearns. His loss will be the telling factor for a side who have underachieved the whole season and find themselves with only one win from eight starts. With no Barrett, Ryles, Riddell, Bailey, Gasnier and Timmins, they look like a first division side while the Tigers are very close to full strength and have always had the Dragons number, even at WIN Stadium. The Tigers need to show in an aggressive frame of mind and simply bash Saints out of the contest. The Tigers back row is the key and if they fire the score could be anything while Saints will be left foundering at the wrong end of the table and scratching their heads for a solution. Maybe the Mundine offer should be taken seriously. Tigers by 20.
St George ILLawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers Live on Fox Sports at 7.30pm AEST.
Souths v Canberra. This match could go either way with Canberra without a loss in their last two starts as they start to show some much needed form after a disatrous start to the season while Souths come ack from across the Tasman after a brave display agains the rampaging Warriors. There are too may variables to be able pick a winner with any confidence in this match but I will go with the Rabbits simply because of Canberras poor record at Aussie Stadium and with Schifcofske on Origin duty, a kick may be all that seperates these two sides. Souths by 2.
Bulldogs v Sharks The Bulldogs should win this in a canter against a Sharks side, who are arguably the worst side in the NRL at the moment and need a miracle to help get their season back on track. A season that has been railroaded by injury and coaching dramas. The Bulldogs are cruising at the moment and should have too much firepower for the hapless Sharks, who will continue their slide down the ladder and out of title contention. This match sees Steve Reardon from the Dogs reach his 250th game and is quite a milestone for the veteran second rower. With a top two spot at stake here, I expect the Dogs to switch on and demolish the Sharks in a one sided affair. Dogs by 30.
Bulldogs vs Sharks Delayed on Channel Nine at 4.00pm AEST.