Round 18 preview

Origin has again robbed of us one of the season's great highlights. The understrength Bulldogs play the very much under strength Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. Had this match been played outside the Origin series, a massive crowd would have been on hand to see two of the NRL's high intensity sides go head to head. I do realise Brisbane will be relying youngsters to get them home but the four Bulldogs players missing from tonight's game leave a gaping hole in their side, one which Wayne Bennett will capitalise on. Brisbane by 8.

The Warriors are looking to find some consistency after finding themselves on the end of a hiding at the hands of the Cowboys last weekend. The Warriors form has been very erratic and if they want to be taken seriously, they have to take it to Manly for the full eighty minutes. There is simply no excuse for the Warriors to lose this match. Manly play all the sides above them in the last nine rounds so their season needs divine intervention and what better place to start than against the Warriors. Warriors by 20.

The white hot Panthers will simply have too much class and firepower for the Bunnies, who are honest toilers but that will count for nothing. South's will be competetive for the first half hour as they are every week, but I expect the traffic to be heading in one direction after that and it's not theirs.

Had these two sides not lost players to Origin, I would have no hesitation tipping the Cowboys, who have been one of the best sides to watch all year. About six weeks ago, Melbourne were cained by the Cowboys in Townsville and had Bowen, Sing and Hannay been available, I think the Cowboys would have swept the Storm and continued their late season surge towards the top eight. However, this is not the case so I will give this one to the Storm by 14.

The woeful Sharks play the slightly improving Tigers at Leichhardt Oval and with the Sharks unable to score a solitary point last weekend against the Panthers, I expect them to at least register a field goal but again they will fall short of victory and give the Tigers a rare win at home. Sheens has the Tigers showing their teeth and although they are yet to mortally wound the enemy, there is a lot more bite in their play now than two months ago. Tigers by 12.

Canberra have hit the wall and lost their last three games and a win here is vital if the Raiders have aspirations of finishing in the top four. Being a Raiders fan myself, I have to say I am reluctant to back them after the performance they displayed against Melbourne last weekend. St George on the other hand have hit a purple patch and that coincides with the return of Nathan Blacklock who has scored a freakish eight tries since returning to the Dragons from Rugby. Having said that, the Dragons have almost all their top players out on Origin duty or injury but their form should see them win at OKI Jubilee.

The first time I back against the Raiders so I'm hoping reverse psychology will get them home. Where's that rabbit's foot