2013 NRL Round 3 Preview

NRL

Round 3 kicks off down in Melbourne on Thursday night and it is replay of last years Grand Final. While there isn’t as much focus on their meeting this year, it is sure to be a great clash. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the Grand Final and both sides will field different lineups.

Melbourne Storm v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

When: Thursday 8:05pm
The Storm have been playing very impressive football this season and has shown that they will be another difficult side to beat this season. Not much has changed at the Storm in recent years and it seems that the same winning formula will put them in good stead this season as well. It relates to playing fast football (in the ruck) and creating room for the “Big 3” to set up their plays. Coach Craig Bellemy is the man driving all of this as well. He knows that there is no value in paying a forward, loads of money to truck the ball up when someone on half his money can do exactly the same job. The Storm has 3 players that they rely upon but this will only happen if the other 14 players do their job. As it stands now, the Storm need to build up as much of a lead as possible because when the SOO starts, they lose the “Big 3”. Things are vastly different over at the Bulldogs who have been suffering since the news of Ben Barba broke. They have not played a game this season with their star players from last year, yet they have been competitive. They pushed the Cowboys and then tightened up their defence in the second half against the Eels to get their first win of the season. They do have a lot of problems within their game if they are to contend for the title. Their forwards are great and so are their outside backs, but a question mark still looms over Kris Keating at halfback. For the time being, they will persist with him but he is limiting the consistency of their attack. He is well supported by Josh Reynolds but it will get to the point when he is responsible for making the wrong decision in attack. This game shapes as a great contest and an even better way to begin  Round 3.

Melbourne Storm

Coming off another impressive victory, the Storm will look to make it three in a row. You would think that there would be no reason for Craig Bellamy to change a winning side, other than injury. Well that is exactly what has been forced upon them as centre Justin O’Neill suffered a broken jaw. He will probably be out for around 4-8 weeks and will be sorely missed. But Bellamy has a suitable replacement to bring straight into the role in Junior Sau. They acquired him from the Knights halfway through last year and it was aimed at situations like this. He won’t be able to add the same flair that O’Neill offers or the defensive stability on the edges but he is still up to it. Bellamy also has quiet the knack of turning average players into quality ones and teaching them how to do their job consistently. The only other news for the Storm is on the interchange bench as Slade Griffin is named to start on the bench (as opposed to 18th man) and SioneVave drops out of the team altogether. 18th man this week is Maurice Blair and he will probably only get the start if Bellamy changes his mind on Sau.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

There were a few late changes to the Bulldogs team in Round 2 and there are no changes to the team that took the field but it is fair to explain them all. News broke last Sunday that Steve Turner had decided to retire from rugby league due to the effect of injuries on his body. He didn’t play last week and Dury Low started in the fullback role. This week he is named to start there. As Low moved to fullback, Mitch Brown started on the wing and he is named to do the same this week. As Brown was 18th man, Tim Lafai now takes his spot and he is only there to cover a late injury. The Bulldogs proved last week that they are still a strong side and with the quality players they have to return to their lineup, they are only going to improve. Despite this, they still have a question mark hanging over their head about halfback Keating and how he really fits into the side. No doubt if there was a suitable replacement, Hasler would consider making way for him. Trent Hodkinson is there in the reserve grade but he is injury plagued and probably wouldn’t be a long term solution. For now, they will have to rely on their strong defence to get them through the game.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Storm 4 Bulldogs 1

Odds
TAB Sportsbet
= Storm $1.23 Bulldogs $4.75
Centrebet = Storm $1.25 Bulldogs $4.05
Sportsbet = Storm $1.25 Bulldogs $4.05
Betfair= Storm $1.26 Bulldogs $4.70

Verdict

I have changed my theory on the Storm. They have to win as many games as possible early on in the season to offset the absence of the “Big 3” during the SOO period. Based on that theory alone, they should be too strong here. Factor in the players that the Bulldogs are missing and they stand out. The Bulldogs will put up quiet a fight though, but the Storm will prevail in the end. With the question marks around their halfback, it seems the only thing keeping them in this game is their defence. Once that cracks, the margin may get out to 13+ as well, especially considering the Bulldogs lost by 12 points to the Cowboys and the Storm beat them by 22. They have won both their games this season by 13+ and it seems suitable that they can do it again here.

Suggested Bet
Melbourne Over 6.5 points (Tri Bet) @ $1.45

Large Margin = Storm 13+ @ $1.95 – The reasons are stated above for the Storm getting out to this margin. Don’t think that the Bulldogs will allow this to happen easily though. It will be the sheer talent they have in their side that gets them to this point.

Bite off more = Storm 13-18 @ $4.50 – The Bulldogs are a good defensive team and it seems unlikely that they will lose by 19+ points. The next option to take is this one and it seems like a good pick with plenty of value.

Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels

When: Friday 8:05pm
Friday night football returns to one of the best suburbans grounds around, Leichhardt Oval in Balmain. The Tigers are at home and face an Eels side that is still building into their season. It is amazing that this game has not been moved to a larger ground considering how many fans would like to view this game live. If you are going to attend this match, get in early as it will sell out very fast. The atmosphere at the ground will be electric and it is fitting for this rivalry. The Tigers were able to turn around their Round 1 performance against the Knights to beat the Panthers in Round 2. While it wasn’t a polished performance, it was no 52-10 loss that they were handed by the Knights. Farrah and Marshall looked better and their attack was a little more fluent. Perhaps they didn’t have as much pressure as the Knights had placed on them so there was more room to move. Most importantly in this win though, was the improvement that their forwards made. They were able to carry the ball for more metres and they were also considerably stronger in defence. But they still have a fair way to go in order to be considered contenders for the title this year. The same can be said for the Eels. After their Round 2 loss to the Bulldogs, people had a clearer picture of what their Round 1 performance meant. Perhaps it wasn’t as good as people were suggesting but by their own admission, it is small steps at the moment over in Parramatta. Ricky Stuart has done a good job in turning around the Eels attitude but there were flashes of the abysmal side that we saw in 2012. That was a few defensive lapses and a reliance on their stars when they needed a few points late. There is also a question mark around the 5/8 after Luke Kelly was injured in the first game of the season. The sooner he comes back, the better they will be. For the moment, Joseph Paulo and/or Ben Roberts will attempt to fill this role. If last Thursday is anything to go by, it is not a blueprint for success. Both sides will be desperate to win this game and it offers the fans the opportunity to watch some quality football. Hopefully this game can live up to the hype and both sides can play mistake free football.

Wests Tigers

The Tigers have no need to change a winning side apart from replacing those players who suffered injuries. In a massive blow to the depth of their forwards, prop Keith Galloway suffered a torn pectoral muscle and is probably up for an extended stay on the sidelines. It is a problem that has surfaced in recent years and is probably something that is enhanced by the heavy resistance training programs the players are now involved in. His replacement in this game is Aaron Woods, who comes off the bench. He had been relegated there after suffereing his own injury and was unable to force his way back into the side due to the quality football being played by youngster Jack Buchanan. There are three new faces on the bench but little known Ava Seumanufagai is the direct replacement for Woods’ promotion. The other two players are Masada Iosefa and Suaso Sue, but bother players are expected to drop off prior to kick off. Joel Reddy is named to start this game after being a late inclusion against the Panthers at the expense of Matt Utai. The Tigers need to continue to play as a team and reduce the pressure on Marshall and Farrah. Jacob Miller made a remarkable improvement form Round 1, although he still has some way to go before he is “doing his job” for the Tigers

Parramatta Eels

The Eels suffered a few injuries so far this season but the biggest loss for them is arguably co-captain Reni Maitua. It is unsure just how long he will be out for at this stage but it certainly wasn’t what coach Ricky Stuart had to deal with. There isn’t much back row talent for the Eels to choose from, hence why they were going so hard for Josh Papalli. His place in this game is taken by Ken Edwards who, ironically, shares the same name as the Eels CEO. Perhaps that’s a good enough reason for him to be named in the side. Ken Sio has been dropped from the wing after a lackluster performance against the Dogs and VaiToutai takes his place. There is also a shift in the halves after the Eels attack was disjointed at best. Ben Roberts has been named to start the game and swaps around with Joseph Paulo who moves back to the bench. This move is surprising considering the defensive lapses Roberts is capable of. But Stuart is obviously aiming to create some consistency within their attack. There is a massive question mark over whether or not Roberts offers this, but Stuart must see something that the punters cannot. Apart from that, the team is similar and they will be looking for an improved defensive effort in slowing down the ruck and not having the forwards on the back foot in defence.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Tigers 4 Eels 1

Odds
TAB Sportsbet
= Tigers $1.72 Eels $2.15
Centrebet = Tigers $1.70 Eels $2.20
Sportsbet = Tigers $1.70 Eels $2.20
Betfair= Tigers $ 1.70 Eels $2.28

Verdict

Leichhardt Oval! Friday night!A ground packed full of screaming Tigers fans! A lot of things are aligning for the Tigers and a victory for them. But if the Eels are to be considered genuine contenders this year, this is the type of acid test that they must win. It will be a tough contest for them with such factors against them, but they are more than capable of doing so. The Tigers are also a side that is struggling with their forward depth and it could again be tested here. I am not expecting this to be a high quality contest, but I will back the Eels to get a win over their opponents. It should be another step forward for them but they will have to be on guard, as this is when the Tigers are very dangerous and capable of producing their best. The Eels should get home in a close encounter.

Suggested Bet
Eels @ $2.28

Margin to go by = Eels 1-12 @ $3.50 – It’s stated above, this game is expected to be a close encounter due to the extrinsic support the Tigers will get. Why not add some value to a bet and take the Eels to get the win.

Line call = Eels +3.5 @ $1.90 – If you’re still unsure whether or not the Eels are able to deliver a victory, then maybe they will be defeated by a narrow margin. This bet counts against a 2-point victory and works nicely in your favor.

Gold Coast Titans v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

When: Saturday 4:30pm
The Titans have surprised everyone so far this season with their much-improved play. Although they only have one win on the board in two games, they have shown a lot of positives to suggest that what people had expected of them has been off the mark. Against the Sharks, they were strong in defence but lacked the killer blow in attacking zone on the field. This was put down to their halves and how they were able to set up and provide quality ball for their outside backs. Then they came out against the Raiders and piled on 36 unanswered points. The question marks around their attack still remains and the Raiders were woeful, so this week’s game becomes extremely important. This Saturday night offers them the opportunity to prove the critics wrong again as they host the undefeated Sea Eagles. It will kick off Saturday football and is a quick turnaround for both sides. The Sea Eagles will look to continue their great early season form that is bruising in defence and exciting in attack. They are lead by their young halves and they are critical to their performance. But just when you think the Sea Eagles are struggling, they lift to another level and a player, apart from the two halves, stands up and produces a great play. We saw that in their Sunday night win over the Knights when there was broken play and Anthony Watmough gathered the ball and ran 50m for a try. It was an impressive play and it demonstrates just how dangerous they can be. They also have a few players to come back in their lineup that could give them another lift. They will be hard to stop in any match this season but the Titans tough defence could be capable of that. This game promises to be a good contest and like all of the early season games, we will have a clearer picture on both sides at the conclusion of it.

Gold Coast Titans

The Titans are very high on confidence after rolling the Raiders and it was a great boost for their young halves. They have named an unchanged lineup and so they should. Many people, myself included, were tipping the Titans to struggle this season. As it turns out, they are not doing too badly (at this stage). But this is their real test. If coach Cartwright wants his halves to play well, he should aim to model them on their opposite numbers in this game. Of course, the key to their development and success is how well the forwards play. If they are making good metres up the middle of the field, they are going to have a lot of room and have the chance to get the ball to their outside backs. There are a lot of questions surrounding their play as a team but it definitely does not rest within their defence. Hopefully for them, it holds up here and they don’t have too many points to chase because their attack can be flat against a stronger defence.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

The Sea Eagles have named an unchanged lineup following their demolition of the Knights but they may not take the field that way. Steve Matai suffered a neck injury that win and is no certain starter here. But they haven’t named an extended bench on a travelling trip so perhaps he is fitter than the Sea Eagles are letting on. Tom Symonds is officially named to start this game after being a late inclusion against the Knights. His head must still be spinning after being recent transfer from the Roosters and after the season had started. It does highlight just how thin their stocks may be though over at the Sea Eagles but that will mean absolutely nothing if they can keep all of their players fit. For the moment, they are and they need to continue that winning formula that has worked so well for them so far.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Titans 3 Sea Eagles 2

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Titans $2.45 Sea Eagles $1.57
Centrebet = Titans $2.40 Sea Eagles $1.60
Sportsbet = Titans $2.35 Sea Eagles $1.60
Betfair = Titans $2.54 Sea Eagles $1.62

Verdict

Both sides are coming off large victories where they kept their opponents to nil. So which form reads better for this match? The Titans brilliant performance was against a woeful Raiders team, while the Sea Eagles was against a Knights side that has a high level of expectation around them. That never wins you rugby league matches but the Sea Eagles have a core group of quality players that know how to get the victory in very tough games. It expected that this will be exactly the same here and the Sea Eagles will prevail. It will be a tough game though (as mentioned above), the Titans have a very strong defence. With the Sea Eagles also having a strong defence, it might be the Titans that we see struggle to score points in this match.

Suggested Bet
Sea Eagles @ $1.62

Line them up = Sea Eagles -3.5 @ $1.80 – This option simple gives you more options than the above bet. If you are banking on a close game, then stick away from this bet. But I would be including it as the Sea Eagles should win by more than one converted try.

Lyon’s Den = Jamie Lyon FTS @ $13 – I am still uncertain around the defensive capabilities of the Titans centres. When comparing both of them, Takairangi looks the least capable in defence and he will line up against the very talented Lyon who is playing very well thus far. Both of the young halves will be intent of getting the ball to him as soon as possible with plenty of room to move.

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos

When: Saturday 7:30pm
In the past, the Roosters and Broncos games were usually reserved for Good Friday, but after a recent clash with the more traditional Dragons v Roosters game on ANZAC Day, we have seen a shift in the calendar. The game remains in Sydney and will probably struggle to get the usual crowd that was seen on the public holiday. Of course, when they were meeting in the middle of the 2000’s, the teams were at the peak of their powers and there is a remarkable difference to where they are now. The Broncos are a team that can possibly be on a very steep decline this season if they are caught off guard. Their Round 1 loss demonstrated a lot of flaws in their play and potential weaknesses that teams may target. In Round 2 they backed up a poor defensively display with a relatively strong one. There was a stage there where the Dragons had approximately 90% of possession in the last 10 minutes before HT. The Broncos held strong and kept the Dragons to just the one try, which was inevitable with the amount of pressure that they had. It was by no means a polished but it certainly was an improved one. The Roosters had a lot of time to recover from their Round 1 loss to the Rabbitohs and made sure that they were in the right frame of mind to face the Warriors. It can always be a difficult task heading over to NZ to play them but they delivered with a 2-point victory. Much like the Broncos, it wasn’t a great performance, but it was an improvement from their last outing. Their forwards were a lot stronger with the ball and they were able to limit the amount of crucial errors they made. They look like a team that is building something very strong at the moment but they still need to get a few things right. Having the right balance between Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney in the halves is one of those issues. Once this occurs, they will find that their outside backs are more dominant with the ball in hand and the forwards are gaining solid metres early on in their sets. Both sides are sure to test one another here, and while there isn’t the biggest crowd expected, fans will surely flock to see another glimpse of SBW and a Roosters side that is very capable of being a contender at the end of the season.

Sydney Roosters

The Rooster brought out one of their strongest sides they could possibly field against the Warriors and it showed in the early minutes. It is also evident they these players still need a fair bit of playing time to get everything to come together. It is positive for them to have minimal changes heading in Round 3 and those changes include stronger players returning to their lineup. Boyd Cordner is back into the starting side and will partner SBW in the second row. Aidan Guerra drops out of the side altogether. Cordner has been named in the side to play the first two weeks but has been unable to take the field. Another injured player that is continually named, Luke O’Donnell, is features again and will probably take the field in this clash. As it was stated in Round 1, when this guy takes the field, it would be extremely surprising to see him leave it again as he is known to be an 80 minute player. He is a player that brings a lot of aggression and very strong defence. Dylan Napa is again named 18th man but is likely to miss out for the second week in a row. The more consistency the Roosters have within their lineup, the better they will be for it heading towards the business end of the season.

Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos had a mountain of pressure heaped on them by the Dragons and they were able to hold firm and restrict them to one try. It did sap a lot of their energy and they looked tired at times. Unfortunately, they also suffered a few injuries and finished the game with 15 fit players. Justin Hodges has been named but he is likely to miss out as he failed to return to the field after he suffered a hamstring injury in the second half. With an extended bench named, it is unclear what move coach Anthony Griffin will make but the possibility that MOM Matt Gillett would move the centres remains high. It would be a blow to their forward firepower though if he did go with that move. Josh McGuire is also out of this game after suffering a calf injury and is out for an indefinite amount of time. Ben Hannant has been shifted from the bench into the starting lineup and after his performance against the Dragons; he is back to his best. To cover for Hannant’s promotion, Scott Anderson comes into the side and he was 18th man last week. There are two further players added, which is customary when teams travel. In this instance it is Dunamis Lui and Nick Slyney, probably to cover for a late withdrawal.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Roosters 2 Broncos 3

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.57 Broncos $2.45
Centrebet = Roosters $1.54 Broncos $2.55
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.57 Broncos $2.40
Betfair = Roosters $1.55 Broncos $2.58

Verdict

It is hard to go past the Roosters in this game. They are a team on the up while the Broncos seem to be a side that is struggling to discover a consistent winning formula. Where that lies, remains to be seen but they are struggling to cope with Scott Prince in the defensive line. Teams are targeting him and with the likelihood that Hodges will withdraw from this game, his workload is increased. Even if they move Gillett there, here is still a second rower and will get caught out on the edge by a faster player. It is vital that the Roosters continue to produce decent performances that gains them a win because it is also building confidence within their side. It will be a close game though and a very good contest within the forwards. A 1-12 margin looks the most suitable option with all factors in mind.

Suggested Bet
Roosters @ $1.57

Close game = Roosters 1-12 @ $3 – It is mentioned above that this will be a close game that the Roosters just prevail in. Some bookies are expected that the Roosters may get out to 13+ but as their combinations are still forming, this seems unlikely at this stage.

Jet boots = Michael Jennings FTS @ $11 – He would normally be lining up against Justin Hodges but with a serve injury cloud hanging over his head, Jennings could find himself against a weaker defender. Throw in SBW getting to occasional offload to Jennings and he could deliver at a very nice price.

Cronulla Sharks v New Zealand Warriors

When: Sunday 2:00pm
Sunday afternoon football kicks off down in the south of Sydney as the embattled Cronulla Sharks host a New Zealand Warriors side still looking for their first win of the season. The Warriors are one of only three teams that still remain winless and could be only one of two at the end of this round. The pressure is building on them very quickly and they need to do something about the poor level of play. Though a problem is, they may not know just where to start. Their attack is very flat and unable to produce the same flair that we have seen in the past. Perhaps they have been told down their usual careless offloads that can be so good, yet so bad in the same play. It would make sense, but their error rate against the Roosters was still high. The squad will certainly have their work cut out for them this week as they face a Sharks side that has allowed only 24 points all season. They also need to address several issues within their defensive line that is causing several problems, especially around the ruck. The Sharks ball movement may also catch them out. Interim coach Peter Sharpe spoke about the Sharks game on MNF as a positive one. Although they were on the wrong end of the scoreboard, it highlighted a lot of potential attacking options. He stated that the sideways ball movement that was very effective was in fact not the plan they had originially aimed to play, but useful enough for the Sharks to adapt to the Rabbitohs defensive patterns. Their forwards were also strong coming off their own line and players like Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis were always gaining above average metres with each run. This is certainly a strength that the Sharks have developed over recent years and it is going to put them in a good position throughout this season. They just need to learn to get the ball as soon as possible to the outside backs with room to move. It will be an interesting clash and a great way to start Super Sunday.

Cronulla Sharks

The Sharks had little time to name their side following their MNF loss but there is one change that immediately stands out to anyone. Isaac De Gois was a late withdrawal from the Sharks lineup due to a hamstring injury. He is not expected to return until Round 4 so John Morris will take over the hooking role. He is a solid player but it is questionable whether or not he offers the same impact over the entire 80 minutes as he would when coming off the bench. Going by his MNF performance, you would think not. As he is promoted into the starting side, Jason Bukuya is named to start, with Sam Tagataese again the 18th man. Chad Townsend (19th man for the last two weeks) drops out of the side altogether, meaning that the fitness of Todd Carney must be somewhere near 100%. While Carney is fit, new recruit Luke Lewis is struggling with an upper leg injury that forced him off the field in the second half of MNF. If he takes the field, it could be one good news story to come out for the Sharks after a lot of negative headlines. Stay tuned to my twitter account for all of the breaking news surrounding team changes and the final makeup of the Sharks lineup.

New Zealand Warriors

In the search for consistency within their squad, coach Matthew Elliott has named an unchanged lineup for the clash. It is not surprising that he has done this as their last start loss to the Roosters was a much improved performance when compared to Round 1. There is still a long way to go before the Warriors reach their ideal playing level but they are moving in the right direction. In terms of Elliott, the pressure is rising on him with each loss and he could find himself jobless if things do not improve. In this game, they will have to ensure that they limit the Sharks attacking options like they did for James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce. This means the players on the edges must move up out of the line with the rest of the attack. There is no doubt that they can score points but they need to limit the other teams scoring opportunities first. 5/8 Thomas Leuluai seems to be getting better with each performance and he is supporting halfback Shaun Johnson nicely. Maybe this will be the week where we finally see the two “click” together and into gear to deliver a polished performance.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Sharks 2 Warriors 3

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Sharks $1.40 Warriors $3.00
Centrebet = Sharks $1.45 Warriors $2.80
Sportsbet = Sharks $1.43 Warriors $2.85
Betfair= Sharks $1.45 Warriors $3.10

Verdict

I am again expecting an improved performance from the Warriors, but whether or not it will be good enough to get a win in this game is another thing. Working in their favor is that the Sharks have to back up from a MNF game which was a brutal contest. At the moment, with all the controversy surrounding the Sharks, the one thing getting them through their performances is their supporters. Playing in front of them will ensure they are lifted to another level. It will be a close contest and by close I mean a 1-12 margin and the Sharks should be on the right end of the scoreboard.

Suggested Bet
Sharks @ $1.45

Margin to go by = Sharks 1-12 @ $3 – The Sharks are shorter for the 13+ option ($2.50) but I truly believe that this game will not get out to that margin. The Sharks will limit the amount of points the Warriors are allowed but there should also be an improved effort in defense from them as well.

Start the game with a bang = Sharks Try (1st score type) @ $1.85 – This option seems suitable when you consider how much the fans will influence the Sharks players when they run out onto the field. This is the perfect way for them to start the game and continue on a good performance to reward those fans that are most loyal to them.

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs

When: Sunday 3:00pm
The Rabbitohs have a shorter turn around than they had last week and have to back up after only 6 days. Luckily they don’t have to travel interstate for this clash as they are heading out to western Sydney for the 3pm “Match of the Day”. The Panthers are fortunate enough to have their third Sunday game in a row and their second in this timeslot. No doubt they are settled into their routine by now. For Souths, the story is a little different. They had 11 days rest between their Round 1 and 2 games and it showed in their win over the Sharks. They started the match well but were kept scoreless in the second half by a very strong Sharks side. A lot of noise was made about their play and how disappointing it was but perhaps more credit should be given to the Sharks as they were very solid in the second half. The Panthers were losers in their second outing after a strong performance in Round 1. What is very pleasing for the Panthers is the amount of conviction they are playing with. They seem to be benefitting from a cultural change at the club and the recruiting of several solid players that do not have a lot of hype surrounding them. They will have their work cut out for them in this game though but returning to their home ground will give them a boost. It will also be a good measure of how they are set to go this season on the back of two performances against inconsistent teams.

Penrith Panthers

The Panthers head back home in this game and must be looking forward to another daytime game. There are a few changes that have been made but they most crucial one to them is the loss of 5/8 Lachlan Coote to a potential season ending injury. He is another player that has torn his pectoral muscle and the Panthers will hope that he returns sooner rather than later as he was developing very nicely into his role in the side. His place this week is taken by Tigers discard Tom Humble who will have the first shot at making this position his own. Centre Brad Tighe has also been ruled out of this clash with an injury but according to the NRL website, his exact injury is unknown and his return is listed as indefinite. The Panthers have also named an extended bench that see’s last weeks 18th man, Adam Docker, come into the side to be likely to get a start. Jeremey Latimore is the player that drops out of the side and he has suffered en ankle injury. Like Coote, he is also out for an indefinite period. They are gaining some consistency each week with their forwards and they are always boosted when James Segeyaro comes onto the field. Ivan Cleary is getting to the point where he is leaving him on the field along with Kevin Kingston towards the end of the game. There is no doubt that the Panthers will struggle in this game but they need to continue to push forward because they are showing a remarkable improvement compared to last season.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

The Rabbitohs have only made one change to their side from MNF and it was due to the return of Sam Burgess. He was suspended following a high shot on Mitchell Pearce and when quizzed on it, he took the early guilty plea based on the carry over point system. Had he left this to the end of the season and pleaded not guilty he was in danger of missing a crucial game when it matters most. Burgess slots straight back into the starting lineup at prop and Jeff Lima moves back to the bench. This has forced Dave Tyrrell back to 18th man and he could perhaps be a late inclusion after a strong performance over the Sharks. Things are moving along very nicely for them at this stage and they will look to score more points than they did against the Sharks. They have the tendency to score a lot of points following kicks in play and Adam Reynolds is going from strength to strength. They still have a weakness though on their left hand side of the field with Bryson Goodwin and Andrew Everingham and teams may target this. It would be surprising to see this combination last once a few players are returning from injury.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Panthers 2 Rabbitohs 3

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Panthers $4.75 Rabbitohs $1.20
Centrebet = Panthers $4.40 Rabbitohs $1.22
Sportsbet = Panthers $4.25 Rabbitohs $1.22
Betfair = Panthers $4.50 Rabbitohs $1.27

Verdict

Load up on the Bunnies. Their second half performance against the Sharks can be put down to their 11-day turn around from Round 1 but also some credit goes to the Sharks for their good finish to the game. They will look to pile on the points in this game and the daytime timeslot could prove very useful for them. The Panthers will start the game very strongly and put up some fight, but the Bunnies should run away with the game in the second half. Then again, it could be over by halftime if the Rabbitohs get going out of the blocks from the opening whistle.

Suggested Bet
Rabbitohs -12.5 @ $2

From start to finish = Rabbitohs/Rabbitohs (HT/FT Double) @ $1.45 – If you want to be a little safer with your bets, the Rabbitohs should be able to lead from start to finish and this offers a little value as well.

A complete perfornace = Souths 19+ @ $2.75 – Not enough value for you just yet, then this is the last bet you should consider. It does require the Rabbitohs to play for the entire 80 minutes and not switch off when they get out to a good lead (as expected). If not, then take it down a notch and take them to win 13-18 @ $4.50.

Canberra Raiders v St George-Illawarra Dragons

When: Sunday 6:30pm
For a long time now, almost 10 or more years, Raiders fans have quickly looked to see where one game is once the season draw is released. If they’re lucky, they will find two fixtures and a sly smirk will appear across their face. You see, the Dragons have always struggled playing against the Raiders and they have tasted defeat in the past 13 out of 14 games. The timing for this game could not be any worse for the Dragons as a third straight loss would represent the worst start to their season since 2005. The game is going to be played down in the nation’s capital and it will be the first time the Raiders run out in front of their home fans this year. In terms of the Raiders, the timing for this game could not be any better. They were given a wakeup call in Round 1 with a loss to the Panthers and you thought that would’ve been the catalyst for them turning around a very poor performance. To add fuel to their fire, they dismissed star fullback Josh Dugan for disciplinary reasons leading into the Titans game and it was touted that the “playing group” had decided on the decision as well. Things were looking positive, until the opening whistle blew. 80 minutes later and they were on the end of a 36-nil belting! Their confidence is down in the dumps and they need a “pick-me-up”. This is the fixture they want over anything else and if they were to get their season going, it has to start now. The Dragons are looking a little better at this stage but the pressure is on them also. The Broncos beat them last Friday and it wasn’t a pretty performance. They had a mountain of possession at one stage and were only able to come up with 6 points for the entire match. They were also unable to make the most of the Broncos being one man down with Justin Hodges sent to the sin bin. It should also be noted that this game has other ramifications for the loser other than the missed opportunity at 2 points. Both sides are winless this season and the pressure with mount on the losing coach and his job will be under more scrutiny then it already is.

Canberra Raiders

The Raiders need something to get them back on track, yet coach David Furner has persisted with the similar lineup to the Titans game. Glen Buttriss returns from injury slots straight back into the starting lineup at hooker. Shaun Berrigan makes way for him and returns to the bench. The Raiders have also been boosted with the return of Brett White to their front row ranks. Dane Tilse is the player relegated and he joins Berrigan on the bench. They have named an extended interchange and it will give Furner the freedom of settling his lineup right before they run out. Three players will have to miss out though and it is not clear which way he will go. They will definitely have their work cut out for them in the forwards so Furner may select a sizable bench to call upon throughout the match.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons have named an unchanged lineup from the game against the Broncos. This is promoting consistency within their side and you would think that this could only act a positive. If there is anything to draw upon from their loss over the Broncos, it is the quality of a few of their forwards. Trent Merrin was one of their best and Tyson Frizell and Dan Hunt supported him with their play. They need to play to this strength because there isn’t really anything else to be excited about. Jamie Soward and Nathan Fien need to lift the Dragons attacking potency. They looked very flat with a mountain of possession in their favor, but perhaps it was also the strong Broncos defence. Brett Morris was another player that looked good with the ball in hand but the halves really didn’t use him enough. No doubt coach Steve Price will want them to give the backs the footy with the extra room created by the forwards.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Raiders 5 Dragons 0

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Raiders $1.65 Dragons $2.25
Centrebet = Raiders $1.65 Dragons $2.30
Sportsbet = Raiders $1.62 Dragons $2.35
Betfair= Raiders $1.70 Dragons $2.40

Verdict

This is a very tough game to pick. Going by the above prices, the Raiders are the more fancied side of the two. This could also be due to the history the two sides have. I cannot have them though on their two recent performances. Playing their first game at home will make them more difficult to handle but the Dragons will also put up a fight. They haven’t been too disgraceful in their opening games and if it wasn’t for their flat attack, they might’ve gotten a victory over the Broncos. This will be a very close game and I cannot imaging their will be a lot of points scored. I am tipping the Dragons but believe that this is a game that you should stay away from. It is too risky and no clear winner is jumping out. Use it as a form guide for following weeks.

Suggested Bet
Don’t Bet! Stay away from this game and use the extra cash to load up on a different game this weekend.

Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys

When: Monday 7:00pm
Round 3 of the NRL concludes in Newcastle on Monday night with an exciting clash featuring two sides that have a lot of potential. Despite this, both sides are coming off large losses at the hands of two sides that have been the benchmark in recent seasons. The Knights were pounded, outmuscled and dominated by the Sea Eagles and it showed that there is a lot more development needed within this side before they reach their peak. After an impressive opening to the season where they scored 52 points, they were unable to score in this game. Their defense promised to be very strong by delivers little as they were caught out several times on the edges. Then there was the soft try from Anthony Watmough where he was allowed to run straight through the middle of them with only one attempt to tackle him. Super coach Wayne Bennett has his work cut out for him to turn them around for this clash. It was a vastly different story for the Cowboys as the Melbourne Storm outclassed them throughout the entire match. It was still disappointing for them as they were unable to match the Storm in the middle of the park. They possess one of the strongest forward packs in the competition and despite the desperation shown by Jonathon Thurston, they were not competitive when it matter most. Perhaps it was a learning curve for them and they should be able to learn from their mistakes. If not, it could be another season of “what-if’s” for them. This game promises to be a very good contest and the loser will only have one win on the competition ladder and will be classified as disappointing considering what they promised. Unlike Thursday night football, MNF is here to stay and a great way to begin the working week. Bring on the footy!

Newcastle Knights

Wayne Bennett knows how to get the most out of his players and the changes he makes are made for a reason, but in this case they’ve been made because of a large list of injuries. You can see that this side is on the verge of something special but there are few question marks that still remain. It doesn’t exactly fill you with too much confidence though when he is answering questions in the press conference and he states that he doesn’t even know what Newcastle side will show up on game day. They are boosted this week with the return of Timana Tahu to their side. He slots straight back into the centres to partner Anthony Quinn and Dane Gagai is out of the side through injury. He isn’t expected to return until round 8 and he joins a large list of players there. Willie Mason is also out of this game with a calf injury and taking his spot in the starting side is David Fa’alogo. Travis Waddell is suffering from a hamstring injury and there is no guide on when he will return. Matt Hilder therefore takes the starting role at hooker and this could only be a temporary move as Danny Buderus is expected to be back in round 5. The bench remains the same and with Fa’alogo being called into the starting side, there is no 18th man listed.

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys are also on the verge of something big and this is the best chance they have had in recent years. They have made a change around the very important position of halfback. Ray Thompson is out for around 5 weeks with an ankle injury and youngster Michael Morgan returns from a broken jaw just at the right time for them. He supports JT very well and is a definitely talented player. This move was probably going to be made regardless but Neil Henry’s decision was made for him. The other changes for the Cowboys relates to the makeup of their bench. Rory Kostjasyn and Tariq Sims are dropped out of the side and Anthony Mitchell and Scott Bolton are the new faces. Blake Leary is named as 18th man but he will probably be the player that misses out, like Clint Greenshields did the week before. It is a big decision to drop Sims but Henry is obviously trying to motivate the youngster to push his game to the next level. Mitchell’s job within the side will also be crucial. He will give the Cowboys a boost at hooker when he comes onto the field. His time will be limited though but if he can play at the same level as last season, he may have an extended stay on the park. The Cowboys forwards need to ensure that they are strong through the middle and provide a platform that JT can work off. He is in the best form of hi career and it will only be wasted if they do not get him the ball.

Recent History

Last 5 games = Knights 1 Cowboys 4

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Knights $2.05 Cowboys $1.80
Centrebet = Knights $2.00 Cowboys $1.83
Sportsbet = Knights $2.08 Cowboys $1.77
Betfair = Knights $2.12 Cowboys $1.88

Verdict

Both sides are looking to turn their fortunes around, yet the outcome of this game depends on which Knight’s side will turn up. If their MNF form is anything to go by, it could be a good sign. But when compared to the Cowboys, they look like the lesser of the two sides. They are trying to prove themselves this season and still have some work to do in order to get the respect that they need. The Cowboys will be motivated by their disappointing loss to the Storm and have Morgan returning to support JT. This will be a close game but the Cowboys should be in front when the final siren sounds.

Suggested Bet
Cowboys @ $1.88

Make a margin out of it = Cowboys 1-12 @ $3.10 – This will be a close game as the Knights look to tighten up their defense so lets cash in on this and get around the Cowboys.

Left side success = Kane Linnett FTS @ $13 – The Cowboys really like to work towards this side of the field and rather than selecting Gavin Cooper who runs to the line strongly, I am picking the left side centre Linnett. He is more than capable of getting to the line and there is a big question mark around the Knights right hand side defense. At this stage, it is woeful.

Good luck!
Scooby

Author

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Scooby

Hey guys, i'm Scooby! I have followed Rugby League since I was young enough to watch it and growing up in Sydney, it was inevitable. I will always make it my business to watch all 8 NRL fixtures per week and follow it with more than just passion. During my playing career, I have played at several representative levels, with and against current players. I began writing previews on NRL games early on in 2012 and really found a passion within this. I enjoy listening to various people and their opinions on the game, and then forming my own. Coupled together with another passion, gambling, I soon learnt that there was a market out there for more than the rugby league diehards. Hopefully I can pass on my knowledge of the game to help you win some cash.

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