To pick a winner this week you’ll have to better than Nostradamus, it’s getting that tough.
Newcastle have lost Matt Gidley for their clash against the Knights and with the Knights on the downward spiral, it will be a tough slog for the Novacastrians to stop the rot this weekend. The Roosters have half their team backing up from Wednesday night’s Origin match and there is no doubt after such a fast and furious match they will be a little leg weary, especially Brad Fittler. Still, the Roosters will have too much power for the Knights who could find themselves in 12th spot if results were to go against them. Roosters by 8.
Many people would be thinking on form the Dogs would be way too strong for the Raiders, who are languishing in tenth spot but the Raiders, even at their lowest ebb have managed to beat the Bulldogs time and again in recent years. In 2001, a severely depleted Raiders side thumped the Bulldogs 32-0 and the Bulldogs have won only three of their last ten against the Raiders so the Dogs will not be taking this match likely one would think. The game has been moved to Gosford which further reduces the Bulldogs power and the Raiders have gun rookie Todd Carney making his first grade debut so this game could be a lot tighter than most think. I still have to go with the Dogs even though they have five players backing up from Origin II. Bulldogs by 10.
A true bottom of the table clash and form is on the Rabbitohs side as they disposed of the highly placed Melbourne Storm last weekend and Manly capitulated yet again to the Eels so for the first time in recent memory, I am tipping Souths to beat Manly and keep themselves away from the wooden spoon for another couple of weeks. Besides, the way Manly and the Warriors are playing, Souths look like world beaters. Souths by 6.
The resurgent Eels should have a big home crowd on hand when they take on archrivals, the Brisbane Broncos at Parramatta Stadium. The Eels fortunes have had a massive turn around in the last fortnight and they couldn’t have hoped to face the Broncos at a better time. The Broncos have most of their side backing up from Origin II and even when at full strength have always struggled against the Eels regardless of where the Eels sit on the ladder. This match represents a real chance for the Eels to make a charge towards the finals and build some momentum heading into the back half of the season. I think the Eels faithful will be out in force to get the Eels across the line in what promises to be one of the matches of the weekend. Eels by 2.
The woeful Warriors host the in form Cowboys and after the Warriors pathetic effort against the Tigers, they are lame ducks for the remainder of 2004. The Cowboys are sitting in seventh spot on the NRL ladder and need this game to keep their place as they have already had both their byes and face a tough stretch leading into the finals. The Cowboys don’t give up many points and after wins over the Knights and Dragons, they’ll be confident of returning with another victory under their belt. The less said about the Warriors the better. Cowboys by 20.
The Panthers fans would be getting a little nervous after the mountain men dropped their last two matches and they face a tough challenge against the Sharks who are travelling fairly well at the moment, considering they have two byes up their sleeve. The match is a chance for former Sharks coach John Lang to rub it in to the Sharks for sacking him three years ago. Lang has since won a premiership but the Sharks are slowly building towards a premiership. It’s only taken 37 years to date. Look for Michael Sullivan to have a big game against the Panthers. Panthers by 12.
OKI Jubilee will be packed to the rafters as the Tigers come to town looking to extend their winning streak to three matches and have become one of the seasons true success stories. Tim Sheens has done wonders with the Tigers who are playing a tight but exciting brand of footy that sees them in sixth spot and a great chance to make the finals for the first year since Balmain and Western Suburbs came together in 2000. The achievement will rank up among Sheens greatest moments of winning three premierships with the Raiders. The Dragons are almost back at full strength but have a shocking record since returning to OKI Jubilee with only one win over the Sharks. Since then, it’s been all doom and gloom but the Dragons look good on paper, so they get my tip for the match of the round. Expect a sell out crowd for this match. Dragons by 4.