David Gower might not have been a household name in the NRL, however he’s leading the way off the field as he begins his retirement doing his best to help others.
Preview of NRL Round 21 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, August 1
Manly v Brisbane at Brookvale Oval 7.45pm
Head to Head: Sea Eagles 19 Broncos 18 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 12 2014 – Broncos 36 bt Sea Eagles 10 at Suncorp Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Sea Eagles $1.33 Broncos $3.40
FootyTAB: Broncos +8.5
The Broncos didn’t fare so well against Melbourne last week after their build-up was disrupted by news of Anthony Griffin’s sacking. They find themselves caught up in a six team logjam that’s straddling the top eight, and will need to lift against table-topping Manly to keep in the hunt for a finals finish. Brisbane winger Daniel Vidot has been recalled after missing the past two games due to a disciplinary breach, while Jack Reed is named on the right wing. There’s just one change for Manly after last week’s 22-12 win over the Warriors, with Jorge Taufua returning on the wing for Cheyse Blair.
Key: Brett Stewart is in superb form, scoring five tries in his past five games at Brookvale. In his 15 games this season, he’s had 19 try assists – only bettered by Johnathan Thurston.
Tip: Sea Eagles
Canterbury v Penrith at ANZ Stadium 7.45pm
Head to Head: Bulldogs 48 Panthers 33 drawn 3
Last clash: Round 3 2014 Panthers 18 bt Bulldogs 16 at Sportingbet Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $1.47 Panthers $2.75
FootyTAB: Panthers +6.5
While both teams are placed in the top four, their form over the past fortnight has been well below par. The Panthers lost to cellar-dwelling Cronulla last week, and it won’t get any easier with Peter Wallace out for the rest of the season. They will get some extra firepower back with the return of experienced wingers Josh Mansour and David Simmons, while Will Smith will debut at five-eighth. The Bulldogs also get some cavalry back, with Josh Reynolds and David Klemmer returning.
Key: Just how smoothly the Panthers’ rookie five-eighth Will Smith steers the ship during his first NRL match will have a huge bearing on how this game plays out.
SATURDAY, August 2
Cronulla v Parramatta at Remondis Stadium 3pm
Head to Head: Sharks 41 Eels 38
Last clash: Round 9 2014 – Eels 42 bt Sharks 24 at Pirtek Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Sharks $2.20 Eels $1.70
FootyTAB: Sharks +1.5
These two sides might be sitting in the bottom five, but they’ll both come into this match with some momentum under their belts after notching up wins last week against teams placed above them. With the Sharks’ Matt Prior suspended, Anthony Tupou and Tupou Sopoaga have been added to a five-man bench while, at the Eels, Peni Terepo replaces Kenny Edwards in the second row.
Key: Jarryd Hayne is in scintillating form. The Eels’ fullback scored two tries – one a freakish 75-metre effort – and made eight tackle busts in a match-winning performance over Gold Coast last week.
North Queensland v Gold Coast at 1300SMILES Stadium
Head to Head: Cowboys 6 Titans 8
Last clash: Round 4 2014 – Titans 13 bt Cowboys 12 at Cbus Super Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Cowboys $1.26 Titans $4.00
FootyTAB: Titans +8.5
The Cowboys might be seventh and the Titans 13th, but just two competition points separate these two teams. The Cowboys are starting to gather a little momentum, stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time since round 10 in their victory over the Bulldogs. In a further boost, Matt Scott returns after recovering from his fractured jaw, while James Tamou has been cleared of a serious neck injury. The only change for the Titans after last week’s loss against the Eels is the return of David Mead for Kalifa Faifai Loa.
Key: Matt Scott is averaging a staggering 149 metres per game this year. His return couldn’t be better timed against a big Titans pack.
Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium 7.30pm
Head to Head: Roosters 13 Dragons 17 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 8 2014 – Roosters 34 bt Dragons 14 at Allianz Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $1.33 Dragons $3.40
FootyTAB: Dragons +8.5
The Dragons have hauled themselves back into the thick of finals contention after winning four of their past five, only losing to competition leaders Manly two weeks ago. The fifth-placed Roosters on the other hand have hit a rocky patch, losing three of their past four, including Friday’s loss to 14th-placed Newcastle. Rediscovering their mojo won’t be any easier with Sonny Bill Williams and Mitch Aubusson both out injured – but at least they’ll get back Michael Jennings in the centres. The Dragons are unchanged.
Key: Gareth Widdop. He picked up a double last week against his halves partner Benji Marshall’s old side, but the duo will face a sterner challenge against dumped NSW Blues pair James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce.
SUNDAY, August 3
Canberra v Warriors at GIO Stadium 2pm
Head to Head: Raiders 17 Warriors 14
Last clash: Round 9 2014 – Warriors 54 bt Raiders 12 at Eden Park
Tab Sportsbet: Raiders $2.75 Warriors $1.47
FootyTAB: Raiders +4.5
No NRL team is performing as poorly as the Raiders, who have firmed as equal favourites to take out the wooden spoon after losing nine of their past 11 matches. To make matters worse, they’ll have terrible memories of the last time they played the Warriors, who thumped them 54-12 in Auckland. The only good news for the Raiders is something out of their own control, with the Warriors looking increasingly unlikely to risk bringing halfback Shaun Johnson back from his groin injury.
Key: Konrad Hurrell. Canberra need to fix their defensive left edge ASAP. Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker gave Jarrod Croker all kinds of headaches last week, and you can be sure the Warriors’ damaging centre has taken note.
South Sydney v Newcastle at Barlow Park, Cairns 3pm
Head to Head: Rabbitohs 10 Knights 25
Last clash: Round 12 2013 – Rabbitohs 25 bt Knights 18 at ANZ Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Rabbitohs $1.28 Knights $3.75
FootyTAB: Knights +8.5
The on-song Knights, who have won four of their past five, are finally starting to get their tumultuous season back on track. However, they’ll be without two star players for the Bunnies, with Darius Boyd still taking some time away from the game, while Jarrod Mullen will be replaced by Kurt Gidley at five-eighth after suffering a stomach muscle tear in last week’s win over the Roosters. Souths will be without John Sutton (knee) and possibly big Sam Burgess (shoulder) after both were injured in their thumping of the Raiders.
Key: Dylan Walker. The 19-year-old ran rings around the Raiders’ defensive left edge last week in a performance that yielded the opening try, one assist, 170 metres and four tackle busts.
MONDAY, August 4
Wests Tigers v Melbourne at Campbelltown Sports Stadium 7pm
Head to Head: Tigers 9 Storm 15
Last clash: Round 16 2013 – Tigers 22 bt Storm 4 at Leichhardt Oval
Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $3.10 Storm $1.40
FootyTAB: Tigers +6.5
Despite such a promising start to 2014, the Tigers’ season is at huge risk of slipping into freefall. Furious captain Robbie Farah has skipped a training session following the Mick Potter saga, halfback Luke Brooks (shoulder) looks doubtful, and they’ve lost three of their past four. For the Storm, things have slowly begun to turn around since their big guns have had time to recover from the brutal State of Origin series. They’ve won their past two to bounce back up to sixth place, and have the luxury of naming an unchanged 17.
Key: Will Robbie Farah play? If the Tigers’ skipper sits the match out after sitting out a training session earlier this week, things could get messy.