We’ve finally found something he can’t do!
Friday Night Football shapes as a crucial encounter to the finals aspirations of both South Sydney and Parramatta as they headline round 12 of the 2017 NRL season.
South Sydney Rabbitohs versus Parramatta Eels
Friday, 26 May
Kick-off: 7:50pm at ANZ Stadium
The Rabbitohs and Eels have no State of Origin representatives between them which means they will be showcasing their best current sides when they clash to open Round 12.
The Rabbitohs were gallant last week in wet and wild conditions in Perth but Melbourne’s backline class prevailed as tries to Josh Ado Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu were the difference.
The Eels survived an early Canberra onslaught to go into half-time all square last Saturday but Canberra’s desperation and polish consigned the Eels to their second consecutive loss.
In selection news, George Burgess returns to the South Sydney bench after a four-game suspension. Zane Musgrove drops out of the 17.
For the Eels, Michael Jennings is out through injury with Brad Takairangi coming in at centre. The Eels will be looking for improvement from Mitchell Moses in his second game in Eels colours.
This is a critical game for both sides with regards to their top 8 aspirations. The Rabbitohs must defeat the Eels minus Corey Norman if they are to have any hope.
The Origin period could be an excellent opportunity for South Sydney to make up ground on the teams above them.
It’s very hard for me to tip the Eels without Corey Norman as Mitchell Moses is still trying to find his feet in the Brad Arthur system.
South Sydney showed glimpses last week against a very good side and they’ll be too good for the Eels on Friday.
Prediction: South Sydney by 6.
New Zealand Warriors versus Brisbane Broncos
Saturday, 27 May
Kick-off: 5:30pm at Mt Smart Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors will need an enormous improvement on their last three halves of football if they are to compete with the Origin-depleted Broncos on Saturday night in Auckland.
New Zealand were dominated from start to finish last Friday night in Hamilton in a totally uninspiring performance from the entire side.
They were lost in attack and clueless in defense. The Dragons ran rings around the Warriors with 9 linebreaks to 1.
The Broncos were very impressive in dismantling the Wests Tigers 36-0. The Broncos put their foot to the throat of a side for the first time this season and have won 6 in a row.
The Warriors lose Jacob Lillyman to Origin duty and he is replaced by James Gavet. Simon Mannering returns to lock and hopes are high that he will be able to sure up their defensive woes.
The Broncos have a host of stars playing State of Origin on Wednesday night with Anthony Milford, Corey Oates, Darius Boyd, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett and Sam Thaiday all missing.
Andrew McCullough is also out after suffering concussion thanks to Kyle Lovett’s hip last Friday night.
There are a host of ins for the Broncos. Halfback Ben Hunt returns from a hamstring injury and five-eighth Benji Marshall makes his debut for his new club.
They join Jonus Pearson, Travis Waddell, Jaydn Su’A, George Fai and Jai Arrow who all come into this Broncos team.
Omissions aside, the Broncos are playing some really impressive football in recent weeks. It is incredibly difficult to replace the play of 6 Origin stars, but I think the Broncos will overcome adversity and topple the Warriors on Saturday night.
The fresh faces in this Brisbane side will be hungry to impress Wayne Bennett. This is more of a fade on the Warriors after a couple of unforgivable losses than it is total confidence in the Broncos showing up on the night.
Prediction: Brisbane by 4.
Cronulla Sharks versus Canterbury Bulldogs
Saturday, 27 May
Kick-off: 7:30pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium
Paul Gallen will captain his beloved Cronulla Sharks for the first time in 11 years during the State of Origin period as they host the Bulldogs.
The Dogs were outclassed in the first half, showed their traditional toughness in the second half and fought back but aren’t in the bracket of the Roosters this season.
The Sharks themselves started sluggishly against the Cowboys, down 14-0 at half. They ran in three unanswered tries to win 18-14.
State of Origin impacts both sides in this contest. The Sharks lose Andrew Fifita, Jack Bird, James Maloney and Wade Graham to NSW duty.
The Bulldogs also have three Blues representatives in Brett Morris, David Klemmer and Josh Jackson.
In the major positional change, Fa’amanu Brown plays five-eighth in place of James Maloney for the Sharks.
This game will be won up the middle and this is where the Dogs have the superiority. They will want to draw the Sharks into a dogfight in the Shire and that is exactly what they will do.
The Dogs have a habit of pulling out a tough win when they need it most and I think Saturday night will be no different.
Prediction: Bulldogs by 2.
Canberra Raiders versus Sydney Roosters
Sunday, 28 May
Kick-off: 4:00pm at GIO Stadium
The Raiders got their season back on track after three straight losses with a victory over the Eels last weekend.
The Roosters did enough against the Bulldogs, but outside of one match against Parramatta in Round 10, they have failed to show a full 80-minute performance this season.
The Roosters are hard hit by Origin with Aidan Guerra and Dylan Napa representing Queensland. Boyd Cordner will captain the Blues with Mitchell Pearce and Blake Ferguson also in the NSW team. For the Raiders, Josh Papalii is their only Origin representative.
Sia Soliola replaces Papalii for Canberra. The host of the Origin stars missing for the Roosters has meant that Trent Robinson has made numerous inclusions for his squad’s trip to Canberra. Connor Watson starts at five-eight, Kane Evans, Ryan Matterson and Zane Tetevano will all start in the back row.
This is a tough ask for the Roosters to travel to Canberra and defeat an essentially full strength Canberra side. The intact spine of the Green Machine will prove pivotal in deciding the match on Sunday afternoon.
The Roosters still have a number of quality players in their side, but their bench depth has been stretched and is lacking.
Once Jared Waerea- Hargreaves and Kane Evans come off the field there is on Isaac Liu on the bench with credentialed first grade experience.
This will prove the difference and Canberra should stretch the Roosters from the middle of the first half onwards.
Prediction: Canberra by 14.