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The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Round 20

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23rd September, 2020
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And so we arrive at the final round of the season. Rule changes, mass player restings and some intrigue around who plays who next week mean there is still much to discuss as The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel tell you who wins and why.

There are only two games featuring teams who are both out of the finals picture this weekend, with the Broncos to play the Cowboys in a Thursday night blockbuster (sarcasm rules) and Manly to play the Warriors.

They may well end up being the most intriguing games of the weekend though, with changes to the rules meaning we will see more six-again rulings and quicker bunker visits among others.

The rest of the games will be played under the rules we have had for the last 18 weeks, with Friday starting in the way of a test for the Knights against the Gold Coast before the Roosters play the Rabbitohs in the derby.

And interestingly enough, avoiding a trip to Brisbane for a clash with the Storm next week requires the Roosters to lose.

The Bulldogs start Saturday looking to make it two straight against the Panthers, who have already locked up the minor premiership. The Raiders without plenty then play the Sharks before the Tigers and Eels clash, with Parramatta aiming to hold their top-four spot for a second chance they may well need.

Sunday takes us to the Central Coast for the aforementioned Warriors-Sea Eagles game, with the Warriors possibly already on the plane home mentally, while the final game of the regular season sees an unrecognisable Melbourne go in as outsiders against the Dragons.

Remember to get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEST) on Thursday to join The Roar’s NRL tipping competition for 2020 and be featured as part of The Crowd’s tips for Round 20.

Justin Olam running the ball

Justin Olam. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

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AJ Mithen

Tips: Broncos, Titans, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Raiders, Tigers, Warriors, Dragons

It’s the final round of the regular season! When fake rules apply and can affect finishing positions (which then affects cash to teams), but who cares! We’re all here to have a bit of knockabout fun.

The Raiders and Storm have three teams worth of changes, teams out of the finals mix just want to get on the cans and teams in the lower part of the eight don’t want to get hurt, which leads to a delicious weekend of awkward rugby league that only true geniuses can predict. Fortunately for you all, I’m truly a genius, so here’s what’s coming.

Brisbane to beat the Cowboys.

The Knights will do over the Titans, who will be dreaming about getting on the cans at the Longboard Bar and Bistro by around the 14th minute.

Souths will beat a disinterested Roosters team, who don’t get on the cans unless there’s a premiership involved.

Oddly, Penrith are still selected at pretty much full tilt for a game against Canterbury. It seems to be a waste of energy. The Panthers are going to have a team coming full bore at them finals Week 1, so maybe a rest for the tired legs and some reduced injury risk would help? Not sure where the Bulldogs will get on the cans – it’s not a sure thing the leagues club will be a goer.

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The beautiful Canberra Raiders are so confident of certain victory against the hapless Sharks they’ve sent Sam Williams and Nick Cotric to accompany the Raiders juniors on a field trip to Sydney to run up the usual 56 points while the first team kick back with a couple.

Later Saturday night the Tigers will knock over the Eels before launching into a responsible post-season.

The Warriors will gut the ridiculous Sea Eagles, who have had some serious beatings in 2020. One more to wrap thing up. Well played Warriors, now go home, hug your families and get on the well-earnt cans!

To finish, the Dragons will scrape across the line against the Melbourne Storm’s reserve team’s reserves, who are still better than half of their opponent’s full-strength sides.

See you in the finals!

George Jennings of the Warriors

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mary Konstantopoulos

Tips: Cowboys, Knights, Roosters, Penrith, Raiders, Eels, Warriors, Storm

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At the start of the year who would have predicted the Queensland derby would be a spoon bowl? We have become so accustomed to epic battles between these two teams. How the mighty have fallen. The Broncos have been abhorrent this year and the Cowboys not much better. North Queensland have proven they can score points in recent weeks, and they should beat the Broncos, who are no doubt waiting for a holiday.

The Knights are playing finals football for the first time in many years. It will be tough given the Titans recent form, but I’m tipping the Knights, who will be lifted by the return of the likes of Kurt Mann, Bradman Best and Edrick Lee. The Titans have been very exciting this year and while they miss the eight, they make my top eight next year.

The Roosters have been plagued with injury, but the good news is all their key players seem to be returning at the right time. The Roosters welcome back Boyd Cordner, James Tedesco, Jake Friend and Siosiua Taukeiaho. While I’m tipping the Roosters, this is an important game for Souths, who will want to bounce back after an embarrassing loss to the Bulldogs.

Have the Bulldogs done enough to avoid the wooden spoon? I certainly don’t think they can beat the Panthers this weekend. The Panthers’ form has been remarkable, and with the minor premiership theirs, I expect them to beat the Bulldogs, and by plenty.

The Raiders will beat the Sharks, who are still yet to beat a team in the top eight this year. Their task in the finals became a whole lot harder with Shaun Johnson set to miss the remainder of the year. Keep an eye on the Raiders though, who are resting many key players and no doubt will be impacted.

This next one is a toughie: Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence’s last games for the Tigers. The Eels are desperately trying to hang on for a top-four finish. I’m picking the Eels because if they cannot beat the Tigers, I have very little hope of them being able to compete in the finals. No doubt the Tigers will do everything in their power to spoil the party.

The Warriors will finish the season after beating Manly, who have been appalling this year, and even without half their first-grade squad the Storm will beat the Dragons.

Brisbane Broncos players look dejected

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

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David Holden

Tips: Cowboys, Titans, Roosters, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Warriors, Dragons

I just looked at the team lists. This week is a lottery. While The Crowd has almost certainly bolted, the good news stemming from this is one bad week from AJ could bring him back to the field. The bad news is my cosy little midfield position could come under threat if I stuff up. There are no certainties this round – okay, maybe there is one. The rest are (hopefully) educated guesses.

We have witnessed some great clashes between the Broncos and Cowboys over the years. I don’t think this will be one of them. The Broncos deserve the wooden spoon, lurching from one mess to another. The problem is I promised myself I wouldn’t pick the Cowboys again. But JT is starting and Josh McGuire is back. It will be tight but Brisbane will be feeling the spoon on their backsides.

The Titans have convincingly beaten some ordinary sides over the last month. The challenge for them now is to take out a top-eight team. They will have no lack of motivation, going for a club-record five consecutive wins. The Knights will finish either sixth or seventh and their opponent will be the Rabbits. The only variable is where they will play, with a Newcastle win guaranteeing a home semi-final. I think they will have their minds on next week and I’m tipping a Titans upset.

The Rabbits and Roosters have named close to full strength teams, but both coaches can be a little sneaky and it wouldn’t surprise to see some big names drop out. But, we can only go with what we’ve got. It hurts me to the core, but the Roosters are looking more and more like premiership winners. They will win.

If the Broncos lose on Thursday night, the Bulldogs will already be partying like its 1999, or 2099 for the millennials. The Panthers are resting some players but Nathan Cleary and Api Koroisau are in. Penrith are about to test the theory that you don’t need the winning streak to end before playing finals. They will win. I’d like to see the Panthers go on to win the big one, but the pessimist in me is seeing nothing else other than a Roosters vs Storm grand final. Yuck!

Ricky Stuart must have a soft spot for the Sharks. Why else would he rest nine first-graders when his side still has a reasonable chance of making the top four? Maybe because he knows his team will beat the Sharks first week of the finals anyway. The Sharks are down on numbers themselves but might just get their first win over top-eight opposition, not that beating a depleted Raiders team counts.

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Chris Lawrence is retiring and Benji Marshall is playing his last game for the Tigers. I wish this was at Leichhardt, but it’s not. The Eels can lock in a top-four spot with a win and have named close to a full-strength team. They probably won’t know the Sharks vs Raiders result when they run on. I think they will spoil the farewell.

The Warriors will be packing their bags and getting ready to fly home. They have one more assignment before they do. They will miss Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but Manly is again without Tom Trbojevic. We thought the Warriors would falter last weekend, but they were unlucky not to get a win against the Raiders. Everyone’s second team will finish their remarkable season with a win.

This last game just shows how nuts this round is. I’m tipping the Dragons. I’m tipping the Dragons because the Storm are resting a dozen players. Surely not even the Dragons can find a way to lose this. Surely!

Tariq Sims of the Dragons runs the ball

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

The Barry

Tips: Cowboys, Titans, Roosters, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Warriors, Storm

I don’t remember ever wanting a neutral team to win as badly as I want the Cowboys to win against Brisbane on Thursday. I cheered for the Cows in the 2015 grand final, but it will have nothing on Thursday. Not sure what to do with my tip – I’ve put the mock on both these teams more than once. I’ve got to tip the Cowboys.

The Titans have won four on the hop and are in with a real chance against the Knights. I’m going to tip them on the basis they’re at home and I don’t think Adam O’Brien will be wrapping his stars in cotton wool before the semis.

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Souths will be desperate for a win in the local derby, while a Roosters loss could mean a trip to Penrith instead of Melbourne for them in Week 1 of the semi-finals. Even with so little to play for the Roosters should roll the Rabbits.

Regardless of Thursday’s result the Panthers will be too good for the Bulldogs. Vale to the eight departing Bulldogs players, especially Aiden Tolman, who has been a loyal clubman, playing over 200 games for the club since 2011.

Surely whatever sliver of hope remained for a Sharks premiership snapped with Shaun Johnson’s Achilles last week. The Raiders are resting plenty, so I’m going to tip the Sharks.

A final-round win could see the Tigers grab ninth, and I’m very tempted to alter my picks to tip this into happening. But surely the Eels have too much to play for.

The brave Warriors to roll Manly on Sunday. It’s been an epic season from players, coaches and staff. A lot of sacrifices, so we could have footy to watch. A last-round win would be well deserved.

Craig Bellamy needs to have a good hard look at himself. He’s absolutely cruelled my SuperCoach team this weekend with his selfish resting of Cameron’s Smith and Munster. He really needs to get his priorities straight! Even resting three-quarters of his team, Bellyache’s Storm will be too good for the Dragons.

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Scott Pryde

Tips: Cowboys, Titans, Roosters, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Sea Eagles, Dragons

Given all the players being rested this weekend, I am particularly keen to see where The Crowd ends up going.

I suspect they may not tip the Dragons to beat the Storm, but I will. Two debutants, another youngster in the side, Corey Norman dropped and Melbourne looking unrecognisable for a road trip? Give me the Red V.

And yeah, I know I’m working backwards. It’s because I want to avoid tonight’s game. I don’t think I’ve ever been less interested in a Queensland derby. Cowboys. Just to make sure Brisbane get that wooden thing.

Next up I’m going to take the Titans. I really like the performances they have been laying down in recent weeks, and as I wrote in talking points last week, I think a fit AJ Brimson could have led them to the finals. He was the missing link and the Knights have more than just one of those at the moment.

It’s impossible to tip against the Roosters, so they will beat the Rabbitohs, who need to bounce back from last week’s shambolic display.

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Like the Roosters, it’s impossible to tip against the Panthers. They will be far too strong for the Bulldogs despite the confidence the blue and whites will have got last weekend.

Cronulla to beat Canberra at home because look at all the players the green machine have rested, and the Eels to beat the Tigers in a bit of a damp squib. Parramatta haven’t been playing very well but will do enough here to lock their spot up in the four.

Manly? The Warriors? How do you tip either of them? I’d prefer not to, but the Warriors are going to be dreaming of going home. Sea Eagles to win possibly the worst game of the season. No Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. No Tom Trbojevic. Matt Nable is having a heart attack trying to work out how to pump this one up.

Oh, and did I mention the Dragons will beat the Storm?

Round 18 AJ Mary David The Barry Scott Crowd
BRI v NQL BRI NQL NQL NQL NQL NQL
GCT v NEW GCT NEW GCT GCT GCT NEW
SOU v SYD SOU SYD SYD SYD SYD SYD
CBY v PEN PEN PEN PEN PEN PEN PEN
CRO v CAN CAN CAN CRO CRO CRO CAN
WST v PAR WST PAR PAR PAR PAR PAR
NZL v MAN NZL NZL NZL NZL MAN NZL
STI v MEL STI MEL STI MEL STI MEL
Last week 6 7 7 5 6 6
Total 109 106 105 100 99 112

Be sure to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm (AEST) this evening, and we will publish the results of The Crowd’s tips before the first game of the round kicks off.

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