There are just five weeks remaining in the NRL season, and virtually every game this weekend will have finals ramifications. This is The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions for Round 21.
After a postponed back half of Round 20 which saw mainly fizzers, Round 21 has games which have finals implications written all over them.
The race for the top may be close to sorted, but the battle to make the top eight certainly is, with plenty of teams still in contention for a spot, with all teams from seventh to eleventh tied on 18 points.
One of those sides is the Newcastle Knights, who face an unprecedented four-day turnaround against the Broncos to open the round.
The Canberra Raiders and St George Illawarra Dragons are another two on 18 and will face off in the early game on Friday, before the Rabbitohs chase an unlikely minor premiership against the struggling Parramatta Eels, who are clinging onto fourth spot.
The injury-ravaged Warriors will then hope to hurt the Sharks’ finals chances, before Saturday evening brings us a couple of bellringers, with the Roosters to play the Panthers, and the Sea Eagles to face the Storm in the ten-year anniversary of the Battle of Brookvale.
The Bulldogs and Tigers play in a fairly innocuous game early on Sunday, before the round finishes with the Gold Coast Titans desperate to wrack up another two points against the North Queensland Cowboys.
Last week, and you may not believe this, but I lead the way with six tips. David, The Barry and The Crowd all had five, while Mary and AJ both only managed to tip four games correctly.
That means The Crowd still lead The Barry by one with just 49 games to go (including finals), while David is a further three backs. Mary is five behind David, and I’ve closed to within five of Mary. AJ is still a further 11 tips back.
Remember to get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEST) this evening to join The Roar’s NRL tipping competition for 2021 and be featured as part of the Crowd’s tips for Round 21.
As I actually managed to win a round last time out, I’ll take the mantle and go first.
Tips: Broncos, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Panthers, Storm, Bulldogs, Titans
The Knights are coming off a four-day turnaround. I’m not sure there are too many teams who could even attempt to handle that, and the Knights won’t be one. If the Broncos can’t win this, shut the club down.
The Raiders will beat the Dragons. Less said the better.
Parramatta welcome back Mitchell Moses, but are still just about impossible to tip based on their recent form. They fell off a cliff at the end of last season and appear to be doing the same here. South Sydney can outscore almost anyone as well, even if their defence isn’t great.
The Warriors have a small mountain of injuries, and Cronulla are desperate. That should be enough for the Sharks to score the victory.
Penrith are an outside chance of welcoming Nathan Cleary back, but the Roosters have lost plenty of outside backs. They were great against Parramatta, but there could be a letdown.
Melbourne are going to be hard to stop for even a full-strength Penrith. It’s Tom Trbojevic’s game against just about anyone, but the Storm will pick up the two points.
The Tigers were woeful last week. Throw into the never tip basket, which leaves me with the… Bulldogs? Well, I guess. They have shown a sign of life once or twice.
And, finally, give me the Titans. The Cowboys’ defence isn’t anywhere near acceptable, and the Titans’ attack is what’s keeping them going.
Tips: Knights, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Roosters, Storm, Tigers, Titans
Now for something new
Footy tips in haiku form
Perfect round awaits?
Knights so up and down
Broncos have avoided spoon
Newcastle to win
Dragons sliding down
Raiders are their own worst foe
They should still win this
Business end of year
Parra crashing and burning
Old fox times his run
Warriors are now
Our new second favourite team
Head over heart. Sharks
Injuries are cruel
Three future Dogs at Panthers
Just won’t be enough
Turbo running hot
Storm dominating again
Best ever? We’ll see
Boy, I hope I’m wrong
I just can’t tip the Bulldogs
New halves this week too
Titans on a roll
Top eight position looming
Think they beat the Cows
Lockdown, six again mayhem
Thank God, Olympics
Tips: Knights, Raiders, Rabbits, Sharks, Panthers, Storm, Tigers, Titans
I’m a little obsessed with the Olympics. When they come along, I tend to push all regular sport into the background and take an interest in stuff that, seriously, I wouldn’t be interested in if there weren’t five rings involved.
Like Equestrian, for example. I’m generally not overly keen on show jumping but I was wound up on Monday night when Andrew Hoy was going for a medal.
Same goes for water polo, archery, badminton, even canoe slalom, with apologies to Jessica Fox.
But I guess that’s the point. For two weeks every four years, we marvel at some pretty incredible stuff that we don’t see that often. As far as rugby league is concerned then, I haven’t seen too much over the last couple of rounds.
That actually fills me with some confidence, because we know tipping is hard when watching a lot of footy. Maybe the new approach will work.
It’s hard to get a read on the Knights, one week they are electric and the next week they are trash. But the return of Mitchell Pearce will improve this team as they make their run for the finals.
The Broncos get another game at Suncorp, who knows for how much longer, but they have won one in a row. They can’t go back to back, surely.
Things were looking up for the Dragons, with most of the COVID breach suspensions served and Zac Lomax finding his way to Queensland, But then Ben Hunt goes and gets injured. Ben Hunt is not someone who strikes fear into opposition fans, but he has been good lately.
Ricky’s Raiders are definitely on the slide but they should beat the Dragons.
I did see the Eels play and they looked clueless in attack. Moses makes his return but even divine intervention won’t be enough against the Rabbits. They won against the Dragons in a canter (note Equestrian reference) and are starting to firm in premiership betting. Souths will get the win.
I have to pick my Sharks against the Warriors. They won against them a month ago and, with a top-eight spot in sight, surely they rock up for this.
I have visions of Reece Walsh cutting through our paper-thin defence but they are just visions, David, they are not real. Sharks to get the two points.
Rumours of the Panthers slide may be a little premature. Sure, they got belted by the Storm but they were severely undermanned. A few troops return this round.
I’ve been deathriding the Roosters for weeks now but, to their credit, they keep getting the wins. Have I changed my mind on them? Nope, with Penrith to get the win.
The Sea Eagles and Storm is one I’m really looking forward to, and could quite easily be a preview of the big one in early October. With Tommy Turbo in the team, Manly is that good.
I said the Sea Eagles could make the GF. I didn’t say that they would win it. Melbourne will be up for this and add Manly to their list of consecutive scalps.
First up on Sunday afternoon, we have the final of the ‘Couldn’t Care Less’ Stakes. Both the Tigers and Bulldogs are last start losers and well out of contention.
The Bulldogs are used to this, the Tigers less so. Wests should win this. If they don’t, Tales from Tiger Town finished too early.
And last up, a Queensland derby. The Titans have it all to play for and that should prove enough for a win.
Tips: Knights, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Roosters, Storm, Bulldogs, Titans
Another successful week in the bank as I approach 100 correct tips and my move up the standings continues!
The Newcastle Kalyns to smash up the Broncos, cause they can only beat teams who are no good.
Canberra to light up the marquee 6pm Friday slot with a 56-point drubbing of the St George Illawarra COVID Dodgers.
Souths to smack the Eels’ bums by at least 24. Cronulla to do the same to the Warriors, who still can’t believe they won last week.
Roosters to knock over Penrith to show they’ve still got 1 or 2 shots left in the rifle.
Storm over Manly, but not by much. Melbourne are in cruise control until finals and Manly will be up for it.
Bulldogs over Wests, who are incredibly disappointing. I’m not going to watch this bludger and I suggest you don’t either.
FInally, the Titans will take a step towards a finals lock by knocking over the Cowboys.
Tips: Knights, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Panthers, Storm, Tigers, Titans
This is an extremely tough week for tipping.
The Knights are one of the inconsistent teams I am struggling to get my head around. After an impressive win last weekend over the Canberra Raiders where they scored 34 points, I’m tipping them to beat the Broncos and stay in the fight for a top-eight spot.
But I expect it to be close. The Broncos love playing at Suncorp Stadium and over the last couple of weeks have shown just how exciting their attack can be.
Given just how many Dragons players are out of this team at the moment, the Raiders have another opportunity to keep their top eight hopes alive.
No Ben Hunt is a big loss for the Dragons and I think given the disruption in the team at the moment with players coming in and out, that they will struggle against a Raiders side who has finally worked out how to play Tom Starling and Josh Hodgson in the same team.
The Rabbitohs will beat the Eels, and the less said about this game the better. As an Eels fan, I have nightmares about when we play Souths and for good reason given what has happened on the last two occasions the teams have faced each other.
The Eels have a really tough run home and I don’t think they have the attack to beat the Bunnies or the defence on the edge to contain the Bunnies’ backline.
If the Sharks are serious about playing finals footy, they have to beat the Warriors, who are tired, missing home and missing plenty of players.
But remarkably, the Warriors still turn up each week and managed to beat the Tigers last week. The Sharks have plenty to play for and this is a golden opportunity for two points.
I’m tipping the Panthers in the next game, but I’m not confident.
Still no Nathan Cleary and the Roosters proved last week that they can still take it to top-four teams, even with the quality of players they are missing. Penrith to win but if the Roosters win, I will not be surprised.
The next game should be a cracker. I am tipping the Storm here because of how much quality they have across the park.
The big question is, just how much of an impact can Tom Trbojevic have against the best team in the competition?
Tommy Turbo is having an exceptional season, but is he classy enough to keep Manly in the game against what is a ruthless Storm side?
I can’t believe I am tipping the Wests Tigers again this week, but I’ll take a leap of faith.
The Bulldogs have shown more in attack over the last couple of weeks, but the constant rotation of their halves pairing really worries me with Bailey Biondi-Odo finally getting his opportunity in the halves this week.
|Round 20||AJ||Mary||David||The Barry||Scott||Crowd|
|NEW v BRI||NEW||NEW||NEW||NEW||BRI||NEW|
|CAN v STI||CAN||CAN||CAN||CAN||CAN||CAN|
|PAR v SOU||SOU||SOU||SOU||SOU||SOU||SOU|
|NZL v CRO||CRO||CRO||CRO||CRO||CRO||CRO|
|SYD v PEN||SYD||PEN||PEN||PEN||PEN||PEN|
|MAN v MEL||MEL||MEL||MEL||MEL||MEL||MEL|
|CBY v WST||CBY||WST||WST||WST||CBY||WST|
|GLD v NQL||GLD||GLD||GLD||GLD||GLD||GLD|
Remember to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm this evening to be counted as part of The Crowd for this weekend.