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Round 10 Questions: Should Bunnies be worried? Will Storm machine conk out? Who'll watch Dogs v Knights?

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Expert
11th May, 2022
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Rain looks like putting something of a dampener on Magic Round but the three-day festival in Brisbane is throwing up plenty of talking points for all 16 teams in attendance.

Parramatta and Brisbane have breathed new life into the competition over the past few weeks – the Eels proved a Storm v Panthers grand final was not a fait accompli with their stirring 22-20 win at Penrith while the Broncos have given their fans hope that a return to the playoffs is within range with a hat-trick of wins.

The first of Brisbane’s victories over Canterbury was not as convincing but their 16-7 triumph over the Sharks and 32-12 conquest of South Sydney show there is substance to their style of play with Adam Reynolds calling the shots.

Here are the big questions facing all 16 teams for Magic Round

Friday

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Bulldogs v Knights at Suncorp Stadium, 6pm (AEST)

Can Bulldogs really be favourites? The bookmakers have given Canterbury a slight edge in head-to-head markets for this game but it would be impossible to gamble responsibly on this one. Both teams have shown immaculate ability to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory this year. It could be 0-0 with 10 to go or 34-all. Both options are in play. In an ideal world, Magic Round would open with a bang but the best you can say about this year’s scheduling is it’ll only get better after the teams 15th and 16th on the ladder decide once and for all who’s worst.

Daniel Saifiti celebrates a try for NSW

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Can Daniel Saifiti salvage his Blues berth? Time is running out for the Newcastle front-rower to prove he should be in the NSW squad for game one on June 8. Blues selector Greg Alexander gave him a public warning a few weeks ago that he needed to improve but his form has shown nothing to suggest that shot of Brandy has had an effect.

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Sea Eagles v Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, 8.05pm (AEST)

Will Sea Eagles regret giving up this home game?  Going into this season, playing the Broncos in Brisbane instead of Brookvale wouldn’t have been seen as too much of a worry but Kevin Walters’ team has found its groove. Manly thrashed Brisbane at Magic Round last year 50-6 but lost the corresponding Magic Round fixture in 2019. The Broncos have not visited Manly since 2014.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Patrick Carrigan of the Broncos is tackled during the round 8 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast Titans at Suncorp Stadium, on April 30, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Is Patrick Carrigan ready for Origin? Billy Slater has said during the week that the Brisbane forward is on his selection radar with prop Christian Welch unavailable this year due to his torn Achilles. A torn ACL ruined his 2021 campaign and he missed a month recently with an MCL strain but he returned straight into the starting side last week with Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell out and led the pack to a dominant performances over Souths with 37 tackles and 142 running metres.

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Saturday

Warriors v Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium, 3pm (AEST)

Can the Warriors show some ticker? There has been enough written and said about how abjectly pathetic the Warriors were in last Sunday’s capitulation at Cronulla against a 12-man line-up for more than an hour of the match, including a 10-minute stretch against 11. Tohu Harris makes his comeback from a torn ACL and his Melbourne Storm never-give-up pedigree needs to rub off on more than a few of his teammates.

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Should Rabbitohs fans be worried? Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell are out for a few weeks, Cody Walker’s form is scratchy at best and they dropped to ninth with a 4-5 record after last week’s 32-12 drubbing from Brisbane. They make more errors per game than any other team at 14.1, which supports the common feeling that their once silky smooth attacking machine is looking decidedly clunky under new coach Jason Demetriou. They’re more conservative this year too, making the most one-pass hit-ups per game (81.9) in the NRL.

Titans v Dragons at Suncorp Stadium, 5.30pm (AEST)

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Are Titans compounding their earlier error with Kieran Foran signing? Letting Jamal Fogarty go to Canberra was a mistake, it was like trying to hit the fast-forward button on their young side’s development – halves Toby Sexton and AJ Brimson, and fullback Jayden Campbell are players of the future but they could have used Fogarty in their squad this year to guide them along. By the time Foran arrives next year, those three will be much further along in learning the tools of the trade at NRL level and Foran should only be needed as a bench utility. So if the Titans have forked out the $750,000 they have reportedly given the veteran Sea Eagle for a two-year deal, it could be creating another problem down the track.

Kieran Foran scores a try.

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Will Dragons fix their defence? They missed more tackles per game (36.2) than any other team and they are second-worst for line breaks conceded at 5.7 (although, strangely, Parramatta are worse with 6.2). St George Illawarra skipper Ben Hunt is playing strongly in attack but he’s missed more tackles (44) than anyone else in 2022.

Storm v Panthers at Suncorp Stadium, 7.45pm (AEST)

Can Meaney become next Hynes? When Ryan Papenhuyzen missed a couple of months last season, Melbourne’s machine barely skipper a beat with Nicho Hynes thriving at the back. Nick Meaney has the chance to emulate that over the next month at least due to Papenhuyzen’s knee and hamstring woes. Don’t be surprised if the Storm win this one and are still on top of the ladder when Papenhuyzen returns.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates kicking a field goal

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Can Panthers isolate Storm’s back three? Xavier Coates shouldn’t expect too many kicks to head his way on Saturday night but new fullback Nick Meaney and winger Dean Ieremia will be tested by Nathan Cleary’s array of bombs, torpedoes and other kicks which haven’t yet been given a military theme.

Sunday

Sharks v Raiders at Suncorp Stadium, 1.50pm (AEST)

Should Sharks re-sign Matt Moylan? The veteran five-eighth’s form improved last year when it looked like he might not get another contract and he’s been solid in 2022 to outperform the bargain basement one-year deal he signed. The Sharks would love to be able to keep him keen with another lean contract but he’ll be in a position to at least demand a two-season extension.

Matt Moylan

Matt Moylan (Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Have the Raiders got another Dragons jinx happening? The Raiders’ six-year stretch when they kept beating St George Illawarra became the stuff of legend but Canberra have quietly built up a similar streak against Cronulla. The Green Machine has won their past seven games against the Sharks. The only other time in the NRL era that they have had a better run against a rival club was their nine-game sequence against the Red V from 2008 to 2013.

Roosters v Eels at Suncorp Stadium, 4.05pm (AEST)

Can Roosters get off to a better start? The Sydney side has outscored its opposition in the second half each time in the past six rounds so Trent Robinson’s troops are certainly fit. But the Roosters have conceded a couple of upset losses in that stretch to the Dragons and the Bulldogs. It should go without saying that it could be curtains if they give the in-form Eels the early jump on Sunday.

Why haven’t the Eels re-signed Ryan Matterson already? It’s highly unusual in the current marketplace but Matterson is off contract at season’s end. A legit free agent, not a November 1 negotiator a year out, he could sign anywhere next year. With the Dolphins coming into the competition and sadly in need of elite talent, what’s taking the Eels so long to lock him away? They’ve already lost Reed Mahoney, Isaiah Papali’i, Oregon Kaufusi, Ray Stone and Marate Niukore sign elsewhere for 2023 so there should be no lack of forward roster spots and cash to splash.

Tigers v Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, 6.25pm (AEST)

Should Tigers persist with Oliver Gildart? The English international has struggled to adapt to the physicality of the NRL in his debut season Down Under. Gildart is at the top of the league for two unwanted categories – most try causes (13) and line breaks conceded at 14 alongside another centre, Morgan Harper, who has lost his place for a few weeks at Manly due to his defensive deficiencies.

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

How many Cowboys should be in Maroons team? Valentine Holmes is probably their only certainty, on a wing. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi, Reuben Cotter and Jeremiah Nanai have been mentioned as other possible selections. “Hammer” should get a centre berth but Taulagi will probably miss out on the other wing spot to Storm flyer Xavier Coates, Cotter is unlikely to get a bench utility berth ahead of incumbent Ben Hunt while Nanai still has a bunch of more seasoned second-rowers ahead of him in Kurt Capewell, Felise Kaufusi and Jai Arrow in his path even though David Fifita and Jaydn Su’A are injured.

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