With Origin 3 looming, we’re set for an abridged slate in Round 17 of the NRL, where a number of teams will jostle for finals footy without their rep stars.
We head to Cronulla for a monster Top 4 clash between the Sharks and Storm on Thursday night. This rivalry has been riddled with bad blood since the 2016 Grand Final, so expect a cracker to open the round.
Can the Knights back up their demolition of the Titans in Friday night footy, or will the Rabbitohs continue their march towards September?
The Eels and the Tigers lock horns on Saturday night before another Top 8 clash rounds out the weekend when the Broncos takes on the Dragons on Sunday. Check out my complete NRL Round 17 Tips below.
Both clubs will be missing Origin players, but both also retain plenty of talent, and this clash between the Sharks and Storm should still be excellent.
The Sharks have remained firmly entrenched in the top eight all season, and take a three-match win streak into this contest, albeit against weaker opponents. I thought that there was a lot to like about their performance against an improved Bulldogs outfit last week, and with Talakai their only Round 17 omission, I personally think that they are capable of the upset.
The Storm enter this match off a loss to the Sea Eagles, and while things were looking a little grim for a while in Round 16, their late surge almost delivered an unlikely win. They’re forced to do it without Munster and Grant this week, but the likes of Pap, Jahrome Hughes and their big, mobile forward pack are all available for selections.
I’m staying away from match betting and the line – there’s value to be found elsewhere.
The Knights returned to winning form at the expense of the last-placed Titans in Round 16, but they face a task in making it two in a row when they host the Bunnies on Friday night.
It has been another season to forget for the Knights. No matter what they try, nothing seems to be working, their stars simply aren’t firing, and the end of the season cannot arrive quickly enough. Edrick Lee starred out of the wing last week, bagging an impressive five tries, but a repeat of that effort is completely reliant on the quality of ball he is fed, which will be a lot harder against Souths.
The Rabbitohs have been reasonably inconsistent recently, existing more than flourishing, but the return of Latrell Mitchell paid immediate dividends in Round 16, and they were nothing short of dominant against the Eels. This is a decent drop in class for them, and even without the likes of Damien Cook and Cameron Murray, I still think they’ll win comfortably.
Two Round 16 losers will clash when Wests host Parramatta on Saturday night, but perhaps understandably, betting suggests it will be the most one-sided game of the week.
The Tigers slumped to another comfortable defeat to the Warriors in New Zealand, competing effectively for one half and failing to go on with it. This is a decent step up in class for them, and despite grinding out a win over the Eels earlier in the season, it’s tough imagining them repeating that effort and result.
The Eels were carved by an exciting Souths line up, and they’ll relish the opportunity to bounce back against a weaker opponent – something, to their credit, they’ve been very good at for the last few seasons.
This looks to be an open and shut case, and I’m backing the Eels.
The Broncos, without many key players will face the Dragons, without Ben Hunt, at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Broncos have been good without key players several times this season, but an almost full-strength side failed to account for the Cowboys in Round 16, and they lose Cobbo, Carrigan and Capewell to Origin, while Payne Haas is also still out with injury.
Hunt obviously a big out, but the rest of the Dragons side remains intact, and I think that they can be competitive in front of a crowd that often turns out for them in Brisbane.
I think that the Dragons are a serious chance, and they can cover the line as outsiders.