Some big stories to come out of Round 8 of the National Rugby League. The Storm Vs Roosters thriller, Fonua-Blake breaking the vilification code and the poor old Broncos losing, again. What does Round 9 hold? Let's have a look.
Cowboys Vs Roosters (Thursday Night)
Off the back of the narrow loss to the Storm, the Roosters lose a couple of their stars with skipper Boyd Cordner and winger Daniel Tupou set to miss this week's clash with the Cowboys. Despite that, the Roosters will still likely be too strong for a Cowboys outfit that were terrible against a rampant Eels last week. A fortnight ago at the new Townsville Stadium, the Cowboys carved up the Knights and looked like world beaters. They'll need a good start here if they are any chance, but the Roosters have too much for them across the park. Roosters to win, not a blow out, but comfortably.
Titans Vs Warriors (Friday Night)
Jeez, tough. Warriors beat the Broncos and the Titans got a fair beating at the hands of the Sharks. So on last weeks results alone, you'd be thinking it's the Warriors who should go in as favourites here, boosted by the return of skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but without Kodi Nikorima who was knocked out early on in Round 8. Hmmm, what to do, what to do? I simply can't back the Warriors to win two in a row for no other reason than that, I'll back the Titans 1-12.
Rabbitohs Vs Tigers (Friday Night)
Now this is more like it. This will be a good one. 8th vs 9th and only split by points differential. Whichever teams wins this one is set to cement a spot inside the Top 8. Lose this one and you're almost certainly outside of the 8 come Monday, unless the Sea Eagles and Sharks were to both go down. The Rabbitohs are favourites for this one and I think the market has it right, I've been with them over the past couple of weeks and they've overcome some mediocre sides, this is a tougher test against a Tigers side that matched it with the Panthers last week, falling just short. Joseph Leilua is out after a brain explosion, yet again, last week, whilst Benji Marshall will continue to watch on from the sidelines.
Damien Cook has been put on notice by Brad Fittler
During the week it has been reported that Damien Cook's origin jersey is under threat, expect him to stand up and lead the Bunnies to victory. I think this will be close, South Sydney by 1.
Sharks vs Panthers (Saturday Afternoon)
This'll be a good Saturday afternoon watch, I've underestimated the Panthers throughout the year and they just continue to get better, sitting 2nd on the table. This is a big one for the Sharks, win here and stay attached to the Top 8, lose and your season could be getting away from you. Maybe I am being fooled by the Sharks here, who were dominant against the Titans last week, but perhaps we shouldn't read too much into that, I was sniffing an upset but I have fallen into the Panthers trap before in suggesting they won't win, one day I'll get it right! I'll tip the Panthers here but again, in a close game, could it be a weekend for the favourites? Panthers 1-12.
Broncos vs Bulldogs (Saturday Night)
You can't help but feel for these two sides, nothing is going right. I can not believe that Anthony Seibold has stuck with Darius Boyd in the Centres and Anthony Milford at Five-Eight. Surely by match day, Kotoni Staggs will make his return from injury in the Broncos starting side. Joining Staggs on an extended bench is Matt Lodge, who I think has been one man that can hold his high throughout this Broncos crisis. The Bulldogs? Well they fight hard but ultimately get outclassed, that's been the storyline thus far for their season.
What's my tip you ask? I knew you would. The smart man probably takes the nil all draw based on the form, but I am going to tip the Broncos to win. They are $1.65 in betting markets or around that market, for a team that is going terribly, no thanks, but I think they'll win.
Raiders vs Storm (Saturday Night)
Righto, this is nice. The Storm coming off the big win over the Chooks, the Raiders limping to the finish against the Dragons. Rumours circling that Cameron Munster may be back for this one, whilst winger Suliasi Vunivalu is out.
They're right, this is good with Titanic!
For the Raiders, this is almost D-Day for them, I don't mean that in the sense of them making the Top 8 necessarily, but if they want to be serious premiership contenders, they need to make a statement this week back home at GIO Stadium. I'm firmly on the Raiders bandwagon, if I lived in the nation's capital, I'd be there doing the Viking Clap and I am backing them to knock the Storm off here. Perhaps the Storm might just be a bit vulnerable coming off such a great win? Hope so. Sticky to get one over Bellyache here, Raiders by 4 in a cracker and Jarrod Croker for last try.
Knights vs Eels (Sunday Afternoon)
I think I've tipped against the Eels at almost every opportunity this year and it's bitten me hard on the backside. So, what does the smart man do? He backs against them again. Knights at home here, similar story to the Raiders in many ways, sitting 4th on the ladder but I think if Newcastle are to be considered a serious threat in 2020, they need to be winning matches like this, and I think they can. The happiest man in the country right now? Andrew McCullough. Out of Brisbane and playing some great footy for the Knights. Backing he, Pearce and Ponga to stand up here and steer the Knights home in an upset.
Dragons Vs Sea Eagles (Sunday Night)
The Sunday Night games are always fairly rotten, this isn't much better. You'd think the Sea Eagles are too good but jeez they're missing a few. Fonua-Blake obviously out after his character assessment last week of referee Grant Atkins. Tariq Sims back in for the Dragons might be the boost they need. I can't possibly bring myself to type the words but I am sensing an upset, I think. Put it this way, I won't back the Sea Eagles in this one.