Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 16 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 3 matches.
|Tyrell Sloan||1||William Kennedy|
|Cody Ramsey||2||Sione Katoa|
|Moses Suli||3||Jesse Ramien|
|Zac Lomax||4||Connor Tracey|
|Mikaele Ravalawa||5||Matt Ikuvalu|
|Talatau Amone||6||Matt Moylan|
|Ben Hunt||7||Nicho Hynes|
|Francis Molo||8||Toby Rudolf|
|Moses Mbye||9||Blayke Brailey|
|Blake Lawrie||10||Braden Hamlin-Uele|
|Jack Bird||11||Briton Nikora|
|Jaydn Su’a||12||Siosifa Talakai|
|Tariq Sims||13||Dale Finucane|
|Jack de Belin||14||Aiden Tolman|
|Josh Kerr||15||Cameron McInnes|
|Jackson Ford||16||Braydon Trindall|
|Jack Gosiewski||17||Andrew Fifita|
History: Played 48, Dragons 23, Sharks 24
Last Meeting: Round 11, 2021: Sharks 13 def. Dragons 12
Final Thoughts: The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks did to the Eels in Round 2 what the Raiders did to them in Round 1 to score a last-minute winner. Meanwhile, the St. George Illawarra Dragons put in a strong effort to fall just short of the Panthers 20-16.
Moses Mbye will wear the Dragons #9 jersey for the injured Andrew McCullough. George Burgess drops to the reserves with Jackson Ford and Jack Gosiewski are onto the bench. Ronaldo Mulitalo will miss this one for the Sharks with Matt Ikuvalu named on the wing. Siosifa Talakai starts for Teig Wilton (suspended) with Braydon Trindall joining the bench.
Unsurprisingly when introducing a new playmaker touching the ball 60+ times per game, the Sharks haven’t been able to string together a full 80 minutes. They produce some poor periods throughout a match and Hynes has a couple of clunky individual moments himself. Still, we’re starting to see the Sharks develop some consistency in attack and they should have too many points in them for the Dragons on Thursday night. The Dragons left edge, in particular, is of concern defensively. While the Sharks did their damage down the left in Round 2, those try-scoring actions often came after a dangerous sweep to the right. Will Kennedy is going to force a lot of difficult defensive decisions out of Moses Suli. The Dragons have proven to be better than many expected to start the 2022 NRL season, but the Sharks are developing at a much quicker rate with the ball in hand and should take the two competition points relatively comfortably.
|Daine Laurie||1||Reece Walsh|
|David Nofoaluma||2||Adam Pompey|
|James Roberts||3||Jesse Arthars|
|Oliver Gildart||4||Rocco Berry|
|Ken Maumalo||5||Marcelo Montoya|
|Jackson Hastings||6||Chanel Harris-Tavita|
|Luke Brooks||7||Kodi Nikorima|
|James Tamou||8||Addin Fonua-Blake|
|Jacob Liddle||9||Wayde Egan|
|Stefano Utoikamanu||10||Matthew Lodge|
|Luke Garner||11||Euan Aitken|
|Luciano Leilua||12||Eliesa Katoa|
|Joe Ofahengaue||13||Josh Curran|
|Tyrone Peachey||14||Jazz Tevaga|
|Alex Twal||15||Bunty Afoa|
|Zane Musgrove||16||Aaron Pene|
|Jake Simpkin||17||Bayley Sironen|
History: Played 33, Tigers 16, Warriors 17
Last Meeting: Round 20, 2021: Warriors 18 def. Tigers 16
Final Thoughts: The Wests Tigers played out a first-half that will take some serious beating for the worst of the 2022 NRL season on their way to an ugly 26-4 loss to the Knights. Not quite as bad but equally winless, the New Zealand Warriors threw away their chance of victory when going down to the Titans 20-18.
James Tamou is back for the Tigers which pushes Alex Twal to the bench. Kelma Tuilagi failed his HIA and is replaced by Luke Garner while Jacob Liddle’s return to hooker drops Jake Simpkin to the bench. It’s officially Tuesday when the Warriors make a change to their halves. Kodi Nikorima replaces Ash Taylor this week.
These two teams have combined to lose their last nine games and little from last week suggests either is in a position to end a losing streak on Friday night. Both awful, this one is set to be a bludger of a contest. The Wests Tigers left fans banging their head against a wall following a terrible showing in the first half against the Knights. While slightly improved in the second half, the damage had been done both to the scoreboard and the faith of the fan base. To make matters worse this week, Jackson Hastings – arguably their best player across the opening fortnight – has been handed a three-game suspension. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ attack continues to struggle and deals with yet another change in the halves this week. The pack should be able to dominate and lay a platform for Chanel Harris-Tavita and Reece Walsh to work behind. They have the individual talent to find points if they’re provided with enough shots at the opposition line. From there, it’s their application in defence that will determine the result. It’s an area the Warriors have improved in recent years but one they’ve not been able to produce consistently.
|Latrell Mitchell||1||James Tedesco|
|Alex Johnston||2||Daniel Tupou|
|Taane Milne||3||Paul Momirovski|
|Campbell Graham||4||Joseph Manu|
|Jaxson Paulo||5||Billy Smith|
|Cody Walker||6||Sam Walker|
|Lachlan Ilias||7||Luke Keary|
|Tevita Tatola||8||Lindsay Collins|
|Damien Cook||9||Connor Watson|
|Mark Nicholls||10||Siosiua Taukeiaho|
|Keaon Koloamatangi||11||Nat Butcher|
|Jai Arrow||12||Sitili Tupouniua|
|Cameron Murray||13||Victor Radley|
|Jacob Host||14||Drew Hutchison|
|Siliva Havili||15||Fletcher Baker|
|Thomas Burgess||16||Angus Crichton|
|Liam Knight||17||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves|
History: Played 45, Rabbitohs 17, Roosters 28
Last Meeting: Round 24, 2021: Rabbitohs 54 def. Roosters 12
Final Thoughts: The South Sydney Rabbitohs fought back to send their game against the Storm into golden point but a Ryan Papenhuyzen field goal sent the Bunnies to their second-consecutive defeat. The Sydney Roosters, on the other hand, looks a lot more like themselves in handling the Sea Eagles with relative ease.
Jaxson Paulo is out onto the Rabbitohs wing with Taane Milne at centre as the only major change. For the Roosters, Angus Crichton has been dropped to the bench for Nat Butcher.
The Sydney Roosters looked like the premiership hopefuls they’re touted to be last week with their attack beginning to show signs of life. They’re not close to reaching their potential as an attacking duo, but the signs are there for Sam Walker and Luke Keary to produce a masterclass in the not too distant future. If the Roosters pack gets on top through the middle and gives Walker and Keary enough cracks at the Rabbitohs defence, the points will come. We can somewhat trust the Roosters’ defence given their history under Trent Robinson, too. The Rabbitohs, on the other hand, have really struggled with the ball. Latrell Mitchell’s return helps provide the touch of class out the back of shape on the edges. However, Cody Walker hasn’t been able to produce at anywhere near the level he did across the 2021 NRL season. Cameron Murray is finding form but needs some support from the pack around him. Lachlan Ilias’ introduction into first grade is taking a little bit longer than many hoped for as well. The Rabbitohs will be desperate to pick up their first win of the season so we can expect a fiery start to this one. However, the class, consistency and cohesion of the Roosters and their form leading into this one makes them deserving favourites.
|Dylan Edwards||1||Kalyn Ponga|
|Charlie Staines||2||Dominic Young|
|Izack Tago||3||Dane Gagai|
|Stephen Crichton||4||Bradman Best|
|Taylan May||5||Enari Tuala|
|Jarome Luai||6||Jake Clifford|
|Sean O’Sullivan||7||Adam Clune|
|Matthew Eisenhuth||8||Jacob Saifiti|
|Apisai Koroisau||9||Chris Randall|
|James Fisher-Harris||10||Daniel Saifiti|
|Viliame Kikau||11||Tyson Frizell|
|Liam Martin||12||Mitch Barnett|
|Isaah Yeo||13||Kurt Mann|
|Mitch Kenny||14||Phoenix Crossland|
|Scott Sorensen||15||Jirah Momoisea|
|Spencer Leniu||16||Leo Thompson|
|Jaeman Salmon||17||Mat Croker|
History: Played 37, Panthers 16, Knights 19
Last Meeting: Round 7, 2021: Panthers 24 def. Knights 6
Final Thoughts: The Penrith Panthers navigated another game without Nathan Cleary to sneak past the Dragons 20-16. They face an in-form Newcastle Knights side who did it easy in Round 2. The scoreboard reads 26-4 over the Tigers but they could have won by a lot more in the end.
Nathan Cleary’s name is on the Panthers team sheet but not in the 17 just yet. Brian To’o is out though with Taylan May named on the wing. The Knights receive a big boost with Kalyn Ponga named to return and Daniel Saifiti also returning from injury.
We will assume Cleary isn’t back for this one despite being in the reserves list. Every indication is that he’s unlikely to run out onto the field this week. Still, the Panthers are set up well for victory on Saturday afternoon. While the Knights are boosted by the return of Daniel Saifiti and Kalyn Ponga, it’s in the middle that they’re going to struggle somewhat. This Panthers pack is one of the best in the NRL and have already proven a tough nut to crack this season. The Knights have had success through the middle to start the season but there are question marks around the opposition. They’re not going to get up the field quite so easily this week. Therefore, the halves pairing of Adam Clune and Jake Clifford that has thrived on eyes-up footy on the front foot will need to find different ways to influence the attack. Round 1 with Ponga doesn’t provide us with too much hope. The Knights are a tough side and in great form, but the Panthers are a different beast. This is a different challenge for Adam O’Brien and the Knights attack and they will need to lift if they’re to find enough points to cause an upset.
|Ryan Papenhuyzen||1||Clinton Gutherson|
|Dean Ieremia||2||Waqa Blake|
|Reimis Smith||3||Will Penisini|
|Justin Olam||4||Tom Opacic|
|Xavier Coates||5||Bailey Simonsson|
|Cameron Munster||6||Dylan Brown|
|Jahrome Hughes||7||Mitchell Moses|
|Jesse Bromwich||8||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
|Harry Grant||9||Reed Mahoney|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||10||Junior Paulo|
|Felise Kaufusi||11||Shaun Lane|
|Kenneath Bromwich||12||Isaiah Papali’i|
|Josh King||13||Nathan Brown|
|Tyran Wishart||14||Makahesi Makatoa|
|Alec MacDonald||15||Wiremu Greig|
|Trent Loiero||16||Ray Stone|
|Tepai Moeroa||17||Oregon Kaufusi|
History: Played 40, Storm 24, Eels 16
Last Meeting: Round 24, 2021: Eels 22 def. Storm 10
Final Thoughts: The Melbourne Storm cruised to an early first-half lead before falling asleep in the second half. They did, however, show their class in the end to beat the Rabbitohs 15-14 in golden point. It looked as though the Eels had done enough to beat the Sharks but a late Teig Wilton try handed Brad Arthur’s side their first defeat of the 2022 NRL season.
Harry Grant has been named in the #9 jersey but has since been ruled out with Covid. Brandon Smith has been named in the reserves and is a possible replacement for the Storm hooker. Nathan Brown will start at lock for the Eels with Oregon Kaufusi back to the bench. Jakob Arthur is out allowing Wiremu Greig to join the bench.
The Storm are dealing with a handful of injuries but still present as deserving favourites following a tough win last week. Grant is a significant loss behind the ruck but Melbourne still has plenty of creativity and scoring in the form of Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes. Their backline offers a lot more reliability than that of the Eels, too. Parramatta looked excellent in Round 1 but Ryan Matterson had a lot to do with that form. Without him in Round 2, the ball didn’t move quite as well through the middle. They were beaten in the yardage battle with Cronulla’s 49.1 metres per set also worth noting. Surprisingly, the Storm are 15th in the NRL in yardage but we can expect that to turn around sooner rather than later. The Eels have proven to be somewhat of a bogey side for the Storm. They always seem to grow legs in this fixture and the last-minute defeat last week will only fuel them further. However, at home and with Munster and Hughes showing dangerous signs with the ball last week, the Storm should be able to get the job done despite the injury issues.
|Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad||1||Jayden Campbell|
|Nick Cotric||2||Phillip Sami|
|Matthew Timoko||3||Brian Kelly|
|Semi Valemei||4||Patrick Herbert|
|Jordan Rapana||5||Greg Marzhew|
|Jack Wighton||6||AJ Brimson|
|Brad Schneider||7||Toby Sexton|
|Josh Papalii||8||Moeaki Fotuaika|
|Tom Starling||9||Erin Clark|
|Joseph Tapine||10||Isaac Liu|
|Hudson Young||11||David Fifita|
|Corey Harawira-Naera||12||Beau Fermor|
|Elliott Whitehead||13||Tino Fa’asuamaleaui|
|Matt Frawley||14||Will Smith|
|Emre Guler||15||Sam Lisone|
|Adam Elliott||16||Jaimin Jolliffe|
|Corey Horsburgh||17||Kevin Proctor|
History: Played 27, Raiders 14, Titans 13
Last Meeting: Round 16, 2021: Titans 44 def. Raiders 6
Final Thoughts: A lot can change in a week in rugby league. After scoring a late winner to win in Round 1, the Canberra Raiders were barely in their 26-6 loss to the Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Titans made the most of facing a hapless Warriors side to win 20-18.
The Raiders have made a few changes: Nic Cotric and Jordan Rapana return, James Schiller and Seb Kris drop out. Brad Schneider is also back and replaces Matt Frawley in the halves. Meanwhile, Justin Holbrook has named the same Titans side that beat the Warriors last week.
Another week, another injury for the Raiders who have lost Josh Hodgson for the season. His leadership and organisation is a huge loss, particularly for a sign running with a rookie halfback and a five-eighth not known for taking control of the side. Tom Starling is a capable replacement with the ball and will create opportunities in attack. However, it’s the setup to shifts and the calm head under duress that the Raiders are now looking for this season. They certainly didn’t have it last week when losing to the Cowboys in North Queensland. Meanwhile, the Titans made it more difficult than it needed to be against the Warriors. AJ Brimson put on a show early but they ultimately lacked the composure following a strong start. It’s a trend that has plagued the Titans in recent years and the Raiders know of those poor periods in a match all too well. We’re going to see this game move in ebbs and flows. Neither has been capable of consistently playing out a full 80 minutes across the last two or three seasons. Turning those flows into points is where this game will be won and lost but it’s difficult to imagine one side getting too far in front of the other at any point of the match.
|Tesi Niu||1||Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow|
|Corey Oates||2||Kyle Feldt|
|Kotoni Staggs||3||Valentine Holmes|
|Herbie Farnworth||4||Peta Hiku|
|Selwyn Cobbo||5||Murray Taulagi|
|Albert Kelly||6||Tom Dearden|
|Adam Reynolds||7||Chad Townsend|
|Keenan Palasia||8||Jordan McLean|
|Jake Turpin||9||Reece Robson|
|Payne Haas||10||Coen Hess|
|Kurt Capewell||11||Tom Gilbert|
|Jordan Riki||12||Jeremiah Nanai|
|Patrick Carrigan||13||Jason Taumalolo|
|Ryan James||14||Jake Granville|
|Kobe Hetherington||15||Heilum Luki|
|TC Robati||16||Reuben Cotter|
|Billy Walters||17||Griffin Neame|
History: Played 52, Broncos 33, Cowboys 18
Last Meeting: Round 20, 2021: Broncos 37 def. Cowboys 18
Final Thoughts: The Brisbane Broncos are 2-0. Yes, the Brisbane Broncos. They took care of the Bulldogs to win 16-10 in Round 2 to sit 3rd on the NRL ladder. The North Queensland Cowboys also found some much-needed form to beat the Raiders 26-6 and kickstart their 2022 season.
Kevin Walters has been able to name the same Broncos 17 again this week. Todd Payten hasn’t been able to do the same for the Cowboys who have lost Reuben Cotter for the season. However, the 17 is otherwise the same.
Fire up for this one! Regardless of where the two teams sit on the NRL ladder, the Queensland Derby always produces the goods. Fittingly, the Cowboys captured some form last week as Tom Dearden and Chad Townsend begin to look a lot more comfortable with each other in the halves. Jason Taumalolo – while still playing fewer minutes than most would like – produced 161 running metres on 14 carries. It’s in yardage that the Cowboys can do some damage. Their 1,831 running metres per game ranks 2nd in the NRL while the Broncos are down at 12th with 1,511 running metres. Neither side is particularly trustworthy in attack so earning opportunities inside the opposition 20-metre line will be crucial on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Cowboys and their advantage in yardage, questions still remain defensively. While improved to start this season, memories of their NRL-worst defence of 2021 still linger.
Anticipating an arm-wrestle to start and little in the form of reliable and repeatable actions in attack from either team so far this season, this looks like another low-scoring game for these two to start 2022.
|Tom Trbojevic||1||Matt Dufty|
|Jason Saab||2||Jayden Okunbor|
|Brad Parker||3||Braidon Burns|
|Morgan Harper||4||Brent Naden|
|Reuben Garrick||5||Josh Addo-Carr|
|Kieran Foran||6||Matt Burton|
|Daly Cherry-Evans||7||Jake Averillo|
|Sean Keppie||8||Luke Thompson|
|Lachlan Croker||9||Jeremy Marshall-King|
|Martin Taupau||10||Paul Vaughan|
|Haumole Olakau’atu||11||Jack Hetherington|
|Ethan Bullemor||12||Tevita Pangai Junior|
|Jake Trbojevic||13||Josh Jackson|
|Dylan Walker||14||Bailey Biondi-Odo|
|Karl Lawton||15||Corey Waddell|
|Andrew Davey||16||Max King|
|Taniela Paseka||17||Ava Seumanufagai|
History: Played 38, Sea Eagles 18, Bulldogs 20
Last Meeting: Round 24, 2021: Sea Eagles 36 def. Bulldogs 18
Final Thoughts: We’ve been here before with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. They’re 0-2 to start the 2022 NRL season following their 26-12 loss to the Roosters on Friday. As for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, they failed to take the points in a winnable game against the Broncos ahead of a brutal six-week draw.
Des Hasler is happy enough with his Sea Eagles despite going winless throughout the first two rounds and has named the same 17. Trent Barrett has done the same with the Bulldogs.
It’s not quite desperate times for the Sea Eagles but they will be expecting to pick up their first win of the NRL season on Sunday. Like last year, they’ve found it difficult to break down the top teams in the competition. However, also like last year, the expectation is that they will still pile up points on the teams towards the bottom of the ladder. Tom Trbojevic is still one of the most dangerous attacking players in the competition and he is going to look a lot more dangerous running at a Bulldogs right edge defence left wanting last week. The Bulldogs attack leaves a lot to be desired. Their only consistent weapon so far this season is Matt Burton’s boot on 5th tackle, kicking from halfway. Burton himself is dangerous in good ball, but as the Broncos showed last week, if you can shut him down, the Bulldogs don’t yet have many alternative options. The Bulldogs have certainly improved and pose as a more dangerous threat in 2022. Still, the Sea Eagles attack, even down in form, should have far too many points in them on Sunday evening.