Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 16 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 5 matches.
|Kalyn Ponga||1||Tolutau Koula|
|Dominic Young||2||Jason Saab|
|Dane Gagai||3||Christian Tuipulotu|
|Bradman Best||4||Morgan Harper|
|Enari Tuala||5||Reuben Garrick|
|Jake Clifford||6||Kieran Foran|
|Adam Clune||7||Daly Cherry-Evans|
|Jacob Saifiti||8||Josh Aloiai|
|Chris Randall||9||Lachlan Croker|
|Daniel Saifiti||10||Martin Taupau|
|Tyson Frizell||11||Haumole Olakau’atu|
|Brodie Jones||12||Andrew Davey|
|Kurt Mann||13||Jake Trbojevic|
|Phoenix Crossland||14||Dylan Walker|
|Sauaso Sue||15||Karl Lawton|
|Leo Thompson||16||Sean Keppie|
|Jirah Momoisea||17||Taniela Paseka|
History: Played 35, Knights 17, Sea Eagles 18
Last Meeting: Round 12, 2021: Knights 18 def. Sea Eagles 10
Final Thoughts: The gloss has started to come off the Newcastle Knights season following their 18-0 loss to the Sharks in Round 4. The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, on the other hand, finally started to look like themselves while beating the Raiders 25-6.
The Knights will run out with the same 17 again in Round 4 despite the result last week. Des Hasler wishes he could do the same for the Sea Eagles but Tom Trbojevic has been ruled out for a month. Tolutau Koula slots into fullback while Christian Tuipulotu is into the centres for Brad Parker.
Back-to-back defeats have brought the Knight crashing down but the potential of this side is still evident. They looked clunky in attack while reintroducing Kalyn Ponga to the mix in Round 4 but this is a game he can dominate. The Sea Eagles lose a lot in attack with Tom Trbojevic out. What isn’t talked about quite as much is how having a 19-year-old with two games of NRL experience will impact the defence. He’s going to have a tough time organising the line and that is where the new-look, on-ball Ponga will want to make his mark. If Koula gets his numbers wrong, Ponga will pounce. The Sea Eagles did improve without Trbojevic last season but their form so far in 2022 suggests they will struggle to make up for his absence in this one against a Knights side that has proven to have points in them.
|Reece Walsh||1||Scott Drinkwater|
|Edward Kosi||2||Kyle Feldt|
|Jesse Arthars||3||Valentine Holmes|
|Adam Pompey||4||Peta Hiku|
|Marcelo Montoya||5||Murray Taulagi|
|Chanel Harris-Tavita||6||Tom Dearden|
|Shaun Johnson||7||Chad Townsend|
|Bunty Afoa||8||Jordan McLean|
|Wayde Egan||9||Reece Robson|
|Matthew Lodge||10||Jamayne Taunoa-Brown|
|Euan Aitken||11||Tom Gilbert|
|Bayley Sironen||12||Jeremiah Nanai|
|Josh Curran||13||Jason Taumalolo|
|Kodi Nikorima||14||Jake Granville|
|Eliesa Katoa||15||Heilum Luki|
|Aaron Pene||16||Reuben Cotter|
|Jack Murchie||17||Griffin Neame|
History: Played 39, Warriors 19, Cowboys 20
Last Meeting: Round 12, 2021: Cowboys 29 def. Warriors 28
Final Thoughts: A week is a long time in the NRL. The North Queensland Cowboys came crashing back down to earth with a 28-4 loss to the Sydney Roosters. Meanwhile, the New Zealand Warriors won their second on the bounce with a 20-6 win over the Broncos.
Addin Fonua-Blake is nursing an injury and is named in the Warriors reserves list. Bunty Afoa starts in his place while Bailey Sironen is into the 17 for the suspended Jazz Tevaga. Scott Drinkwater makes his first appearance for the Cowboys with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow out injured.
The Warriors have picked up two wins on the bounce, but not every win in the NRL is created equal. They were awful in Round 3. In Round 4, however, Shaun Johnson and Chanel Harris-Tavita showed their class which sets this side up to score a few points on Friday. Nathan Brown has finally adjusted to the players in front of him and tasked his big bodies with getting up the field through the middle. That will need to be a focus against a Cowboys team currently third in yardage with 1,699 running metres per game. The probable loss of Fonua-Blake is huge for the Kiwi club. In a game between two sides that can’t be split, winning the middle is crucial. North Queensland are positioned best to dominate that area but what they do with the yardage advantage remains to be seen. Tom Dearden and Chad Townsend have had their moments and piled up points on the Broncos. However, they struggled to put their attack together in Round 4. Scott Drinkwater is into fullback and was their most dangerous attacking weapon in 2021 and how he reintegrates back into the side in a different position will more than likely determine how successful the Cowboys are with the ball. Given the form of these two clubs to start the season and their history in recent years, this one is a lottery.
|Tesi Niu||1||James Tedesco|
|Corey Oates||2||Daniel Tupou|
|Kotoni Staggs||3||Paul Momirovski|
|Herbie Farnworth||4||Joseph Manu|
|Selwyn Cobbo||5||Kevin Naiqama|
|Billy Walters||6||Sam Walker|
|Adam Reynolds||7||Luke Keary|
|Keenan Palasia||8||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves|
|Jake Turpin||9||Connor Watson|
|Payne Haas||10||Siosiua Taukeiaho|
|Kurt Capewell||11||Nat Butcher|
|Jordan Riki||12||Sitili Tupouniua|
|Kobe Hetherington||13||Victor Radley|
|Ryan James||14||Drew Hutchison|
|Corey Jensen||15||Daniel Suluka-Fifita|
|TC Robati||16||Angus Crichton|
|Cory Paix||17||Lindsay Collins|
History: Played 44, Broncos 23, Roosters 21
Last Meeting: Round 22, 2021: Roosters 21 def. Broncos 20
Final Thoughts: The Sydney Roosters are starting to look a lot more like the Sydney Roosters following their 28-4 victory over the Cowboys. Unfortunately for the Brisbane Broncos, they’re starting to look a lot more like the Brisbane Broncos, too. They never looked likely in their 20-6 loss to the Warriors.
Pat Carrigan, Albert Kelly and Tom Flegler are all out for the Broncos; Billy Walters, Keenan Palasia and Kobe Hetherington are in. Kurt Capewell also returns dropping TC Robati to the bench. Trent Robinson, meanwhile, has named the same 17 Roosters again for this one.
The Broncos might be in a bit of trouble here… Their form has dipped, they’ve been dealing with off-field issues all week, and they’re running into a Roosters side on the up. Poor against the Warriors in Round 4, the Broncos can’t afford to come out of the sheds slowly again. Heads dropped after conceding an early try and never recovered as the Warriors flew out to an early lead. The Sam Walker/Luke Keary combination is beginning to display some of its potential. Meanwhile, as the halves improve in their combination, James Tedesco becomes more dangerous on the edge. No team falls into shape and plays behind a strong middle better than the Roosters. With the Broncos ranked 15th in the NRL in yardage at only 1,434 running metres per game, the Chooks spine looks set to play on a strong foundation. The Roosters don’t look far away from putting it all together and dominating an opposition. The Broncos, on the other hand, have looked there to be beaten over the last fortnight. It could get ugly at Suncorp on Friday night.
|Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad||1||Ryan Papenhuyzen|
|Nick Cotric||2||Nick Meaney|
|Matthew Timoko||3||Reimis Smith|
|Semi Valemei||4||Justin Olam|
|Jordan Rapana||5||Xavier Coates|
|Jack Wighton||6||Cameron Munster|
|Brad Schneider||7||Jahrome Hughes|
|Josh Papalii||8||Jesse Bromwich|
|Tom Starling||9||Harry Grant|
|Joseph Tapine||10||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|Hudson Young||11||Felise Kaufusi|
|Corey Harawira-Naera||12||Kenneath Bromwich|
|Elliott Whitehead||13||Josh King|
|Matt Frawley||14||Brandon Smith|
|Emre Guler||15||Alec MacDonald|
|Adam Elliott||16||Trent Loiero|
|Corey Horsburgh||17||Tepai Moeroa|
History: Played 49, Raiders 14, Storm 35
Last Meeting: Round 22, 2021: Storm 26 def. Raiders 16
Final Thoughts: Errors once again plagued the Canberra Raiders as they stumbled and fumbled their way through a 25-6 defeat at the hands of the Sea Eagles. As for the Melbourne Storm, they thrashed the Bulldogs 44-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Ricky Stuart is going with the same 17 Raiders that fell to the Sea Eagles in Round 4. Unsurprisingly, Craig Bellamy has done the same with the Storm.
Good luck picking what the Raiders are going to do every week. One day they look like Top 8 certainties as they charge up the field before the likes of Tom Starling, Jack Wighton and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad manufacture points. Other days they have the Wests Tigers circling them as a possible win to lift them off 16th on the NRL ladder. Regardless of which version of the Canberra Rollercoasters turns up on Friday, the Storm will more than likely have their way. Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Harry Grant and Ryan Papenhuyzen make for a ridiculous spine. We’ve not seen them spend a lot of time on the field together over the last 18 months, but from what we saw in Round 4, the Storm will again play with a top-four attack in 2022. Canberra’s right edge defence is a slight concern and Papenhuyzen’s speed will be particularly dangerous running at Semi Valemei who is still learning the centre position. The Raiders have a good history against the Storm and always seem to grow legs in this fixture, but they’re running at a side that appears to have hit their straps heading into Round 5. Ricky Stuart will do well to keep this one to within two tries on the night.
|Latrell Mitchell||1||Moses Mbye|
|Alex Johnston||2||Mathew Feagai|
|Taane Milne||3||Moses Suli|
|Campbell Graham||4||Zac Lomax|
|Josh Mansour||5||Mikaele Ravalawa|
|Cody Walker||6||Jack Bird|
|Lachlan Ilias||7||Ben Hunt|
|Tevita Tatola||8||Francis Molo|
|Damien Cook||9||Andrew McCullough|
|Thomas Burgess||10||Aaron Woods|
|Keaon Koloamatangi||11||Tariq Sims|
|Jai Arrow||12||Jaydn Su’a|
|Cameron Murray||13||Jack de Belin|
|Blake Taaffe||14||Talatau Amone|
|Jacob Host||15||Josh Kerr|
|Davvy Moale||16||Blake Lawrie|
|Liam Knight||17||Jackson Ford|
History: Played 36, Rabbitohs 19, Dragons 17
Last Meeting: Round 25, 2021: Rabbitohs 20 def. Dragons 16
Final Thoughts: Despite falling to the Panthers 26-12, the South Sydney Rabbitohs are beginning to click into gear. The St. George Illawarra Dragons, on the other hand, can’t get through to Round 5 soon enough after being hammered by the Eels 48-14.
Josh Mansour is onto the Rabbitohs wing for Jaxson Paulo while Mark Nicholls is also out. Tom Burgess is into the front row with Davvy Moale and Blake Taaffe onto the bench. Jaydn Su’A is back for the Dragons this week. Remarkably, Moses Mbye is again at fullback and Jack Bird at five-eighth.
Poor Dragons… There is a good chance that they’re the side to cop the Rabbitohs just as they start to fire. It’s been a difficult start to the 2022 NRL season for the Bunnies. While they have just one win in four games to be equal with the Bulldogs and Dragons on the ladder, the Rabbitohs are in a different class. They’ve improved as the season has gone on and now that they are through a difficult draw, we’re going to see those improvements translate into competition points. Jason Demetriou will be pleading with his side to hold the ball. The Rabbitohs have coughed it up more than any side in the competition for an NRL-high 56 errors through four rounds. A lot of those errors have come in promising attacking actions, too. If they hold the ball, the Bunnies will run through a Dragons side disjointed in defence, slow to slide and poor in yardage to be 14th with 1,461 running metres per game. Anthony Griffin is already desperate. He is rotating through players in key positions, hoping the combinations might stick. Round 4 – and the general history of the approach and the players involved on this occasion – suggests they won’t.
|Jamayne Isaako||1||Clinton Gutherson|
|Corey Thompson||2||Waqa Blake|
|Phillip Sami||3||Will Penisini|
|Patrick Herbert||4||Tom Opacic|
|Greg Marzhew||5||Bailey Simonsson|
|AJ Brimson||6||Dylan Brown|
|Toby Sexton||7||Mitchell Moses|
|Moeaki Fotuaika||8||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
|Erin Clark||9||Reed Mahoney|
|Isaac Liu||10||Junior Paulo|
|David Fifita||11||Shaun Lane|
|Beau Fermor||12||Isaiah Papali’i|
|Tino Fa’asuamaleaui||13||Nathan Brown|
|Will Smith||14||Makahesi Makatoa|
|Jarrod Wallace||15||Ryan Matterson|
|Jaimin Jolliffe||16||Oregon Kaufusi|
|Kevin Proctor||17||Mitch Rein|
History: Played 22, Titans 11, Eels 11
Last Meeting: Round 1, 2022: Eels 32 def. Titans 28
Final Thoughts: The Gold Coast Titans got out of jail last week to beat the Titans 8-6 in an absolute bludger of a football game. Meanwhile, Mitchell Moses and the Parramatta Eels announced themselves to the rest of the NRL by dominating the Dragons 48-14 in Round 4.
Beau Fermor, Phil Sami, Isaac Liu are all in for the Titans; Brian Kelly appears to have been dropped entirely. Shaun Lane is back for the Eels moving Ryan Matterson to the bench and Bryce Cartwright to 18th man.
Like the Warriors over the Tigers in Round 3, the Titans win over the Tigers in Round 4 is proof that not all wins are equal. There was little to take out of that 80 minutes for the Titans outside of bad memories and concerns for Round 5. They will need to make significant improvements if they’re to keep up with a high-flying Eels side. Where the Titans are playing with a new, inexperienced and inconsistent spine, the Eels are flying behind the stellar form of Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown along with the cohesion between the halves, hooker and fullback. The Eels pack is one of the best in the NRL at the moment, too. Getting the balance between ball-playing and charging up the middle right more often to start this season, only Penrith runs for more metres than Parramatta’s 1,715 metres per game. The Eels are on fire to start the 2022 NRL season and are getting better every week. The Titans, on the other hand, struggle for consistency across 80 minutes and will need to be at their very best just to keep this one close.
|William Kennedy||1||Daine Laurie|
|Sione Katoa||2||David Nofoaluma|
|Jesse Ramien||3||James Roberts|
|Siosifa Talakai||4||Oliver Gildart|
|Ronaldo Mulitalo||5||Ken Maumalo|
|Matt Moylan||6||Jock Madden|
|Nicho Hynes||7||Luke Brooks|
|Toby Rudolf||8||James Tamou|
|Blayke Brailey||9||Jacob Liddle|
|Braden Hamlin-Uele||10||Zane Musgrove|
|Briton Nikora||11||Kelma Tuilagi|
|Teig Wilton||12||Luciano Leilua|
|Dale Finucane||13||Joe Ofahengaue|
|Aiden Tolman||14||Tyrone Peachey|
|Cameron McInnes||15||Alex Twal|
|Braydon Trindall||16||Luke Garner|
|Andrew Fifita||17||Alex Seyfarth|
History: Played 33, Sharks 14, Tigers 18
Last Meeting: Round 23, 2021: Sharks 50 def. Tigers 20
Final Thoughts: The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks continued their impressive start to the 2022 NRL season with an 18-0 win over the Knights. The same can’t be said for the Wests Tigers who lost in a way only the Wests Tigers can in Round 4.
Siosifa Talakai keeps his place in the Sharks with Craig Fitzgibbon naming an unchanged 17. Somewhat surprisingly, Michael Maguire has kept the same 17 despite the dire performance in Round 4. Jackson Hastings is still a week away from his suspension.
Plenty expect the Sharks to slip up at some stage following their hot start to the 2022 NRL season. However, it’s unlikely to be this week. While the Tigers may have kept it close in Round 4, they didn’t play particularly well. Their attack is still dire and their edge defence will struggle to keep up with this Sharks spine. Nicho Hynes, Matt Moylan and Will Kennedy are linking up across the field. They’re hitting one edge before hitting the other, searching for openings in the defensive line and often exploiting them. With Cameron McInnes beginning to have more of an influence as a ball-player in the middle, the Sharks will only be able to move the ball quicker. Good defences can slide and shut these side-to-side shifts down. The Tigers are not one of those good defences. Michael Maguire could inspire an improved defensive performance out of the Tigers – we have seen it before. But even if he does, he’s unlikely to get anything out of this spluttering attack and not enough to keep up with the high-flying Sharks spine.
|Matt Dufty||1||Dylan Edwards|
|Brent Naden||2||Charlie Staines|
|Braidon Burns||3||Izack Tago|
|Jake Averillo||4||Stephen Crichton|
|Josh Addo-Carr||5||Taylan May|
|Matt Burton||6||Jarome Luai|
|Kyle Flanagan||7||Nathan Cleary|
|Luke Thompson||8||Matthew Eisenhuth|
|Jeremy Marshall-King||9||Apisai Koroisau|
|Paul Vaughan||10||James Fisher-Harris|
|Corey Waddell||11||Viliame Kikau|
|Tevita Pangai Junior||12||Liam Martin|
|Josh Jackson||13||Isaah Yeo|
|Brandon Wakeham||14||Mitch Kenny|
|Chris Patolo||15||Scott Sorensen|
|Max King||16||Spencer Leniu|
|Joe Stimson||17||Jaeman Salmon|
History: Played 42, Bulldogs 18, Panthers 23
Last Meeting: Round 12, 2021: Panthers 30 def. Bulldogs 4
Final Thoughts: The Penrith Panthers moved to 4-0 with a 26-12 win over the Rabbitohs in Round 4. It wasn’t so pretty for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs who couldn’t keep close to the Storm throughout their 44-0 defeat.
Trent Barrett is shuffling the deck chairs again with Kyle Flanagan making his first appearance of the season for the Bulldogs. Brandon Wakeham drops to the bench and Bailey Biondi-Odo to 18th man. Viliame Kikau suffered a head knock but is expected to play in an unchanged Panthers outfit.
If you listen carefully, you can start to hear the sizzle of Trent Barrett’s coach’s seat. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and few measures are more desperate than recalling Flanagan into the #7 jersey for what feels like the 74th time in hope that this time is when he puts it together. To Flanagan’s credit, he has dished out six try assists in four games in reserve grade this year. He profiles as a much better partner for Matt Burton in the halves. However, there is little to suggest that Barrett will put a plan in place that can get the most out of the halves pairing with the ball. They signed high-profile attacking players over the summer but are the worst attacking team in the NRL scoring seven points per game. The Panthers, on the other hand, rank second scoring 28 points per game and have only just added Nathan Cleary to the mix. A rollback of the six again rules have made games more even, but no rule change can make up for the Bulldogs’ lack of attack against the best defence in the competition over the last three seasons. Ivan Cleary will need to keep his team on the bus for the Panthers to lose this one.