NRL Tips & Preview – Round 23

Palmerbet Blog

Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 16 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 23 matches.

Rabbitohs Panthers
Latrell Mitchell 1 Dylan Edwards
Alex Johnston 2 Sunia Turuva
Isaiah Tass 3 Izack Tago
Campbell Graham 4 Stephen Crichton
Jaxson Paulo 5 Brian To’o
Cody Walker 6 Jaeman Salmon
Lachlan Ilias 7 Sean O’Sullivan
Tevita Tatola 8 Moses Leota
Damien Cook 9 Apisai Koroisau
Daniel Suluka-Fifita 10 Matthew Eisenhuth
Keaon Koloamatangi 11 Viliame Kikau
Jai Arrow 12 Liam Martin
Cameron Murray 13 Isaah Yeo
Taane Milne 14 Mitch Kenny
Mark Nicholls 15 Scott Sorensen
Siliva Havili 16 Spencer Leniu
Hame Sele 17 Charlie Staines


History:
Played 38, Rabbitohs 16, Panthers 22

Last Meeting: Round 4, 2022: Panthers 26 def. Rabbitohs 12

Final Thoughts: The South Sydney Rabbitohs got off to a flier last week and did it easy to beat the Eels 26-0 at CommBank Stadium. The Penrith Panthers, on the other hand, were on the other side of a shutout. They failed to trouble the scorers in their 16-0 loss to the Storm.

Campbell Graham is back for the Rabbitohs this week. He is straight into the centres with Jaxson Paulo to the wing and Izaac Thompson out of the side. Lachlan Ilias has also been named to return alongside Daniel Suluka-Fifita. Dylan Edwards returns for the Panthers this week but they are still without Taylan May. Charlie Staines shifts to the bench and Robert Jennings to 18th man.

The Rabbitohs remain as one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the NRL. Their middle is surging up the field and putting them in positions to score. Despite the fact every defence knows the Rabbitohs are going to look left, nobody can stop them. The Panthers play with the best defence in the competition. Edwards returning will help them after last week. However, being without James Fisher-Harris is the big loss. He’s key to their line speed and does a superb job in contact. Given what the Rabbitohs have produced in the centre-third of late, they’re deserving favourites. The Panthers will be tough to crack. Whether or not they’re at full strength, their defence is a cohesive unit. This Rabbitohs middle should provide the attacking superstars with plenty of opportunities to score, though.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs -3.5 @ $1.90

Cowboys Warriors
Scott Drinkwater 1 Reece Walsh
Kyle Feldt 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Valentine Holmes 3 Viliami Vailea
Peta Hiku 4 Marcelo Montoya
Murray Taulagi 5 Edward Kosi
Tom Dearden 6 Daejarn Asi
Chad Townsend 7 Shaun Johnson
Jordan McLean 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Reece Robson 9 Wayde Egan
Reuben Cotter 10 Tohu Harris
Tom Gilbert 11 Euan Aitken
Jeremiah Nanai 12 Jack Murchie
Jason Taumalolo 13 Bunty Afoa
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 14 Freddy Lussick
Luciano Leilua 15 Tom Ale
Coen Hess 16 Eliesa Katoa
Griffin Neame 17 Josh Curran


History:
Played 40, Cowboys 20, Warriors 20

Last Meeting: Round 5, 2022: Warriors 25 def. Cowboys 24

Final Thoughts: The North Queensland Cowboys could be forgiven for not being at 100% last week. They understandably didn’t look at themselves while going down to the Roosters 32-18. Similarly, but in a positive frame, the Warriors didn’t look like themselves either. They looked good! Their best performance of the 2022 NRL season translated into a 42-18 thrashing of the Bulldogs.

Kyle Feldt is back for the Cowboys this week with Hamiso Tauai-Fidow reverting to the bench. For the Warriors, if they run out as named, it will be the first time all season they’ve played with the same team in back-to-back weeks. However, Chanel Harris-Tavita has been named in the reserves.

The Warriors ran for 2,027 metres last week. It’s the first time they’ve cracked 2,000 metres all season. Notably, Shaun Johnson also played his best game of the year. There is a clear relationship between how a team moves up the field and the performance of their halves. It will take another huge effort to repeat that performance this week, though. The Cowboys are 4th in the NRL in yardage averaging 1,646 metres per game – almost 300 more meters than the Warriors. While not in their best form, the Cowboys game plan matches up well against a Warriors side that tends to roll over when not playing at Mt Smart Stadium. Todd Payten will have his team back and focused ahead of this one so expect a return to normal proceedings: tight up the middle, kick well, build pressure, and wait for the defence to crack. The Warriors look set to start well, but they’re unlikely to go the distance.

Tip: Time of 1st Try – 8 Minutes or Later @ $2.00

Broncos Storm
Te Maire Martin 1 Nick Meaney
Corey Oates 2 David Nofoaluma
Kotoni Staggs 3 Young Tonumaipea
Delouise Hoeter 4 Justin Olam
Selwyn Cobbo 5 Xavier Coates
Ezra Mam 6 Cameron Munster
Adam Reynolds 7 Jahrome Hughes
Thomas Flegler 8 Jesse Bromwich
Billy Walters 9 Harry Grant
Payne Haas 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Kurt Capewell 11 Tom Eisenhuth
Jordan Riki 12 Kenneath Bromwich
Kobe Hetherington 13 Josh King
Jake Turpin 14 Brandon Smith
Rhys Kennedy 15 Tui Kamikamica
Corey Jensen 16 Chris Lewis
Ryan James 17 Tyran Wishart


History:
Played 51, Broncos 13, Storm 37

Last Meeting: Round 15, 2022: Storm 32 def. Broncos 20

Final Thoughts: The Brisbane Broncos returned to their winning ways in Round 22 with an impressive 28-10 win over the Knights at Suncorp. More impressive were the Melbourne Storm. Sure, the Panthers are down on troops. Still, any win over the Panthers in Penrith is a good one when you keep them to nil.

Kevin Walters is keeping with the same 17 that picked up the two competition points last week. The Storm, on the other hand, have named Jahrome Hughes after it looked as though he would spend a little bit more time on the sideline. Felise Kaufusi is also back. Notably, Cameron Munster has been named in the halves just as he was last week.

This isn’t a matchup that favours the Broncos – even at home. And unlucky for them, the Storm appears to be coming good following an uncharacteristic few weeks. It remains to be seen whether or not Hughes does, in fact, run out for this one. Who knows where Munster will really play until we see him on the field. Regardless, this one presents as a close contest. Both teams work hard in the middle. The Storm pack dominated in Round 22 while the Broncos will at least start the game well behind Payne Haas and Tom Flegler. There is a finals feel in the build-up to this one. The sort that suggests the ball will be kept tight with neither wanting to give up possession and field position cheaply. Despite the Storm leading the NRL in points scored and the Broncos not being too shabby with the ball either, expect this one to be centred around defence and end up relatively low scoring.

Tip: Total Points – Under 43.5 @ $1.90

Eels Bulldogs
Clinton Gutherson 1 Jake Averillo
Maika Sivo 2 Jacob Kiraz
Will Penisini 3 Aaron Schoupp
Tom Opacic 4 Braidon Burns
Waqa Blake 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Dylan Brown 6 Matt Burton
Mitchell Moses 7 Kyle Flanagan
Reagan Campbell-Gillard 8 Max King
Reed Mahoney 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Junior Paulo 10 Paul Vaughan
Shaun Lane 11 Harrison Edwards
Isaiah Papali’i 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Ryan Matterson 13 Josh Jackson
Ofahiki Ogden 14 Zach Dockar-Clay
Bryce Cartwright 15 Joe Stimson
Oregon Kaufusi 16 Jackson Topine
Marata Niukore 17 Chris Patolo


History:
Played 48, Eels 24, Bulldogs 23

Last Meeting: Round 14, 2022: Bulldogs 34 def. Eels 4

Final Thoughts: The carousel of strange Parramatta Eels performances continued with Brad Arthur’s side crashing to an embarrassing 26-0 loss to the Rabbitohs last week. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be carrying similar feelings around with them this week after returning from New Zealand on the end of a huge 42-18 loss to the Warriors.

Mitch Moses has been named to make his return for the Eels which pushes Jake Arthur out of the side. Bailey Simonsson may also make his return from the reserves list. The Bulldogs may welcome back a few big names of their own with Luke Thompson and Tevita Pangai Jr. listed in the reserves.

Who knows which version of the Eels we’re going to get on Saturday even with Moses returning. The same could be said for the Bulldogs. They’ve become one of the most exciting attacking teams in the NRL in recent weeks but will last week dent their confidence? On paper, this is one the Eels should win comfortably. They do their best work through the middle and it’s not an area the Bulldogs thrive defensively. The Warriors ripped through them last week and this big Eels pack should do the same. However, the Bulldogs have shown an ability to pile up points if given a chance. Even when playing well, the Eels tend to provide their opposition with a period in the match to score. Rarely do they play out the full 80 minutes. If that period comes early, the Bulldogs can run away with it. The Eels are a difficult team to trust at the moment but Moses is a big inclusion. He should be enough to get them home.

Tip: Margin – Eels 1-12 @ $3.35

Sea Eagles Sharks
Reuben Garrick 1 Kade Dykes
Tolutau Koula 2 Lachlan Miller
Brad Parker 3 Jesse Ramien
Morgan Harper 4 Connor Tracey
Christian Tuipulotu 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Kieran Foran 6 Matt Moylan
Daly Cherry-Evans 7 Nicho Hynes
Josh Aloiai 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Lachlan Croker 9 Blayke Brailey
Martin Taupau 10 Royce Hunt
Haumole Olakau’atu 11 Briton Nikora
Andrew Davey 12 Wade Graham
Dylan Walker 13 Dale Finucane
Ben Trbojevic 14 Teig Wilton
Josh Schuster 15 Cameron McInnes
Ethan Bullemor 16 Aiden Tolman
Toafofoa Sipley 17 Andrew Fifita


History:
Played 34, Sea Eagles 23, Sharks 11

Last Meeting: Round 7, 2022: Sharks 34 def. Sea Eagles 22

Final Thoughts: The loss in Round 20 wasn’t unexpected. Losing to the Eels at home in Round 21 surprised many. The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles’ 44-24 loss to the Titans in Round 22, however, can’t be explained away. A genuine shocker, their NRL season is all but over. The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, on the other hand, are firming for a Top 4 spot following their 36-12 win over the Tigers.

Jason Saab is out for the rest of the year with Tolutau Koula moving to the Manly wing and Morgan Harper returning to the centres. Jake Trbojevic is another out, replaced by Dylan Walker in the starting side. Braden Hamlin-Uele replaces the injured Toby Rudolf with Andrew Fifita to join the Sharks bench. In better news, Connor Tracey and Matt Moylan are both back from their respective injuries.

It’s difficult to see the Sea Eagles getting up for this one. They’re saying the right things in regards to the playing group and potential issues following the Pride jersey fiasco. However, the evidence on the field suggests otherwise. The Sea Eagles aren’t themselves and the Sharks look primed to dominate. Nicho Hynes has the Sharks getting to the right areas of the field and the return of Moylan will help turn those possessions into points. Considering the issues Manly has faced in defending the edges at times this season, expect Hynes and Moylan to send the ball wide early and often, even without Siosifa Talakai out there. The Sea Eagles are strong enough to start. Josh Aloiai and Marty Taupau can go toe-to-toe with Braden Hamlin-Uele and Royce Hunt. However, the Sharks are likely to take control of this one when the benches start to be rotated onto the field.

Tip: Win Try Combo – Tracey to score/Sharks to win @ $2.45

Roosters Tigers
James Tedesco 1 Daine Laurie
Daniel Tupou 2 Brent Naden
Paul Momirovski 3 Starford To’a
Joseph Manu 4 Asu Kepaoa
Joseph Suaalii 5 Ken Maumalo
Luke Keary 6 Adam Doueihi
Sam Walker 7 Jock Madden
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 8 James Tamou
Sam Verrills 9 Fa’amanu Brown
Matthew Lodge 10 Zane Musgrove
Angus Crichton 11 Luke Garner
Nat Butcher 12 Kelma Tuilagi
Victor Radley 13 Joe Ofahengaue
Connor Watson 14 Fonua Pole
Egan Butcher 15 Austin Dias
Drew Hutchison 16 Tom Freebairn
Terrell May 17 Alex Seyfarth


History:
Played 36, Roosters 27, Tigers 9

Last Meeting: Round 2, 2021: Roosters 40 def. Tigers 6

Final Thoughts: Their 32-18 win over the Cowboys in Round 22 makes it five on the bounce for the Sydney Roosters. They’ve come good at the right time of the NRL season. Meanwhile, the Wests Tigers can’t wait for it to end. They played well for a couple of weeks but returned to normality with a 36-12 loss to the Sharks.

The Roosters are still without Lindsay Collins and Siosiua Taukeiaho. However, Oliver Gildart has been named among the reserves and might be a chance at making his club debut. For the Tigers, Ken Maumalo returns from injury which pushes Starford To’a to the centres and James Roberts out of the side.

The Tigers can’t take a trick. They’ve started to produce some half-decent football but are now presented with one of the form sides of the NRL. It’s taken longer than most expected, but the Roosters are getting back to their best. This Roosters pack is dominating. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Matt Lodge are leading the way while Victor Radley has carved out a much-improved role at pivot. Radley unlocks a lot of Easts shifts to the edge but runs the ball often enough to be a threat close to the ruck. That’s an area the Tigers have struggled to defend all year. Opposing teams repeatedly find metres and points around the ruck and the Roosters will have that circled as a target this week. The line is set at 21.5 for a reason. The Roosters are doing the little things right and the points are coming shortly after. The Tigers, on the other hand, are doing little right and struggling in defence. This one shouldn’t be close.

Tip: Handicap – Roosters -21.5 @ $1.90

Dragons Titans
Cody Ramsey 1 Jayden Campbell
Mathew Feagai 2 Jojo Fifita
Moses Mbye 3 Phillip Sami
Zac Lomax 4 Brian Kelly
Tautau Moga 5 Patrick Herbert
Talatau Amone 6 AJ Brimson
Ben Hunt 7 Tanah Boyd
Jack de Belin 8 Jaimin Jolliffe
Andrew McCullough 9 Erin Clark
Blake Lawrie 10 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Josh McGuire 11 David Fifita
Jaydn Su’a 12 Beau Fermor
Jack Bird 13 Isaac Liu
Tyrell Fuimaono 14 Greg Marzhew
Aaron Woods 15 Herman Ese’ese
Michael Molo 16 Moeaki Fotuaika
Billy Burns 17 Sam McIntyre


History:
Played 26, Dragons 16, Titans 10

Last Meeting: Round 10, 2022: Titans 20 def. Dragons 16

Final Thoughts: The St. George-Illawarra Dragons hung around to have a chance of winning it with the last play of the game last week. However, they couldn’t find the points and ultimately fell to the Raiders 24-22 in Canberra. Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Titans picked up their best win of the 2022 NRL season in hammering the Sea Eagles 44-24.

Anthony Griffin hasn’t made any changes to his Dragons side this week. Justin Holbrook, however, willingly made a change to his with Tino Fa’asuamaleaui returning after missing last week for the birth of his second child.

Round 22 ended up as a perfect reflection of the Dragons season – perfectly average. If Ben Hunt isn’t dragging them to victory – which he almost did last week – they’re not particularly threatening or exciting. While the Titans have been poor for most of the 2022 NRL season, they’ve come into form recently. Their attack, in particular, has come along leaps and bounds with Tanah Boyd and AJ Brimson linking up well in the halves. Playing on the road is a concern. Justin Holbrook’s side have lost all ten of their away games so far this season. That puts a dent in their form guide. Meanwhile, the Dragons have proven to be tough to beat at home with seven of their nine wins coming when playing as the hosts. Neither team inspires confidence. It’s a coin toss if the game was being played on the Gold Coast. However, playing at home with the best player on the field starting in the halves, the Dragons should be able to get the job done here.

Tip: Alternate Winning Margin – Dragons 11 to 20 @ $5.10

Knights Raiders
Tex Hoy 1 Xavier Savage
Edrick Lee 2 Nick Cotric
Dane Gagai 3 Matthew Timoko
Krystian Mapapalangi 4 Sebastian Kris
Dominic Young 5 Jordan Rapana
Anthony Milford 6 Jack Wighton
Adam Clune 7 Jamal Fogarty
David Klemmer 8 Josh Papalii
Jayden Brailey 9 Zac Woolford
Daniel Saifiti 10 Joseph Tapine
Tyson Frizell 11 Hudson Young
Brodie Jones 12 Elliott Whitehead
Jacob Saifiti 13 Adam Elliott
Phoenix Crossland 14 Tom Starling
Pasami Saulo 15 Emre Guler
Simi Sasagi 16 Corey Horsburgh
Mat Croker 17 Corey Harawira-Naera


History:
Played 42, Knights 20, Raiders 20

Last Meeting: Round 15, 2022: Raiders 20 def. Knights 18

Final Thoughts: The Newcastle Knights couldn’t make it back-to-back wins in Round 22. They were never close to the Broncos, really. Meanwhile, the Canberra Raiders let it stay a little bit too close before holding the Dragons off to claim a much-needed 24-22 win at home.

It has been a horror week for the Knights already with Bradman Best and Enari Tuala being stood down. However, that allows Krystian Mapapalangi to make his NRL debut in the centres. David Klemmer will make his return from injury. Joseph Tapine is back for the Raiders. Emre Guler drops to the bench and Ryan Sutton out of the side as a result. Nick Cotric is also back and onto the wing for Albert Hopoate.

The Knights picked up a win in Round 21 and didn’t embarrass themselves in Round 22. However, their off-field incidents this week could be the final straw. Best and Tuala aren’t the most influential players in this side, but the disruptions won’t help preparations. Nor will the media circus following Kalyn Ponga during the week. Meanwhile, the Raiders are still in the hunt for the Top 8 – just. This is a must-win game so we can expect them to play at a high intensity to start. Given how much the Knights have struggled at home and the ease at which they roll over when the going gets tough, Ricky Stuart will be looking to Joseph Tapine and Josh Papalii to get the ball rolling early. The Raiders don’t do anything the easy way. The Knights will be provided with chances to play themselves into the game. However, with the worst attack in the NRL, they’re unlikely to capitalise on those chances. It’s not easy, but trust the Raiders to do the job here.

Tip: Margin – Raiders 13+ @ $2.03