Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 16 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 4 matches.
|Jamayne Isaako||1||Daine Laurie|
|Corey Thompson||2||David Nofoaluma|
|Brian Kelly||3||James Roberts|
|Patrick Herbert||4||Oliver Gildart|
|Greg Marzhew||5||Ken Maumalo|
|AJ Brimson||6||Jock Madden|
|Toby Sexton||7||Luke Brooks|
|Moeaki Fotuaika||8||James Tamou|
|Erin Clark||9||Jacob Liddle|
|Isaac Liu||10||Zane Musgrove|
|David Fifita||11||Kelma Tuilagi|
|Beau Fermor||12||Luciano Leilua|
|Tino Fa’asuamaleaui||13||Joe Ofahangaue|
|Will Smith||14||Tyrone Peachey|
|Sam Lisone||15||Alex Twal|
|Jaimin Jolliffe||16||Luke Garner|
|Kevin Proctor||17||Alex Seyfarth|
History: Played 23, Titans 14, Tigers 9
Last Meeting: Round 9, 2021: Titans 36 def. Titans 28
Final Thoughts: Ah, the Gold Coast Titans… They Titans’d their way out of two competition points when throwing away a 22-0 lead to the Raiders last week. Meanwhile, the Tigers lost a game only the Tigers could lose while falling to an awful Warriors side 16-12.
Jamayne Isaako is making his Titans debut and replacing Jayden Campbell (ribs) while Corey Thompson returns from injury in the place of Phillip Sami. James Roberts, Ken Maumalo and Kelma Tuilagi are all back for the Tigers. Starford To’a, Jake Simpkin and Stefano Utoikamanu (ankle) are all out.
The Titans may have fumbled away the win last week but they at least put themselves in a position to take the two competition points. The Tigers, on the other hand, did everything they could to avoid them. A lack of execution and footy IQ when the Warriors were reduced to 12 men is a sticking point. While the Titans spine is young, inexperienced and unfamiliar with each other given Jamayne Isaako is playing his first game for the club, they’ve shown enough with the ball to be confident the points will come against a poor Tigers defence. There isn’t a lot to like about this Tigers 17. Stefano Utoikamanu – one of the few players that would walk into every other NRL team – isn’t available this week. He’s a huge loss as the Tigers prepare to face a Titans middle that can generate yardage and get up the field. The Tigers can’t play any worse than they did in Round 3 but the Titans have the blueprint for success if they can execute it over the full 80 minutes this week. Expect them to do so in front of their home crowd.
|Will Kennedy||1||Kalyn Ponga|
|Sione Katoa||2||Dominic Young|
|Jesse Ramien||3||Dane Gagai|
|Siosifa Talakai||4||Bradman Best|
|Ronaldo Mulitalo||5||Enari Tuala|
|Matt Moylan||6||Jake Clifford|
|Nicho Hynes||7||Adam Clune|
|Toby Rudolf||8||Jacob Saifiti|
|Blayke Brailey||9||Chris Randall|
|Braden Hamlin-Uele||10||Daniel Saifiti|
|Briton Nikora||11||Tyson Frizell|
|Teig Wilton||12||Brodie Jones|
|Dale Finucane||13||Kurt Mann|
|Aiden Tolman||14||Phoenix Crossland|
|Cameron McInnes||15||Jirah Momoisea|
|Braydon Trindall||16||Leo Thompson|
|Andrew Fifita||17||Sauaso Sue|
History: Played 42, Sharks 18, Knights 24
Last Meeting: Round 22, 2021: Knights 16 def. Sharks 14
Final Thoughts: The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks put on a clinic in terrible conditions to thrash the Dragons 36-12 in Wollongong. The Newcastle Knights, on the other hand, played half of the game with only 12 men last week. That’s never going to end well against the defending premiers as the Panthers ran out 38-20 winners.
Connor Tracey’s injury has forced a reshuffle for the Sharks. Siosifa Talakai is into the centres and Teig Wilton into the second row. For the Knights, Kalyn Ponga is back while Brodie Jones replaces Mitch Barnett ahead of his inevitable suspension.
The Sharks attack is on fire at the moment. The spine is linking up right across the field and Nicho Hynes looks every bit like one of the best halfbacks in the NRL right now. We can say the same for the Knights who are exceeding expectations to start the season on the back of Jake Clifford’s stellar play. Add Kalyn Ponga to the mix and we could be in for a high-scoring, back-and-forth contest. While the Knights ended up 18 points behind on the scoreboard against the Panthers last week, they gave a good account of themselves throughout the 32 minutes they played with 13 men. Their pack can hold up with that of the Sharks and Ponga’s return gives them a boost with the ball. The Sharks are deserving favourites on form; they dominated the Dragons last week. However, the Knights have shown enough throughout the opening three weeks to suggest they will at least keep this one close.
|Dylan Edwards||1||Latrell Mitchell|
|Charlie Staines||2||Alex Johnston|
|Izack Tago||3||Taane Milne|
|Stephen Crichton||4||Campbell Graham|
|Taylan May||5||Jaxon Paulo|
|Jarome Luai||6||Cody Walker|
|Nathan Cleary||7||Lachlan Ilias|
|Matthew Eisenhuth||8||Tevita Tatola|
|Api Koroisau||9||Damien Cook|
|Spencer Leniu||10||Mark Nicholls|
|Viliame Kikau||11||Keaon Koloamatangi|
|Scott Sorensen||12||Jai Arrow|
|Isaah Yeo||13||Cameron Murray|
|Mitch Kenny||14||Jacob Host|
|J’maine Hopgood||15||Siliva Havili|
|Lindsay Smith||16||Thomas Burgess|
|Jaeman Salmon||17||Liam Knight|
History: Played 37, Panthers 21, Rabbitohs 16
Last Meeting: NRL Grand Final, 2021: Panthers 14 def. Rabbitohs 12
Final Thoughts: The Penrith Panthers continued to navigate the start of the NRL season without Nathan Cleary after picking up a valuable two points against the Knights despite a number of injuries. Meanwhile, the South Sydney Rabbitohs announced themselves as premiership contenders with a 28-16 win over the Roosters.
Nathan Cleary is back for the Panthers as the only major change for the defending premiers. As expected, the Rabbitohs will run out with the same 17 that beat the Roosters in Round 3.
We’re yet to see the best of the Panthers but they have still managed to kick the season off with three wins. As Cleary eases his way back into football and in a Panthers side dealing with a handful of injuries already, we’re not going to see the best of them this week either. Still, they enter this one as significant favourites over a Rabbitohs side that is starting to put it all together. Making it look that easy against the Roosters last week is no easy feat. They can dominate an understrength Panthers middle this week and the Rabbitohs attack is starting to click. Lachlan Ilias will be a target for Penrith. The rookie halfback has struggled to start his first full NRL season. However, the Rabbitohs managed to create points without Cody Walker last week while Latrell Mitchell is looking dangerous on both sides of the field as a ball-player and ball-carrier. The Panthers defence is elite; it has been the best in the NRL for the last two seasons and will be one of the best again in this one. But the Rabbitohs are coming into form. This has all of the makings of a tight contest that goes down to the wire.
|Reece Walsh||1||Tesi Niu|
|Adam Pompey||2||Corey Oates|
|Jesse Arthars||3||Kotoni Staggs|
|Rocco Berry||4||Herbie Farnworth|
|Marcelo Montoya||5||Selwyn Cobbo|
|Chanel Harris-Tavita||6||Albert Kelly|
|Kodi Nikorima||7||Adam Reynolds|
|Addin Fonua-Blake||8||Ryan James|
|Wayde Egan||9||Jake Turpin|
|Matthew Lodge||10||Payne Haas|
|Euan Aitken||11||Keenan Palasia|
|Eli Katoa||12||Jordan Riki|
|Josh Curran||13||Patrick Carrigan|
|Jazz Tevaga||14||Thomas Flegler|
|Bunty Afoa||15||Kobe Hetherington|
|Aaron Pene||16||Teui Rbati|
|Jack Murchie||17||Billy Walters|
History: Played 40, Warriors 19, Broncos 20
Last Meeting: Round 23, 2021: Broncos 24 def. Warriors 22
Final Thoughts: While the New Zealand Warriors took two competition points away from Campbelltown Stadium, there was little else to take out of their 16-12 win over the Tigers. The Brisbane Broncos also had a round to forget as they fell to the Cowboys 38-12.
Jack Murchie has been called into the Warriors 17 with Bayley Sironen ruled out. Shaun Johnson has been named in the reserves and could make a return. Thomas Flegler is making his season debut off the Broncos bench, Ryan James is into the starting side.
It’s never easy to put your faith into the Warriors and their Round 3 performance is why. Shocking for 80 minutes, they would have been thrashed by any other team in the NRL. Remarkably, the Broncos couldn’t keep close to the Cowboys in their Queensland Derby but displayed more positive signs in a heavy defeat than the Warriors did in a win. This contest is one Adam Reynolds can really make his mark. The Broncos don’t need an expansive style or to pile up points to take the victory on Saturday afternoon. If they can get into the grind as they did across the first two rounds of the season, this Warriors defence will break down. Unless Shaun Johnson makes a surprise early return from his injury, the Kiwi club will struggle for points as they juggle regular changes to key playmaking positions. We’ve got two inconsistent teams going head-to-head in this one. However, the Broncos have displayed signs of improvement to start the season and unless Johnson can return and provide the Warriors with a much-needed spark, Reynolds should be able to get enough out of this group to take the chocolates.
|Tom Trbojevic||1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad|
|Jason Saab||2||Nick Cotric|
|Brad Parker||3||Matthew Timoko|
|Morgan Harper||4||Semi Valemei|
|Reuben Garrick||5||Jordan Rapana|
|Kieran Foran||6||Jack Wighton|
|Daly Cherry-Evans||7||Brad Schneider|
|Sean Keppie||8||Josh Papalii|
|Lachlan Croker||9||Tom Starling|
|Marty Taupau||10||Joseph Tapine|
|Haumole Olakau’atu||11||Hudson Young|
|Andrew Davey||12||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|Jake Trbojevic||13||Elliott Whitehead|
|Dylan Walker||14||Matt Frawley|
|Karl Lawton||15||Emre Guler|
|Ethan Bullemor||16||Adam Elliott|
|Taniela Paseka||17||Corey Horsburgh|
History: Played 34, Sea Eagles 20, Raiders 14
Last Meeting: Round 12, 2021: Sea Eagles 19, Raiders 18
Final Thoughts: It wasn’t easy but the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles picked up their first win of the 2022 NRL season after beating the Bulldogs 13-12 at 4 Pines Park. Even more difficult was the Canberra Raiders 24-22 win over the Titans after Ricky Stuart’s side gave up a 22-0 lead in the first half.
Josh Aloiai has served his suspension but can’t crack an unchanged Sea Eagles 17 this week. It’s much of the same for the Raiders with Nick Cotric the only change to the 17 that beat the Titans last week.
Are we finally going to see the Sea Eagles take flight? While they didn’t look the slightest bit like premiership contenders last week, the monkey is off their back with the win. For better or worse, Tom Trbojevic was heavily involved, touching the ball a season-high 36 times. They were too reliant on him last season. Manly won’t climb higher up the NRL ladder in 2022 if they can’t find ways to win games without Trbojevic needing to play such a big role. However, desperate times call for desperate measures the Sea Eagles need wins now if they’re to keep up with the top teams. Meanwhile, the Raiders are proving they can be anything on the day. Spectacularly inconsistent from week-to-week and half-to-half, who knows what Ricky Stuart’s side will produce in this one. It shapes as an even battle in the centre-third; both are fielding big bodies through the middle that play straight and direct. But the Sea Eagles have an advantage in their ball-playing across the field which should provide them with enough opportunities to find points down the edges.
|Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow||1||James Tedesco|
|Kyle Feldt||2||Daniel Tupou|
|Valentine Holmes||3||Paul Momirovski|
|Peta Hiku||4||Joseph Manu|
|Murray Taulagi||5||Billy Smith|
|Tom Dearden||6||Sam Walker|
|Chad Townsend||7||Luke Keary|
|Jordan McLean||8||Lindsay Collins|
|Reece Robson||9||Connor Watson|
|Coen Hess||10||Siosiua Taukeiaho|
|Tom Gilbert||11||Nat Butcher|
|Jeremiah Nanai||12||Sitili Tupouniua|
|Jason Taumalolo||13||Victor Radley|
|Jake Granville||14||Drew Hutchison|
|Heilum Luki||15||Daniel Suluka-Fifita|
|Reuben Cotter||16||Angus Crichton|
|Griffin Neame||17||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves|
History: Played 37, Cowboys 12, Roosters 25
Last Meeting: Round 18, 2021: Roosters 34 def. Cowboys 18
Final Thoughts: The North Queensland Cowboys have been one of the surprise packets across the opening three rounds of the NRL season. They did it easy to beat the Broncos 38-12 last week. Meanwhile, the Sydney Roosters are still getting into their work in 2022. They struggled to keep up with the Rabbitohs in Round 3.
Todd Payten is happy with his Cowboys side and has named an unchanged 17 for this week. The Roosters have made only one change; Daniel Suluka-Fifita is onto the bench for Fletcher Baker.
We’re going to learn a lot about the Cowboys on Saturday. They’ve taken the NRL by surprise to win back-to-back games, winning them relatively comfortably in the end. The Cowboys are first in running metres, first in possession, fourth in set completion, fifth in points scored and first in points conceded. By the numbers, they’re one of the best teams in the NRL right now. Of further concern for the Roosters is how easily the Rabbitohs got up the field in Round 3. For every set the Roosters appeared to be getting back into the game, the Rabbitohs returned serve shortly after – and often better. It’s strange to see the Roosters lack starch in the middle and it’s something we can expect to see improve in the coming weeks. So too is the combination between Luke Keary and Sam Walker. Full of potential, that’s all it is at the moment – potential. Until the halves can string things together, James Tedesco’s impact on a game will be limited. We don’t know what is real and what isn’t about the Cowboys at the moment, but this week, they match up well against a Roosters side struggling for go-forward in the middle and execution out wide.
|Ryan Papenhuyzen||1||Matt Dufty|
|Dean Ieremia||2||Braidon Burns|
|Reimis Smith||3||Aaron Schoupp|
|Justin Olam||4||Brent Naden|
|Xavier Coates||5||Josh Addo-Carr|
|Cameron Munster||6||Matt Burton|
|Jahrome Hughes||7||Brandon Wakeham|
|Jesse Bromwich||8||Luke Thompson|
|Harry Grant||9||Jeremy Marshall-King|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||10||Paul Vaughan|
|Felise Kaufusi||11||Corey Wadell|
|Kenny Bromwich||12||Tevita Pangai Jr.|
|Josh King||13||Josh Jackson|
|Brandon Smith||14||Bailey Biondi-Odo|
|Alec MacDonald||15||Chris Patolo|
|Trent Loiero||16||Max King|
|Tepai Moeroa||17||Ava Seumanufagai|
History: Played 43, Storm 22, Bulldogs 21
Last Meeting: Round 5, 2021: Storm 52 def. Bulldogs 18
Final Thoughts: The Melbourne Storm won’t be too disheartened by their 28-24 loss to the Eels in Golden Point. They played out some good periods with a depleted team and the bounce of the ball hurt them dearly in the end. As for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, their attack is still the worst in the NRL after falling to the Sea Eagles 13-12.
The Storm receives a huge boost with the return Xavier Coates and Harry Grant. Nick Meaney and Chris Lewis drop to the bench. The Bulldogs will be without Jack Hetherington for the rest of the NRL season. Ava Seumanufagai takes his place in the 17 for this week.
It looks as though it will be the sort of NRL season that top teams lose a few games throughout the year so the Storm won’t be too disheartened by their Round 3 loss. Missing players others coming in underdone, there is a lot of improvement in this side. Grants return, in particular, adds another dimension to the Storm attack. He will pounce on anything from dummy half while Brandon Smith will add some ball-playing through the middle at lock. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have offered little with the ball all season. If it isn’t Matt Burton stepping off his left foot in good ball or putting a ball into orbit from halfway, or Matt Dufty skipping to the outside on the right, they’ve barely made a dent in the defence. Trent Barrett’s side has improved defensively to start this season but they’re not going to be able to keep the Storm out for 80 minutes. Expect the flood gates to open in the second half and for the Storm to cruise to victory in the end.
|Clint Gutherson||1||Tyrell Sloan|
|Waqa Blake||2||Mathew Feagai|
|Will Penisini||3||Moses Suli|
|Tom Opacic||4||Zac Lomax|
|Bailey Simonsson||5||Mikaele Ravalawa|
|Dylan Brown||6||Talatau Amone|
|Mitchell Moses||7||Ben Hunt|
|Reagan Campbell-Gillard||8||Francis Molo|
|Reed Mahoney||9||Moses Mbye|
|Junior Paulo||10||Blake Lawrie|
|Shaun Lane||11||Jack Bird|
|Isaiah Papali’i||12||Jack Gosiewski|
|Nathan Brown||13||Tariq Sims|
|Makahesi Makatoa||14||Jack de Belin|
|Ryan Matterson||15||Josh Kerr|
|Bryce Cartwright||16||Jackson Ford|
|Oregon Kaufusi||17||Aaron Woods|
History: Played 39, Eels 20, Dragons 17
Last Meeting: Round 5, 2021: Dragons 26 def. Eels 12
Final Thoughts: The Parramatta Eels did what few teams in the NRL ever do and beat the Storm in Melbourne – in Golden Point, no less. The St. George Illawarra Dragons also struggled on their home ground in losing to the Sharks 36-12.
Ryan Matterson is back from his hamstring injury and joins the Eels bench with Bryce Cartwright. Round 3 hero Ray Stone is out for the season while Wiremu Greig also makes way for the returning duo. Anthony Griffin has been forced into a handful of changes to the Dragons 17; Mat Feagai replaces Cody Ramsey and Aaron Woods joins the side for Jaydn Su’A.
“We’ve been here before with the Eels. They can play out a shocker (last week against the Sharks) before putting together a blinder the following week. Consistency has been their issue for the last three seasons and 2022 looks no different at the moment.” – NRL Bunker Review – Round 3
It’s the week Parramatta leaves you banging your head against the wall wondering how they produce that after putting together such an impressive performance a week earlier. They make it difficult to trust them despite the fact they shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting past the Dragons on Sunday. Parramatta plays with the superior middle. The return of Matterson will only add to the dominance with his ability to ball-play and expose a fairly average and immobile Dragons middle. Ben Hunt can only do so much for the Dragons attack, too. Talatau Amone has displayed promising moments, but you’re only getting moments from a rookie half with only 14 games of NRL experience. Everything points to an Eels victory in this one. They’re strong in the middle and the spine is playing well enough to make up for a disrupted backline. While the Dragons managed to keep things close with the Panthers in Round 2, their Round 3 loss to the Sharks is a more accurate reflection of where they are at right now.