Another Origin affected round and another tough one for the tip sheet considering the player moves and injuries. But some key players will be missing in key positions this week which will more than certainly decide a few games.
Panthers v Rabbitohs (Fri 24/06, 7.50pm)
Moylan and Mansour both seem set to back up after a tough night at the office of Wednesday. With Cleary and Cartwright playing so well, Soward can't seem to find his way back into the first grade team. And if the Panthers keep along their winning ways, it might spell the end of Jamie Sowards NRL career. The Panthers have been good at home this year, whilst the Rabbitohs have been less than ordinary both home and away. What makes it worse for the Rabbitohs is they don't get Reynolds back now for at least a month. They are the shadow of the dominant force we saw in 2013. A win for Penrith sees them skip a couple of sides and go into the 8 and depending on how some other results go they might stay there. The Panthers at home in a tight one because that's the only way they know how to play.
Knights v Dragons (Sat 25/06, 3.00pm)
Even though the Knights are at home they will struggle against the defensive prowess of the Dragons. The dragons probably don't have the sting in their attack that other sides do, so we probably wont see a cricket score like we have seen against the struggling Knights in recent weeks. Sims wont play against his old side (of only two weeks) but for Brown it will hopefully be a case of them using the same type of game plan they did against the Eels in round 12. Chance your arm and see what you get. Dragons have hinted at a Dugan return if that happens it only strengthens their attack. Dragons will do this fairly comfortably away from home and should win by 12-16.
Sharks v Warriors (Sat 25/06, 5.30pm)
This is my upset for the round; for a couple of reasons. The Warriors have hit their straps in the Origin period and are firing on all cylinders. Secondly the Sharks have been up for so long a loss must come at some stage of their season, and I think the Origin game on Wednesday will take it's toll on backing up players. Especially on Bird and Gallen. Maloney also did a lot of running the other night and I think the game will take more out of the Sharks than they would like to admit. Even though the Sharks are at home, and are the form team of the comp. I have the Warriors getting home in a close one. Don't let us down Shaun John!
Bulldogs v Broncos (Sat 25/06, 7.30pm)
Toughest game of the round to pick for me. Origin always has an impact on the Broncos. Not only that, their halves been somewhat out of sorts and I think the biggest reason they have slumped lately is because they have been without McCullough. They will also be without Thaiday. On the other hand I couldn't confidently say the Bulldogs because you just don't know which Bulldogs you are going to get. What makes the Bulldogs scary is their big rumbling forward pack. Just when you get through the wave of Klemmer, Graham and Jackson they throw Kasiano and Williams at you full steam ahead. I have Brisbane in this match and the only reasoning I can muster is because Boyd is one of, if not the most in form player in the competition at the moment and will be heavily involved. And I just don't think Bennett will tolerate another loss, he will have the Broncos up for this one.
Titans v Raiders (Sun 26/06 2.00pm)
Ashley Taylor continues to come of age for the Titans as they again and again squeeze every last drop of talent out of their list. The other positive for the Titans is that they have now worked Peats into the starting line up and he has bolstered their go forward and is giving plenty of time and space to his play makers. Flip the coin and you have got the excitement of the Green Machine who are having another one of their promising seasons and when they switch on and link up with Croker out wide they can make any team look like a bunch of under 8's. With contrasting styles of play it will be the team who can execute their game plan the best that will come out on top. Sunday arvo football on a fast clear track will suit both sides. With both teams on the edge of the top eight expect the Titans to push the Raiders for the full 80. In the end though if Canberra hold onto the ball they should win in a tight one.
Storm v Tigers (Sun 26/06 4.00pm)
If ever Jason Taylor needed a reason to rest Robbie Farah, he was provided one when a wayward elbow from Woods in Origin almost knocked Farah out. Nothing like your own team mate taking you out and rubbing salt into the wound of an Origin loss. Most (myself included) think the Tigers brand of football 'sans Farah' is a much better brand. Unfortunately for the Tigers the Storm generals (Cronk and Smith) look set to back up. Even though the Tigers got within one point of the storm in round 7, the Storm were out of sorts in that clash. In recent weeks Melbourne have found their combination and structure and are back to the 'Robo-footballers' who we know continue to execute with excellence. Tedesco will be keen to continue his stake for an Origin jumper. Against the the best defensive team in the comp the Tigers may not have enough sting to put on a score. Even though Munster will be missing the Storm will win at home.
Cowboys v Sea Eagles (Mon 27/06, 7.00pm)
The Cowboys are lucky to come up against Manly this week in that they wont miss Morgan that much. In fact Green would surely have been contemplating resting either Thurston or Morgan this week and it looks like that decision has been made for him. With Cowboys usual fill in Thompson also injured, Coote will likely move into the halves. Manly are fighting hard with the roster they have (and they always do). What should level this contest out a little is the return of DCE for Manly. However the Cowboys are unbeaten at home this year and even though they are battling hard through Origin, this will be a bridge too far to cross for the Silver Tails. Cowboys on another level in the competition should get them by about 16.