NRL preview: Round 13
NZ HERALD reporter Steve Deane previews the latest round of the NRL.
EELS v DRAGONS
Parramatta Stadium, tonight
Referees: Ashley Klein, Gerard Sutton
FAITH LEE (Herald) - 58/88: Dragons
RICHIE BARNETT (Kiwis legend) - 56/88: Dragons
LEN BROWN (Mayor) - 53/88: Dragons
STEVE DEANE (Herald) - 50/88: Dragons
With the Blues side for Origin II to be named on Sunday, all eyes will be on Jarryd Hayne in this Sydney blockbuster. Despite not being the sort of player Ricky Stuart likes to coach (go figure), Hayne is the frontrunner to replace the injured Brett Morris on the NSW wing. Hayne is toeing the company line, explaining that for him this match is all about the 4-7 Eels. "I'm ready to play for the Eels and we'll go from there," he said. "I've just got to worry about the team and worry about what we're doing [losing, mainly] for the Eels." Peni Tagive takes Morris's spot in the red V.
SHARKS v BRONCOS
Toyota Stadium, tonight
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Tony De Las Heras
Faith Lee - Broncos
Richie Barnett - Broncos
Len Brown - Broncos
Steve Deane - Broncos
Mormon marauder Ben Hannant has paid tribute to Sharks captain Paul Gallen in true league fashion. "He is an animal," Hannant said of Gallen.
Well said, that man. Gallen responded in gentlemanly fashion, describing a Broncos side that has lost three straight as "a bit vulnerable". "Three losses and sometimes when things are down they stay down." As Gallen well knows, losing is a hard habit to break - until you play the Sharks. Especially a Sharks side with no Jeremy Smith but bristling instead with the likes of Tyson Frizell and Jason Bukuya.
TITANS v PANTHERS
Skilled Park, tomorrow
Referees: Tony Archer, Luke Phillips
Faith Lee - Titans
Richie Barnett - Panthers
Len Brown - Titans
Steve Deane - Panthers
Let's be honest - Super Saturday is stretching it a bit when it comes to a match between these two. The Titans may have had the most spectacular fall from grace this season - dropping from fourth to stone motherless last - but the Panthers (2nd to 10th) are right on their heals. The Panthers have showed signs of life lately, upsetting the Rabbitohs and Broncos and losing by just two points to the Tigers over their last three outings. The Titans have been dreadful, dropping three straight. Origin star Ashley Harrison returns to the sinking Titans ship.
ROOSTERS v WARRIORS
Sydney Football Stadium, tomorrow
Referees: Jason Robinson, Alan Shortall
Faith Lee - Warriors
Richie Barnett - Warriors
Len Brown - Warriors
Steve Deane - Warriors
Enter Shaun Johnson. Time to see if the wonder kid is really that wonderful. Johnson, who makes his debut for the injured Brett Seymour, has long been touted as the club's playmaker of the future. It has taken a while to get here, but the future has finally arrived. Johnson is very talented, but there are questions over his toughness. A desperate Roosters side will certainly target his defence. The Roosters can't take a trick these days. This week someone opened a fake twitter account in the name of Kiwis forward Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves, posting that he had signed for the Perth Dolphins.
BULLDOGS v SEA EAGLES
ANZ Stadium, tomorrow
Referees: Shayne Hayne, Adam Devcich
Faith Lee - Sea Eagles
Richie Barnett - Sea Eagles
Len Brown - Bulldogs
Steve Deane - Sea Eagles
Lookout NRL, here come the Sea Eagles. Last week's snotting of the Origin-hit Broncos - Many's third straight W - was their best display of the season. "It's probably close to as good an 80 minutes we've played this year," coach Hasler said. The Foran-Stewart-Cherry Evans try was also the best by any team this season, but they wouldn't want to get carried away, would they Des? "Let's not get carried away, both sides had players missing." Good man. Dogs halfback Trent Hodkinson will miss the showdown with his old club after copping a two-match ban for shouldering Steve Michaels' head into the ground.
RAIDERS v COWBOYS
Canberra Stadium, Sunday
Referees: Gavin Badger, Phil Haines
Faith Lee - Raiders
Richie Barnett - Cowboys
Len Brown - Cowboys
Steve Deane - Cowboys
Terry Campese's comeback will have to wait one more week, according to Raiders coach David Furner. "I know he's excited, we're getting close," Furner said. "It's all under the guidance of our medical staff and physio and rehab officer. I can only gauge on that." That's settled then. Strangely, Furner has the luxury of not tinkering with a winning side, although prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs will make his return from injury on the bench and Josh Duggan is back at fullback. The Cowboys are unchanged.
RABBITOHS v STORM
ANZ Stadium, Sunday
Referees: Ben Cummins, Chris James
Faith Lee - Storm
Richie Barnett - Storm
Len Brown - Storm
Steve Deane - Storm
GI's first match against the Storm club that punted him to get his massive salaries off the cap is such big news Channel Nine are even beaming it live into Melbourne. Storm coach Craig Bellamy, however, isn't overly worried about the great man's potential impact. "While we're going to be a little bit concerned about Greg [understandable, Craig], we'd like to think that they're going to be a little bit concerned about Bobby as well." Er, that's right, The Bunnies are facing a couple of sleepless nights fretting over Maurice Blair.
TIGERS v KNIGHTS
Leichhardt Oval, Monday
Referees: Jared Maxwell, Steve Lyons
Faith Lee - Tigers
Richie Barnett - Tigers
Len Brown - Tigers
Steve Deane - Tigers
Whew. Lote Tuqiri is back. At last the Tigers have a go-to man out wide. Make no mistake about it, Tuqiri is a match-winner. "We're not expecting him to be a match-winner," captain Robbie Farah said. Oops, my mistake. "We're not expecting miracles from him, he's going to be short of a run and I'm sure he'll be blowing at some stages during the game." Er, good luck getting by with that useless oxygen thief on the wing then chaps? Over-rated Pom Gareth Ellis also returns, while the Knights are facing up to life without Jarrod Mullen.