Club rugby league takes a back seat again as we prepare for State of Origin III, which is a pity because there are two vital clashes this week that will both be affected by the loss of quality players.
St George Illawarra taking on Melbourne is always a massive clash, but even more so this year with the Dragons on top of the NRL ladder. With so many key players missing from this match it will be hard to gauge just how these two will fare should they meet in the finals once more.
When the Panthers take on the Warriors, the Origin drain will be all one way, with Penrith missing their halves and New Zealand untouched. The Panthers have been struggling of late and a knock-out punch from the Warriors here could really send their premiership hopes south.
Good luck with your tips.
Thursday, July 5
Storm: 1 Young Tonumaipea, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Cheyse Blair, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Justin Olam, 6 Ryley Jacks, 7 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Christian Welch, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Joe Stimson, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Kenny Bromwich Reserves: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Tui Kamikamica, 16 Patrick Kaufusi, 17 Brodie Croft, 18 Scott Drinkwater, 19 Lachlan Lam, 20 Albert Vete, 21 Sandor Earl
Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Kurt Mann, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Darren Nicholls, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Leeson Ah Mau, 11 Jacob Host, 12 Luciano Leilua, 13 Blake Lawrie Reserves: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Jason Nightingale, 16 Hame Sele, 17 Reece Robson, 18 Patrick Herbert, 19 Jai Field, 20 Jordan Pereira, 21 Mitchell Allgood
Verdict: The Storm had a hard-fought one-point victory over the Roosters last week, while the Dragons struggled to put the Eels away. Both teams lose a fair chuck of talent to Origin for this important clash, but with Cameron Smith at the helm on their home deck I think the Storm can beat the Dragons who have been a bit wobbly of late.
Friday, July 6
Panthers: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Tyrone Phillips, 6 Tyrone May, 7 Jarome Luai, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 James Tamou, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo (c), 13 James Fisher-Harris Reserves: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Corey Harawira-Naera, 16 Jack Hetherington, 17 Moses Leota, 18 Caleb Aekins, 19 Kaide Ellis, 20 Liam Martin, 21 Corey Waddell
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 David Fusitu'a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 James Gavet, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 11 Isaiah Papali'i, 12 Simon Mannering, 13 Adam Blair Reserves: 14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Tevita Satae, 16 Ligi Sao, 17 Gerard Beale, 18 Joseph Vuna, 20 Karl Lawton, 21 Sam Lisone, 22 Mason Lino
Verdict: Both of these premiership hopefuls had disappointing losses last week with the Warriors falling at home to the Sharks and the Panthers losing at home to the Sea Eagles. They both need to bounce back here or face missing out on a vital top four spot heading into the finals. NRL scheduling could not have been crueller to the Panthers who lose both halves to Origin, while the Warriors are unaffected.
Saturday, July 7
Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Kerrod Holland, 4 Marcelo Montoya, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Lachlan Lewis, 7 Jeremy Marshall-King, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 Danny Fualalo, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Adam Elliott Reserves: 14 Fa'amanu Brown, 15 Clay Priest, 16 Ofahiki Ogden, 17 Greg Eastwood, 18 Asipeli Fine, 19 Matthew Frawley, 20 Francis Tualau, 21 Josh Morris
Raiders: 1 Brad Abbey, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Michael Oldfield, 6 Sam Williams, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Dunamis Lui, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Siliva Havili Reserves: 14 Blake Austin, 15 Junior Paulo, 16 Liam Knight, 17 Iosia Soliola, 18 Jack Murchie, 19 Charlie Gubb, 20 Royce Hunt, 21 Craig Garvey
Verdict: The Raiders blew yet another match-winning lead last week against the Broncos, while the Bulldogs found a bit of missing spirit against the Knights. The Bulldogs are back at Belmore, where they were recently flogged by the Titans, and they'll be keen to show their faithful fans that they have indeed turned a corner.
Sunday, July 8
Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jack Stockwell, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Will Matthews, 13 Keegan Hipgrave Reserves: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Morgan Boyle, 16 Konrad Hurrell, 17 Moeaki Fotuaika, 18 Leilani Latu, 19 Kane Elgey, 20 Ryan Simpkins, 21 Brendan Elliott
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Jonus Pearson, 3 Tom Opacic, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Jake Turpin, 10 Sam Thaiday, 17 Alex Glenn, 12 Jaydn Su'A, 13 Joe Ofahengaue Reserves: 14 Patrick Mago, 15 Tevita Pangai jnr, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 Kotoni Staggs, 18 Patrick Carrigan, 19 David Fifita, 20 Sam Tagataese, 21 Sam Scarlett
Verdict: The Titans have hit a run of form of late with wins over the Bulldogs and Tigers following a narrow loss to the Rabbitohs. The Broncos were slow out of the blocks last week against the Raiders, but charged home for the win. Both teams are missing key players to Origin, but the Titans always lift against their big brother.
BYE: Eels, Sharks, Tigers, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Knights, Sea Eagles, Roosters