Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 16 Preview

Only four matches will be played in this weekend’s Round 16 of the NRL and with most of the teams losing players to the State of Origin sides, it may be a bit unfair to read too much into the results. Nevertheless, there are a few interesting selections that bear watching.

 

Tonight sees St George Illawarra Dragons host Melbourne Storm. Both teams have about half a dozen first choice players missing on Origin duty or suspension (Tariq Sims). Importantly, Melbourne can still field a forward pack featuring five internationals including Cameron Smith, so you’d expect them to take the chocolates even though they are playing away from home. Of interest will be the NRL debut of Billy Walters, son of NRL legend and current Queensland coach Kevin Walters. There’s little love for the Dragons amongst tipsters or the bookies, so chalk this one up to Melbourne.

 

On Friday night, Wests Tigers take on Sydney Roosters and this could be a beauty. The Tigers are little impacted by Origin selections while the Roosters have Cordner and Tedesco on Origin duty and Taukieaho out injured. But the eastern suburbs boys still have a formidable side on paper with a generous sprinkling of international and Origin players. Most importantly, Luke Keary returns from concussion problems. I think this is the missing link in the Roosters’ recent mixed form and perhaps their run to the finals starts here. Again, tipsters and bookies are of one mind and I expect the tricolours to get away with it after stout resistance from the settled but comparatively underpowered Tigers.

 

On Saturday evening, Newcastle host NZ Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium. The inconsistent Warriors are pretty much at full strength while Newcastle will be missing at least five first-choice players including their best performer this year, Mitch Pearce, and their best player, Kalyn Ponga. If these two were playing, I’d pick the Knights but I think their absence will be too much to overcome. How’s that for bravery (idiocy?) – picking the Warriors away from home?

 

On Sunday, Cronulla Sharks will be visited by Brisbane Broncos and it’s hard to see this one being anything other than one-way traffic. The Broncos have been just awful lately and will be missing at least six regulars, mostly to Origin duty. Meanwhile, the Sharks lose only Wade Graham to the NSW side. As much as some might talk up lines like ‘an opportunity for young players to step up’, this one could get ugly. The major question for me in this match revolves around the performance and future of Broncos captain Darius Boyd – how long can the club stick by him given his very poor form and lack of leadership on the field? Sharks to maul, chew and swallow a bowed and broken Broncos. (As a Broncos supporter, I’m glad I won’t be able to watch this match as I have another commitment.)

 

So I’ll go with Melbourne Storm, Sydney Roosters, NZ Warriors and Cronulla Sharks. See you on Monday.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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