View UniBet’s preview of Round 23 of the 2016 NRL home and away season below.
Bulldogs v Manly | Thursday, August 11, 7.50pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
The Dogs recorded a scrappy win in Newcastle that counted for little more than the two points, although Des Hasler hit back at comments this week his side weren’t a legitimate contender for the title after some lacklustre recent performances.
Sam Perrett sealed the result with a late try and this week confirmed he’ll retire at season’s end after a solid if unspectacular 13 year career spanning two clubs.
Eagles firebrand Martin Taupua has welcomed the opportunity to lock horns with some of the Dogs’ big men and with James Graham not one to back down from a verbal or physical stoush, expect them to come together at some stage.
While the hosts remain unchanged, Manly welcome back skipper Jamie Lyon in a move which allows Dylan Walker to operate wider of the ruck.
Think last week’s narrow loss will have taken the edge off the Eagles and the Dogs should win with something to spare.
Last time they met: Rd 1 – Manly 6-28 Bulldogs
Unibet Odds: Bulldogs $1.45 Manly $2.80
Line tip: Bulldogs -6.5
Brisbane v Parramatta | Friday, August 12, 7.50pm (AEDT), Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane had to survive a late scare but secured a vital two points on a wet and windy night in Wollongong.
That result was punctuated by the kind of defensive solidity we became accustomed to last year but has been sorely missing of late.
Plenty of fireworks coming out of Red Hill in the lead-up to this one, with Wayne Bennett’s decision not to honour Kevin Walters’ consultancy role to work with his misfiring halves slammed by Gorden Tallis.
With a CV that’s second to none, not sure I’d really agree with Gordie’s assessment that Bennett was protecting his job – why would he need to?
You can’t help but admire the way that Parramatta have stuck to their guns in the face of a succession of scandals and Brad Arthur’s timely decision to sign on for another couple of years would have been music to the ears of most fans.
Has the Coach of the Year gong ever gone to a man whose side didn’t play finals football?
Beau Scott is a big out this week and you’d have to think Brisbane have more to play for.
Last time they met: Rd 1 – Parramatta 4-17 Brisbane
Unibet Odds: Brisbane $1.21 Parramatta $4.50
Line tip: Brisbane -12.5
Wests Tigers v Gold Coast | Saturday, August 13, 3pm (AEDT), Campbelltown Stadium
The Tigers announced themselves as legitimate finals hopes after a gutsy win over the premiers made it three wins on the trot.
Time and again the young cubs kept turning up for each other and there’s a growing belief within that club that should stand them in good stead for greater challenges ahead.
James Tedesco sealed the upset with a jinking solo try and this week urged off-contract halves Mitchell Moses cand Luke Brooks to commit to the joint-venture club in the hope of forming a “Big Three” to rival the famed Melbourne combination.
“Hayne-mania” arrived on the Gold Coast in the form of some classy touches and a bumper crowd but the loss pushed the Titans out of the eight and it’s hoped that the game’s biggest headline maker doesn’t detract from the stuff they have achieved on-field this season.
Jarryd Hayne has been named at 6 this week and confirmed his fitness levels should get him through the full 80 minutes.
As the betting suggests, it’s tough to analyse what might happen here.
Last time they met: Rd 3 – Gold Coast 30-18 Wests Tigers
Unibet Odds: Wests Tigers $1.91 Gold Coast $1.91
Tip: Wests Tigers
Line tip: Wests Tigers -1.5
New Zealand Warriors v South Sydney | Saturday, August 13, 5.30pm (AEDT), Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors took advantage of a distracted Gold Coast outfit to notch a vital win and with three of their remaining four games to be played in Auckland, they appear well placed to sneak a finals berth.
Jazz Tevaga and Nathaniel Roache shared the dummy-half duties in the absence of Issac Luke and both acquitted themselves well enough to earn another week.
Souths went within a whisker of upsetting Melbourne on their own patch and might have finally turned the corner.
Plenty of moving and shaking at Redfern with David Furner signing on as assistant coach to Michael Maguire while news of the arrival of Robbie Farah for next season appears imminent.
Both teams are unchanged and while Souths have a strong recent record in this fixture they haven’t won outside of Sydney in 2016.
Last time they met: Rd 13, 2015 – Souths 36-4 NZ Warriors (Perth)
Unibet Odds: NZ Warriors $1.36 Souths $3.25
Tip: NZ Warriors
Line tip: NZ Warriors -8.5
St George-Illawarra v Cronulla | Saturday, August 13, 7.30pm (AEDT), Kogarah
The Dragons were brave but left their run a bit late to topple Brisbane.
Benji Marshall had a shocker and faced further grief this week after reports of a training ground bust-up with Paul McGregor.
Can’t see him at the Dragons beyond round 26 and have to question whether he’s still up to NRL standard as a playmaker.
The red and whites do have a couple of big ‘ins’ this week in the form of Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizzell(surely their best two players) and while finals are now beyond them they would love to throw a spanner in the works for their local rivals.
A short turnaround, the unavailability of Michael Ennis and their opponent’s red-hot form were all factors in Cronulla’s first home defeat of the season.
But the loss is unlikely to do them much overall harm and may actually take some of the pressure off.
Reckon the Dragons will have a real dip here and while they have the arsenal to match Cronulla up front it’s hard to see them generating enough points to win (is it Groundhog Day?)
Last time they met: Rd 2 – Cronulla 30-2 St George/Illawarra
Unibet Odds: St George-Illawarra $3.85 Cronulla $1.27
Line tip: St George-Illawarra +11.5 (Best Bet)
Newcastle v Penrith | Sunday, August 14, 2pm (AEDT), Hunter Stadium
Save for a blowout against the Warriors, Newcastle have generally been competitive on home turf over the back-half of the season and Nathan Brown may view this match as their best opportunity to notch another win.
James McManus reached the lofty heights of Origin but has been unable to represent the club at all this year and announced his retirement during the week.
He may be the first but certainly won’t be the last player to call time as a result of increased awareness surrounding the long-term dangers of concussion.
Nathan Cleary’s star continues to rise after a masterclass performance in the Panthers’ surprisingly easy win over the Roosters.
Matt Moylan spent the latter part on Monday night’s game on the bench with blurred vision but appears set to take his place here.
This tipster can’t get a handle on Penrith at all this season and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them win by 60 or lose altogether.
Last time they met: Rd 26 2015 – Newcastle 30-12 Penrith
Unibet Odds: Newcastle $5.40 Penrith $1.16
Line tip: Newcastle +16.5
Roosters v North Queensland | Sunday, August 14, 4pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium
Trent Robinson’s decision to dump Origin backrower Aidan Guerra provides ample evidence that the Chooks aren’t content to cruise through to the end of the season on auto-pilot and instead will be treating every match like a final.
Mitchell Pearce and Jared Wearea-Hargreaves are big inclusions after missing the loss at Penrith.
The Cowboys have picked up some injury concerns heading into the finals with both Jake Granville andBen Hannant facing time on the sidelines, although Paul Green would have been relieved to see Johnathan Thurston come through the game at Leichhardt unscathed.
The round 3 match between these clubs marked a real low point in Robinson’s tenure and you’d expect his side to offer more resistance here but it may not be enough.
Last time they met: Rd 3 – North Qld 40-0 Roosters
Unibet Odds: Roosters $2.70 North Qld $1.48
Tip: North Queensland
Line tip: North Qld -6.5
Canberra v Melbourne | Monday, August 15, 7pm (AEDT), GIO Stadium
The match of the round will be a great opportunity for Canberra to measure themselves against the competition’s most complete side.
Like Cronulla, the Raiders expressed disappointment their finals matches will be played in Sydney although most of their supporters will just be glad to see them in action at that time of year.
Officials will monitor the progress of Blake Austin after a shoulder problem forced him from the field last week but at this stage he is expected to line up.
Melbourne were far from their best but their will to win got them over the line against Souths with Craig Bellamy hinting that they may have suffered a letdown after their big win in Townsville.
With both sides riding a six-match streak, something’s got to give.
Huge respect for the Storm but I like the way Canberra are playing at the minute.
Last time they met: Rd 6 2015 – Canberra 10-14 Melbourne
Unibet Odds: Canberra $2.10 Melbourne $1.75
Line tip: Canberra +2.5