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Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys – 8.05pm AEDT/10.05pm NZT, Thursday at AAMI Park

An early grand final rematch – and a likely 2018 grand final preview – with both heavyweights chastened by Round 2 losses. Michael Morgan is a big inclusion for the Cowboys, but they’ve arguably missed Lachlan Coote’s stability at fullback more. Meanwhile, the Storm’s No.1, the mercurial Billy Slater, will be primed for a big one after a shocker in his 300th. Johnathan Thurston led the Cowboys to a win on the buzzer at Suncorp in the pre-season, but we’re tipping an equally tight win the other way with the Storm winning nine of their last 10 at home off a loss. Storm by 4

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Storm $1.55, Cowboys $2.35 (Line: Storm -4.5). Tip – Storm 12 & Under @ $2.95.

Warriors Fan Interest: Huge assignments against both champion sides on the horizon for the Warriors – they host the Cowboys in the Round 5 double-header and head to Melbourne for the traditional Anzac Day clash two and a half weeks later.


Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers – 6.00pm AEDT/8.00pm NZT, Friday at ANZ Stadium

The Bulldogs are under the pump after convincing losses to contenders the Storm and Roosters in the opening two rounds, with their stagnant attack again a major issue. The Panthers have pegged back 14-point deficits two weeks in a row against the Eels and Rabbitohs to go 2-0 – but they’ll be after the 80-minute performance that eluded them throughout 2017. The Dogs are a big chance of an upset here, though, with their back to the wall but set to relish a showdown with a less-ruthless opponent. Bulldogs by 4

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Bulldogs $2.25, Panthers $1.60 (Line: Bulldogs +4.5). Tip – Bulldogs Win @ $2.25.           

Warriors Fan Interest: The Bulldogs are still waiting for the investment on Kieran Foran to pay off, but ex-Warriors back-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner has started 2018 in great touch.

Wests Tigers v Brisbane Broncos – 8.05pm AEDT/10.05pm NZT, Friday at Camperdown Stadium

Wests Tigers are the talk of the NRL after consecutive 10-8 wins over last season’s top two teams, but there’s a danger of a drop-off after two high-intensity games – they’ll need more than 10 points this week. Brisbane bounced back from a fortnight of bad publicity with a superb win over the Cowboys, but the Broncos are still patchy and vulnerable. The Tigers’ recent record at Campbelltown is poor, but it’s an unwelcoming venue that should attract a good crowd after their 2018 efforts to date, and it’s surprising to see them listed as underdogs against the regrouping Broncos. Tigers by 4

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Tigers $2.15, Broncos $1.65 (Line: Tigers +2.5). Tip – Either team 6 & Under or Draw.

Warriors Fan Interest: The Warriors face the Broncos in Round 5 and the Tigers in Round 9, both at Mount Smart. Tui Lolohea and Elijah Taylor are out injured for the Tigers but fellow ex-Warriors Matulino, Packer and Godinet seem to be settling in well back under Ivan Cleary’s tutelage.


Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors – 3.00pm AEDT/5.00pm NZT, Saturday at GIO Stadium

The Warriors are chasing the first 3-0 start in the club’s history, but a road trip to take on a desperate, winless Raiders outfit shapes as the rejuvenated team’s biggest test yet. The Green Machine have put their celebrated attacking wares on display in the opening two rounds but are conceding far too many points, going down to the Titans and Knights late by identical 30-28 scorelines. The Warriors may need to dial back the rampant offloading that characterised their comfortable win over the Titans and focus on laying a platform being getting flashy. Warriors by 10

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Raiders $1.75, Warriors $2.00 (Line: Raiders -1.5). Tip – Warriors/Warriors @ $2.70.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles – 5.30pm AEDT/7.30pm NZT, Saturday at ANZ Stadium

Souths are 0-2, outmuscled by the Warriors in Perth before giving up a big lead at Penrith. Adam Reynolds’ absence and Greg Inglis and the Burgess brothers’ ineffectiveness doesn’t inspire much hope of a quick turnaround. Manly, following a golden point heartbreaker against Newcastle, obliterated Parramatta 54-0 on a hot Sunday afternoon at Brookvale. DCE and the Trbojevics are on fire. The Sea Eagles’ attack should have too much in store for a Rabbitohs side looking for their identity under Anthony Siebold. Sea Eagles by 12

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Rabbitohs $2.15, Sea Eagles $1.65 (Line: Rabbitohs +2.5). Tip – Sea Eagles 7 & Over @ $2.20.

Warriors Fan Interest: Lewis Brown is currently languishing in Manly’s reserve grade squad, with one-game Warrior Shaun Lane our only former player in this game. The Warriors play these sides in consecutive outings in Round 12 and 14.

Parramatta Eels v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – 7.35pm AEDT/9.35pm NZT, Saturday at ANZ Stadium

The second match of the ANZ Stadium double-header has plenty riding on it with both sides trying to avoid going 0-3. Things were looking good for the Eels when they were 14-0 up at Penrith in Round 1, but they sunk to a disappointing loss to the resurgent Panthers before submitting meekly in a 54-0 humiliation at the hands of Manly. The Sharks have fought hard in losses to the Cowboys and Dragons but are still ironing out the wrinkles in their new combinations. There’s a tendency to be wary of a team hammered a week earlier, but every side that lost by 40-plus in 2017 also lost their next game. Sharks by 8

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Eels $1.85, Sharks $1.90. Tip – Sharks 12 & Under $3.20.

Warriors Fan Interest: The Warriors will be hoping bogey side Parramatta’s woes continue until their Round 11 clash in Sydney, while Cronulla – and former Warriors Chad Townsend and Jayson Bukuya – visit Auckland in Round 16.


Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons – 4.10pm AEDT/6.10pm NZT, Sunday at Clive Berghofer Stadium

The Taylor-less Titans struggled against the Warriors, but they will be far more formidable with their No.7 back on deck as the NRL heads to Toowoomba for the first time. The Dragons are at the top of the table after impressive wins over the Broncos and Sharks, but this is a danger game for them – they were let off the hook in last week’s derby. Gold Coast are a real hope here, with Jarrod Wallace back to bolster their pack. Titans by 1

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Titans $2.55, Dragons $1.47 (Line: Titans +5.5). Tip – Titans +5.5 @ $1.92.

Warriors Fan Interest: If the Dragons go down – or win by three points less than the Warriors beat the Raiders by – the Warriors could find themselves in first spot on the ladder at the end of Round 2.

Sydney Roosters v Newcastle Knights – 6.30pm AEDT/8.30pm NZT, Sunday at Allianz Stadium

It’s the game every rugby league fan has been waiting for. The 2-0 Knights – with ex-Roosters Pearce, Watson, Guerra, SKD and Moga in tow – head down the highway to take on the Tricolours, who brushed off an opening-round shocker against the Tigers with a strong win over the Bulldogs. It’s been a fascinating build-up, with the Knights excited and flippant while the Roosters have been serious and closed off. It looms as the most intense battle of the season so far, but the Roosters – the bookies’ biggest favourite in a round of even match-ups – should be able to halt Newcastle’s fairytale start. Roosters by 6

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Roosters $1.33, Knights $3.10 (Line: Roosters -8.5). Tip – Either team 6 & Under or Draw @ $2.90.

Warriors Fan Interest: The Warriors have a tough away trip to take on the Roosters in Round 4, while we’re enjoying Jacob Lillyman’s work with the Knights so far.


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