The last of the reduced rounds due to Origin, NRL round 17 gives some teams clear advantages that they wouldn’t normally have. There are only four games, with the Storm playing the Dragons tonight, the Panthers and Warriors on Friday, the struggling Bulldogs and Raiders on Saturday and The Titans and Broncos playing out a Queensland derby on Sunday afternoon.
The Storm and Dragons in Melbourne to open NRL round 17 would normally be a thriller, however Origin has decimated both sides. The Storm have lost 6 players, including future immortal Billy Slater, try scoring machine Josh Addo-Carr and playmaker Cameron Munster. They still have their inspirational captain Cameron Smith to steer the ship around, however.
The Dragons have lost most of their forwards, with Tyson Frizell, Jack de Belin, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims making up the bulk of the Blues forward pack. Their halfback Ben Hunt will also be playing for Queensland, leaving Gareth Widdop to try and mastermind a win. The Storm look to have the edge in this encounter despite missing four backs.
The Panthers will also suffer, with halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney playing for NSW along with utility Tyrone Peachey. They will be vulnerable against a full strength (excepting injuries) Warriors line up, but they have had their backs to the wall all season and managed so far. This match might be a bridge too far for Penrith.
The Bulldogs and Raiders are missing a forward each, with David Klemmer and Josh Papalii lining up against each other in Origin. Without their destructive forward spearhead, and having recently released Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye, the Doggies are very vulnerable and Canberra will look to close the gap on the top 8, as well as increase their for/against ratio.
The final match up of NRL round 17 sees the Gold Coast Titans host the Brisbane Broncos. The Titans lose Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace to the Maroons, while the Broncos will be without James Roberts, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire and Corey Oats. Both sides will keep their key decision makers, with Titans half Ash Taylor determined to make a point after being snubbed for Daly Cherry-Evans in the Queensland team. The Titans could take this one.