NRL serves up some rippers this weekend

NRL star Nathan Cleary
Panthers star Nathan Cleary returns this week, just in time to press for an Origin call up. Photo: Naparazzi, Wikimedia Commons

With only two rounds to play until Origin teams are announced, a number of hopefuls will be keen to put their hand up this weekend. The NRL draw will also provide us with a number of match ups that could go a long way towards deciding key spots in the two teams.

NRL round 11 will see a father-son duel tonight between Tigers coach Ivan and Panthers star Nathan Cleary. While the Panthers are currently second on the ladder and the Tigers are seventh, only a single win separates the two sides. Nathan Cleary and Luke Brooks will both be looking to press their claim for the vacant halfback spot for NSW.

On Friday at 6 the struggling Eels will face the Warriors in Parramatta. The Warriors should win this one comfortably, in a game that probably won’t affect Origin much. They are very inconsistent however, and Parramatta have the side on paper to cause a big upset.

The second Friday night game will be between the Broncos and Roosters in Brisbane. This game will see the leading contenders for the suddenly vacant Queensland hooker jersey go head to head, in Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend. Luke Keary will also press his claim for a NSW halves spot, while Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco will fight to keep their places.

The Saturday afternoon NRL clash between the Titans and Knights shouldn’t do too much to affect the Origin sides, although Kalyn Ponga will push for Maroon jersey.

The second Saturday match, between the Cowboys and Rabbitohs, will be interesting. The Cows desperately need a win to kick start their season, while the Bunnies are surpassing all expectations. Damien Cook will be pushing for the NSW number 9 jersey, while Michael Morgan fights to prove his form in the halves.

The Saturday night game will be a big one. At first glance it looks like an easy win for the Storm, who are at home against the hapless Sea Eagles. Without Cameron Smith, however, they will be weakened. Manly will also be high on confidence after a big win over the Bronco’s, in which Tom Trbojevic found some ominous form.

Cameron Munster is almost certain to be one of QLD’s halves, although Daly Cherry-Evans will be desperate to show him up. “Turbo” will also want to put in another big performance to increase the pressure on Tedesco.

On Sunday afternoon St George will look to get back to their winning ways against the Raiders, as Cameron McInnes searches for a Blue jersey. Ben Hunt will also want to cement his position as the best Queensland halfback still available for selection.

The final game will see Cronulla take on the toothless Bulldogs. The big battle here will be in the forwards, with both packs hoping to contribute to the Blues. In the backs Valentine Holmes and Matt Moylan will try to remind selectors what they are capable of.

My tips for NRL round 11 are Panthers, Warriors, Roosters, Knights, Cowboys (tentatively), Sea Eagles, Dragons and Sharks.