Magic Round returns to Suncorp Stadium with back to back games tonight between Penrith and Wests Tigers, followed by Manly and Brisbane. The Panthers and Broncos will be fighting to get some wins on the board before it is too late, while the Tigers are trying to break into the 8 and Manly will attempt to defy their horror injury run for another week.
At 6 pm round 2 of the Cleary cup will take place, as the club Ivan Cleary abandoned last year (Wests Tigers) take on his new team (the Panthers). The Panthers have a more talented and generally highly rated roster, however they have not been performing well this year.
These two teams have already met in round four, with Penrith claiming the win during Golden Point in a 9-8 slugfest. Wests have been average so far this season, winning half of their games so far, while Penrith have been very poor to sit equal last on the ladder. There is no doubt, however, that Penrith have the talent in their side to win this game if they turn up.
The Broncos and Sea Eagles will be another one to watch. Both sides have experienced a lot of turnover this season, the Broncos through players being dropped or changing club and the Sea Eagles through injury. If Manly had their star players Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic (or even one of the pair) they would be heavy favourites, but with their injury ravaged line-up they are vulnerable.
Manly miss the fewest tackles in the NRL, averaging 24 misses a game, so they won’t hand Brisbane many free points. They are, however, missing their three first choice halves, star fullback and destructive prop. They have also moved their first choice hooker, Apisai Koroisau, to five-eighth for this match out of desperation. However, no matter what has been thrown at them so far this season they have kept going and battling through adversity under returned coach Des Hasler.
Brisbane, meanwhile, have a very highly rated forward pack but are dealing with a lot of disruption and pressure in their backline. Their halfback, Tom Dearden, is an 18-year-old playing just his second ever NRL game while the five-eighth, Anthony Milford, and fullback, Darius Boyd, are badly out of form and look disinterested at times. They have also dropped Origin centre James Roberts and winger Jamayne Isaako.