THURSDAY, Aug 24
Brisbane v Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm
It’s only been four weeks since the Eels stunned the Broncos in Sydney. Brisbane will be out for revenge on their home patch where they are nine from 11 this season. Since losing to the Eels, the Broncos have scored 110 points in their three-straight victories. They can consolidate their position in the top two, while the Eels will be desperate to return to the top four. The absence of Bevan French (hamstring) and Manu Ma’u (suspended) will only add to the Eels’ task, with Will Smith and Kenny Edwards their respective replacements.
FRIDAY, Aug 25
Canberra v Newcastle at GIO Stadium, 6pm
Mathematical possibility — they’re the two words no club wants to hear at this time of years. Yet that’s the reality for the underachieving Raiders, who face bogey side Newcastle in their final home fixture for the season. The Raiders need to win their final two and hope other results go their way to take an unlikely place in the finals. The Knights embarrassed the Green Machine earlier in the season and pushed them to golden point twice last year.
Wests Tigers v North Queensland at Campbelltown Stadium, 7.50pm
The Tigers’ farewell tour rolls on with fullback James Tedesco and skipper Aaron Woods set to play their last match for the club at Campbelltown before they depart at the end of this season. The Cowboys are struggling with injuries which have underpinned a concerning form slump at the business end of the season. They’ll have to get past a Tigers side in season-best touch to arrest a four-game losing streak.
SATURDAY, Aug 26
Gold Coast v Canterbury at CBus Super Stadium, 3pm
There is still plenty of interest here, given both sides are out of finals contention. But unfortunately for the Titans it is for all the wrong reasons. Can the Gold Coast snap a five-game losing streak and give fans some joy after a tumultuous fortnight? Assistant coaches Craig Hodges and Terry Matterson will take over from sacked Neil Henry, while counterpart Des Hasler will be in better spirits after his team put 30 points on the board against Manly last weekend.
Melbourne v South Sydney at AAMI Park, 5.30pm
The Storm wrapped up the minor premiership last week but it’s hard to see the premiership favourites taking the foot off the pedal against Souths, who have put together three wins in a row. Melbourne welcome back superstar halfback Cooper Cronk, while Origin forward Tim Glasby could also return after being named among the reserves. The Rabbitohs were game in defeat when they played the Storm in Perth earlier in the year but could only muster six points. Scoring won’t get any easier with the loss of the NRL’s leading try scorer Alex Johnston to a hamstring injury.
Cronulla v Sydney Roosters at Southern Cross Group Stadium, 7.30pm
Match of the round sees the third-placed Roosters take on the Sharks, who are nipping at their heels in fourth. The reigning premiers could drop out of the top four if they lose, with the Eels and Panthers both capable of stealing fourth spot from them. Cronulla have won their past six matches against the Roosters, and will look to make it seven on the trot in Wade Graham’s 200th NRL game. Finishing second is the major carrot for the Roosters, who won’t want to play Brisbane at Suncorp in week one of the finals.
SUNDAY, Aug 27
Warriors v Manly at Mt Smart Stadium, 2pm
The Warriors haven’t won since round 16 and will face a Sea Eagles side smarting from losses to the lowly Tigers and Bulldogs in the past two weeks. The men from Auckland have gone from underachievers to embarrassment in recent weeks. Their seven-game losing streak started against the Sea Eagles in round 17 when they gave up a 16-0 lead to lose 26-22. Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans was sensational in that match and will be looking to improve sharply on last week’s flu-affected performance.
Penrith v St George Illawarra at Pepper Stadium, 4pm
After leading the competition seven rounds into the season, the Dragons are staring down the barrel of missing the finals with two matches remaining. They can return to the eight with a victory but need other results to go their way. The Panthers could potentially be in the top four by the end of the round. That looked a world away when they were struggling mid-season, but they’ve rallied to win seven-straight matches to show why many predicted they could win the title this year.
*Courtesy of SBS