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NRL preview panel for round nine

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/04/2017 Scott Bailey, Steve Zemek and Matt Encarnacion

PREVIEW OF NRL ROUND-NINE MATCHES (all times AEST):

THURSDAY April 27

Brisbane v Penrith at Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

Head to head: Broncos 30 Panthers 19 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 20, 2016 - Panthers 31 bt Broncos 20 at Suncorp Stadium

TAB: Broncos $1.43 Panthers $2.85, Draw $23

FootyTAB: Panthers +10.5

No team has made the finals since Brisbane in 1999 after being on four points or less after the first nine rounds - and Penrith are staring down the barrel of that statistic if they lose on Thursday. Coach Anthony Griffin has stuck with Bryce Cartwright at five-eighth after a scratchy return from an ankle injury last week, while Te Maire Martin is on an extended bench. Meanwhile Jordan Kahu is back for a Brisbane side that is now fifth.

Key: Bryce Cartwright has the potential to be one of the most damaging players in the competition, however he will have to be far better for Penrith to break a four-match losing streak.

Tip: Broncos

FRIDAY April 28

South Sydney v Manly at ANZ Stadium, 6.00pm

Head to head: Rabbitohs 64 Sea Eagles 75

Last clash: Round 2, 2017 - Rabbitohs 38 bt Sea Eagles 18 at Lottoland

TAB: Rabbitohs $2.20 Sea Eagles $1.67 Draw $21

FootyTAB: Rabbitohs +1.5

Adam Reynolds returns for South Sydney that will be determined to bounce back from last week's controversial loss to Brisbane. They'll have to do it without forward George Burgess though, who is facing a second stint on the sideline this season - this time for a shoulder charge on Anthony Milford. They face a Manly team they beat in round two, but much has changed since then. The Sea Eagles are unbeaten on the road this year and have won four of their six games since that clash.

Key: Adam Reynolds' absence was felt in last week's loss to Brisbane, and South Sydney need him at full fitness to cause an upset on Friday night.

Tip: Sea Eagles

North Queensland v Parramatta at 1300SMILES Stadium, 7.50pm

Head to head: Cowboys 16 Eels 18 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 8, 2016 - Cowboys 32 bt Eels 16 at 1300SMILES

TAB: Cowboys $1.55 Eels $2.45 Draw $21

FootyTAB: Eels +1.5

Johnathan Thurston is a chance to return for North Queensland in a bid to secure his Australian Test jersey for next Friday against New Zealand. His inclusion would be key for the sixth-placed Cowboys who have lost to St George Illawarra without him and then started slowly against Newcastle. The Eels are coming off two straight wins, but neither of their recent opponents - Wests Tigers and Parramatta - are of the calibre of the Cowboys.

Key: Parramatta have survived with a makeshift five-eighth for the past the past three weeks, but Corey Norman will take on a heap of attacking responsibility with forward Kenny Edwards named at No.6.

Tip: Cowboys

SATURDAY April 29

Gold Coast v Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium, 3.00pm

Head to head: Titans 7 Knights 10

Last clash: Round 2, 2017 - Knights 34 bt Titans 26 at McDonald Jones Stadium

TAB: Titans $1.22 Knights $4.25 Draw $31

FootyTAB: Knights +10.5

Newcastle scored their only win of the season over the Gold Coast last month, but the Titans look a far better team with Nathan Peats at hooker and Jarryd Hayne at the back. Hayne was man of the match in last week's upset win over Cronulla, and could wreak havoc against the Knights' defence. Meanwhile Newcastle have named Jaelen Feeney at halfback, again overlooking the out-of-touch Trent Hodkinson.

Key: Jaelen Feeney gets a starting spot in the halves for just the second time in his career for Newcastle, and will have to help produce plenty of points against the third best attacking team in the competition.

Tip: Titans

Canterbury v Canberra at ANZ Stadium, 5.30pm

Head to head: Bulldogs 36 Raiders 28

Last clash: Round 12, 2016 - Raiders 32 bt Bulldogs 20 at GIO Stadium

TAB: Bulldogs $2.65 Raiders $1.48 Draw $23

FootyTAB: Bulldogs +6.5

Stakes are high for both sides, who are sitting mid-table on eight points and were flying before being stopped dead in their tracks last week. They're also both just about at full-strength and will be expected to produce accordingly ahead of the upcoming rep round. The inclusion of Will Hopoate on an extended bench could force a shake-up, just as rookie winger Marcelo Montoya was finding his feet. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has no such headaches with a healthy unit.

Key: With a fit Hopoate now available, who does Hasler view as his first-choice fullback?

Tip: Bulldogs

Wests Tigers v Cronulla at Leichhardt Oval, 7.30pm

Head to head: Tigers 17 Sharks 9 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 5, 2016 - Sharks 34 bt Tigers 26 at Campbelltown Stadium

TAB: Tigers $2.65 Sharks $1.48 Draw $23

FootyTAB: Tigers +6.5

Could the tide be turning at Concord? New coach Ivan Cleary has two wins from three games and the side is unchanged for the first time this year, although speculation of Mitchell Moses' impending departure continues to abound and the Aaron Woods/James Tedesco contract cloud is still hanging around like a bad egg. The Sharks have no such concerns, but have lost second-rower Jayson Bukuya to injury.

Key: Woods said he's likely to make a call on his future by the end of the week - will he continue to be booed at his spiritual home ground?

Tip: Sharks

SUNDAY April 30

Warriors v Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium, 2.00pm

Head to head: Warriors 20, Roosters 16, Drawn 1

Last clash: Round 15, 2016 - Warriors 12 bt Roosters 10 at Mt Smart Stadium

TAB: Warriors $2.15 Roosters $1.70

FootyTAB: Warriors +2.5

It was hard not to get caught up in the emotion of the Roosters' Anzac Day win over St George Illawarra and it appears to be a turning point for their season. They were resolute in defence, sharp in attack and had outstanding performances all over the park. They've proved they can win big games and it will fill them with confidence that they can kick on from here. The Warriors are a much-improved outfit than they started the year but don't have much to show for it after two straight losses.

Key: This one will come down to a battle of good mates Kieran Foran and Mitchell Pearce.

Tip: Roosters

St George Illawarra v Melbourne at WIN Stadium, 4.00pm

Head to head: Dragons 9, Storm 23, Drawn 1

Last clash: Round 15. 2016 - Dragons 20 bt Storm 10 at WIN Stadium

TAB: Dragons $2.85 Storm $1.43

FootyTAB: Dragons +6.5

The loss of Gareth Widdop to a knee injury is a massive blow for the Dragons but will it push their season off course? The No.6 has started the year in outstanding form and has emerged as a contender for the Dally M. Kurt Mann and Josh McCrone are set to form a makeshift halves combination. And while no one is doubting the Dragons' guts and resolve, it remains to be seen if they can get around the park. The Storm meanwhile have jumped over the Dragons to top of the ladder and keep on keeping on. Billy Slater keeps on getting better as the season wears on while Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Josh Addo-Carr have found another level this year.

Key: The Dragons pack led by Tyson Frizell, Jack de Belin and Paul Vaughan must make big metres if they're to be any hope.

Tip: Storm

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