EELS V ROOSTERS
Pirtek Stadium, 7.50pm
History: Played 128, Roosters 62, Eels 61, drawn 5
Last met: Roosters 28-18, round 23, 2015
With D-Day nearing and only 18 premiership points now available, a loss almost certainly means the end of the 2016 road for the Eels who continue to roll from one disaster to another. Faced with the imminent loss of their 12 points for salary cap cheating the Eels have boxed on courageously for months but surely the end is now nigh, and allowing an 18-nil lead against the ladder-leading Sharks to slip last weekend looks a sure sign the fight is almost over. Faced with the exact same scenario to play finals, the Roosters turned in one of their best performances of a disappointing season last weekend and will be well and truly up for this. Half Jeff Robson and Tim Mannah are back to bolster the Eels, while Boyd Cordner may be a surprise Roosters’ inclusion.
TIP – Roosters
BULLDOGS V TIGERS
ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm
History: Played 30, Bulldogs 19, Tigers 11
Last met: Bulldogs 36-4, round 10, 2016
What an anomaly – the Bulldogs sit fourth on the ladder and the Tigers 12th, yet for this crucial clash the Tigers have three players missing on Origin duty and the ’Dogs just two. And while that might upset the hierarchy at Wests, a couple of Bulldogs players will be more than a tad upset at once again being overlooked. No doubt the loss of Farah, Woods and the brilliant Tedesco will stymie the attack of the Tigers, which is averaging 20 points after 17 rounds. The Dogs, on the other hand, will still assemble a monster pack despite the loss of Jackson and Klemmer. While finally stringing three wins together last weekend for the first time in 2016, the Bulldogs have only shown glimpses of their best form and could well be the sleeping giants of this competition. The commanding record the Dogs have over the Tigers will continue.
TIP – Bulldogs
PANTHERS V SHARKS
Pepper Stadium, 4pm
History: Played 86, Sharks 45, Panthers 38, drawn 3
Last met: Sharks 20-18, round 8, 2016
Shattered after allowing a 12-point lead to slip last weekend, the Panthers will never have a better opportunity this season to beat the table-topping Sharks who are without five of their best, on Origin duty. Sitting on the edge of the top eight and with a 23-16 record at home against the Sharks, Anthony Griffin’s men simply have to win this if they are to be considered serious premiership contenders – as they have been at times during a topsy-turvy season. But despite missing some very influential talent, the Sharks will be keen to expose their depth and prove that their record run of 12 successive wins has been a genuine club effort.
TIP – Panthers
RAIDERS V COWBOYS
GIO Stadium, 7pm
History: Played 36, Raiders 20, Cowboys 16
Last met: Cowboys 32-24, round 21, 2015
Like the Panthers, the Raiders have been handed a huge advantage over the Origin-weakened Cowboys in the national capital on Monday night. With co-captains Thurston and Scott, as well as O’Neill, Tamou and Cooper on Origin duty and Morgan and Linnett on the injured list, the Cowboys will be without most of what makes them the champion team they have become. On the other hand, the Raiders have only Josh Papalii unavailable and although their confidence may not be sky high following their golden-point escape against the wooden spoon-bound Knights, this is a must win. For both, the result is crucial – the Cowboys to stay within a shot at the minor premiership and the Raiders to remain in the top eight. But with the changes to the Cowboys’ line-up and seven degrees and rain predicted for Monday night, the Raiders have all the cards falling their way.
TIP – Raiders
BYES: Broncos, Dragons, Knights, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles, Storm, Titans, Warriors