It is the Magic Round in the NRL, so we’ve previewed every game which takes place at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium this weekend.
Wests Tigers v Newcastle Knights (Friday, 9am, Sky Sports Arena)
The first game of this year’s Magic Round sees two teams with contrasting fortunes as of the late. The Knights will be full of confidence after overcoming a 16-0 deficit to defeat Canberra and keep well within the top eight race, while the Tigers gave up 36 points against Gold Coast in round nine. Despite the defensive lapses, Michael Maguire’s men can take away some positives as they were able to work well offensively and put up five tries of their own against the Titans.
Team news: A re-shuffle for the Tigers sees Adam Doueihi move to centre and Moses Mbye slot in at stand-off. Jacob Liddle is back at hooker with Jake Simpkin dropping out while Tommy Talau is back from suspension on the wing.
No Kalyn Ponga (groin) for Newcastle so Tex Hoy fills in at full-back.
Manly Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos (Friday, 11:05am, Sky Sports Mix)
The Tom Trbojevic factor continues to be the biggest positive for Manly right now as the superstar full-back’s presence has helped steer his side from a bottom of the table club to a potential challenger all in the space of a month. Since Tommy Turbo’s return the Sea Eagles have won four of their last five and can easily add another win here when they face Brisbane. The Broncos will be seething after a 19-18 loss to the Cowboys last week especially when they had the game all but won with five minutes to go.
Team news: Taniela Paseka is named at prop but he will have to pass concussion protocols after suffering a couple of head knocks in the win over the Warriors.
Patrick Carrigan’s season-ending ACL injury means Thomas Flegler steps up from the bench to take the loose forward spot.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders (Saturday, 6am, Sky Sports Arena)
There is no question times are tough for Canberra right now as they enter this one on the back of five straight losses and in a battle to keep within the top eight after dropping to 12th on the ladder. Despite starting games strong, second half implosions have been the issue as of late and that was the case last week after giving up a 16-0 lead to Newcastle. However, they are presented with a perfect chance to rectify that here when they take on Canterbury, who have only one win under their belt this year and are struggling for chemistry in attack.
Team news: A big change for Canterbury sees Kyle Flanagan dropped from scrum-half and replaced by Jake Averillo while Brandon Wakeham steps in at number six. Corey Allan (AC joint) is out so Nick Meaney is in at centre and Tui Katoa is named on the wing. Dylan Napa returns to the front-row and Renouf Atoni is the new man at lock.
Jordan Rapana sits out for Canberra so Semi Valemei is the new man on the wing. Josh Hodgson returns from injury after being named on the interchange, but Joe Tapine (MCL) is out. Harry Rushton has been named on the extended bench.
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs (Saturday, 8:30am, Sky Sports Arena)
These two teams will unquestionably be out for blood following big shutout losses last week. The Sharks felt the full force of the Panthers with a 48-0 defeat while the Rabbitohs gave up 50 points against Melbourne. There is a difference between these two sides though as South Sydney were without key personnel when they faced the Storm and have still been a top side after winning their last seven before this while Cronulla are struggling for wins in general after suffering their fifth straight loss at the hands of Penrith.
Team news: No Jesse Ramien (fractured eye socket) for Cronulla so Josh Dugan has been recalled at centre. Andrew Fifita also looks set to play his first game of 2021 after being included on the bench. No Shaun Johnson either which means Matt Moylan may fill the void in the halves.
Adam Reynolds’ return at number seven provides the Rabbitohs with a big boost. Liam Knight has been promoted to the starting side and will slot in at loose forward.
Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys (Saturday, 10:45am, Sky Sports Arena)
In recent weeks Sydney have shown plenty of resolve despite an extensive injury crisis but even still they were not able to find a way past Parramatta in round nine and with it they slipped to sixth on the ladder and face a tough task to keep within the top four. They face a tough test here as they come up against a Cowboys side who have won four out of their last five and will be high on morale after late win against Brisbane.
Team news: Drew Hutchison’s rib injury allows Lachlan Lam to make his return at stand-off for Sydney. Sitili Tupouniua is back from suspension in the second row.
North Queensland names an unchanged 17-man squad.
New Zealand Warriors v Parramatta Eels (Sunday, 4:50am, Sky Sports Arena)
The Eels remain in great form as their impressive season continued last week with a win over an injury-plagued Sydney Roosters side. The victory sees them cement second place on the ladder and keep the Panthers firmly within their sights at the top. Their opponents this week are hovering around eighth place and have been a very hot and cold team throughout the year thus far. Also, despite putting up 32 points against Manly, the Warriors’ defence gave up even more.
Team news: One change for the Warriors as Ben Murdoch-Masila is back in the second-row while Bayley Sironen drops to extended bench.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur names his son Jakob at stand-off with Dylan Brown suspended but this selection will be subject NRL biosecurity approval after Arthur featured in the NSW Cup last week so did not observe NRL bubble protocols. Waqa Blake is back from injury at centre.
Melbourne Storm v St George Illawarra Dragons (Sunday, 7:05am, Sky Sports Arena)
The Storm will be loving life right now after the dismantling of the Rabbitohs and no player even more so than Josh Addo-Carr who rewrote the history books with his magnificent six-try display. Another win for Melbourne sees them sit in third place and looking like a side that could easily be a title contender once again this year despite no Cameron Smith. Meanwhile, St George Illawarra regained some confidence after snapping their three-game losing streak with a win over Canterbury in round nine. They have had a much-improved year so far and remain in sixth place, but a stern test awaits them on Sunday.
Team news: Melbourne are without Brandon Smith (suspended), Harry Grant (hamstring) and Cam Munster (foot). Ryley Jacks is at five-eighth while Kenny Bromwich takes up the dummy-half role. Ryan Papenhuyzen nears a return after being named on extended bench.
Mikaele Ravalawa returns from suspension on the wing for the Dragons.
Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers (Sunday, 9:25am, Sky Sports Arena)
There has been no questioning Gold Coast’s attack this year, however, issues seem to lie with a shaky defence and that will have to be something that needs to change come Sunday when they go up against this electrifying Panthers side. The Titans gave themselves a boost with a win over the Tigers last week after losing their last three games whereas Penrith have not put a foot wrong this year and remain undefeated at the top of the ladder.
Team news: A big loss for Gold Coast as David Fifita sits out after receiving a two-game suspension for a high tackle against the Tigers. Beau Fermor looks like the man to replace him in the second-row.
Kurt Capewell (HIA) is out for Penrith, so Liam Martin is bumped up into the starting side while Paul Momirovski is available again after serving a three-game suspension but has been named on the extended bench.
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