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Eels miss top four? How many more Brooks chances? Meaney wasted on wing? Steelers strip?




Round 17 is the second of the two split rounds then there’ll be just eight weeks until the finals.

No more interruptions, no more Origin taking the focus away from the NRL.

Unlike the last couple of seasons which were delayed, rearranged and finished late, this one has flown by and a sense of normality has returned to the rugby league landscape.

Well, as normal as rugby league can be.

Despite losing Nicho Hynes and Toby Rudolf to the spicy cough, Cronulla have a golden chance to draw level with a depleted Melbourne side to start Round 17.

Newcastle need to get an upset at home over a similarly depleted Bunnies outfit on Friday to continue to have a realistic chance of a top-eight berth.

The Wests Tigers are desperate for a boilover over the wobbling Eels on Saturday night to end their losing streak and also avoid dropping to last when the Titans get their two bye points.

And Sunday’s game is a lottery with Brisbane heavily affected by injuries and rep duty while the Dragons are equally as hard to predict due to their current status of being almost impossible to know whether they’ll grind their way to a victory or fail to be in the contest.

Thursday

Sharks v Storm at PointsBet Stadium, 7.50pm

Can Braydon Trindall take this trick? Over the past couple of seasons the young playmaker seemed to be following a similar pattern to fullback Will Kennedy in establishing himself as a key part of Cronulla’s future. A pre-season suspension meant Matt Moylan and Nicho Hynes started the year off in the halves and Trindall has barely got a look in. With Hynes (COVID) ruled out for this week at least, Trindall has a chance to show Craig Fitzgibbon he deserves more game time when he goes head to head with one of the form halves of the NRL, Jahrome Hughes.

Is Nick Meaney wasted on the wing? The utility back switches to five-eighth this round with Cameron Munster on Origin duty. Meaney won’t get a start in the halves or his preferred fullback spot when the Storm are at full strength but with Reimis Smith now out for the rest of the year with his pectoral tear, is Meaney a potential option in the centres. He’s not the biggest body but his defence is sound and he has more than enough skill to set up whoever is outside him on the flank.

Friday

Knights v Rabbitohs at McDonald Jones Stadium, 7.55pm

Can Bradman Best stay injury free? The Knights centre has future Origin rep written all over him but he’s been hampered by a series of injuries since making his debut late in 2019. He played just 11 games in his first full season, 17 last year and is up to 11 this year in a season interrupted by a dislocated elbow in May against the Broncos. Given a decent run without injury, he has the potential to be a much-needed game changer for the Knights on the left edge, if they can give him early ball in space, which has also been a problem.

Bradman Best of the Knights

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Will Bunnies keep forcing repeat sets? They made the Eels do five line drop-outs last Saturday with clever kicks in the red zone with Lachlan Ilias and Alex Johnston coming up with two apiece and Cody Walker forcing another. Only the first one in the opening couple of minutes led directly to a try but the cumulative effect snowballed on Parra, leading to the Rabbitohs’ emphatic 30-12 win. It was reminiscent of their slick backline of yesteryear (as in last year) and they’ll need much more of that kind of play to vault out of their seventh-placed mid-table mediocrity at 8-7.

Saturday

Tigers v Eels at Leichhardt Oval, 7.35pm

Is this the last of Luke Brooks’ last chances? Adam Doueihi is now back in the starting side at centre. He was given a run there before a couple of years ago by Michael Maguire when he was not passing enough to his outside men while at five-eighth. Jackson Hastings is established as the halfback and even Brooks admitted during the week that Doueihi’s best position is five-eighth so after the Tigers losing their past seven games with Brooks in the No.6 jersey, interim coach Brett Kimmorley will have little reason to persist with him if they cop another flogging from the Eels.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Are the Eels going to make the top four? A couple of months ago they looked certainties but after getting thrashed by Souths last week they’re in sixth spot. They’ve got a couple of winnable games in the Tigers and Warriors next up before finishing with finals teams in five of their last seven matches, with their only two games against sides outside the eight being ninth-placed Manly and the improving Bulldogs, who beat them a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday

Broncos v Dragons at Suncorp Stadium, 4.05pm

Is Tyson a surefire Gamble? In the six matches he has played for Brisbane this year, they’ve won every time. That’s not to say he’s their most important player, far from it, but his competitive instincts seem to light a fire in his teammates, there’s more than a smidgeon of Josh Reynolds DNA in his fellow former Wests Tigers five-eighth.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Dragon players celebrate winning the round 16 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium, on July 03, 2022, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Dragons players celebrate winning over the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Should Dragons wear Steelers strip more often? Hell yeah. It was great to see them trot out in the Illawarra uniform last Sunday to celebrate the Steelers’ 40th anniversary. There was a time when the Illawarra side of the joint venture struggled to pay its way but that changed a few years ago when the Gordon family WIN TV media empire came on board. The Red V jersey is iconic but the Steelers strip should become the full-time alternate outfit, not the horrible mishmash that they currently have as the second option.





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