With only six weeks to go until finals time,The Newsroom previews round 20 of the National Rugby League.
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury Bulldogs
In an expected blockbuster, the Cowboys will take on the Bulldogs at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville tomorrow night. Both sides will be full strength as they welcome back their Origin stars. Michael Morgan will return for the Cowboys after suffering a knee injury in Origin 2. The Bulldogs sit in fourth position and if they can beat the reigning premiers they will move into third position. Players to watch are Johnathan Thurston and Josh Reynolds. Thurston is one of the best players in the game and is the leader that keeps the Cowboys together. Reynolds has had a great year so far, every time he touches the ball he makes something happen whether it’s making a break or setting up a try for his outside backs.
Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels
After coming off a big win over the Dragons last week to enter the top eight, the Titans take on the desperate Eels at CBUS Super Stadium on Saturday night. The Eels are recovering from a narrow loss to the Penrith Panthers and they need to win all of their remaining matches to even think of making a run to the finals. The Eels will also have to do it without Michael Jennings and Corey Norman. Jennings sustained a hamstring injury in the match against the Panthers last week so Brad Takairangi has been named as his replacement. Norman was stood down for an off-field issue and may miss the rest of the season. The Titans have been a surprise packet in 2016, they find ways to win with their impressive offloading and the kicking game of Tyrone Roberts. Greg Bird is the only player out for the Titans after he was handed a one-game suspension for a high shot on Gareth Widdop. Players to watch are Nene Macdonald and Bevan French. These two electric wingers both scored doubles last week and will look to keep increasing their season try tally.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers
The Dragons will be looking to make amends when they take on Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium. The Dragons were defeated 32-12 at the hands of the Titans and the Tigers are coming off a bye. Benji Marshall has been named in the half back position and is expected to play his 250th first grade game. Josh McCrone and Tim Lafai have been dropped to the NSW Cup and will play for the Illawarra Cutters. Dragons coach Paul McGregor has made a lot of positional changes, with Jason Nightingale returning to his preferred position of left wing. Kurt Mann will move from the centres and play on the right wing while Adam Quinlan will play fullback to replace the injured Josh Dugan. The Tigers have been named as per programme and will welcome back their NSW Origin stars James Tedesco and Aaron Woods. Tiger’s coach Jason Taylor has dropped Robbie Farah to NSW cup. Players to watch are Jack De Belin and Dene Halatau. De Belin will be playing his 100th first grade game while Halatau this week announced that he will retire at the end of the season. – Jesse Mullens
Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers – Suncorp Stadium, Friday, 7:50pm
Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors – GIO Stadium, Saturday, 3pm
Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters – AAMI Park, Saturday, 7:30pm
Cronulla Sharks v Newcastle Knights – Southern Group Cross Stadium, Sunday 2pm
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles – Allianz Stadium, Monday, 7pm
Photo of Johnathan Thurston playing in round two from the North Queensland Cowboys’ Facebook page.