NRL Round 23 Preview 

Thursday night: Souths v Canterbury, Homebush

It’s hard to believe these teams were grand finalists two years ago. Now they’ll be planning September holidays after disappointing seasons. This game is so uneventful and inconsequential Nine could afford to let Ray Hadley commentate and nobody would care. Yes, they’d whinge on social media, but it’d quickly be forgotten. So who wins this one? Souths showed admirable fight against the Dragons, pinching a game they had no right to win. That momentum will be enough against the hopeless Dogs.

Friday night: Parramatta v Newcastle, Homebush

Seemingly destined for a third straight wooden spoon, Newcastle have found some steam and can make the Wests Tigers very nervous with a few more wins. Unfortunately for Newcastle, Parramatta have a top four spot to play for. Expect the Eels to make it seven straight wins.

Friday night: Brisbane v Cronulla, Lang Park 

Insert your own “Channel Nine love the Broncos” gag as you watch Brisbane carve up Cronulla at Lang Park. Brisbane were irresistible against Gold Coast while Cronulla had a shock home loss to Canberra. Home fans will be sledging public enemy Paul Gallen inbetween cheering the Broncos’ tries.

Saturday afternoon: St. George-Illawarra v Gold Coast, UOW Jubilee Oval

This is a tough one. The Dragons are falling away while the Gold Coast only have pride to play for. This will test how desperate the Dragons are to make the eight. That desire alone should be enough at home. Don’t expect it to be pretty though.

Saturday night: Melbourne v Sydney Roosters, AAMI Park

A ring-a-ding top-two battle in Melbourne, though the Storm will be heavily favoured. The Roosters blew an early lead against Manly and Melbourne – of all teams – will happily exploit the fresh mental wounds and get three games clear in the minor premiership race and a psychological advantage for September.

Saturday night: Penrith v North Qld, Penrith Park

Tipped as pre-season favourites, it’s taken 22 rounds for Penrith the make the eight. They should maintain their position against North Queensland. The Cowboys were well beaten at home against Melbourne and may be starting to slip. Expect Penrith to build on their five-game winning streak.

Sunday afternoon: NZ Warriors v Canberra, Auckland

Their season seemingly over a month ago, Canberra are putting together their traditional late-season charge. Usually a trip to Auckland would be tough, but the Warriors are so bad that home ground advantage is almost void. Canberra should get their third straight win and keep track with Penrith for the finals.

Sunday afternoon: Wests Tigers v Manly, Leichhardt Oval.

While not the most enticing Sunday afternoon game, Manly should build on their big win over the Roosters by comfortably beating the Tigers. Wests will be competitive but Manly have a top eight spot to maintain.

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