NRL preview: Round 14

NZ HERALD Steve Deane breaks down the NRL action for week 14.


WIN Jubilee Oval, tonight
Referees: Tony Archer, Alan Shortall


Faith Lee (Herald) - 62/96 65%: Dragons
Richie Barnett (Kiwis legend) - 62/96 65%: Dragons
Len Brown (Mayor) - 57/96 59%: Dragons
Steve Deane (Herald) - 56/96 58%: Titans


It's that time of year folks - time to hit the footy player bargain bin to scrape together a 17 on Origin week. Fate has been kind to the Titans. Instead of facing Jamie Soward, Darius Boyd, Ben Creagh and so on they'll square off against Alex McKinnon, Reece Simmonds, Jack Bosden, Jon Green and a whole bunch of other folks only their parents have ever heard of. A Titans side that has won just one of seven on the road this season will be without Ashley Harrison and Greg Bird but if they can't win this one there is no hope for them.

Nathan Fien shifts to five-eighths for the Dragons.


Brookvale Oval, tomorrow
Referees: Jared Maxwell, Gerard Sutton


Faith Lee: Sea Eagles
Richie Barnett: Sea Eagles
Len Brown: Sea Eagles
Steve Deane: Sea Eagles


Yet another bumper match that could have a massive impact on the final standings will take place without a bunch of key players. Both sides have won seven out of their last eight and sit on 20 points heading into this 3rd v 4th showdown. Both sides feel the Origin pinch, although the Cowboys will be doing more wincing given the loss of Johnathan Thurston and key prop Matt Scott. Toyota Cup halfback Michael Morgan replaces Thurston. Manly lose Will Hopoate and Anthony Watmough but are better placed to cover the losses, with Michael Oldfield and Joe Galuvao coming in.


Suncorp Stadium, Sunday
Referees: Jason Robinson, Brett Suttor


Faith Lee: Broncos
Richie Barnett: Broncos
Len Brown: Broncos
Steve Deane: Broncos


Origin has been typically unkind to the Broncos with Darren Lockyer, Jharal Yow Yeh, Ben Hannant, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker all drafted by Queensland. That may be a touch inconvenient, however it's not as inconvenient as waiting nine months for Terry Campese to come back and then watching him blow his groin out in a nanosecond (see you again in three months, Campo); and losing star fullback Josh Dugan for up to a month with a nasty ankle injury. Then there's the small matter of rolling over and a giving up a 22-0 lead at home. Fear not though Raiders fans, David Shillington is expected to return.


Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday
Referees: Ashley Klein, Adam Devcich


Faith Lee: Warriors
Richie Barnett: Warriors
Len Brown: Warriors
Steve Deane: Warriors


After a muddled, kind-of grumpy golden-point victory over the Knights on Monday night, the Tigers will be hoping to rediscover their happy place at Mt Smart. Adam Blair's impending arrival seems to have upset the apple cart in Tiger country, with the likes of Liam Fulton and Bryce Gibbs likely to be moved on. With Wade McKinnon switching to England and Andrew Fifita linked to Cronulla, the Tigers look a lot like the Warriors of '09. Luckily the Warriors of '11 look nothing like the Warriors of '09, which should give them half a chance against a Tigers side missing Lote Tuqiri, who sprained an ankle in his comeback match from a broken arm.


AAMI Park, Monday
Referees: Gavin Badger, Tony De Las Heras


Faith Lee: Storm
Richie Barnett: Roosters
Len Brown: Storm
Steve Deane: Storm


The Storm tend to win more than they lose, with their 61.97 all-time winning percentage trailing only the Broncos. Take out Cam Smith, however, and that number drops to 50 per cent (eight wins from 16 games). Food for thought, especially with Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Dane Nielsen also on Origin duty. Fresh from a much-needed win over the Warriors, the Roosters lose halfback Mitchell Pearce and fullback Anthony Minichiello, although Kiwis star Sam Perrett makes his long-awaited return.

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