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Monday, June 14, 2021

NRL round 12 preview: Indigenous round

Round 12 in the NRL celebrates the tremendous impact that Indigenous culture has had on the NRL.

There’s a plethora of the game’s greats with an Indigenous background such as former champions Arthur Beetson, Jonathan Thurston and Greg Inglis along with current stars Jack Wighton, Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson all proud Aboriginal men.

All 16 clubs will wear special Indigenous jerseys this week, which are always some of the best jerseys every year and highlight the creativity and culture of the Indigenous community. Check out all the jersey’s at the end of the preview.

St George Illawarra Dragons (11th) vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (10th) Thursday 30 July 7.50pm @Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Both sides are coming off close losses last round so will be desperate to get a win here and keep the top eight in sight.

The Dragons had some luck go against them last round but showed plenty of resolve to stay in the game and almost pinch the win late.

Halfback Adam Clune has been ruled out after head knock last week which means Ben Hunt will shift back to number 7, Cameron McInnes back to hooker and Jackson Ford to start at lock. Jordan Pereira also replaces Jason Saab on the wing.

Hunt copped plenty of criticism early in the year when he was playing halfback before shifting to hooker so it will be interesting to see how he performs in that role again.

The Rabbitohs welcome back Latrell Mitchell to fullback after missing the past two games which will shift Alex Johnston back to wing.

Mitchell has been sorely missed the past two weeks and makes the Rabbitohs far more dangerous in attack.

The Rabbitohs played an extremely physical game against the Raiders last Saturday and are playing off a five-day break so their fitness will be tested.

Wests Tigers (9th) vs New Zealand Warriors (13th) Friday 31 July 6pm @SCG

The Tigers failed their test against the Eels last round but get a much easier assignment this week.

They have been a side that’s able to take care of poor opposition but have struggled to match it with the best teams and find themselves in the familiar position of 9th place on the ladder.

Josh Reynolds’ two-game suspension is up but coach Michael McGuire has left him on the extended bench in favour of Billy Walters and Benji Marshall.

This is a game the Tigers simply must win if they want to play finals.

The Warriors were extremely gallant in defeat last round against the Roosters, but now lose David Fusitu’a and Ken Maulamalo who have headed back to New Zealand.

Against the Roosters they showed there is still plenty of fight left in this side and if they can bring that same attitude, they will give themselves every opportunity of causing an upset.

Brisbane Broncos (15th) vs Cronulla Sharks (7th) Friday 31 July 7.55pm @Suncorp Stadium

The pressure on the Broncos reached new heights last round after a drubbing at the hands of the Storm followed by losing the signature of their most promising player David Fifita.

Fifita chose to sign with the Titans over the Broncos which shows just how far this once mighty club has fallen.

Brodie Croft has been ruled out with an injury which has forced a much-needed shake-up to the spine with Anthony Milford moving back to five-eighth and Darius Boyd to fullback.

Perhaps the shake-up will be good for the Broncos because lets be honest, it could not get much worse.

The Sharks have racked up some big scores against some of the poorer teams in the competition, so should be salivating at the prospect of playing the horribly out of form Broncos.

The main question for the Sharks is their defence which can leak points at will.

The Dragons managed 24 points against them last round and in round 9, the Panthers put 56 on them, so if the Broncos can finally show something with the ball, they may be able to take advantage.

This match has a lot of meaning for both sides so expect some fiery clashes.

Sydney Roosters (4th) vs Gold Coast Titans (14th) Saturday 1 August 3pm @SCG

The Roosters escaped with a close win over the Warriors last round thanks mainly to the classy performance of Luke Keary, but the rest of the side were far from their best.

In fact, the Roosters have been far from their best for a little while and are now going to be without captain Boyd Cordner who is suffering concussion issues and Brett Morris is also out with a back injury.

There’s no doubt the Roosters still have enough talent to win this one, but the door may be slightly ajar for a Titans upset.

The Titans pushed the ladder-leading Panthers all the way last round in an honourable loss.

AJ Brimson has been named on the extended bench and if he is passed fit to play could provide a much-needed spark in attack for the Titans.

Their performances this year have been much better under coach Justin Holbrook and with some big new signings, they may become finals contenders in the next few years.

North Queensland Cowboys (12th) vs Canberra Raiders (5th) Saturday 1 August 5.30pm @Queensland Country Bank Stadium

Both sides have been ravaged by injuries this season, but one side is handling it better than the other.

The Cowboys are missing a host of stars and will now be without Josh McGuire who failed to overturn a one-match ban at the judiciary on Tuesday night.

They were competitive against Manly last round with their big boys Jason Taumalolo and Francis Molo both running for over 200 metres but their inexperienced halves pairing failed to fire.

The injury-hit Raiders have produced two gutsy wins over the Roosters and Rabbitohs the past two rounds and now some reinforcements have come into the side.

John Bateman has been named to start in the second row for his first game in 2020, while new recruit Corey Harawira-Naera has been named to make his Raiders debut off the bench.

Those two are both world-class players and provide the Raiders two quality strike weapons in attack.

Despite the new additions, the Raiders lost fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to a finger injury, shifting Jordan Rapana to fullback and providing an opportunity for Curtis Scott to regain some form at centre.

The Raiders and Cowboys met in Indigenous round in 2019 with the Cowboys getting the win.

Manly Sea Eagles (8th) vs Penrith Panthers (1st) Saturday 1 August 7.35pm @Lottoland

This game has the makings of a beauty with two top-eight sides to do battle at Lottoland.

Manly forced their way back into the top eight with a solid win over the Cowboys last round.

Addin Fonua-Blake made a huge difference to their forward pack, while five-eighth Cade Cust played his best game for the club.

They will need to improve on that performance though as they face a much bigger test against the Panthers this week.

The Panthers sit atop the ladder having only lost one game for the season.

Viliame Kikau has been named to return after missing last week’s match with a calf injury while Api Koroisau has been named on the extended bench so could make an early return from an elbow injury.

The Panthers haven’t been at their best the past two weeks but have still managed to come away with victories against poor opposition but will need to be close to their best to beat Manly on their home deck.

Canterbury Bulldogs (16th) vs Parramatta Eels (3rd) Sunday 2 August 2pm @ANZ Stadium

The Bulldogs finally got a much-deserved victory last round over the Knights and will be looking to knock over another top-four side this week.

They seemed to enjoy the wet conditions against the Knights as they scrapped and clawed their way to victory.

It will be a tougher test this week though against an Eels side who were back to their best.

The Eels dominated the second half against the Tigers last round and their front row of Joseph Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard ran for 465 metres between them in a powerful display.

Mitchell Moses made his return last round and scored a lovely chip and chase try and should only be better for the run.

They are as good as any side in the competition when they are on, so you would think they’d be too good for the Bulldogs.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been in sublime form for the Eels.

Melbourne Storm (2nd) vs Newcastle Knights (6th) Sunday 2 August 4.05pm @Sunshine Coast Stadium

The Storm are in terrific form having won their last five matches and with their best players all fit and firing, they look too  strong for the Knights.

Cameron Smith continues to lead his pack around expertly and shows no signs of slowing down whatsoever.

They have all the makings of a premiership side with their spine in tremendous form and their forward pack containing plenty of grunt and strike power.

The Knights had a horrible day last Sunday with a loss against the bottom-placed Bulldogs compounded by injuries to key players Andrew McCullough and Connor Watson.

Rookie Chris Randall has been called into replace McCullough at hooker, so he gets a huge opportunity to prove himself in the NRL.

There are several teams that are battling injuries right now so the Knights can’t use that as an excuse and just need to look at the Raiders win over the Roosters in round 10 as motivation that they can pull off the upset.


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