Round five of the NRL is headlined by a blockbuster Friday night matchup between two premiership contenders. Here are five reasons to watch the league this weekend.
Match of the round – Panthers vs Raiders
Both sides have been to a Grand Final in the last two seasons without tasting the ultimate success and look like contending again this season.
The undefeated Panthers head into this match on top of the ladder while the Raiders have lost just once.
While both teams have a host of stars in the backline, the highlight of this match will be the battle of the forward packs.
The Raiders receive a massive boost with Joe Tapine returning at lock. He adds to a pack featuring Josh Papalii, Elliott Whitehead and the vastly improved duo of Hudson Young and Ryan Sutton.
James Fisher-Harris, Isaah Yeo and Viliame Kikau headline a Panthers pack that do a great job of laying a platform for their star halves to play off.
The Panthers jumped the Raiders last year and the middle battle on Friday night will go a long way to deciding the outcome.
The resurgent Dragons biggest test
After a big loss in the Charity Shield, many were predicting the Dragons for the wooden spoon, but three straight wins has them sitting 6th after the first month of footy.
New coach Anthony Griffin seems to have his veterans back to their best with the likes of Corey Norman, Andrew McCullough and Tariq Sims all in fine form.
Despite the strong start, there are still question marks over their finals credentials and facing a quality side like the Eels should tell us how good the Dragons really are.
The return of Ponga
Kalyn Ponga’s return to the Knights side couldn’t be timelier, with the side losing Mitchell Pearce, Kurt Mann and Tex Hoy to injury.
At his best, Ponga is one of the most exciting players in the competition, with his dazzling footwork providing many highlights over his 68 NRL games.
The 23-year-old will have a huge role to play to get the injury ravaged Knights back on the winners list against a decent Titans outfit.
It’s also a big game for the Titans after they struggled against the Raiders last week so expect them to come out fired up.
Can the Bulldogs get on the board?
The Bulldogs have gone over 240 minutes without registering a single point, with their last points a 76th minute conversion all the way back in round one.
They failed to score a point in three consecutive matches against the Panthers, Broncos and Rabbitohs and now come up against the Storm.
Their coach Trent Barrett was recruited as an offensive genius who did wonders for the Panthers attack, but he’s now finding out it’s a bit tougher to score when you don’t have the talent.
The Storm are an incredibly tough team to play against and while it would take a miracle to cause an upset, surely Bulldogs fans would settle to see just one try.
Remembering Tommy Raudonikis
Raudonikis is one of the game’s great characters and the rugby league community is in mourning after his passing on Wednesday morning, 7 April.
He played 238 games and represented NSW and Australia but will be remembered as much for his personality as his on-field ability.
While it’s always sad to lose these legends of the game, watching and reading Tommy Raudonikis stories will be something to enjoy during the weekend. And, of course reliving the classic vision of him and his teammates slapping each other pre-game.