NRL Tips expert Steve Green has previewed the huge Thursday night clash between rivals St George Illawarra and South Sydney.
Although the Dragons forward pack is their strength, for this one they will be without Jack de Belin, Tyson Frizell and Korbin Sims.
In years past, the Dragons have started the season after a perfect preparation and with a full-strength squad. However, this year’s pre-season was interrupted with the De Belin drama, and now they are heading into this one missing three guys that would be in my top 17 if I was picking this team.
On top of that, Coach McGregor looks set to continue leaving Lomax out, so it’s a much weaker team that I had pencilled in pre-season.
On a positive note, I thought Blake Lawrie played really well and deserved the extra game time, while Norman had some quality touches.
Ravalawa tried hard and made plenty of metres, but his errors were costly and I think there is a chance Lomax is given his wing spot very soon!
As for Souths, they will be very happy with their performance against the Roosters. Thanks to a pinpoint kicking game by Reynolds, the Bunnies adapted perfectly to the wet weather footy.
Cameron Murray continues to get better, Sam Burgess was good as always, while Braiden Burns played awesome and showed why he has been given a spot in this starting line-up and why Gagai might find himself on the wing this year.
Finally, at the back Johnston showed that maybe he is the long-term solution for Souths number 1 position… with a blistering performance punctuated by a try that was scored through pure speed.
Although the bookies are right to have Souths favourite, there are a few reasons why Dragons will fancy themselves here.
Firstly, the Cowboys have Taumalolo and no other club has a player so destructive! It’s no exaggeration to say that without him playing, the Cowboys don’t win that game.
Not only did he make 300 metres, including 2 crucial line breaks… he took so much stopping and played the ball so fast, that he also got the Cowboys’ other forward marching forward.
While Souths have some quality forwards too, the Dragons will be happy to be out of Townsville’s heat and back home in front of the Kogarah faithful.
Secondly, I like that Coach McGregor has brought in Josh Kerr, as his big body was sorely missed last weekend.
I think there is also a good chance that Dufty and Leilua are brought in earlier in this match, with Coach ‘Mary’ stuffing up royally by leaving them on the bench as the game against the Cowboys slipped away.
I also think that the chemistry between Hunt, Norman and Widdop will improve with time, and I am expecting them to be better at the end of their sets this Friday night.
On my player ratings, these two squads match up well, with the Souths slightly better due to last weekend form… but the Dragons home ground advantage tips it back to being about even on my model.
Recommended Bet: St George Illawarra Dragons +4.5
Steve will cover every NRL game for the season, as well as State of Origin and Internationals.
New to this season, Steve will also be recommending some half-time plays on selected games.