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NRL Round 23 preview panel

Preview of NRL Round 23 matches (all times AEST):
NRL Round 23 preview panel
by AAP

By David Barbeler

CANBERRA, Aug 14 AAP - Preview of NRL Round 23 matches (all times AEST):

FRIDAY, August 15

Parramatta v Canterbury at ANZ Stadium, 7.45pm

Head to Head: Eels 58 Bulldogs 72 drawn 5

Last clash: Round 14 2014 - Eels 22 bt Bulldogs 12 at ANZ Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Eels $1.90 Bulldogs $1.95

FootyTAB: Bulldogs +1.5

These two sides look poised to swap places with each other from their respective halves of the ladder. The ninth-placed Eels enter the clash on the back of three straight wins, while the floundering Bulldogs have slipped to eighth and are ripe for their fifth straight loss following Josh Reynolds' three game suspension. He'll be replaced at five-eighth by Moses Mbye, while at the Eels, Vai Toutai comes in for Bureta Faraimo on the wing, and Fuifui Moimoi starts at prop with Junior Paulo suspended.

Key: Obviously Jarryd Hayne. The competition's leading try scorer pretty much single-handedly stole the game from the Raiders last week. He'll have to step up again to give his side a chance here.

Tip: Eels

SATURDAY, August 16

Canberra v St George Illawarra at GIO Stadium, 3pm

Head to Head: Raiders 16 Dragons 6 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 20 2013 - Raiders 22 bt Dragons 18 at WIN Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Raiders $2.40 Dragons $1.60

FootyTAB: Raiders +6.5

Never before have the Raiders needed their famous hoodoo over the Dragons to come to their aid more than now. Having lost four straight, the Green Machine are now only ahead of the bottom-placed Sharks due to a better for-and-against. They showed promising signs against the Eels in Darwin last week - only losing late due to a Jarryd Hayne masterclass - and coach Ricky Stuart has named an unchanged line-up as a result. The 11th-placed Dragons are travelling pretty rough themselves with two straight losses, and need a win to stay in finals contention. They've tweaked their backline, with Gerard Beale moving to fullback, Adam Quinlan dropping out and Peter Mata'utia coming into the centres.

Key: Josh Dugan. Returning to Canberra for the first time since the Raiders gave him the boot last year, expect the NSW Origin centre to prove a point against his former club.

Tip: Dragons

Melbourne v Cronulla at AAMI Park, 5.30pm

Head to Head: Storm 17 Sharks 9

Last clash: Round 13 2013 - Storm 38 bt Sharks 6 at AAMI Park

Tab Sportsbet: Storm $1.10 Sharks $7.50

FootyTAB: Sharks +16.5

Both sides come into this match after letting slip golden opportunities to win their respective matches last week. That's in the past now, and seventh-placed Melbourne need to bounce back to keep their foothold in the top eight. They've named the same starting side, with Jordan McLean named on a five man bench, while the last-placed Sharks once again have a bit of a shuffle going on. With Andrew Fifita (arm) out for the season and Sam Tagataese suspended, Tim Robinson and Matt Prior will start. Captain Paul Gallen has also been named to return at lock after his late scratching last week.

Key: Melbourne winger Sisa Waqa had a great day at the office last week with four tries, 176 metres, six tackle breaks and three line breaks. He'll be eyeing some more meat against the Sharks.

Tip: Storm

Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters at Leichhardt Oval, 7.30pm

Head to Head: Tigers 8 Roosters 16

Last clash: Round 9 2014 - Roosters 30 bt Tigers 6 at Allianz Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $4.50 Roosters $1.22

FootyTAB: Tigers +10.5

The Tigers were absolutely humiliated by the Cowboys 64-6 last week following their off-field woes, and they now find themselves coming up against a side even higher on the ladder. The Roosters are cruising in fourth following their back-to-back wins, and despite a short turnaround, they'll have the luxury of naming the same 17 that defeated the Titans on Monday. Adding to the Tigers' dramas is the fact that Tim Simona is out with a knee injury, with Cory Paterson named to replace him in the centres. Prop Keith Galloway will return, however, pushing Ava Seumanufagai back to the bench.

Key: Robbie Farah. The Tigers' captain needs to lead from the front and put the off-field distractions of recent weeks behind him if his side is to have any chance of clawing their way back into the top eight.

Tip: Roosters

SUNDAY, August 17

Newcastle v Warriors at Hunter Stadium, 2pm

Head to Head: Knights 15 Warriors 15 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 12 2014 - Warriors 38 bt Knights 18 at Mt Smart Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Knights $2.50 Warriors $1.55

FootyTAB: Knights +5.5

After the Knights' pulled off a miraculous last-gasp win over the Storm last week, it's fair to say they're now safely out of wooden spoon contention. Interestingly, both these sides have won five of their last seven matches - and they'll both be boosted this week by the return of their key playmakers. Jarrod Mullen returns in the halves for the Knights from an abdominal strain, with Kurt Gidley shifting to fullback, while Beau Scott returns in the back row. There's just as much movement going on at the Warriors, with Shaun Johnson returning from his groin injury, while Dane Nielsen (concussion) and Tuimoala Lolohea (hamstring) are both out.

Key: Jarrod Mullen v Shaun Johnson. Which playmaker will find his rhythm faster after their respective stints on the sidelines?

Tip: Knights

Gold Coast v Manly at Cbus Super Stadium, 3pm

Head to Head: Titans 5 Sea Eagles 7

Last clash: Round 19 2013 - Sea Eagles 38 bt Titans 20 at Brookvale Oval

Tab Sportsbet: Titans $4.00 Sea Eagles $1.26

FootyTAB: Titans +10.5

How the mighty have fallen. The Titans have lost 10 of their last 12 to slide all the way from first to 13th. With John Cartwright now gone, this week will be their first under new coach Neil Henry. He hasn't made any drastic personnel decisions as yet, however, naming an unchanged side. Manly, who still hold onto an outright lead at the top of the ladder, got a rude shock against a red-hot Rabbitohs outfit last week. It brought a four game winning streak to an end, but Geoff Toovey has stuck to his guns, also naming an unchanged 17.

Key: Neil Henry. Can the former Cowboys mentor help give this down-and-out Titans side a respectable finish to the season? There should be a few players looking to impress the interim coach.

Tip: Sea Eagles

MONDAY, August 18

Penrith v North Queensland at Sportingbet Stadium, 7pm

Head to Head: Panthers 17 Cowboys 14

Last clash: Round 22 2013 - Cowboys 36 bt Panthers 4 at Sportingbet Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Panthers $2.00 Cowboys $1.85

FootyTAB: Panthers +2.5

Penrith might be four competition points ahead of North Queensland in third place, but the fifth-placed Cowboys have won their last four. The lads from up north are brimming with confidence, too, coming into this game after humiliating the Tigers 64-6 last week. The Panthers - who are minus Peter Wallace, Brent Kite and Elijah Taylor - put on their own impressive performance on Sunday when they held the Dragons at bay to get up 16-4. As a result, it's no surprise that both coaches have named unchanged sides.

Key: Cowboys co-captain Matthew Scott has averaged a staggering 204 metres per game since returning from injury two weeks ago. That sort of momentum is match-winning when you have on-song halves Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui playing off the back of it.

Tip: Cowboys

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