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NRL Round 9 preview panel

Preview of League Round 9 matches (all times AEST):
NRL Round 9 preview panel
by AAP

By Ben Horne, Laine Clark and David Barbeler

SYDNEY, May 8 AAP - Preview of League Round 9 matches (all times AEST):


Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers at Allianz Stadium 7.40pm

Head to Head: Roosters 15 Tigers 8

Last clash: Round 23 2013 - Roosters 56 bt Tigers 14 at Allianz Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $1.26 Tigers $4.00

FootyTAB: Tigers +9.5

After receiving a needle for his throbbing shoulder, James Maloney will look to give his NSW State of Origin hopes a shot in the arm against the Wests Tigers. After missing the City-Country match due to injury - and he was no Robinson Crusoe there - chances are running out for Maloney to impress NSW coach Laurie Daley, with Bulldogs pivot Josh Reynolds and Newcastle's Jarrod Mullen getting the jump on the Blues' No.6 jersey. Roosters teammate Michael Jennings will also be out to prove a point after returning from injury. The fifth-placed Roosters will look to keep their hold on fourth-ranked Wests Tigers. The visitors have beaten the Roosters just once in the past eight meetings - way back in 2011.

Key: Anyone in the Roosters line-up with a hyphen in his name. An angry man at the best of times, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be even more miffed than usual after being brushed by the Kiwis for the trans-Tasman Test, along with Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Shaun Kenny-Dowall. And Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be just as fired up after New Zealand went oh-so-close against Australia.

Tip: Roosters

North Queensland v Brisbane at 1300SMILES Stadium 7.40pm

Head to Head: Cowboys 8 Broncos 27 drawn 2

Last clash: Round 2 2014 - Broncos 16 bt Cowboys 12 at Suncorp Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Cowboys $1.80 Broncos $2.05

FootyTAB: Broncos +1.5

It is uncertain whether Anthony Griffin is a fan of the classic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, but the Brisbane coach might be able to relate to one of the comedy's many classic lines by full-time in this derby: "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." In one of his great gambles, Griffin has dropped a seemingly in-form Ben Hannant and installed an out-of-sorts Martin Kennedy in his starting front row. Former Test prop Hannant couldn't even get on the bench, and was replaced by all-but-forgotten forward David Hala - a Broncos regular in 2011. What makes the call even more mystifying is Brisbane need all the forward muscle they can get without Sam Thaiday (calf) against a Cowboys pack Griffin admits is the best in the league. And Griffin insists his selection is based on form. Still confused?

Key: Will ex-Rooster Kennedy finally stand up and be counted for the Broncos? The least-productive Brisbane prop has been handed a huge chance by Griffin. With Queensland selectors watching for May 28's Origin I and a big Cowboys pack to defy, Kennedy won't get a bigger incentive to perform than this.

Tip: Cowboys


Warriors v Canberra at Eden Park 3.00pm

Head to Head: Warriors 13 Raiders 17

Last clash: Round 25 2013 - Warriors 50 bt Raiders 16 at Mt Smart Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Warriors $1.47 Raiders $2.75

FootyTAB: Raiders +6.5

Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell revealed his shortcomings this week, and was fined $5000 by his NRL club for sharing a sex tape leaked on the internet. Fans may have already seen more of Hurrell than they had bargained for this week, but would have no problem with the hulking centre turning heads while on camera in the televised Raiders clash. Both sides know their way to the try line but can't get out of the NRL cellar, with the 13th-placed Warriors sitting just ahead of Canberra (both 3-5 records), who have lost three straight.

Key: Raiders giant Josh Papalii comes off the bench after a stint in the second-tier Queensland Cup just in time to impress Maroons selectors, along with another Canberra forward keen to provide a not-so-subtle reminder, David Shillington.

Tip: Warriors

Gold Coast v South Sydney at Cbus Super Stadium 5.30pm

Head to Head: Titans 4 Souths 6

Last clash: Round 20 2013 - Souths 32 bt Titans 4 at Cbus Super Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Titans $2.75 Souths $1.47

FootyTAB: Titans +6.5

The Titans might be equal first on the table, but such has been the closeness of their wins that the seventh-placed Rabbitohs have a much better for-and-against. Both teams are on just a one match-winning run, so momentum is limited, especially after last week's break. The Rabbitohs are unchanged after their dramatic win over the Broncos, while William Zillman returns for the Titans at centre. Both forward packs are littered with rep players, so expect a cracking battle up front.

Key: Souths forwards Ben Te'o and Chris McQueen need to lift their game quickly or their Maroons hopes will be all but finished.

Tip: Souths

Melbourne v Manly at AAMI Park 7.30pm

Head to Head: Storm 14 Sea Eagles 11 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 1 2014 - Storm 23 bt Sea Eagles 22 at Brookvale Oval

Tab Sportsbet: Storm $1.45 Sea Eagles $2.80

FootyTAB: Sea Eagles +6.5

One of the great NRL rivalries takes on a different form this week. Melbourne are yet to find their stride in 2014 and Manly are ravaged by injury. The Sea Eagles are without five-eighth Kieran Foran, and could yet lose halfback Daly Cherry-Evans to injury before kick-off in Melbourne. Add to the mix skipper Jamie Lyon and inspirational forward Glenn Stewart, and the Sea Eagles have a mountain to climb. However, they won't need extra motivation to get up for their arch-nemesis - particularly after the Storm overturned a 20-point deficit in round one to get the chocolates in golden point at Brookvale. Melbourne will be desperate to get another win on the board with the gruelling State of Origin period looming.

Key: This is a big test for the Storm's attack, which has been uncharacteristically disjointed in recent weeks. The Sea Eagles will present a tough challenge, but without key players are there for the taking if Melbourne's big three can rediscover their mojo.

Tip: Storm

SUNDAY, May 11

Newcastle v Penrith at Hunter Stadium 2.00pm

Head to Head: Knights 22 Panthers 14 drawn 3

Last clash: Round 1 2014 - Panthers 30 bt Knights 8 at Sportingbet Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Knights $1.57 Panthers $2.45

FootyTAB: Panthers +4.5

The Panthers will be desperate to bounce back after their 24-20 loss to the cellar-dweller Sharks. They've done so after every loss this season, and should do so again against the equal-last Knights, who are on a two-match losing streak despite the recent return of Jarrod Mullen. For the Panthers, utility Tyrone Peachey will cover injured forward Elijah Taylor, while Sam McKendry replaces prop Tim Grant. Meanwhile, Knights winger Akuila Uate returns for Jake Mamo, and David Fa'alogo is in for Zane Tetevano.

Key: Jamal Idris. He was man of the match at the weekend, yet Country coach Trent Barrett believes the steamrolling centre's best footy is still to come.

Tip: Panthers

St George-Illawarra v Canterbury at ANZ Stadium 3.00pm

Head to Head: Dragons 10 Bulldogs 16

Last clash: Round 21 2013 - Bulldogs 39 bt Dragons 20 at WIN Jubilee Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Dragons $2.75 Bulldogs $1.47

FootyTAB: Dragons +6.5

A good old-fashioned Sydney derby for Mother's Day, which should bring the best out in both teams. Canterbury are on the top of the table but even they would admit they've been lucky to escape, with three consecutive one-point wins and another tight one against Newcastle. The Dragons might not look a premiership threat, but they're a tough outfit who won't go away and the Bulldogs will need to execute. St George Illawarra have recalled halfback Sam Williams to first grade, and there's no shortage of pressure on the No.7, with the club closing in on Benji Marshall's signature. This is a massive test for Dragons fullback Josh Dugan, who needs a big game not only to lift his side but also to cement a NSW State of Origin jersey.

Key: Ball handling let the Dragons down badly on Anzac Day against the Roosters, and without Jason Nightingale on the wing - the red Vs' attack is going to have to be precise to trouble the 'Dogs.

Tip: Bulldogs

MONDAY, May 12

Parramatta v Cronulla at Pirtek Stadium 7.00pm

Head to Head: Eels 37 Sharks 41

Last clash: Round 14 2013 - Sharks 32 bt Eels 14 at Remondis Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Eels $1.70 Sharks $2.20

FootyTAB: Sharks +3.5

Cronulla have looked a rejuvenated side with inspirational skipper Paul Gallen back in the fold in recent weeks, and they'll once again rely heavily on the NSW State of Origin warrior against the Eels. It's a must-win match for the Sharks, who need to quickly make up ground to stay in touch with the top eight. Cronulla will do it tough without five-eighth Todd Carney (hamstring), but do welcome back Luke Lewis for the first time in 2014, and the veteran utility will slot into the No.6. It's a special occasion for both clubs, particularly Parramatta prop Tim Mannah, with the Johnny Mannah Cup on the line, in his brother's honour. The Eels were smashed by North Queensland in their last clash in Townsville, but showed earlier in the season after being cleaned up by the Sydney Roosters they are capable of bouncing back. Parramatta need to find consistency and it must start here.

Key: Cronulla always play tough football, regardless of who they're missing, and Parramatta are going to have to be prepared to get their hands dirty. If Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow fire, the Eels have more than enough points to secure an important victory.

Tip: Sharks

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