Shaun Johnson could make his return for the Sharks.
Shaun Johnson could make his return for the Sharks. Tony Feder

Durko's dissections: NRL previews for round 14

CANBERRA and Cronulla will do battle on Thursday night in the opening game of round 14 and it promises to be a classic.

Ricky Stuart has got the Green Machine humming along nicely in fourth spot on the NRL ladder while the Sharks are sixth and also looking like genuine contenders.

Veteran rugby league insider Tony Durkin previews the GIO Stadium showdown along with all the other round 14 action.

RAIDERS v SHARKS

GIO Stadium, Thursday, 7.50pm

History: Played 71, Sharks 39, Raiders 32. Last met: Sharks 28-24, round 19, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Raiders $1.80, Sharks $2

With early frontrunners the Roosters and Rabbitohs stumbling in recent weeks, these two sides are starting to appear genuine premiership threats - particularly when at full strength. Both were very impressive last weekend and this looks an even-money bet considering they stand at 14-all in their past meetings in the national capital. The Sharks have Josh Morris and possibly Shaun Johnson back, but the Raiders are still without Josh Hodgson, and that could be the difference. TIP - Sharks

Kevin Proctor has been ruled out for the Titans after suffering a fractured eye socket. Picture: AAP Image
Kevin Proctor has been ruled out for the Titans after suffering a fractured eye socket. Picture: AAP Image

TITANS v WARRIORS

Cbus Super Stadium, Friday, 6pm

History: Played 25, Warriors 17, Titans 8. Last met: Warriors 26-10, round 4, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Titans $2, Warriors $1.80

Unless last weekend's surprising win over the Broncos has reinvigorated Titans supporters, more Warriors fans are likely to attend tomorrow evening, hence the reason the Kiwis have a 7-5 winning record on the Gold Coast. But with both teams languishing near the bottom of the ladder, the major question is which version of each turns up on the day. The Warriors have won seven of the past eight clashes between the teams. TIP - Warriors

COWBOYS v TIGERS

1300Smiles Stadium, Friday, 7.55pm

History: Played 35, Tigers 19, Cowboys 16. Last met: Tigers 20-12, round 10, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Cowboys $1.60, Tigers $2.32

With nine of their squad on the injured list and a win desperately wanted to keep their season alive, the Cowboys will need something special against the dogged Tigers. These are two of five sides sitting in a tug of war on the edge of the eight, and victory will break the deadlock. Although the Cowboys are down on troops, the Tigers have lost three on the trot, including two hidings. They appear to have flatlined, leaving them extremely vulnerable in Townsville, where they have won just five times in 16 visits. TIP - Cowboys

Mitchell Pearce will get a chance to press his Origin claims.
Mitchell Pearce will get a chance to press his Origin claims.

STORM v KNIGHTS

AAMI Park, Saturday, 3pm

History: Played 40, Storm 25, Knights 15. Last met: Storm 28-10, round 15, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Storm $1.38, Knights $3

Obviously when the 2019 draw was made, none of the aficionados expected the Knights to be sitting fifth midway through the season. This is without doubt the match of the round and deserves better scheduling, but at least the 3pm Saturday timeslot should ensure a dry surface and fast, open footy. On the back of six successive wins the Knights welcome back the brilliant Kalyn Ponga, but the absence of David Klemmer against the mobile Storm pack could be telling. The Knights have won just twice at AAMI Park in 11 visits, and with the Storm almost at full strength this is a barometer for just where the visitors rate in the premiership race. TIP - Storm

RABBITOHS v PANTHERS

ANZ Stadium, Saturday, 5.30pm

History: Played 82, Rabbitohs 46, Panthers 35, drawn 1. Last met: Rabbitohs 22-18, round 7, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Rabbitohs $1.48, Panthers $2.60

With the Rabbitohs struggling for depth to cover the loss of big guns Adam Reynolds and Sam and Tom Burgess, in particular, the seemingly born-again Panthers appear capable of causing an upset in this. A Blues pivot spot is on the line, so much interest will be on the clash of Cody Walker and James Maloney, while Panthers skipper James Tamou could also be on trial for a State of Origin recall. The Panthers have never beaten the Rabbits at ANZ Stadium, a stat unlikely to change. TIP - Rabbitohs

Sean O'Sullivan gets his chance in the Broncos No.7 jersey. (Peter Wallis)
Sean O'Sullivan gets his chance in the Broncos No.7 jersey. (Peter Wallis)

EELS v BRONCOS

Bankwest Stadium, Saturday, 7.35pm

History: Played 54, Broncos 32, Eels 21, drawn 1. Last met: Broncos 18-10, round 12, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Eels $1.80, Broncos $2

After missing a golden opportunity last weekend to secure a top-eight spot and prove they are a genuine finals chance, the Broncos simply must win against the equally sporadic Eels. Boosted by the return of some Origin experience, but blooding a rookie half against the impressive Mitch Moses, the Broncos will need their young forwards to toughen up against a pack that won't take a backward step. This will be close. TIP - Broncos

SEA EAGLES v DRAGONS

Lottoland, Sunday, 2pm

History: Played 28, Dragons 19, Sea Eagles 9. Last met: Dragons 12-10, round 6, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Sea Eagles $1.50, Dragons $2.55

Comebacks, gutsy wins and impressive character haven't been words aimed at either the Sea Eagles or Dragons all that often in 2019, but they both go into this round 14 clash on a high following wins that epitomise those traits. The Dragons, with Corey Norman back pulling the strings, broke a five-match losing streak, and the Eagles won in north Queensland, always a mammoth task. Although Brookvale can be a graveyard for visiting teams, the Dragons - since merging - are almost on level pegging there and have a 19-9 winning record overall. TIP - Sea Eagles

Latrell Mitchell will line up for the Roosters after coming under plenty of scrutiny. Picture: Brett Costello
Latrell Mitchell will line up for the Roosters after coming under plenty of scrutiny. Picture: Brett Costello

ROOSTERS v BULLDOGS

SCG, Sunday, 4.05pm

History: Played 173, Roosters 88, Bulldogs 80, drawn 5. Last met: Roosters 6-nil, round 7, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Roosters $1.16, Bulldogs $5

Three successive losses by the premiers was not something most pundits expected, but heading into the second half of the season the once red-hot favourites to go back-to-back would appear to be struggling, albeit without some of their gun troops. But try as they may, the Bulldogs simply don't have the bite to upset the flashy premiers. TIP - Roosters

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