Eels Miss Top 4? How many more Brooks chances? Meaney wasted on the wing? Steeler’s stripes?

Round 17 is the second of the two split rounds, with just eight weeks to go before the finale.

No more interruptions, no more Origin taking the focus away from the NRL.

Unlike the last few seasons, which have been delayed, rearranged and ended late, this season has flown by and a sense of normality has returned to the rugby league landscape.

Well, as normal as rugby league can be.

Despite losing Nicho Hynes and Toby Rudolf to the spicy cough, Cronulla has a golden chance to draw level with an exhausted Melbourne side to start Round 17.

Newcastle need to be upset with a similarly exhausted Bunnies team at home on Friday to remain in with a realistic shot at a top-eight finish.

The Wests Tigers are desperate to boil over the wobbly Eels on Saturday night to end their losing streak and also avoid falling to last place when the Titans get their two bye points.

And Sunday’s game is a lottery with Brisbane badly hit by injuries and representative duties, while the Dragons are just as difficult to predict as it’s almost impossible to know at this stage whether they will fight their way to a win or not be in the Contest.


Sharks vs Storm at PointsBet Stadium, 7:50pm

Can Braydon Trindall take this trick? Over the past few seasons, the young playmaker seemed to be following a similar pattern to full-back Will Kennedy as he established himself as a key figure in Cronulla’s future. A preseason suspension meant Matt Moylan and Nicho Hynes started the year halfway and Trindall barely got a peek inside. With Hynes (COVID) ruled out for at least this week, Trindall has a chance to show Craig Fitzgibbon he deserves more playing time when he takes on one of the NRL’s mold halves, Jahrome Hughes.

Is Nick Meaney wasted on the wing? The utility back moves to five eighths this round with Cameron Munster on Origin duty. Meaney won’t get a start in the halves or on his favorite full-back when the storm is at full strength, but with Reimis Smith now out for the rest of the year with his chest tear, Meaney is a potential option at centres. He’s not the biggest body, but his defenses are solid and he has more than enough skill to flank anyone outside of him.


Knights v Rabbitohs at McDonald Jones Stadium, 7.55pm

Can Bradman Best stay injury-free? Knights Center has written a future Origin representative all over the place, but he’s been hampered by a series of injuries since his debut in late 2019. He has only played 11 games in his first full season, 17 last year and is up to 11 this year a season that was cut short by a dislocated elbow in May against the Broncos. On a decent run without injury, he has the potential to be a much-needed game changer for the Knights on the left if they can give him the ball early in space, which was also a problem.

Bradman Best of Knights

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Will Bunnies Enforce Rep Sets? They got the Eels to make five line dropouts with clever kicks in the red zone last Saturday, with Lachlan Ilias and Alex Johnston putting up two each and Cody Walker forcing another. Only the first in the first few minutes led directly to a try, but the cumulative effect snowballed on Parra and led to an emphatic 30-12 win for the Rabbitohs. It was reminiscent of their slippery defense from yesterday (like last year) and they’ll need a lot more of that kind of play to swing 8-7 out of their seventh-place midfield position.


Tigers v Eels at the Leichhardt Oval, 7.35pm

Is this the last of Luke Brooks’ last chances? Adam Doueihi is now back in the starting XI. It was ridden there by Michael Maguire a few years ago when, at five eighths, he wasn’t giving enough to the outsiders. Jackson Hastings is established as a halfback and even Brooks admitted during the week that Doueihi’s best position is five eighths. After the Tigers lost their last seven games with Brooks in the No. 6 jersey, caretaker coach Brett Kimmorley will have little reason to continue with him if they take another flogging from the Eels.


(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Will the eels make the top 4? A few months ago they looked like certainties, but after being beaten by Souths last week they’re down to sixth place. They have a couple of winnable games in the Tigers and Warriors next before finishing with finals sides in five of their last seven games, with their only two games against sides outside the eight being ninth-placed Manly and the improving Bulldogs who beat them a few weeks ago.


Broncos vs. Dragons at Suncorp Stadium, 4:05 p.m

Is Tyson a surefire gamble? In the six games he has played for Brisbane this year, they have won every time. That doesn’t mean he’s their number one player, quite the opposite, but his competitive instincts seem to ignite a fire in his teammates, there’s more than a hint of Josh Reynolds DNA in the five-eighths of his former Wests Tigers.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JULY 3: Dragon players celebrate winning the Round of 16 NRL game between St George Illawarra Dragons and Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium on July 3, 2022 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Dragons players celebrate defeating Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Should Dragons wear Steelers stripes more often? damn yes It was great to see them parade in the Illawarra uniform in celebration of the Steelers’ 40th anniversary last Sunday. There was a time when the Illawarra side of the joint venture struggled to pay itself, but that changed a few years ago when the Gordon family’s WIN-TV media empire came on board. The Red V jersey is iconic, but the Steelers stripe should become the full-time alternate outfit, not the horrible mish-mash they currently have as a second option. Eels Miss Top 4? How many more Brooks chances? Meaney wasted on the wing? Steeler's stripes?

Nate Jones

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