The Cowboys have some work to do.
The Cowboys have some work to do. Evan Morgan

Durko's dissections: NRL previews for round 19

SHARKS v COWBOYS

PointsBet Stadium, Thursday, 7.50pm

History: Played 47, Sharks 29, Cowboys 18. Last met: Sharks 42-16, round 3, 2019. Ladbroke odds: Sharks $1.53, Cowboys $2.45

This is desperation stakes. With seven rounds remaining and both sides stuck on 16 competition points but only two points outside the eight, a loss would almost certainly end realistic hopes of any footy after the first week in September. Inexplicably, the Sharks have lost their past five and are again hit with injury and suspension, while the Cowboys surrendered meekly against the Rabbitohs last weekend for their fourth loss in five outings. A 14-5 winning record at Shark Park tips the scales. TIP - Sharks

KNIGHTS v TIGERS

McDonald Jones Stadium, Friday, 6.00pm

History: Played 26, Knights 13, Tigers 13. Last met: Tigers 25-16, round 21, 2018. Ladbroke odds: Knights $1.50, Tigers $2.55

One win from their past five matches has brought the Knights back to reality, and in danger of dropping out of the eight. They were hot for 60 minutes against the Roosters last weekend but succumbed when the heat was applied and looked a weary outfit. However, they are almost back to full strength and at home, against a Tigers line-up that is gritty but also fading, this could be the weekend to turn around their fortunes. Robbie Farah 300th NRL-game celebration may lift the Tigers. TIP - Knights

Ben Hunt returns for the Dragons.
Ben Hunt returns for the Dragons.

RABBITOHS v DRAGONS

ANZ Stadium, Friday, 7.55pm

History: Played 32, Dragons 17, Rabbitohs 15. Last met: Rabbitohs 34-18, round 2, 2019. Ladbroke odds: Rabbitohs $1.38, Dragons $3.00

Both sides have named some big guns to return, notably skipper Gareth Widdop and rested halfback Ben Hunt for the Dragons. But unless the Dragons can rekindle the teamwork from earlier in the season when they won four of their first five, big names will mean nothing and their $251 premiership price will balloon even further. The Rabbitohs, conversely, showed admirable spirit when well below strength last weekend and should down their old nemesis for the second time this season, albeit yet again without a Burgess brother. TIP - Rabbitohs

EELS v WARRIORS

Bankwest Stadium, Saturday, 3.00pm

History: Played 39, Eels 21, Warriors 18. Last met: Warriors 24-14, round 11, 2018. Ladbroke odds: Eels $1.55, Warriors $2.40

Toss the coin. These are two of the best Jekyll and Hyde impersonators in the NRL and form means absolutely nothing when assessing their chances. While the Warriors have been competitive since a 36-18 hiding in round eight, the Eels rollercoaster win-loss run in the same period has conceded 25 points a game. If the law of averages counts for anything, the Eels should win. TIP - Eels

Matt Gillett will face the Titans. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Matt Gillett will face the Titans. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

TITANS V BRONCOS

Cbus Super Stadium, Saturday, 5.30m

History: Played 26, Broncos 19, Titans 7. Last met: Titans 26-18, round 13, 2019. Ladbroke odds: Titans $2.90, Broncos $1.42

No complacency will exist in the Broncos ranks on Saturday if coach Anthony Seibold has done his job. Not only did the Titans humiliate big brother just six weeks ago, but history says teams lift soon after a coach is sacked. The Broncos have too much at stake to be humbled again, and the return of the experienced Matt Gillett should ensure their minds are on the job. The Titans will be stoic, but class, pride and youthful enthusiasm will prevail. TIP - Broncos

STORM v SEA EAGLES

AAMI Park, Saturday, 7.35pm

History: Played 34, Storm 19, Sea Eagles 14, drawn 1. Last met: Storm 14-13, round 18, 2018. Ladbroke odds: Storm $1.32, Sea Eaglees $3.30

Sitting fifth and doubtless the greatest surprise packets of 2019, this is the test to reveal whether the Sea Eagles are genuine premiership contenders, or just another pretender. History under Des Hasler says they aren't overawed by playing the Storm in Melbourne and recent results underline a team qualified to test the purple juggernaut. But with their five rested Origin stars returning and a smashing win last weekend under their belt, the $1.32 price about the competition leaders in this looks about right. TIP - Storm

The Bulldogs could be in for a tough afternoon. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
The Bulldogs could be in for a tough afternoon. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

BULLDOGS v ROOSTERS

ANZ Stadium, Sunday, 2.00pm

History: Played 174, Roosters 89, Bulldogs 80, drawn 5. Last met: Roosters 38-12, round 14, 2019. Ladbroke odds: Bulldogs $5.75, Roosters $ 1.13

How can a team sitting second last on the table and having scored an average 12.7 points a game in 2019 be any hope of beating the reigning premiers who last week flexed their considerable muscle? The Bulldogs welcome back Aiden Tolman and Lachlan Lewis, but even though the Roosters are again without the courageous Jake Friend, they will win, and will win well. TIP - Roosters

PANTHERS v RAIDERS

Panthers Stadium, Sunday, 4.05pm

History: Played 75, Panthers 38, Raiders 36, drawn 1. Last met: Raiders 30-12, round 8, 2019. Ladbroke odds: Panthers $1.90, Raiders $1.90

Only the imperious Storm have conceded less points after 18 rounds than the Raiders, whose defensive prowess has had a dramatic turnaround. So the Panthers, who have won five of their past seven against the Green Machine and boast a 19-12 home record against them, will need to bring all their tricks to win this, especially without suspended powerhouse Viliame Kikau. But with seven wins on the trot this is their chance - at home - to prove they are the real deal. As the betting indicates, this should go down to the wire. TIP - Raiders