Expert breakdown of NRL Magic Round matches

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Bulldogs (13) v Raiders (11)

Friday, 6pm

Finally, some relief for the Bulldogs on the injury front with Jacob Kiraz, Max King and Franklin Pele named to make their returns after Canterbury’s narrow win over the Dragons last week. But Braidon Burns (knee) and Fa’amanu Brown are out. Cameron Ciraldo’s side face another scheduling nightmare, going from the last fame of round nine to the first of Magic Round. There’s some good news for the Raiders after their heart-stopper against the Dolphins last week, with Xavier Savage (jaw) back on the wing in place of Albert Hopoate. The Raiders have won their last six matches against the Bulldogs stretching back to 2018. Raiders by 8.

Adam Pengilly

Sea Eagles (6) v Broncos (1)

Friday, 8.05pm

Both sides are coming off arguably their worst performances of the year but this is still a marquee clash.

Jake Trbojevic is a massive loss for Manly, he’s the glue in their middle, and Brisbane should hold a significant upper hand in the middle with Payne Haas returning alongside Patrick Carrigan. The Sea Eagles get Tom Trbojevic and Tolu Koula back out wide, and Daly Cherry-Evans will have to match Adam Reynolds’ NRL-best kicking game – at the very least – for the visitors to hold their own. Anthony Seibold has done some impressive things since arriving at Manly but this was always going to be the true test of his mettle – when the Sea Eagles’ regular off-field ructions surface as they have this week. Can’t see anything but a big Brisbane win given the state of play for both clubs. Broncos by 14.

Dan Walsh

Warriors (8) v Panthers (7)

Saturday, 3pm

Some recent hiccups for both teams, with one of them facing the prospect of losing three consecutive games.

Cody Walker, Luke Brooks, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Ryan Matterson and Cameron Munster.Credit: Getty

Penrith became the first team in forever to lose to Wests Tigers, while Andrew Webster’s men could squander a promising start to the season if they drop another “home” game. James Fisher-Harris is a big inclusion for the defending premiers up front, while Spencer Leniu (calf) is also a chance of playing after being named on an extended bench. The Warriors have two big ins of their own in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Tohu Harris. The Panthers face the prospect of dropping out of the top eight if they can’t get it done on Saturday, but should have enough class to prevail. Panthers by 6.

Adrian Proszenko

Sharks (2) v Dolphins (9)

Saturday, 5.30pm

Dolphins players will need little extra motivation to lift for Wayne Bennett’s 900th game as a coach.

Nicho Hynes is flying.Credit: Getty

The only concern with the NRL newcomers is how much energy they have exerted mentally after somehow reeling in Gold Coast, then going down to Canberra in golden point. They will also find points hard to come by if Cronulla aim up in defence like they did last week. The Sharks have too much strike on both sides of the park, Nicho Hynes in form, and while Braden Hamlin-Uele is a big loss up front, the Sharks welcome back Dale Finucane. Sharks by 8

Christian Nicolussi

Storm (4) v Rabbitohs (3)

Saturday, 7.45pm

Melbourne muscled up last time they played Souths and few sides could have held out a fast-finishing Rabbitohs outfit like they did in round five.

Latrell Mitchell.Credit: Getty

They’ll need to go above and beyond again though because that’s exactly what the Bunnies have done since – none more than Latrell Mitchell. Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona returned against the Warriors with similar game-breaking impact on Anzac Day, and Lachlan Ilias can expect him to run those wide lines at him again. Cameron Munster tussling with Cody Walker is worth the price of admission alone. It could well be a piece of individual brilliance that swings this. Rabbitohs by 4.

Dan Walsh

Tigers (17) v Dragons (15)

Sunday, 1.50pm

The Tigers will be humming after their gritty win last week, a victory which had been brewing for some time. Luke Brooks is a confidence player and could not have played any better. Rookie fullback Jahream Bula gives the Tigers an extra dimension in attack. He has almost made life easier for Brooks overnight. The Dragons are in all sorts of strife. They’ve forgotten how to win, and head into this one with talk of Anthony Griffin’s future at fever pitch. Jayden Sullivan will provide spark off the bench, and Moses Suli needs early involvement. The sad thing is the Dragons should have beaten the Dogs, Roosters, Raiders and Titans in the past month – but they didn’t. Tigers by 4.

Christian Nicolussi

Roosters (5) v Cowboys (16)

Sunday, 4pm

Are the Roosters back? They might not have been ultra-convincing in the past fortnight, but the tricolours are starting to show why they were pre-season premiership favourites with a shutout of the depleted Warriors last week. And they’ll face a struggling Cowboys, who look a shadow of the team which was a few minutes away from a grand final spot last year. Roosters coach Trent Robinson has resisted moving Joseph Manu back to the centres after Paul Momirovski’s shoulder injury, drafting Drew Hutchison into the centres. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is back in the front row with Jake Turpin joining the bench. Jeremiah Nanai (suspension) and Tom Chester (knee) are omissions for North Queensland, who have lost their last five against the Roosters. Roosters by 14.

Adam Pengilly

Titans (10) v Eels (12)

Sunday, 6.25pm

We finally saw a glimpse of the form last week that propelled Parramatta to last year’s grand final. However, the Gold Coast will provide a sterner test than a Newcastle side that collapsed after a spirited start to the season. The Titans, surprise winners over Manly, will be without AJ Brimson (hamstring), while veteran playmaker Kieran Foran will need to prove his fitness after playing through painful knee and toe injuries. The Eels have lost a host of close games to the top sides and can’t afford a slip-up against the ones they are expected to beat if they are to make the finals. Brad Arthur’s team, bolstered by the returns of Ryan Matterson, Bailey Simonsson and mid-season recruit Andrew Davey, will be too good. Eels by 8.

Adrian Proszenko

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