Expert breakdown of NRL round 13 matches

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Dolphins (6) v Dragons (17)

Thursday 7.50pm, Kayo Stadium

Dead cat bounce or a genuine Red V revival? The fun proper starts now for the Dragons with the dust settled after Anthony Griffin’s sacking. Still, how could you not get warm and fuzzy about that thrilling last play to pinch a win against the Roosters last week? Without Origin star Ben Hunt and a slew of other regulars through injury, the trip north is a tough one for second-game coach Ryan Carr. The Dolphins are also short several stars — Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Tom Gilbert and Felise Kaufusi — but Wayne Bennett has had a bit of practice with depleted sides over the years. Dolphins by 10.

Dan Walsh

Eels (13) v Cowboys (14)

Friday 8pm, CommBank Stadium

Preliminary final combatants one year, 13th v 14th the next.

Perhaps no sides have typified the rollercoaster nature of this year’s NRL season than Parramatta and North Queensland, who are far from the giddy heights of 2022. The Eels look primed to muster a mid-season climb after cooling the red-hot Rabbitohs last week, while the Cowboys had 66 points put on them by the Tigers. The Tigers! The Eels are without NSW representative Junior Paulo as well as Ryan Matterson and Andrew Davey, while the Cowboys lose Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden to Queensland duty. Huge match in the context of both seasons. Eels by 8.

Adam Pengilly

Warriors (7) v Broncos (4)

Saturday 5.30pm, McLean Park, Napier

Brisbane are staring down three straight losses and are missing five key figures — Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan up front especially.

Jack De Belin, Josh Schuster, Kalyn Ponga, Jack Wighton and Blake Taaffe.Credit: Getty

If Adam Reynolds (head knock) is passed in, they’re in serious trouble. His kicking game, and the presence of game-breaking centres Herbie Farnworth and Kotoni Staggs, is cause for hope, though. The Warriors are coming off a timely bye with Addin Fonua-Blake in serious form up front and Luke Metcalf returning from a lengthy hamstring lay-off to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves. Broncos by 2.

Dan Walsh

Rabbitohs (2) v Raiders (8)

Saturday 7.35pm, Accor Stadium

The representative retirements of Raiders pair Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton were always going to come in handy at this time of year.

Canberra hit the wall last week against Manly after racking up five straight wins in the preceding weeks.Credit: Getty

Canberra were ordinary last weekend after five straight wins, and will look to bounce back against a Souths side who have hit a bit of a flat spot. The Bunnies were eventually blown off the park by Parramatta, and took an eternity to get past the Wests Tigers a week earlier. Blake Taaffe comes in for Latrell Mitchell (NSW duty) and has been one of the club’s best trainers, but the loss of Origin duo Cameron Murray and Jai Arrow could prove the difference, especially against the Green Machine’s powerhouse pack. Raiders by 4

Christian Nicolussi

Knights (12) v Sea Eagles (9)

Sunday 4.05pm, McDonald Jones Stadium

Last week’s loss to the Sharks was a wake-up call for Newcastle, who played a tremendous game against the Gold Coast just a week earlier. After missing Origin selection due to concussion concerns, Kalyn Ponga has moved to fullback and will be determined to show Maroons coach Billy Slater what he’s missing out on. Teammate Dane Gagai, who was also snubbed for a spot in the Maroons, will be wanting to do the same. Manly lose star players Tom Trbojevic and skipper Daly Cherry-Evans to Origin, and workhorse Jake Trbojevic is also out of the team with a calf injury. Manly will be up for the fight in Newcastle, with Josh Schuster looking to prove himself after some time on the bench, but the Knights need to bring this one home to get the consistency they’re looking for. Knights by 8.

Billie Eder

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