The NRL ladder received a shake-up during a thrilling, dramatic and controversial batch of round 8 encounters.
Melbourne Storm bumped the on-fire Sydney Roosters out of the top four after one of the best games of recent years; injury-hit Manly Sea Eagles slipped from the top eight, replaced by resurgent Cronulla Sharks; and the brave Warriors climbed out of the bottom four.
This weekend’s schedule features top-four and bottom-four showdowns as the minor premiership and wooden spoon races heat up, and a host of vital mid-table clashes.
Sportsbet has done the hard yards, scouring form lines and NRL round 9 teams news to bring punters some fearless NRL round 9 predictions.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS V SYDNEY ROOSTERS: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
THURSDAY 9 JULY – 7:50PM
North Queensland’s rousing 32–20 upset of Newcastle in round 7 proved a false dawn, with the team dismantled 42–4 by rampant competition leaders Parramatta last Saturday to heap pressure back on coach Paul Green. Halves Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater – so good against the Knights – again showed their inability to string performances together, while Jason Taumalolo was restricted to 167m.
The Cowboys have slipped to a 3–5 record and this clash with the two-time premiers is the start of a tough month schedule-wise.
Sydney Roosters suffered their first loss since the restart in round 8, pipped 27–25 in a golden point by Melbourne in an instant classic after winning their previous five matches by 14-plus margins. The result nor the performance will not unduly concern coach Trent Robinson, although the Roosters undoubtedly let the two points slip in uncharacteristic fashion. The ageless Morris brothers’ astonishing form was a clear highlight in a heart-breaking loss.
In NRL round 9 teams news, Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner and strike winger Daniel Tupou are both out. The Cowboys have recalled rookie teen Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow at fullback and shunted misfiring superstar Valentine Holmes to the wing.
The Cowboys boast a better record against the Roosters than most, winning nine of the clubs’ last 16 meetings and splitting the last six with the heavyweights, three wins apiece. Clifford inspired the Cowboys’ 15–12 upset in Gosford in round 17 last year.
The Cowboys are 2–2 at their new Townsville stadium, while the Roosters have won just one of their last four interstate. But expect the chastened champs to make it a tough night in the saddle for the Cowboys.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to head: Sydney Roosters
Best bet: Margin – Roosters 13+
GOLD COAST TITANS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
FRIDAY 10 JULY – 6:00PM
The 2–4 Gold Coast Titans will be eyeing off this home assignment, which is crucial to their bid to offload the wooden spoon they ‘won’ in 2019 and move towards mid-table status.
There have been some positive signs under incoming coach Justin Holbrook since the NRL’s resumption – particularly in a 30–12 thrashing of the Broncos – but the Titans went down 40–10 to Cronulla last Saturday after trailing by just two at half-time.
Corey Thompson moves to fullback this week for Tyrone Roberts as Treymain Spry prepares to debut on the wing. With Mitch Rein injured, Erin Clark will start at hooker against his former club.
Prior to round 8, the Warriors had either won well or lost abysmally. The smallest margin in their seven matches was 11 points. The signs were not great after the team received a 50–6 beatdown from Melbourne in caretaker coach Todd Payten’s first match in charge and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was ousted by a one-week suspension.
But the Warriors showed tremendous heart to fight back from 10–0 down and some second-half misfortune to run out 26–16 winners over the embattled Broncos. Unwanted halfback Blake Green, previously out-of-sorts winger Ken Maumalo, and the ultra-reliable Tohu Harris starred in the gutsy victory.
RTS returns in a match that could put the Warriors on the cusp of the top eight, while lion-hearted utility Jazz Tevaga has been named to make his first appearance of 2020. Kodi Nikorima is out with concussion, giving Chanel Harris-Tavita another opportunity at five-eighth.
The Warriors have dominated this rivalry since 2011, winning 16 of the last 18 encounters against the Titans and failing to score 20-plus points just once. In 2019 the Warriors cruised to a 26–10 home win in Harris-Tavita’s NRL debut and prevailed in a 24–20 thriller on the Gold Coast.
In a duel between two of the NRL’s least reliable teams, the Warriors possess the necessary stability and leadership to extend the club’s outstanding record at Cbus Super Stadium. The teams’ even-money odds as of Tuesday provides punters with excellent value on the visitors.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to head: New Zealand Warriors
Best bet: Head-to-head – New Zealand Warriors
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V WESTS TIGERS: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
FRIDAY 10 JULY – 7:55PM
South Sydney sits ninth and will climb into the top eight with a win on Friday night. The Rabbitohs are 3–3 since the NRL’s resumption, but the teams they have beaten are bottom-four battlers and the three losses were to top-four contenders.
This week’s opponents, Wests Tigers, sit somewhere in the middle.
Souths were solid enough in a 26–10 win over last-placed Canterbury on Sunday, highlighted by long-range tries to wingers Alex Johnston and Dane Gagai. But the authority of 2018–19 is still missing.
After back-to-back wins over struggling North Queensland and Canterbury, the Tigers went toe-to-toe with high-flying Penrith in round 7 but ultimately went down 19–12. A gritty performance was effectively overshadowed by some Joey Leilua lunacy, and the Tigers may be better off for the big-money signing’s four-week suspension.
The versatile Michael Chee-Kam comes into the Tigers’ backline, while Bayley Sironen returns on the bench for the injured Braidon Burns in Souths’ only NRL round 9 team list change.
The Tigers have won six of their past nine against the Rabbitohs. The rivals finished with one win apiece in 2019, the Tigers responding to a 32–16 loss in round 11 with a 14–9 victory just five weeks later courtesy of Chee-Kam’s memorable late matchwinner.
The midweek odds and many NRL round 9 predictions favour Souths, but Wests Tigers are a red-hot chance here.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to-head: Wests Tigers
Best bet: Line – Wests Tigers +5.5
CRONULLA SHARKS V PENRITH PANTHERS: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY 11 JULY – 3:00PM
Cronulla Sharks coach John Morris and his posse of big-name stars were on the ropes after a dismal round 5 loss to St George Illawarra. But with Shaun Johnson calling the tune, the Sharks have won three straight games and piled on 40 points against Manly and Gold Coast in the past fortnight – and snatched a spot in the top eight.
NRL try-assist leader Johnson’s second-half masterclass against the Titans was especially impressive after ball-playing fullback Matt Moylan’s early exit. But their dynamic forward pack’s form surge has been equally important in Cronulla’s turnaround.
The Sharks face a real acid test in the form of Penrith Panthers this Saturday, however. The second-placed Panthers have lost just once in 2020 – a tight defeat to NRL leaders Parramatta – and have grafted out tough wins over Melbourne, Souths and Wests Tigers since.
Hooker Api Koroisau has virtually stitched up the unofficial ‘buy of the year’ award already, while halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai are in tremendous touch. Brian To’o’s injury is a blow but it gives the rangy Brent Naden a solid stint in first grade.
In the Sharks’ NRL round 9 team news, Ronaldo Mulitalo is back on the wing with Josh Dugan starting at fullback for Moylan.
Cronulla has dominated Penrith despite little splitting the clubs performance-wise over the past decade, winning 12 of the teams’ past 15 encounters. But the Panthers snapped a seven-match losing streak against the Sharks with a 26–20 victory at home late last season – the ninth time in the past eight seasons they were separated by six points or less. In four of the past five meetings, both sides scored 20-plus points.
Potentially the game of the round and destined to go down to the wire.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to-head: Penrith Panthers
Best bet: Line – Cronulla Sharks +5.5
BRISBANE BRONCOS V CANTERBURY BULLDOGS: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY 11 JULY – 5:30PM
The battling Brisbane Broncos remain the biggest story in the NRL, riding a horrific six-match losing streak since the restart. A 30–12 derby loss to Gold Coast felt like rock bottom, but the Broncos somehow managed to trump that by bottling a 10–0 lead in a 26–16 loss to the strife-torn Warriors.
Fans across the game were awaiting the NRL round 9 team announcements with feverish anticipation. But astoundingly – and despite reports of several high-profile axings – coach Anthony Seibold has named an unchanged 17, albeit with a couple of minor positional changes. Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft must be on their last chance.
The possible late inclusion of gun centre Kotoni Staggs is a looming silver lining, but the squad as a whole is suffering from a chronic lack of confidence and cohesion.
The 1–7 Canterbury Bulldogs are the inverse of the Broncos, despite garnering similar results. Bereft of top-shelf talent, the Belmore boys have attracted widespread admiration for their week-to-week effort and commitment. Last week’s 26–10 loss to Souths was a case in point.
The wholehearted Adam Elliott is a big out but crack English forward Luke Thompson’s club debut is an exciting prospect for Bulldogs fans.
These sides’ last eight clashes were won by the home team. After cruising to a 28–6 win at Suncorp Stadium in round 18 last season, the Broncos were embarrassed 30–14 by the also-ran Bulldogs in the final round at ANZ Stadium.
There’s an overriding sentiment that the Broncos simply have to stop the rot at some point – and the lowly Bulldogs seem an obvious place to start. But heart counts for plenty and the gritty visitors are very much capable of turning NRL round 9 predictions on their head, particularly against a team struggling to find defensive resolve.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to-head: Canterbury Bulldogs
Best bet: Line – Canterbury Bulldogs +4
CANBERRA RAIDERS V MELBOURNE STORM: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY 11 JULY – 7:35PM
Beset by engine-room injuries, can Canberra continue its run of success against all-conquering Melbourne?
The Green Machine have achieved something few of their NRL rivals can boast: three straight wins over the Storm. After a late-season victory and a stunning qualifying final upset in 2019, the Raiders outplayed the Storm 22–6 in the first round after the competition’s post-coronavirus restart. But all three upsets were in Melbourne. The Storm have won seven of their past nine in Canberra, including the last two.
The 5–3 Raiders responded to tough back-to-back losses to Manly and Parramatta with a scrappy, George Williams–led 22–16 defeat of St George Illawarra in round 8. But it came at the cost of serious injuries to Sia Soliola and Emre Guler, who join John Bateman and Corey Horsburgh in the long-term casualty ward.
Dunamis Lui and debutant Kai O’Donnell have been named as pack replacements, while Jordan Rapana replaces Curtis Scott on the bench.
Melbourne laid its 2020 premiership credentials bare with an incredible golden-point win over Sydney Roosters when most pundits had written the Storm off due to Cameron Munster’s absence. But Cameron Smith slotted seamlessly into the halves, and Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen came up with the clutch plays usually reserved for Munster.
Marion Seve comes in on the wing for the injured Suliasi Vunivalu this week.
Expect the ever-clinical Storm – surprisingly the underdogs as of Tuesday – to capitalise in the capital with Ricky Stuart still attempting to iron out the Raiders’ creases.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to-head: Melbourne Storm
Best bet: Head-to-head – Melbourne Storm
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V PARRAMATTA EELS: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
SUNDAY 12 JULY – 4:05PM
The competition-leading Parramatta Eels travel up the M1 to take on the fourth-placed Newcastle Knights in a Sunday-afternoon blockbuster.
After having their pants pulled down by unfancied North Queensland in a 26–0 first-half blitz, the Knights’ round 8 response was exactly what rookie coach Adam O’Brien was after.
The Novocastrians overcame a heavy injury toll to hold off Manly 14–12; controversial calls dominated the headlines, but the result was underpinned by heroic Knights defence. Front-row duo David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti were immense for Newcastle. The upshot, however, is that Edrick Lee and Sione Mata’utia are both missing this week, replaced in the starting side by Tex Hoy and Aidan Guerra, respectively.
After proving their 2020 premiership credentials in a string of gripping encounters against fellow title hopefuls, the 7–1 Eels enjoyed the opportunity to flex their muscles in a 42–4 rout of the Cowboys last Saturday. Linchpin Mitchell Moses’ absence was an afterthought, as captain and new Dally M Medal leader Clint Gutherson turned his 100th NRL appearance into a personal victory lap.
Any notion that the blue-and-golds are not the real deal has been emphatically dispelled.
Newcastle has won 11 of its past 14 against Parramatta. The clubs each enjoyed a home victory over the other in 2019, with Mitchell Pearce orchestrating a 28–14 win at McDonald Jones Stadium and two-try hero Gutherson starring in a 20–14 result at Bankwest.
Back at McDonald Jones Stadium for the first time since round 1, the Knights are tempting underdogs. But the Eels – even without Moses – are just too good to back against at present.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to-head: Parramatta Eels
Best bet: Margin – Parramatta Eels 1 to 12
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS V MANLY SEA EAGLES: NRL ROUND 9 PREDICTIONS
SUNDAY 12 JULY – 6:30PM
The stench of desperation should be wafting around Jubilee Oval as St George Illawarra and Manly strive to end two-match losing streaks on Sunday night.
The besieged Dragons followed up a two-match revival – banking wins against Cronulla and Gold Coast – with honourable losses to 2019 grand finalists Sydney Roosters and Canberra in the past fortnight. But the grim fact is the Saints sit in 13th with a 2–6 record.
The Sea Eagles soaked up the praise following their courageous win over the Raiders after losing Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker to injury. But with their fullback and five-eighth rehabbing, Des Hasler’s premiership dark horses have lost their last two to Cronulla (40–18) and Newcastle (14–12) – and slumped to 10th on the ladder.
The latter defeat came amid some highly contentious calls and was soured further by Addin Fonua-Blake’s unsavoury full-time outburst at the officials, which sees him cooling his heels for a couple of weeks. Taniela Paseka gets a starting front-row opportunity in the foul-mouthed firebrand’s stead.
Ben Hunt returns to the Dragons’ starting line-up at hooker, with skipper Cameron McInnes moving to lock; Tariq Sims and Jordan Pereira are both back in the side.
The Sea Eagles won the teams’ most recent encounter – a 34–14 thrashing at Brookvale in round 14 of last season – but the Saints have won their last four at home against the maroon-and-whites.
One of the tougher NRL round 9 predictions to make, but Manly has shown far superior character in 2020 and shape as the value pick.
NRL round 9 tips
Head-to-head: Manly Sea Eagles
Best bet: Head-to-head – Manly Sea Eagles