Friday

Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders @ Suncorp Stadium – 7:50 pm AEST

Team List Notes

  • Storm: The Storm have one confirmed change and another possibly on the way. Chris Lewis is replaced by Tom Eisenhuth on the bench while Dale Finucane is a chance at returning from injury after being named in the reserves.
  • Raiders: It’s same same, but different for the Raiders on Friday. They’ve named the same 17 in the same jerseys, but may again swap out Tom Starling and Sia Soliola in the starting lineup for Siliva Havili and Hudson Young.

Key Factor: Forcing the hand of others

For the Storm, they need to take Jack Wighton out of the game. Closeout on him defensively and don’t allow him to get downhill with the ball in hand. Dylan Brown is the only half averaging more running metres per game than Wighton’s 103 metres (min. 10 games). A big body that breaks three tackles per game, Wighton is third of all halves in total line breaks (11) and second in tackle breaks (65).

When Wighton is getting a head of steam up and asking questions of the defence, his outside men become more of a threat with the big five-eighth requiring the attention of multiple defenders.

Meanwhile, the Raiders need to find ways to reduce the impact of Cameron Smith. The 37-year-old is handing out try assists at the best rate he ever has throughout his 428-game career. With 15 try assists in 17 games, Smith’s 0.88 try assists per game is a career-high. He’s only three try assists from his highest season total of 18, but he did that across 26 games in 2016.

Cameron Smith: Try assists since 2008

The Raiders did well to shut down the Roosters shortside last week. They worked hard from the first marker or had the second sit deep. Now they’re preparing to tackle the greatest hooker of all time who, despite his age, is playing incredible football. While the Storm still have plenty of options in attack away from the ruck, it all starts with Smith.

Both the Storm and Raiders have key figures to their attack. It’s up to the defending team to reduce the impact of the attack’s best weapon and force the ball into the hands of others.

Value Plays: Wide Raiders

Smith again rates a mention here but it’s Jarrod Croker and Jordan Rapana that are the most interesting names. While Canberra scores more tries in the middle of the field than any other in the NRL, no team concedes fewer than Melbourne. It’s likely that Canberra will need to look wider if they’re to find points with Croker and Rapana possible beneficiaries.

Saturday

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ ANZ Stadium – 7:50 pm AEST

Team List Notes

  • Panthers: With Viliame Kikau suspended and unavailable this week, Kurt Capewell starts on the left edge.
  • Rabbitohs: The Rabbitohs have named an unchanged lineup for this week.

Key Factor: Capewell v Kikau

The Panthers left edge is the best attacking edge in the NRL. They have scored 50 tries down that side in 2020, and unlike the Eels who dominated down the left edge to start the season, Panthers haven’t become too predictable and easy to defend. Jarome Luai’s 22 try assists have plenty to do with that. So too do the 27 tries Josh Mansour and Stephen Crichton have combined to score throughout the year. But it’s the massive Fijian in the middle of it all, Viliame Kikau, that makes so much of this possible.

At 195cm and 119kg, Kikau is a monster. He’s one of the most destructive ball-runners in the NRL while he’s proving to be just as valuable without the ball as defence’s turn in and focus their attention on him as a lead runner. Kikau is averaging fewer touches per game in 2020 (13.2) to 2019 (17.2) but is having a larger impact on the Panthers attack.

With Kikau unavailable this week, Kurt Capewell has some massive shoes to fill – quite literally. Capewell is a reliable defender and will ensure the Penrith right edge remains tight. However, he doesn’t offer anything close to what Kikau does in attack.

Running metres last 15 games: Kikau v Capewell

Capewell has played fewer minutes and in an assortment of different roles across two different clubs in his last 15 games, but that further highlights just how much more he will need to do this week to fill the void. Kikau has averaged 25 more metres per game than Capewell. Not only that, he does it while breaking tackles, offloading the football (1.2 per game v Capewell’s 0.08) and breaking the line (0.59 v 0.14).

Tackle breaks last 15 games: Kikau v Capewell

Even if Capewell can lift and offer the same statistical output as Kikau, he’s not going to create the same gravitational pull of the defence. He’s already talked about giving Crichton early ball and the Rabbitohs defence will be preparing for that. Capewell is a serviceable back rower that won’t disappoint on the day, but the Panthers may need to look elsewhere in attack than their trusty left edge more often.

Value Plays: DFS domination in the middle

James Fisher-Harris is a popular pick while Thomas Burgess’ improvements in 2020 have translated into relatively consistent DFS production, but it’s Liam Knight that looks a promising option ahead of this one. He scored a try on his way to 54.8 Draftstars points last week. While he isn’t expected to reach quite the same heights on Saturday, his impact off the bench will be crucial to South Sydney’s success. He’s one of the best impact forwards of the four remaining teams but a low-ownership option. Our predictive model projects Knight to pick up 39 points off the bench on Saturday night.

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