Sunday

Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys @ Sunshine Coast Stadium – 4:05 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Nelson Asofa-Solomona – $51, Josh Addo-Carr – $7.50

The Cowboys defensive struggles this season have been well documented. Kyle Feldt, in particular, can expect to be picked on with his NRL-high 21 try causes this season. Should the Storm target the Cowboys winger, Josh Addo-Carr ($7.50 – PointsBet) is set to benefit. The Storm can also explore closer to the ruck. With the Cowboys poor defensively across the field and Nelson Asofa-Solomona ($51 – Neds) returning from injury to start this week, a little block play with Cameron Smith at dummy-half and Tino Fa’suamaleaui out the back can cause problems.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Kenneath Bromwich ($11,300), Jesse Bromwich ($10,300)

Kenny Bromwich will be licking his lips when looking at this right side Cowboys defence. They’ve been a turnstile all season. With his ball-skills and underrated running game, Kenny is shaping up for a productive Sunday afternoon with a projected score of 45 points. His brother Jesse presents as a strong option, too. The 30 times he touched the ball in Round 16 is the second-most times he’s touched it in a game since at least the start of the 2013 season. He’s assumed more of the ball-playing with Dale Finucane out of the side and is likely to continue with that this week. Projected to score 40 points at $10,300, Jesse, like Kenny, is a value play.

DFS Fade: Nelson Asofa-Solomona ($14,000)

Be weary of the big forward returning from injury in a game his side should have covered early. If the Storm fly out to a lead, expect Asofa-Solomona to spend a little more time on the sideline with Craig Bellamy sure to take the opportunity to ease him back into it.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v New Zealand Warriors @ Netstrata Jubilee Stadium – 6:30 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Connor Tracey – $26, Jazz Tevaga – $91

Connor Tracey ($26 – PointsBet) starts in the halves beside Shaun Johnson this week. For those unfamiliar with his work, Tracey is an excellent ball-runner. Deceptively tough to take down and a regular tackle breaker, the Warriors are going to have their hands full containing him if he plays behind a strong middle. Should it be the Warriors that fire up through the middle, Jazz Tevaga ($91 – Neds) will be involved. Fresh of being binned for brushing the face of an opposing player, he owes the team a big effort this week.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Blayke Brailey ($10,560), Jack Murchie ($10,680)

Blayke Brailey is always going to pile up tackles. He’s a defensive hooker that rarely does more from dummy half than offer quick service. However, he has cleared 50 running metres in three of his last six games and the Warriors have shown some vulnerability defending in the middle. Brailey appeals at $10,560 with a projected score of 47 points. Meanwhile, Jack Murchie has taken his chance to feature in the first-choice side to clear 40 points in his three games since returning. Growing in confidence and a threat on the Warriors edge, he’s projected to score 44 points and presents as a value play at $10,680.

DFS Fade: Jamayne Taunoa-Brown ($9,390)

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown returned to his early-season form through August to register three 40+ point games. But as he did earlier in the year, he fell off the pace last week and our predictive model projects more of the same this week through 35 points.

Thursday

Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bankwest Stadium – 7:50 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: David Nofoaluma – $10, Campbell Graham – $14

He crossed over for three last week to be the NRL’s leading try-scorer with 17 for the season, and David Nofoaluma ($10 – Neds) is sure to be in the mix again this week. You can’t keep him away from the try line at the moment. Wests Tigers will no doubt target Campbell Graham in the centres too.

Graham ($14 – Neds) is a try-scoring threat himself, though. Perched out on South Sydney’s left edge, he’s often the beneficiary of some Cody Walker magic inside him. It’s an area the Rabbitohs will target. Wests right side defence is a known liability and one Souths are perfectly positioned to exploit.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Luke Brooks ($10,310), Thomas Burgess ($10,400)

Luke Brooks produced the goods for 50.56 points last week. The Wests Tigers looked a lot better for Brooks’ form with the half running for 69 metres, breaking two tackles and handing out two try assists. The confidence boost is just what he needed. Our predictive model projects him to keep up the good form with another 45 points on Thursday night.

It’s still strange to put ‘Burgess’ and ‘consistent’ in the same sentence, but here it goes: Thomas Burgess has been a consistent provider on the DFS front this season. He’s cracked 35 points in six of his last seven games while passing 40 points in five games throughout the same period. He’s eating metres each week and hasn’t had a multi-error game for two months. Projected to score 44 points in this one, Burgess is tipped to keep that consistency going through Round 18.

DFS Fade: Corey Allan ($7,900)

Corey Allan spent 80 minutes at fullback for 15.9 points in Round 17. While solid enough, he doesn’t have the hands or footwork to cause the defence too many issues in attack. Projected to score just 25 points on Thursday night, look elsewhere.

Friday

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles @ ANZ Stadium – 6:00 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Cade Cust – $21, Jayden Okunbor – $13

Cade Cust ($21 – SportsBet) is a regular here. He has scored three tries already this season and knows how to sniff out an opportunity on the left side. With the Sea Eagles likely to target the middle early in sets to shrink the defence, Cust will have space to make the most of his running game on the edge. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will be sure to use Jayden Okunbor’s ($13 – PointsBet) size on the wing. Whichever side the Bulldogs play him, Okunbor can have his way with Abbas Miski or Albert Hopoate in the air.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Jake Averillo ($8,500)

Plenty will be turned off by Jake Averillo’s last three scores: 4.8 points, 6.2 points and 6.1 points. However, his move into five-eighth is where we might start to see the best of him. Averillo is great with the ball in hand. He’s quick and has good footwork to get by defenders. Averaging just 9.6 touches per game while playing in the centres and coming off the bench, Averillo is going to see a lot more of the ball this week. It’s his prefered position and he’s projected to score 37 points in his first crack.

DFS Fade: Will Hopoate ($9,510)

It was suggested that Will Hopoate be faded last week. He managed just 26 points. Projected to score 32 points in this one, the suggestion remains the same.

Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels @ Panthers Stadium – 7:55 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Josh Mansour – $10, Liam Martin – $26

The tries keep coming for Josh Mansour ($10 – TopSport). After scoring just one in nine rounds at one stage this season, the Panthers winger has scored in each of his last three games. With the struggles the Eels have had defending on their right edge, Mansour will be in the mix again on Friday night. Liam Martin ($26 – SportsBet) is a strong option when the Panthers shift the ball to the right edge. He’s a powerful hole runner. If Nathan Cleary can square him up with the much smaller Jai Field, Martin will go close to scoring more than one.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Viliame Kikau ($9,600), Clint Gutherson ($9,520)

While plenty has been made of Parramatta’s lacklustre attack recently, their season-long issue remains: right side defence. Waqa Blake has really struggled in that area this season. Viliame Kikau and the Panthers left edge will have circled that side of the field as their primary target for Friday. Kikau was a popular pick in Round 18 (72% ownership) but managed just 26.3 points. But don’t go away from the big Fijian. He’s projected to score 42 points and can cause havoc down that side of the field in this one.

With the Eels desperate to recapture their attacking form, look for Clint Gutherson to get his hands on the ball even more than normal. He isn’t efficient with his touches. However, every time he touches the ball is an opportunity to pile up points. He’s projected to score 40 points and is a value play on Friday.

DFS Fade: Ryan Matterson ($16,440)

Ryan Matterson produced last week, but our predictive model isn’t tipping him to do that same on Friday. He’s projected to score 57 points. At $16,440, he’s a fade option.

Saturday

St. George-Illawarra Dragons v Canberra Raiders @ WIN Stadium – 3:00 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Paul Vaughan – $81, Joseph Tapine – $51

The value appears to be in the roughies for this one.

Paul Vaughan ($81 – Neds) makes his return for the Dragons and will start at prop. But it’s Joseph Tapine ($51 – Neds) that really appeals. Named to start at lock and capable of beating defenders with his footwork, he looked dangerous in the middle last week. The Raiders went away from using him as the game wore on, but if Tapine sees as much of the ball as he should, he’s going to be a threat close to the Dragons goal line.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Kaide Ellis ($8,500), Elliott Whitehead ($9,810)

An impressive performance last week has elevated Kaide Ellis to the starting lineup for Saturday afternoon. After scoring 31.3 points through 133 running metres and 18 tackles against the Cowboys, our predictive model projects the young prop to bump that up to 36 points in this one. Ellis is a value play at $8,500. For the Raiders, Elliott Whitehead deserves some attention. Grossly underrated as a player, he’s not particularly valuable as a DFS option either. However, he’s projected to score 43 points here. Running against a flimsy Dragons edge defence, Whitehead presents as a try-scoring option too.

DFS Fade: Josh Papalii ($14,140)

Josh Papalii wasn’t able to finish the game last week. While he’s named again and expected to play on Saturday, he’s going to come in at less than 100% and is projected to score 51 points. At $14,140 and an injury risk, look elsewhere at this position.

Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos @ Cbus Super Stadium – 5:30 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Kotoni Staggs $13

“The Brisbane Broncos have offered next to nothing in attack for the majority of the season. At times, their only option is to throw the ball to Kotoni Staggs.”Titans v Broncos Preview

There is little so suggest the Broncos change their game plan in attack this week. Kotoni Staggs ($13 – PointsBet) is once again going to be a key contributor to anything positive the Broncos produce on Saturday evening. With the Titans dealing with a few injuries on the edges and being forced into sending out fresh defensive combinations, Staggs is Brisbane’s best chance at crossing the line.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Isaac Luke ($9,160), Sean O’Sullivan ($8,700)

Isaac Luke kicked a season-high 214 metres last week. It’s the third-most he’s kicked in a game throughout his career with the two totals above his Round 17 effort coming way back in 2008. His increased kicking game translated into 53.23 points. Our predictive model projects Luke to score 39 points in this one, but if he continues to kick from out of dummy half like he did last week, he will inch closer to last week’s 53 points.

Perhaps a little slow to get into things last week, Sean O’Sullivan improved as the game wore on. He’s not afraid to run the ball and dig into the line. Better for the 80 minutes in his return from an ACL injury, O’Sullivan is projected to score 36 points and is a value option at $8,700.

DFS Fade: AJ Brimson ($12,150)

AJ Brimson has been on fire since returning from injury, but as the 76% of owners last week will know, he disappointed from a DFS perspective to score just 27.8 points. Projected to score 37 points on Saturday and a pricey option at $12,150, consider other options.

Sydney Roosters v Newcastle Knights @ Sydney Cricket Ground – 7:35 pm AEST

First Try-Scorers: Brett Morris – $7, Starford To’a – $17

With the Knights resting players and expected to struggle, Starford To’a ($17 – TopSport) isn’t the reliable option he usually would be. He’s scored four tries in the four games he played the full 80 minutes including two last week against the Sharks. However, what can be relied on is the young winger getting caught out in defence once or twice. He was lucky to get away with a couple of misreads last week. The Roosters are too good to miss out on too many chances, though. Brett Morris ($7 – PointsBet) will be there to pounce if To’a is out of position.

Draftstars Suggested Plays: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves ($9,840), Kyle Flanagan ($13,890)

An enforcer and no doubt tasked with keeping a lid on the likes of Daniel Saifiti and the Knights middle, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is projected to score 42 points in this one. He played just 38 minutes for his 44.4 points last week. It’s Kyle Flanagan that can thrive behind Waerea-Hargreaves and a monster performance from the Roosters middle, though. He’s scored 50+ in five of his last six games, and if the Roosters score as many tries as most expect them to, Flanagan will kick plenty of goals in this one, too. He’s projected to crack the half-century mark again with 59 points.

DFS Fade: Siosiua Taukeiaho ($13,510)

Trent Robinson kept Siosiua Taukeiaho to just 27 minutes when the Roosters thrashed the Broncos in Round 16. If they get out to a fast start against a depleted Knights side, it won’t be a surprise to see Robinson rest his high-usage prop again. He’s a risky play here.

Round 18 NRL Preview

Your Edge: The Rise Of JFH And Another Burgess, Positives For Parra & Hope For The Bottom 8