Round 13 in the NRL offers just four games across four days with the first State of Origin clash taking centre stage next Wednesday. The action gets underway on Thursday night with St George Illawarra taking on the Brisbane Broncos from 7.50pm. As usual, Greg Davis is on deck to give his full preview and betting tips for the Thursday night clash below.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos
Jubilee Stadium – Thursday 3rd June 7.50pm
Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Cody Ramsey 3. Brayden Williame 4. Gerard Beale 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Josh Kerr 12. Jack Bird 13. Jackson Ford. Interchange: 14. Talatau Amone 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Jack de Belin 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Adam Clune 20. Jayden Sullivan 21. Jordan Pereira
Broncos: 1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Selwyn Cobbo 3. Herbie Farnworth 4. Jesse Arthars 5. David Mead 6. Albert Kelly 7. Tyson Gamble 8. Matt Lodge 9. Jake Turpin 10. Tom Flegler 11. Alex Glenn 12. Tevita Pangai Jnr 13. John Asiata. Interchange: 14. Kobe Hetherington 15. Keenan Palasia 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. TC Robati 18. Jordan Riki 19. Tesi Niu 20. Dale Copley 21. Cory Paix
The return of Jack de Belin to the Dragons line-up will be the focus before, during and after this clash with the bumbling Brisbane Broncos on Thursday night.
It will be a circus with the spotlight firmly on de Belin in his NRL comeback after sexual assault charges against the backrower were recently dropped and he was allowed to return to the field for the first time in almost 1000 days.
St George Illawarra have rushed him back into their first grade 17 after just 44 minutes in the NSW Cup last week.
Apart from the injection of a former Origin forward, the return of de Belin may have the added benefit of taking attention away from the fact that the Dragons have seriously run out of puff.
Under new coach Anthony Griffin, St George Illawarra got off to a flyer in 2021 with four wins in their first five matches.
The Saints were marching in.
But injuries have hit the Dragons hard and they have lost six of their last seven outings since that promising start.
The Red V do sit in eighth spot on the ladder, but they have an underwhelming 5-7 record and are on the same amount of competition points as New Zealand, Gold Coast and Newcastle who all have inferior for-and-against records.
Not exactly inspiring.
The Dragons have lost star backrower Tariq Sims to Origin commitments but the rest of the squad remains settled.
It is simply crunch time for the Dragons. If they are fair dinkum about making the top eight in 2021, they must beat Brisbane at Kogarah. No ifs or buts about it.
There are probably three spots in the top eight up for grabs with Penrith, Melbourne, Parramatta, Souths and the Roosters locked in and seven to eight sides clambering to be cannon fodder in the finals.
The Dragons are one of those sides.
They will face a Brisbane side that has lost its best forward (Payne Haas) and its most dangerous outside back (Xavier Coates) to Origin commitments.
The fact that Brisbane have supplied just two players to Origin speaks volumes for their recent fall given their contribution to rugby league’s showpiece once reached double figures.
The Broncos came back to earth with an almighty thud against Melbourne last week proving the shock win over the Roosters in Round 11 was more of a flash in the pan than a genuine turning point for the one-time powerhouse.
With a host of their stars missing, the Storm ruthlessly highlighted Brisbane’s lack of starch in defence and limited imagination in attack.
Without their main go-forward man in Haas and their one classy finisher in Coates, Brisbane will be less potent than normal. Matt Lodge, Tyson Gamble, skipper Alex Glenn and Jordan Rikki are back but there’s no substitute for the Origin quality of Haas and Coates.
Although, dropping million-dollar dud Anthony Milford – again – will at least give the Broncos two halves who have a crack.
As average as the Dragons have been in the past two months, this might be the game where they play themselves back into form.
With five former Broncos players (Jack Bird, Gerard Beale, Corey Norman, Ben Hunt and Andrew McCullough), an ex-Brisbane coach (Griffin), the return of de Belin and a chance to separate themselves from the pack, there is no shortage of motivation for the Dragons to fire up and put the Ponies in their place.
Cody Ramsey 1st Try