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NRL previews for round nine

Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys.
Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys. DAVE HUNT

TONIGHT

BRONCOS V PANTHERS

Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

History: Broncos 30, Panthers 19, drawn 1

Last met: Panthers 31-12, round 20, 2016

THE question is not if, but when the Panthers will awake from their slumber and be the team that was among the premiership favourites pre-season - and the team that whipped the Broncos last time they met. On the back of three successive wins, the Broncos are finally turning some heads, but will need to have their defensive game in order tonight after leaking 46 points in their past two encounters. This is a danger game for the Broncos against a desperate opposition, and if they don't bring their A game, an upset is on the cards.

TIP - Broncos

TOMORROW NIGHT

SOUTHS V SEA EAGLES

Allianz Stadium 6pm

History: Sea Eagles 75, Rabbitohs 64

Last met: Rabbitohs 38-18, round 2, 2017

UNLESS the Rabbitohs have, collectively, lifted their heads and their spirits from last week's controversial loss, defeat tonight will escalate their premiership odds of $81 even further. Coming off an outstanding victory in Canberra and hell bent on avenging an embarrassing loss just seven weeks ago, the Sea Eagles have shown glimpses of a disciplined side that will fight to the death. The return of Adam Reynolds is a massive plus for the Rabbitohs and his clash with Daly Cherry-Evans will be pivotal.

TIP - Sea Eagles

COWBOYS V EELS

1300SMILES Stadium, 7.50pm

History: Eels 18, Cowboys 16, drawn 1

Last met: Cowboys 32-16, round 8, 2016

MOST interest in this is whether Johnathan Thurston, named in jersey No.18, will play in a bid to prove his fitness for the trans-Tasman Test the following week. And if he does play, JT will oppose one of his predicted Queensland successors, the imposing Corey Norman. The Cowboys have been lacking direction without their skipper for the past three weeks and if he plays, they should win.

TIP - Cowboys

SATURDAY

TITANS V KNIGHTS

Cbus Super Stadium 3pm

History: Knights 10, Titans 7

Last met: Knights 34-26, round 2, 2017

THIS may well be the clash of the competition's cellar dwellers, but that has not detracted from the importance of the result. With 14 players from the two clubs on the injury list their respective seasons have been about survival and the Titans emerged from their slumber with a courageous win over the premiers last weekend, while the Knights - yet again - fought bravely without a result. Now on the springboard and with Jarryd Hayne on deck, the Titans appear certainties.

TIP - Titans

BULLDOGS V RAIDERS

ANZ Stadium 5.30pm

History: Bulldogs 36, Raiders 28

Last met: Raiders 32-20, round 12, 2016

BOTH sides may be sitting on eight premiership points, but the bookies see a very different end-of-season scenario - the Raiders are at $6 to win the comp, the Bulldogs $31. Despite some rare glimpses of good form the 'Dogs are still clunky in attack and continued speculation over player movement cannot be fruitful. Notwithstanding their four-four record, the Raiders still appeal as one of the teams to beat and, unlike the 'Dogs, have no issues scoring points, although discipline remains an issue.

TIP - Raiders

TIGERS V SHARKS

Leichhardt Oval 7.30pm

History: Tigers 18, Sharks 8, drawn 1

Last met: Tigers 34-26, round 5, 2016

DILAPIDATED Leichhardt Oval can be a graveyard for visiting teams, but that is usually on a sunny, winter's afternoon. The defending premiers, coming off a shock loss after successive wins that had many believing they could go back-to-back, are about to discover whether nightfall can assist them stop a resurgent Tigers. Two wins and a narrow loss in three weeks has sharpened the claws of the Tigers, but it remains to be seen how long the upbeat attitude outlasts the in-house drama.

TIP - Sharks

SUNDAY

WARRIORS V ROOSTERS

Mt Smart Stadium 2pm (AEST)

History: Warriors 20, Roosters 16, drawn 1

Last met: Warriors 12-10, round 15, 2016

THE Warriors may have been beaten in Melbourne on Anzac Day, but they were as impressive and as committed as at any time this season and - just maybe - could have turned the corner. But even though the Roosters have the trip across the Tasman to factor in to their five-day turnaround, they will be buoyed by their brilliant Anzac Day victory and should win in Auckland.

TIP - Roosters

DRAGONS V STORM

WIN Stadium, 4pm

History: Storm 23, Dragons 9, drawn 1

Last met: Dragons 20-10, round 15 2016

AS THE clash of the equal competition leaders, this should be the match-of-the-round and hold significant general fan interest. But the loss of Dragon skipper Gareth Widdop, for possibly up to six weeks, has robbed the match of one of the season's most influential players. Although they stayed in the fight, the Dragons were less dangerous when he was replaced on Anzac Day and will struggle without him against the methodical Storm, who just know how to win.

TIP - Storm

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