Durko's NRL previews for round 26
COWBOYS V BRONCOS
1300SMILES Stadium, 7.50pm
Played 47, Broncos 30, Cowboys 15, drawn 2
Last met: Cowboys 21-20, round 2, 2017
The Broncos have a choice tonight - gather together their collective minds and bodies and beat the understrength Cowboys, or face a Storm in Melbourne next week. Having won three of their six premierships at Alliance Stadium, the Broncos stand a chance of beating the Roosters in the first round of the play-offs - they are no chance in Melbourne. Even considering that the past five meetings of these sides have generated four golden-point results, a fully switched-on Broncos should win. But if they leave their heads in the sheds as they did last week, an upset is on the cards.
TIP - Broncos
EELS V RABBITOHS
ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm
Played 123, Rabbitohs 67, Eels 53, drawn 3
Last met: Eels 22-26, round 12, 2017
If recent results are a yardstick, the red-hot Eels might just run a century past the Rabbitohs who last weekend suffered their worst defeat since 2006. The Eels were outstanding at times a week ago, bullying the Broncos and scoring some breathtaking tries, and with only their fading pride on the line, the Rabbitohs will be the target of more of the same. Under-siege coach Michael McGuire is hoping for a miracle that won't happen.
TIP - Eels
ROOSTERS V TITANS
Allianz Stadium, 3pm
Played 15, Titans 8, Roosters 7
Last met: Roosters 32-16, round 1, 2017
Can a team hope for more than an oppose training session on the eve of the finals? That's what the Roosters will get in this with the Titans barely able to field a side. Joining a long list of casualties is Dale Copley, Tyrone Roberts and Nathan Peats, while Origin forward Jarrod Wallace is suspended. The Roosters struggled to beat the Sharks on Saturday in an uninspiring performance and will relish this "practice'' match.
TIP - Roosters
SEA EAGLES V PANTHERS
Played 84, Sea Eagles 50, Panthers 33, drawn 1
Last met: Panthers 16-8, round 18, 2017
The winner here will score a home final - the loser could drop out of the top eight. After losing four from five the Sea Eagles found some real grit winning in golden point under extreme conditions at the weekend, while the Panthers' run of seven wins came to a shuddering halt. That winning run started with the Sea Eagles back in round 18, so revenge will be an added factor. A couple of Panthers who have been in sublime touch stumbled last weekend, but that is unlikely to occur again with so much at stake
TIP - Sea Eagles
STORM V RAIDERS
AAMI Park 7.30pm
History: Played 39, Storm 28, Raiders 11
Last met: Storm 20-14, round 20, 2017
Their season now done and dusted, how do the Raiders possibly hope to beat the machine which is Melbourne - the minor premiers by three wins and with both the best defence and attack stats? As it stands right now the Storm will not have to play away from home until the grand final, providing their sensational form of late continues. The only query on this encounter is whether Craig Bellamy will rest any of his overworked stars.
TIP - Storm
KNIGHTS V SHARKS
McDonald Jones Stadium 2pm
Played 49, Knights 27, Sharks 21, drawn 1
Last met: Sharks 19-18, round 5, 2017
Unless the Sharks can pick up their act and win this, they could be entering the defence of their first premiership in 50 years on the back of five losses from their past eight outings. Despite the margin being two points, they were pedestrian in attack against the Roosters on Saturday and while the Knights look set to finish with their third successive wooden spoon, on home spoil they won't be lying down. The availability of Wade Graham is monumental for the Sharks, while the return of Jack Bird can't come soon enough.
TIP - Sharks
DRAGONS V BULLDOGS
ANZ Stadium 4pm
Played 32, Bulldogs 21, Dragons 11
Last met: Bulldogs 16-2, round 14, 2017
By the time this is played the Dragons will be aware of whether they are still a chance of playing finals, or if this merely becomes another clash with the old enemy. Both clubs promised much in 2017 yet offered little, but were much better last weekend and will be keen to go out with a bang.
TIP - Dragons
TIGERS V WARRIORS
Leichhardt Oval 6.30pm
Played 27, Warriors 13, Tigers 14
Last met: Tigers 36-24, round 25, 2016
Both these clubs owe much to Ivan Cleary - the Warriors because they produced their very best football in the six years he coached them, and the Tigers for the improvement in them in the five months he has been at Concord. The talented Warriors have been pitiful this season and - implausibly - the much-improved Tigers need to win by 52 to finish ahead of them and are boosted by the return of Kevin Naiqama, Luke Brooks and Elijah Taylor.
TIP - Tigers