SYDNEY ROOSTERS v CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN Thursday night, Allianz Stadium

Des Hasler may have worked his greatest magic yet with his Canterbury Bankstown outfit. Registering back-to-back wins for just the second time this season, the Bulldogs are heavily favoured to make it three on the trot when they take on the Roosters to kick off Round 17 of the NRL.

Hasler is famous for making his teams "fly under the radar" throughout the regular season, deflecting the attention of them and unto others. The same can be said for this Dogs outfit who have shown signs they are likely premiership contenders at times, however, have disappointed often too.

They have certainly lifted their game in recent weeks and that coincides with the return of Will Hopoate to the team. Last week they pummeled the Broncos 40-14 and are high on confidence. Canterbury is sitting equal fifth on the premiership standings on 20 points.

PLUCKED CHICKENS
The Roosters get a huge boost with the return of Mitchell Pearce at halfback. On top of that, Origin players Blake Ferguson and Aidan Guerra are back in the line-up.

Even though the chooks have won four of the past five between the sides, back in Round 11 it was all the Dogs who ran out winners 32-20.

Currently running second last on the table with only the lowly Knights below them, it’s been a terribly disappointing season for the Roosters considering they’ve won the last three minor premierships.

NO ALLIANCE AT ALLIANZ One big factor in the home side’s favour here is the lack of success the Bulldogs have had at Allianz Stadium. They have won five of their last 14 at the venue including a semi-final to the Roosters last season, 38-12.

GOOD THINGS We think the Dogs are good things here despite having troubles with the Roosters in recent times. One team is headed towards a deep finals run and the other is all but assured of missing out on the Finals. Take the Dogs**** in this one but if you want some value, try Brett Morris in 1st Tryscorer**** and Last Tryscorer**** markets. An exceptional finisher on his day, Morris returned from injury with a hat-trick against the Broncos last week and will be keen for more this time around.
Bulldogs - 1pt @ 1.57

BRISBANE V MELBOURNE Friday night, Suncorp Stadium

The Storm will get to show just how serious a premiership threat they are when they travel north to take on the Broncos in Friday night footy. Melbourne have been ultra impressive through the first 16 rounds, losing on just three occasions.

They come into this off the back of eight wins of their last nine games, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Dragons at WIN Stadium when they were missing Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.

Brisbane, on the other hand, after looking the ones to beat for the premiership through the first two-and-a-half months of the competition are now staggering, losing five of their last seven games. In three of those losses they have conceded an average of 35.5 points per game.

Admittedly two of those losses were by one point while the other was by two.

STORM’S HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Melbourne appears to be comfortable at Suncorp as they have five straight wins at the venue.

BOGEY TEAM
The Broncos don’t have many bogey teams but the Storm is definitely theirs. Melbourne has won an astonishing 21 of their past 26 matches against the six-time premiers.

RETURN TO SUNCORP
If Brisbane are to regain their form then heading back home is the place to start. They have won nine of their last 10 there with the only loss coming against the Tigers in Round 12 when they were Origin affected.

CONTENDERS?
Brisbane will welcome back Andrew McCullough along with Alex Glenn, which will give them some skill and muscle up front. The Storm, meanwhile, have some injury concerns with Cameron Munster and Blake Green missing while Nelson Asofa-Solomona out for the next eight weeks.

If the Broncos are serious about returning to the Grand Final then they must win this game. Their form, however, is a big concern and on that basis we are taking Melbourne ($2.33 UNIBET) at the value to win this one.

If you are looking for something away from Head-to-Head markets then maybe Suliasi Vunivalu is the way to go To Score A Try ($1.80 William Hill). He has 13 tries in nine games but was scoreless against the Tigers last week.
Storm - 1pt @ 2.33

NEW ZEALAND V GOLD COAST Saturday afternoon, Mt Smart Stadium

Have New Zealand finally turned the corner?

Well, it would take a brave punter to say so but three wins and a Golden Point loss to the league-leading Sharks tells suggests that they have.

The Kiwis will go into this one as favourites especially since they have a fantastic record against the Titans in recent history. New Zealand has owned the Gold Coast, winning nine of the past 10 encounters although they did lose their last one at Mt Smart in a close contest.

RE-ESTABLISHING THE FORTRESS
The Kiwis have won four of six games at Mt Smart Stadium this season with losses coming against the Storm (rd3) and Sea Eagles (rd 6). This is their best run at home for a while and comes off the back of losing four straight late last year / early this year.

TITANTIC EFFORTS
Gold Coast aren’t totally hopeless at Mt Smart though as they’ve won three of their eight there. Traveling away from Robina this season has been a little concerning but they still have three wins from seven including recent victories against Penrith and Souths.

WHICH WAY TO GO
You can never rely on the Warriors to do the right thing but recent efforts suggest they are prepared to make a run at the finals. They were terribly unlucky not to beat Cronulla at Shark Park last Saturday and during the Origin period of the last six seasons, they are the most successful of any team.

We think the Warriors ($1.38 LuxBet) will pack too many guns for the Titans.
Warriors - 1pt @ 1.38

WESTS TIGERS V PENRITH Saturday afternoon, ANZ Stadium

The battle of the west is set to provide plenty of fireworks when the Panthers and Tigers do battle.

Penrith is clinging to eighth spot on the ladder while the Tigers are four points adrift and if they are to make a run at the finals, it needs to start now. They will be given a lift with Robbie Farah to set to make a return after missing last week’s loss to the Storm. Penrith have won four of their last six games. Again, they make life hard for themselves or their opposition in that the lion's share of their games this season have been tight affairs. The average margin in their last six outings is just 7.3 points

TIMELY TIGERS
The Tigers have struggled throughout the year to find consistency but go into this off the back of three wins from their last five games. They went down by nine points to the Storm at AAMI Park last week in what was a highly entertaining game. Down by 26 points at the break, they roared back in the second half to get it back to 26-20 and very nearly could have leveled it up. The effort showed great resilience from Jason Taylor's outfit that will hold them in good stead here.

TAKING TURNS
When looking back at the history between these sides one thing is obvious - domination. For long periods, one team will have the measure of the other. Penrith has won two straight against the Tigers but prior to that had lost seven in a row. Go back even further and it was all the Mountain Men winning 14 of 18.

ANZ THE DECIDING FACTOR
Panthers don't have the best record at ANZ, losing five of their last six there to the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs. The Tigers, on the other hand, have won two of their last four there (both against the Bunnies this season) while they have dropped games to the Dogs and Eels.

Their effort against the Storm last week has stuck in our mind and the fact Penrith have a terrible record at the venue suggests that Aaron Woods and the Tigers ($2.43 UNIBET) will get the money in a tight contest. If you are taking Margins, 1-12 ($4.05 William Hill) is definitely the way to go.
Tigers - 1pt @ 2.43
Tigers 1-12 - 1pt @ 4.05

CRONULLA V PARRAMATTA Saturday night, Shark Park

Cronulla are eyeing off a club record 12th straight win when they host Parramatta on Saturday night. The Sharkies are on top of the table with 28 points and are unbeaten at home this season, making any team traveling to Shark Park feeling intimidated.

During this fantastic winning run Cronulla’s average winning margin is 11.3 points, however, if you take out the blowout results over Newcastle and the Dragons it drops to just 3.5 points!

If their streak is to continue though they will have to overcome a Parramatta side they’ve had troubled dealing with over the years, losing four of the last six against them. In what will be a boost to their side, Sosaia Feki has been named to make his return to the wing.

WHEN WILL IT END?
The Eels have named Semi Radradra on the wing although there is still some uncertainty as to whether he will play or not. Michael Jennings also returns for the Eels. Parramatta just keep getting the job done despite several things off the field playing havoc with their season including salary cap breaches and player welfare dramas.' Although they've been burdened with that they've won three straight games.

POINTS FEST
Recent history suggests this could turn out to be a points fest with 63 points scored the last time they met while it was 44, 66 and 46 points prior to that.

THE VERDICT
Cronulla’s ($1.30 Sportsbet) form this season has been exceptional. They have found ways to win games when most other teams would have folded. Those are championship qualities and on that basis we think they will get the Eels in this one.
Sharks - 1pt @ 1.30

CANBERRA V NEWCASTLE Sunday afternoon, GIO Stadium

Has Ricky Stuart found the key to the Raiders? Well it certainly seems that way as the Green Machine has notched up four wins from their past five starts. During that run they've knocked off the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Titans while their record at home has been strong, winning five of seven so far.

These teams met back in Round 3 where the result was a 24-all Draw. Prior to that the Raiders had won four of five against them. Newcastle have had a wretched season by anyone's standards. They are on a nine-game losing streak and have just three points in total. Their only win this season was against the Tigers. Their last three games have seen them beaten by an average of 26 points.

We can't see anything but a Raiders win here. There is value in chasing a 13+ Margin ($1.33 Bet365) for the home side while Brenko Lee ($8.50 Sportsbet) could be one for 1st Tryscorer. He's played just 5 NRL games and has four tries, including a double last week against the Titans.
Raiders 13+ - 1pt @ 1.33
Lee First TS - 1pt @ 8.50

SOUTHS SYDNEY V NORTH QUEENSLAND Sunday afternoon, Barlow Park (Cairns)

What has happened to the Rabbitohs?

For a season that started out with so much promise by racking up huge wins against the Roosters and Knights, they've fallen away terribly since then. Riding a four-game losing streak, they've actually won just two of their last 10 contests and find themselves six points outside the top eight.

Michael Maguire's side will be given a timely boost with Adam Reynolds making a return at number seven to partner Luke Keary in the halves. The biggest concern for Souths will be how to stop the inevitable points barrage from the Cowboys.

Souths have been leaking points of late and have conceded at least 28 points in their last four outings.

The Cowboys are the best attacking team in the competition and average 26 points a game, which immediately spells trouble for their opponents.

The one saving grace for the Bunnies could be some troubles away from Townsville for the defending premiers. Each of the Cowboys' five losses this season has been on the road.

While both sides are effectively playing an away game here (Barlow Park, Cairns), it is still a little concern for North Queensland who has lost all five of their games on the road. That said they have proven tough nuts to crack, as you would expect from defending premiers, with their average losing margin just 2.6 points.

FINALS SLIPPING AWAY
Champions in 2015 and a top eight finalist last year, Souths are suddenly facing the prospect of no finals footy for the first time in a few years. Six points adrift of eighth placed Penrith they need to make a serious run and it has to be now. Their opponents over the next four weeks are the Broncos, Sea Eagles, Raiders and Storm. We feel they’re done for 2016 and are facing a bridge too far in this one. Go for the Cowboys ($1.37 UNIBET) to win. Margin players are advised to take 13+ ($2.35 UNIBET) as the option.
Cowboys - 1pt @ 1.37
Cowboys 13+ - 1pt @ 2.35

MANLY V STGEORGE ILLAWARRA Monday night, Brookvale Oval

The last thing the Sea Eagles would've wanted to see is the Dragons on Monday Night Football. Manly has struggled against them for the better part of 12 years, winning just six of 19 encounters during that time.

Trent Barrett's side, considered premiership contenders at the start of the season, are cooked for 2016 and head into this game off the back of a seven-game losing streak. Even though the game is at Brookvale Oval, that will be of little solace for the Northern Beaches faithful as they've dropped five of six there this season.

As for the Dragons their attacking struggles continue despite scoring a season-high 30 points against the Knights last week.

They are the second-worst attacking team in the competition and are scoring an average of just under 14 points per game. On the flip side they are a very good defensive outfit and could pose problems for their opponents.

END OF THE SLUMP?
The Sea Eagles troubled the Cowboys more than what most people would've thought last Monday. In fact, they hit the front with 20 minutes remaining after trailing 18-4. They eventually went down 30-26 but there were some positive signs there for sure.

HANGING TOUGH
Dragons fans have been treated to some pretty ordinary performances this season but despite that, they are sitting just outside the top eight on percentages.

In fact if you analyse the Red V’s season so far it’s only been the standout teams, currently situated in the top four, and the Bulldogs who have outclassed them. Everyone else has proven to be a reasonable challenge for Paul McGregor’s outfit.

HARD CALL
This one is probably the hardest game of the week to call. We’re leaning towards the Dragons ($2.50 UNIBET), but only just despite not having won at Brookvale since 2008. 1-12 ($4.05 William Hill) also looks some value.

There could be value to be found in this game though with Kalifa Faifai Loa ($11.50 LuxBet) and Euan Aitken ($14 Sportsbet) likely candidates for 1st Tryscorer.
Dragons - 1pt @ 2.50
Dragons 1-12 - 1pt @ 4.05