By W D Nicolson
Sure Storm coach Craig Bellamy has openly stated that Slater is no magic cure but when you add one of the three best players in the world to one of the other three best players in the world with another player who is easily in the top ten players in the world - you get a team that could run the rest of the schedule and finish on 40 competition points.
I know the Dogs have been great and have won 8 in a row but they'll have to go at least 5-1 in their last 6 games and rely on improving their differential to hold out the Storm.
For a full look at how the 13 teams still in contention could play out their schedules - check out this link as of around lunchtime tomorrow/Friday.
But if you really want the scoop - just listen to this week's NOT The Footy Show Podcast.
NOT The Footy Show has your NRL Podcast needs covered in Episode 117: The Round 21 Preview - with a record breaking 4 member panel show featuring Maria Tsialis, Jake Hauritz, DC Chapman and Warrick Nicolson in the studio to preview the Run to the Finals - which teams did we settle on making the Top 8?
Grab the 77 minute Podcast right here.
Be sure to check all the Team news on the NRL Injured List which is updated every Tuesday afternoon - and the Podcast has plenty of insight on those selections and your Late Mail and Panel Picks are below.
| Full Round 21 Tips are Storm by 10, Titans by 6, Cowboys by 4, Sharks by 7, Sea Eagles by 4, Raiders by 6, Rabbitohs by 10 (if Marshall plays - Tigers by 2) and Broncos by 10.
| My 'Locks' are Melbourne and Brisbane; My 'Less than Confidents' are Sharks and Sea Eagles, while My 'Don't put the house on Its' are the Titans, Cowboys, Raiders and Rabbitohs.
In short - not an easy round to pick.
All the panel's picks are below with their Special Fried Rice selections and we have updated the NRL Injured List with all of this week's Late Mail as well as below in streamlined form.
NRL ROUND 21 PREVIEW - 2012
26/07 Odds are courtesy of Sportingbet Australia
For some more insight into the markets check out NOT The Footy Show's new resident tipster's site GT Tips http://www.gttips.co.uk
All Kick-Offs are LOCAL time.
Round 21 Late Mail...
If you have any reputable mail - Let me know via @NRLTweet
DRAGONS (+5.5) $2.55 v $1.53 STORM
Billy Slater will play barring any Friday morning soreness in his knee. But the Storm will rest Todd Lowrie and Gareth Widdop, so look for Jaiman Lowe or Maurice Blair to come in on the bench and Rory Kostjasyn to start at five-eighth. Justin O'Neill might also be a late inclusion. The Dragons hope to get Nathan Fien back from a knee injury, but if he can't go then Cameron King or one of Leeson Ah Mau or Will Matthews will make the bench. Dean Young remains in doubt - with any member of the bench (most likely Jack de Belin) likely to start for him if he can't play. Another option is Beau Scott back into the forwards and young Nathan Green into the centres if Young is out. UPDATE: Soward is out, Fien to five-eighth, King onto bench, Ah Mau out and Young playing. Lowe in on bench, Kostjasyn starts.
ROOSTERS (+2.5) $2.20 v $1.70 TITANS
Michael Henderson didn't travel with the Titans so Dominique Peyroux is their 18th man. Greg Bird has declared himself ready to go, as has bench forward Ben Ridge and Nate Myles. The Roosters will have two rookies on the wing in the returning Tautau Moga and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Mitchell Aubusson could find himself at lock with Tinirau Arona moving to the bench. Martin Kennedy (head) and Lama Tasi (shoulder) are both in some doubt. UPDATE: Both team's 1-17.
BULLDOGS $1.65 v $2.30 COWBOYS (+3.5)
Kris Keating is long long long odds to play, so David Stagg is your likely five-eighth with Josh Reynolds just swapping jumpers, not roles, at halfback. Martin Taupau will be preferred to Harlan Alaalatoa on the bench. There's also a chance James Graham could start on the bench - again - and Dale Finucane play the first 10-15 minutes instead. The Cowboys should be 1-17 with Ray Thompson unlikely to push Michael Morgan out of the team after a win.
SHARKS $1.45 v $2.85 PANTHERS (+6.5)
Paul Gallen and Jeremy Smith are set to play - they only need to wake up on Saturday feeling okay and they'll play. There's a chance Jayson Bukuya could be moved to right centre to make room for Anthony Tupou in the run on team in the second row and Ricky Leutele would miss out. Jon Green and Tyson Frizell are the most likely bench players to miss out on a spot, especially if Wade Graham (sternum) is a late inclusion. The Panthers hope Michael Gordon is ready to return after completing training during the week, he would come in for Etu Uaisele on the wing. Luke Walsh is also under a fitness cloud due to an ongoing shoulder injury.
SEA EAGLES $1.52 v $2.60 WARRIORS (+5.5)
Officially Manly say Brett Stewart won't play but he's not exactly a PR machine so why would they take him to Perth if he wasn't going to play? Then again, maybe it is because he wants to sow the seeds for his evolution into a Pirate - a West Coast Pirate, say in 2019 as a middle aged pensioner. Word is trickling through however that Dean Whare will definitely play and Stewart is giving his hammy at least another week's rest and just wanted to grab the extra frequent flyer miles. . Vic Mauro and Daniel Harrison would be the extra men in the stands. The Warriors might give Sebastine Ikahihifo his debut with Pita Godinet as 18th man. Otherwise the only possible change is a prop swap (but just a starter to the bench for Jacob Lillyman or Sione Lousi).
RAIDERS $1.57 v $2.47 KNIGHTS (+4.5)
Canberra will only make one change - and that would be Dane Tilse in for Sam Mataora or Mark Nicholls. Tilse needs to pass a fitness test on his ribs to be considered. Blake Ferguson has a smash snoz but will play. It's worth noting that Josh McCrone is Josh McCrone - but he'll overcome that disadvantage and pull on his #6 jersey. Newcastle will go with the same team as last week with Marvin Filipo 18th man.
RABBITOHS $1.26 v $4.00 TIGERS (+10.5)
Benji Marshall is in doubt with a bruised hand and a sore foot... but he's not out yet. Chris Lawrence, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Curtis Sironen are all OUT, with Tim Simona, Joel Reddy and Masada Iosefa the only not-named players who will definitely come in (or in Reddy and Iosefa's case - stay in). Tom Humble is a chance, as are a few wingers (John Grant, Marika Koroibete, Manaia Rudolph and David Nofoaluma) from the lower grades. There's also a chance Blake Aysford could miss with a back issue and Tim Moltzen is a 50/50 shot at overcoming a hamstring strain. Then there's Souths - no Greg Inglis so Nathan Merritt goes to fullback, Justin Hunt onto the wing and Shaune Corrigan and Josh Starling will be the leftover extras.
BRONCOS $1.28 v $3.85 EELS (+10.0)
Corey Parker's knee isn't 100% but he wants to play and credits the long turn-around (Friday to Monday) as the main reason why he will. Ben Te'o beat a suspension and will play, while Corey Norman's groin is a concern. Jack Reed wants to return soon from a leg injury but might be held back at least another week (same goes for Dale Copley - though they have been fitted with leg pads to protect the stitching in their legs - so maybe they play Monday?). With Te'o free to play - Matt Gillett could move to the centres and Gerard Beale to the wing with Aaron Whitchurch missing out. The Eels should be as named on Tuesday with Mitchell Allgood and Taulima Tautai fighting it out for the final bench spot.
For more on how we see the Weekend unfolding, check out the Podcast and Preview below.
For game-specific Late Mail every week - check back on Friday (or if there's an earlier game, earlier) for all your tipping and fantasy game needs.
NOT The Footy Show TV is taking a short hiatus - we will be back towards the end of the season for the run home.
IN THE PODCAST...
Top 8 Predictions:
Analysing the Run Home for those teams left in contention.
It's a full house at the NOT The Footy Show studio in Episode 117 with Maria Tsialis making her first in-studio appearance to co-host our Run Home to the NRL Finals Special. She's joined by Jake Hauritz, DC Chapman and Warrick Nicolson in an hour of footy, fun and well that's it.
#AskMaria proves to be a massive hit - you won't want to miss her answers... Matthew Duncan didn't!
All 13 clubs still in contention for a playoff spot have their last 6 games analysed and we deliver our final Top 8s, plus we talk Greg Inglis, Travis Burns and how do we find solutions to Club Cover Ups.
And as always we give you a full odds preview of Round 21 with all our picks and Special Fried Rice selections.
NOT The Footy Show 77 minutes of Footy... enjoy it as a big old chunk of dribble.
Round 21 NRL Preview - Released Wednesday July 25, 2012
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NOT The Footy Show will release another Podcast next Wednesday night - August 1 with our Round 22 Preview.