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Questions, questions, questions …

Who will end up playing for their respective NRL club after missing Origin selection? Can the Blues, Kangaroos, Tigers and Dockers crack the AFL’s top 8? With three rounds to go, can the Sharks, Highlanders and Reds qualify for the Super Rugby finals?

NRL (Round 17)

3-BRONCOS v 4-SHARKS: The Broncos are missing a host of players and the Sharks take the field in Brisbane minus Carney and Gallen. It was a similar scenario before Origin II when the Broncos smashed the Roosters in Sydney and the Sharks toppled the visiting Titans. The Sharks have a terrible record in Brisbane and, although they still boast a quality forward pack, they may find it difficult to stop Broncos halfback Wallace. Tips: BRONCOS

16-EELS v 12-KNIGHTS: The Eels were perhaps lucky to roll the Panthers in the battle of the cellar-dwellers last weekend and the Knights gave a genuine top eight candidate a 14-point start before smashing the Tigers. The Eels are at home, but are missing Hayne. The Knights are only missing Boyd and can get the cash if they continue from where they left off on Monday night. Can the Eels go back-to-back for the first time under coach Kearney? Tip: KNIGHTS

 9-WARRIORS v 5-COWBOYS: The Warriors are at full strength, while the Cowboys are missing Thurston, Tate, Tamou and Scott. The good news for the Cowboys is that Bowen is set to play after being overlooked by the Maroons for Origin III. The Warriors have lost Vatuvei to injury, but look set to welcome back Friend. The Warriors have won five of their past six games against the Cowboys in Auckland. The Warriors aren’t worthy of a finals spot if they don’t win. Tip: WARRIORS

 7-RABBITOHS v 15-PANTHERS: The Panthers have lost Lewis, Jennings and Grant to Origin, while the likely inclusion of Taylor in the Rabbitohs line-up will off-set the absence of Inglis. The loss of Walsh to injury is a blow for the Panthers as well. Scoring points and leaking points has been a problem for the Panthers this season, so it could be tough going at ANZ Stadium, where they have conceded an average if 31 points against the Rabbitohs. Tip: RABBITOHS

 13-RAIDERS v 10-DRAGONS: The Dragons have not beaten the Raiders in Canberra for 12 years and have won just a single match from their past 14 against the Green Machine. Neither are at full strength, but the Raiders have lost Dugan and the Dragons will welcome back Merrin as he missed NSW selection for Origin III. The Raiders have won the past nine against the Dragons in Canberra, but surely Soward can spark the Dragons into life – especially with their finals hopes on the line. Tip: DRAGONS

AFL (Round 14)

 9-BLUES v 6-HAWKS: Huge game for the Blues, who were far from disgraced in their past two defeats against the Cats and Eagles. The Hawks are aiming for their fourth straight win, but the Blues are perhaps stronger opposition than the Kangaroos, Power and Lions. The Hawks have won their past eight against the Blues and Franklin has kicked 22 goals in his past three games. As the Blues have slipped down the ladder, the Hawks have only continued to rise. Tip: HAWKS

 1-MAGPIES v 12-DOCKERS: The Dockers were victorious at the MCG when they sank the Tigers on their previous visit to Victoria, but the Magpies are a different kettle of fish. The Magpies have won nine straight after losing two of their opening three games. Injuries proved too much for the Dockers against the Bombers last weekend, so it’s hard to see them rolling a team who are aiming for their 17th straight win over an interstate side. The Pies have averaged 130 points in their past five wins against Freo. Tip: MAGPIES

 5-CROWS v 10-TIGERS: The Crows, who have only lost at home once this season, will be primed to strike back after an inept display against the Kangaroos in Melbourne that cost them top spot on the ladder. The Crows have won 13 of their past 16 games against the Tigers, while the Tigers have won their three past games in Adelaide. The Tigers have a midfield that can trouble the Crows, but the expected return of Tippett gives the Crows the edge. Tip: CROWS

 4-EAGLES v 18-SUNS: The Eagles are unbeaten at home this season, while the Suns have yet to win a game. The Eagles have had their injury problems, but the likes of Kerr, Glass, Cox and Naitanui continue to inspire. In contrast, experienced players Bock, Brown, Brennan and Rischitelli have either had their injury problems or have performed poorly for the Suns. The Eagles won the corresponding match by 18 points last year, but it could get ugly on this occasion. Tip: EAGLES

3-BOMBERS v 14-BULLDOGS: The Bombers were highly impressive downing the Dockers in Perth, while the Bulldogs were highly disappointing when they succumbed to the visiting Lions. The Bombers are seemingly bound for the finals, but are they capable of making the top four. The Bombers should get the cash against the Bulldogs in comfortable fashion despite the fact that Bulldogs coach McCartney is a former Bombers assistant coach. Tip: BOMBERS

 2-SWANS v 17-GIANTS: After entering the premiership, it took the Dockers ages before finally getting the measure of the Eagles. It could be a similar story for the Giants as they strive to compete with the Swans. The Swans will win and it could be by a comprehensive margin with the Giants falling to the Demons by 78 points at the MCG last weekend. The Giants play well in Sydney, but if the Swans click they will match their 63-point win over the Giants in Round 1. Tip: SWANS

 7-CATS v 15-POWER: An alarming injury toll has the Power on their knees and they will struggle to get within of 50 points of the Cats. The Cats always lift for this game after the Power ended their spectacular home run in 2007 despite gaining revenge in the grand final. The Cats are not as good as they were, but it was hard to fault their resolve against the Swans at the SCG in a six-point loss. The Power have battled to kick goals in Geelong in the past. Tip: CATS

 13-LIONS v 16-DEMONS: The Lions were fantastic on the road last weekend when they surprised the Bulldogs in emphatic style by 58 points. Based on that performance, they should be too good for the Demons, who had too much class and experience for the Giants last weekend. Clark is a huge loss for the Demons, while Brown and Merrett could kick a bag for the Lions. The Lions won by 41 points in Round 1 and they should get the Demons by a similar margin. Tip: LIONS

8-SAINTS v 11-KANGAROOS: This is clearly the biggest match of the weekend and it should be desperation stakes — that’s if both teams come to play. The Saints fell to the Crows by four points on the road in their last clash after producing a whirlwind last quarter before the Kangaroos stunned the visiting Crows by 32 points. Before that, both teams played the Suns on the road with the Saints triumphing by 95 points before the Kangaroos snuck home by seven points. The Kangaroos were wonderful last weekend, but their inconsistency is a worry. The Saints have won six of its past seven games against the Kangaroos. Tip: SAINTS

Super Rugby (Round 16)

8-HIGHLANDERS v 1-CHIEFS: Amazingly, the Highlanders are the only New Zealand team to lower the Chiefs’ colours in 2012. That was in Round 1 when the Highlanders prevailed 23-19 in Hamilton. Most of the players from the Chiefs who lined up for the All Blacks in the 60-0 drubbing of Ireland last weekend starred, so the Highlanders face a solid test. Their season hangs in the balance, so expect the Highlanders to lift at home. Tip: CHIEFS

12-REBELS v 9-REDS: Mortlock is expected to play for the Rebels in his final Super Rugby on Australian soil. With O’Connor and Beale on deck, the Rebels might well fancy their chances, and after getting the Crusaders in Melbourne recently anything is possible. However, after a narrow loss on the road to the Crusaders, the Reds have won three straight and there are signs that they’re back to their best. The Reds got the Rebels 11-6 in Brisbane in Round 3. Tip: REDS

4-CRUSADERS v 6-HURRICANES: Last roll of the dice for the Hurricanes and sealing victory in Christchurch will be no easy assignment. Carter, Dagg and Read are missing from the Crusaders line-up, while the Hurricanes take the field minus Jane, Vito and Perenara. After a shock loss to the Rebels, the Crusaders returned home to cream the Blues 59-12 and the Highlanders 51-18. The Crusaders thumped the Hurricanes 42-14 in Wellington in Round 9. Tip: CRUSADERS

 13-FORCE v 3-BRUMBIES: Just like Mortlock, Sharpe plays his final Super Rugby match on Australian soil for the Force — but are they good enough to cause a surprise and down the Brumbies? The Brumbies defeated the Force 19-17 in Round 1 in Canberra, but from that point the Brumbies only got better under coach White. The Brumbies are Australia’s best team. They have won five of their past five games and playing on the road doesn’t pose a problem. Tip: BRUMBIES

 2-STORMERS v 14-LIONS: The Lions stunned the visiting Sharks before the break, but securing victory in Cape Town is daunting. The Stormers recorded a memorable win over the Bulls in Pretoria in the previous round, so they will go into the match against their Johannesburg rivals as warm favourites. There are problems in the Lions camp with a player revolt against coach Mitchell. The Lions face exclusion from Super Rugby at the expense of the Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth, so they need to finish the season with zest to avoid the axe. Incredibly, Habana can’t make the starting line- up for the Stormers. Tip: STORMERS

 5-BULLS v 10-CHEETAHS: The Bulls clipped the Cheetahs 51-19 in Bloemfontein back in Round 2, but that is the only time this season the Cheetahs have suffered a heavy defeat. The Cheetahs have shown marked improvement this year, but the Bulls have their eyes on the finals and will be hard to beat. The Bulls can still top the South African conference if the Stormers slip up. The Cheetahs have made numerous positional changes and will be buoyant after their sensational win over the Waratahs in their last appearance. The Springboks in the Bulls line-up are right to go. Tip: BULLS

 

 

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