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Quite simply a great weekend of footy across all the codes

NRL – Round 17

Not only will it be interesting to see how teams perform in various grounds around Australia this weekend, but it will also be interesting to see how certain teams stand up after they were fined for salary cap breaches today.

First of all, it’s hard to see Roosters and Sea Eagles falling to the Dragons and Eels, respectively.

The Storm will start the match against the Broncos as warm favourites, especially with Cameron Smith returning, but the boys from Brisbane are capable of giving the premiers a run for their money if they can continue from where they left off against the Warriors.

The Sharks comprise a host of former Tigers, so it could be an interesting clash as the Tigers strive to avenge a 30-6 loss at Allianz Stadium in Round 9.

The Tigers are on a roll and can’t be written off, however the Sharks could prove hard to beat at home.

The Titans and Panthers square off in Darwin in a game that can honestly go either way.

The Titans, who have the edge in the forwards, were awful against the Knights last weekend, while the Panthers, who have the edge in the backs, have won five of their past eight games.

Teams who arrive in Darwin first to prepare for a game, regardless of the code, usually win these games. The Titans were the first team to land in the Top End.

The Raiders-Cowboys clash in Canberra is a lottery as well.

The Raiders, who have lost their past two road games, have win their past 10 at home, while the Cowboys have won their past two and their past five games against the Raiders.

The Raiders are tremendously hard to beat at home and it should be a chilly 9C in Canberra on Sunday, but there are signs that the Cowboys have finally clicked into gear.

The Bulldogs return to Mackay where they toppled the Storm a year ago.

On this occasion they face the Knights, who snapped a four-match losing streak by creaming the Titans last weekend.

The Knights belted the Bulldogs 44-8 in Round 10, so the Bulldogs will be out for revenge against a team who have struggled on the road all season.

The Rabbitohs are flying and face a Warriors outfit who must travel around 5000km for the match in Perth.

The Warriors, like the Rabbitohs, are on fire and succumbed to a narrow 24-22 defeat at the hands of the Rabbitohs in Auckland in Round 5.

The Warriors have yet to win a game in Perth and they have just won two of seven on the road in 2013, and while there is a doubt regarding the fitness of Manu Vatuvei and Russell Parker the Rabbitohs are set to welcome back George Burgess and Chris McQueen.

AFL – Round 15

Pick the winner in the Blues-Magpies, Lions-Suns, Crows-Eagles and Cats-Hawks encounters and you’ll probably have a pretty good weekend.

Perhaps it might be a wise decision to turn to the bookies if you can’t split the teams.

The Blues have key men returning, while the Magpies have lost key men – and speculation is rife that Magpies star Harry O’Brien isn’t exactly seeing eye to eye with coach Nathan Buckley.

If the Blues don’t get the Magpies they never will, but the Magpies have a habit of bouncing back after a poor effort and they were certainly made to look second rate against the Power last weekend.

The Bulldogs may have lost to the Demons last weekend, but they won’t be losing to the Giants in Canberra.

The Tigers have won four straight and appear headed for the finals, however they need to be on their game against a desperate Kangaroos outfit who can kiss the finals goodbye once and for all if they don’t get the cash.

Apart from the Giants and Demons, the Lions have leaked the most points this season which may give the Suns hope as they head up the road to face their Queensland rivals at the Gabba.

However, the Lions are a much better side at home and should hit back following an inept display against the Hawks in Launceston.

The Lions got the Suns by two points on the Gold Coast in Round 3, and the Suns have only improved since then.

If the Lions can beat the Cats at home, then they can beat the Suns.

The Suns need to win this if they envisage making the finals in 2013.

You could tip the Crows or Eagles and you’d still be feeling nervous.

The home ground advantage is a boost for the Crows and the bookies think the Crows can win.

The loser can forget about the finals and don’t give up on the Eagles too quickly because they were gallant against the Bombers last weekend and pushed the Hawks to the limit when last they travelled.

The Cats are aiming for their 11th straight win over the Hawks, while the Hawks are aiming for their 12th straight win.

It’s impossible to split both teams with confidence, particularly as the Cats have won eight of the past 10 games against the Hawks by less than 10 points.

The Cats hit back in style following a stunning loss to the Lions when they put the Dockers to the sword last weekend, while the Hawks weren’t exactly pushed to the limit as they cruised to victory against the Lions.

It should be another classic, and by the way the bookies have the Hawks as favourites.

After what should be a truly spectacular Saturday, it is little mundane come Sunday.

The Swans will overcome the Demons and the Dockers are good things to sink the Saints, who head to Perth minus Nick Riewoldt.

The other game on Sunday pits the courageous Bombers up against the Power, who rival the Suns as the most improved team in 2013.

Big wins at home against the Swans and Magpies must surely give the Power confidence, however the Bombers are proving hard to beat, especially at Etihad Stadium.

Has another week in a drugs-induced spotlight worn away at Essendon?

Has Power coach Ken Hinkley kept his players’ feet on the ground?

And will the Bombers be focussed after an emotional win over the Eagles in Perth?

It’s a big game for the Power.

If they get within 20 points of the Bombers then it’s hard to see them missing the finals, but if they end up rolling the Bombers they will definitely make the finals.

Super Rugby – Week 19

The Australian teams return to the fold next weekend, so it’s the last chance for the New Zealanders and South Africans to take advantage with the finals looming large on the horizon.

On form, the Crusdarers-Chiefs clash in Canterbury might well be a prelude to this year’s final.

It rivals the Cats-Hawks clash in the AFL as arguably the most anticipated match of the weekend.

Perhaps it could be wise to stick with the Crusaders on this occasion because they quite simply destroyed the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend.

The Chiefs recorded a solid home win over the Hurricanes a week ago, but were probably not as convincing as the Crusaders.

Pride will be on the line when the Hurricanes play host to the Highlanders.

You shouldn’t endure too much stress if you settle on the Hurricanes.

The loser of the Cheetahs-Blues game in Bloemfontein can forget about the finals.

The Blues are some chance after a narrow loss to the Sharks in Durban, while the Cheetahs never got out of second gear in a disappointing loss to the Stormers in Cape Town.

The Cheetahs will lift at home and the bookies believe they can win, and thus keep their unlikely finals hopes alive.

It’s the last roll of the dice for the Blues, so they won’t give up without a fight.

The Stormers, who will amazingly miss the playoffs after falling one game short of the final last year, will prove too good for the Kings, while the second-placed Bulls could go top with a home win over last year’s beaten finalists the Sharks.

The Bulls will grab first place if the Crusaders down the Chiefs.

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