The Sharks have a great recent record against the Panthers, winning seven of their past eight encounters.
The Sharks have a great recent record against the Panthers, winning seven of their past eight encounters. DANIEL MUNOZ

Durko's NRL previews for round 18

FRIDAY

PANTHERS V SHARKS

Panthers Stadium, 6pm

History: played 89, Sharks 48,

Panthers 38, drawn 3

Last met: Sharks 26-22, round 7, 2018

Calling this result is a toss-of-of-the-coin verdict. Slightly favouring the Sharks, who are fresh from a bye, had just one player involved in Origin last night and have an amazing recent record against the Panthers. Against almost insurmountable odds, the Panthers have been magnificent this season and their win against the Warriors last week was amazing. But the Sharks, who have taken down the Panthers seven times in their past eight encounters, will come with all guns blazing as they hunt a top-four berth.

TIP - Sharks

KNIGHTS V EELS

McDonald Jones Stadium, 7.50pm

History: played 50, Knights 28, Eels 21, drawn 1

Last met: Knights 30-4, round 13, 2018

Although the Knights are out of finals contention, if they can find their early season form they will cause some headaches for the premiership aspirants later in the season - and the return of Mitchell Pearce week is a great kick-start device. And despite being better in recent weeks, the Eels remain a basket case and the Knights' 17-8 record against them in Newcastle should not be disregarded.

TIP - Knights

SATURDAY

BULLDOGS V RABBITOHS

ANZ Stadium, 3pm

History: played 157, Bulldogs 81,

Rabbitohs 72, drawn 4

Last met: Rabbitohs 20-16, round 4, 2018

Despite a roster clean-out and additional injuries in recent weeks, the Bulldogs have improved immensely yet remain in contention for the wooden spoon. But their precarious position will matter little to the rampaging Rabbitohs who, fresh from a bye, are eyeing off their first minor premiership since 1989. Even without skipper Greg Inglis, and despite a losing 11-16 record against the Dogs at Homebush, this appears a cakewalk for the competition leaders.

TIP - Rabbitohs

SEA EAGLES V STORM

Lottoland, 5.30pm

History: Played 33, Storm 18, Sea Eagles 14, drawn 1

Last met: Sea Eagles 24-4, round 11, 2018

On paper this is a non-contest, with the hapless Sea Eagles further into the mire as each week passes. But every now and again - as was the case against the Panthers two weeks ago - they pull a rabbit from their hat. But as they showed last week the premiers remain the benchmark and, minus Origin commitments, Cameron Smith remains the consummate conductor. The return bout between Dylan Walker and Curtis Scott is eagerly awaited.

TIP - Storm

RAIDERS V COWBOYS

GIO Stadium, 7.30pm

History: Played 40, Raiders 22, Cowboys 18

Last met: Raiders 18-8, round 8, 2018

Missing the finals for the first time since 2010, the Cowboys still have two major goals to achieve - send Johnathan Thurston out a winner and avoid their first wooden spoon in 18 seasons. Despite their poor season and the loss of key players, they will still field a very strong side against the Raiders, who have shown this season that under pressure they are poor. But with a slim chance of playing finals and a decisive 14-6 home record against the Cowboys, the Raiders should prevail.

TIP - Raiders

SUNDAY

BRONCOS V WARRIORS

Suncorp Stadium, 2pm

History: Played 40, Broncos 23, Warriors 17

Last met: Broncos 27-18, round 6, 2018

In this rare Sunday afternoon home appearance, the Broncos will be keen to again show a clean pair of heels following a season-best 34-nil down the M1 last weekend. Conversely, the Warriors - who won five games straight to start the season - need to finds some steel after their 36-4 humiliation at the hands of a weakened Penrith. This is a genuine yardstick as to whether either team can be considered a premiership threat, and the Broncos will be hoping their four Origin stars return unscathed.

TIP - Broncos

DRAGONS V TIGERS

Jubilee Oval, 4.10pm

History: Played 19, Gold Coast 11, Wests Tigers 8

Last met: Dragons 16-12, round 13, 2017

Tigers fans were elated two weeks ago by an unexpected roster boost, but their finals hopes dived with an upset loss to the Titans. Now, with the Origin-depleted Dragons wobbling, the Tigers - who have Benji Marshall back - have a chance to stake a finals claim but will need to be much better than a fortnight ago. After their big loss to the Storm, expect the Dragons to hit back in this.

TIP - Dragons

TITANS V ROOSTERS

Cbus Super Stadium, 6.30pm

History: Played 17, Roosters 9, Gold Coast 8

Last met: Roosters 34-14, round 12, 2018

If last week's pathetic effort by the Titans, with their season on the line, is the best they can offer, another hiding from the high-flying Roosters beckons. Whenever Titans fans are given a sniff of positivity it seems their team falters, and with a top four spot in their sights the Roosters are unlikely to allow this opportunity to slip. The one slight ray of hope for the Titans is that the Roosters, already without Dylan Napa, will rest all their Origin reps.

TIP - Roosters

- Tony Durkin



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