The battle for a place in the top eight of the NRL hots up on Friday night when the Dragons entertain the Sea Eagles, while the Sydney Roosters make the short trip to face the Knights in Newcastle.
The Sea Eagles currently occupy eighth spot but the Roosters, Raiders and Dragons have formed an orderly queue below them and sit just two points behind.
A lot can change this weekend so the stakes are high in the opening game in Wollongong when the Dragons will be desperate to close the gap on the Sea Eagles.
It is a game that neither side can really afford to lose so it would be fair to expect some fireworks between these two sides.
The Roosters are also in need of the two points when they take on Newcastle in the hunter in the late kick-off.
Newcastle have nothing but pride to play for. It would take something miraculous for them to make the eight with games running out, but they will be out to finish the campaign as strongly as possible.
Both games have the potential to be exciting, close affairs, so let’s take a closer look at each team as they prepare to put it all on the line.
What: St George Illawarra Dragons v Manly Sea Eagles
Where: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
When: 18:00 (AEST) Friday 22nd July 2022
How to watch: Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Dragons 13/10, Sea Eagles 31/50
The Dragons had been looking good to make the top eight but a couple of poor defeats have stopped them in their tracks and made the job a lot harder.
The Roosters beat them by 28 points last week, the Broncos by 14 points the week before, so the Dragons are in desperate need of a win to get themselves back on track.
Their cause has not been helped by rumours that all is not well behind the scenes with coach Anthony Griffin and his players.
However Griffin remains upbeat heading into the game and is expecting a much better performance from his players.
“We’ve been inconsistent and we need to bring our best game of football tomorrow night,” he told reporters ahead of the game. “There’s been some really strong performances but the inconsistency of our best and the last couple of weeks is the thing we’ve got to get right and I’m sure we’ll be heaps better tomorrow night."
The Dragons are boosted by the return of Tariq Sims from suspension but they have suffered a huge blow as Moses Suli has been ruled out with an ankle injury.
Moses Mbye comes into the side to replace him, with Jayden Sullivan taking his place on the bench.
Manly have been in great touch when winning four of their last five games to move to eighth spot on the ladder.
The Sea Eagles have been averaging 35 points a game in that spell and will be fancying their chances against a Dragons side that have conceded 86 points over the last two games.
Manly have been hit by the news that Jake Trbojevic, Lachlan Croker and Andrew Davey have all been ruled out through sickness.
The big match-up during the game will see Queensland State of Origin team-mates Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt going head-to-head in the halves.
What: Newcastle Knights v Sydney Roosters
Where: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
When: 19:55 (AEST) Friday 22nd July 2022
How to watch: Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Knights 11/4, Roosters 7/25
The Knights have had a tough campaign and sit well outside the eight. They have won just once in the last five games and have been leaking points for fun. Indeed they have conceded a total of 156 in that run of games.
Even so they will be looking to finish the season strongly to give the fans some hope for next year and have games against the Bulldogs, Tigers and Titans to come.
Newcastle hoped to welcome back Dom Young but it looks as though the game has come a week too early for the winger.
Hymel Hunt will play his first game of the season on the wing, while Tyson Frizell and Edrick Lee have been named to play after recovering from rib and foot injuries respectively.
The Roosters have played finals for the last five seasons but will need to come with a strong run to ensure they make it six.
They have not been helped by more crippling injury blows. Sitili Tupouniua and Billy Smith are out for the season with knee injuries and now Siosiua Taukeiaho could be out for at least a month with a fractured cheekbone.
There is some positive news though as both Luke Keary (concussion symptoms) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (hamstring) will return to the side that faces the Knights.