Canberra hasn’t beaten Melbourne in Melbourne in six years.
And if they fail to get the chocolates at AAMI Park on Saturday, league legend Phil Gould says there’s fat chance the Raiders will be winning the title in 2019.
In fact Gould reckons Ricky Stuart’s Green Machine is at least 12 months off being ready to claim the club’s first premiership since 1996.
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His scepticism stems from a worrying stat on Canberra.
Not once in five attempts this season have the Raiders beaten a team ranked in the top five on the NRL ladder.
The only other side in the competition to be zero per cent against top-five teams this year is Canterbury (none from seven).
Needless to say, if Canberra can’t knock off the best of the best, there’s no way they will be lifting the shield in October.
Read on for a full Round 22 preview in The Big Picture.
“I think they are beating up on out-of-form teams, I really do,” Gould told Channel 9’s 100% Footy following Canberra’s loss to the Roosters last week.
“They haven’t beaten a top-five side this year, and they are four and six against top eight sides this year.
“They are beating up on all those other teams that are out of form.
“There’s no doubt they have improved, they are on the way. I think maybe next year with another off-season like they’ve just had, it might have a cumulative effect and they will be a better team.
“I still think they are a long way short of the Roosters and Melbourne at the moment. To make a grand final they will have to beat either the Roosters in Sydney or Melbourne in Melbourne, and they haven’t done either for ages.
“I think they are still 12 months short.”
Read on for a full Round 22 preview in The Big Picture.
All the latest odds courtesy of Sportsbet.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers, Lottoland, 7.50pm
Sea Eagles: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brendan Elliot 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Jack Gosiewski 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Corey Waddell 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Lachlan Croker 19. Tevita Funa 20. Sean Keppie 21. Lloyd Perrett
Tigers: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Paul Momirovski 3. Tommy Talau 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Thomas Mikaele 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Michael Chee-Kam 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. Elijah Taylor 16. Alex Twal 17. Chris Lawrence 18. Josh Reynolds 19. Robert Jennings 20. Chris McQueen 21. Sam McIntyre
The talking point: Sitting in 10th on the NRL ladder, the Wests Tigers need a win if they’re to remain in the hunt for a finals berth. They’ll have to do it without Robbie Farah’s whose season is in doubt following a leg fracture.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: Look for the Tigers to use their kicking game against the Sea Eagles. The Tigers have scored 19 of their 65 tries (29.2%) from kicks, the second highest percentage of any team (Panthers 32.1%), while the Sea Eagles have conceded 24 of their 60 tries (40%) from kicks, the highest tally and percentage of any team.
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Sea Eagles $1.30 Wests Tigers $3.40
Our prediction: Sea Eagles by 6
Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels, Cbus Super Stadium, 6pm
Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kallum Watkins 4. Brian Kelly 5. Phillip Sami 6. Tyrone Peachey 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Jai Whitbread 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Sam Stone 13. Jai Arrow 14. Michael Gordon 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Bryce Cartwright 17. Brenko Lee 18. Anthony Don 19. Tanah Boyd 20. Leilani Latu 21. Nathan Peats
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Brad Takairangi 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown 14. Peni Terepo 15. David Gower 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Marata Niukore 18. Tepai Moeroa 19. George Jennings 20. Stefano Utoikamanu 21. Will Smith
The talking point: The Titans look some steps forward in their loss to the Dragons last week and back at home at Cbus Super Stadium, they’ll be looking to take to the Eels who last week cemented their spot in the finals. Brad Arthur’s men won’t want to take them lightly as they fine tune their plays in the run into September.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: These two teams have the worst red zone defence with the Titans conceding a try from inside 20 for every 7.1 tackles made and the Eels conceding a try from inside 20 from every 9.7 tackles made.
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Eels $1.36 Titans $3.08
Our prediction: Eels by 16
Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers, Suncorp Stadium, 7.55pm
Broncos: 1. Anthony Milford 5. Jamayne Isaako 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 2. Corey Oates 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Tevita Pangai 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Rhys Kennedy 17. Patty Carrigan 18. Herbie Farnworth 19. Matt Gillett 20. Izaia Perese 21. Alex Glenn
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Sione Katoa 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 18. Dean Whare 19. William Burns 20. Kaide Ellis 21. Hame Sele
The talking point: Both teams are jockeying for positions in the top eight with the Panthers sitting in seventh on 22 points, four points behind the Eels and the Broncos in eighth on 21 points, a point ahead of the Sharks. Six teams are fighting for what looks like the final two spots in the top 8 with Penrith in seventh down to the Knights in 12th, separated by four points on the ladder.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: Games between the two sides have not been close recently, with three of the past four games decided by 14 points or more. All three of these games have come at Suncorp with the previous four at the venue all decided by 10 points or fewer.
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Broncos $1.68 Panthers $2.15
Our prediction: Broncos by 4
Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys, McDonald Jones Stadium, 3pm
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Kurt Mann 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Tautau Moga 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Josh King 14. Jacob Saifiti 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. Sione Mata’utia 17. Aidan Guerra 18. Jamie Buhrer 19. Chris Randall 20. Jirah Momoisea 21. Danny Levi
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Coen Hess 4. Tom Opacic 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Reuben Cotter 15. John Asiata 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Peter Hola 19. Tom Gilbert 20. Corey Jensen 21. Murray Taulagi
The talking point: The pressure is on Newcastle to perform after six straight losses. While they’re virtually out of the finals race, coach Nathan Brown will be desperate for a win with his job on the line.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: Over 40% of the Knights tries this season have come through their left side (26 of 62), compared with just 15 through the right and 21 through the centre. The Cowboys on the other hand have preferred their right side with over 40% of their tries coming down this channel (23 of 53), with 14 coming through the left and 16 through the centre.
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Knights $1.48 Cowboys $2.60
Our prediction: Knights by 6
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders, AAMI Park, 5.30pm
Storm: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Tui Kamikamica 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui 16. Joe Stimson 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 18. Max King 19. Tom Eisenhuth 20. Sandor Earl 21. Billy Walters
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Bailey Simonsson 15. Dunamis Lui 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Sam Williams 19. Hudson Young 20. Siliva Havili 21. Emre Guler
The talking point: Canberra are flying high near the top of the NRL ladder, but there are still questions remaining over their premiership credentials. They can put those to bed against Melbourne.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: The difference in the game could come in the 20 minute period after half time as Canberra has scored the fewest points in this period (3.1 per game), while Melbourne has conceded the fewest (three per game) and scored the second most (seven per game).
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Storm $1.40 Raiders $2.90
Our prediction: Storm by 2
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, ANZ Stadium, 7.35pm
Rabbitohs: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. Dane Gagai 3. James Roberts 4. Braidon Burns 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Sam Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. Ethan Lowe 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Thomas Burgess 15. John Sutton 16. Dean Britt 17. Tevita Tatola 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Corey Allan 20. Bayley Sironen 21. Connor Tracey
Bulldogs: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Jack Cogger 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Chris Smith 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 19. Morgan Harper 20. Kieran Foran 21. Adam Elliott 22. Ofahiki Ogden
The talking point: This clash looms as a danger game for the Rabbitohs who risk losing a spot in the top four if they lose. The Bulldogs have proven to be a tricky customer in recent weeks and Wayne Bennett’s men will want to be on their game.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: Souths have kept the Bulldogs to exactly six points in back to back games. If Canterbury scores six points or less, it will be the sixth time in club history an opponent has kept them to six points or less in three consecutive games and first time since Rd 2, 2010 to Rd 5, 2011 when the Dragons did so.
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Rabbitohs $1.30 Bulldogs $3.45
Our prediction: Rabbitohs by 8
Sydney Roosters v Warriors, Sydney Cricket Ground, 2pm
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. Angus Crichton 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Nat Butcher 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Poasa Faamausili 17. Sitili Tupouniua 18. Lindsay Collins 19. Billy Smith 20. Lachlan Lam 21. Boyd Cordner
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Adam Pompey 3. Peta Hiku 4. Gerard Beale 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Jazz Tevaga 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Isaiah Papalii 13. Lachlan Burr 14. Adam Keighran 15. Sam Lisone 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Ligi Sao 18. Kodi Nikorima 20. Blake Ayshford 21. Leivaha Pulu 22. Hayze Perham
The talking point: Can the Warriors do it again? The NRL’s notoriously inconsistent team surprised many with a gritty win over the Sea Eagles last week to keen themselves in the finals race. They face another huge task against the high-flying Roosters who appear to be hitting their straps at the right end of the season.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: The Warriors have their third best win percentage against the Roosters of any current team (22 of 40 — 55%) with only better records against the Titans (69.2%) and Rabbitohs (55.9%). It’s the Roosters third worst win percentage against the Warriors of any current team (42.5%) with only worse records against Manly (35.5%) and Brisbane (40%).
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Roosters $1.20 Warriors $4.40
Our prediction: Roosters by 10
Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons, Pointsbet Stadium, 4.05pm
Sharks: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Dugan 5. Josh Morris 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Aaron Woods 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Kurt Capewell 15. Jack Williams 16. Billy Magoulias 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele 18. Jayson Bukuya 19. Blayke Brailey 20. Ronaldo Mulitalo 21. Kyle Flanagan
Dragons: 1. Corey Norman 2. Jason Saab 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Patrick Kaufusi 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Tyson Frizell 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Korbin Sims 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Jackson Ford 18. Tristan Sailor 19. Josh Kerr 20. Reece Robson 21. Zac Lomax
The talking point: The Sharks suffered a hiccup in their run to the finals last week with a loss to the Panthers. They’ll be desperate to bounce back against the lowly Dragons who are playing only for pride.
The Fox Sports Lab stat: The Dragons are being tackled the fewest times in the opposition 20 metre zone (23.4 per game). However, they may get more opportunities this week, with the Sharks making the most tackles inside their own 20 metre zone (33.1 per game). In attack the Sharks are scoring a try every 9.5 tackles they have inside the opposition 20 metre zone, the second best ratio behind only the Roosters (9.2). The Dragons have the equal third best ratio (10.2 tackles per try with the Storm).
The odds (courtesy of Sportsbet): Sharks $1.34 Dragons $3.18
Our prediction: Sharks by 12
Fox Sports Lab ladder predictor
Every team’s highest ladder finish percentage
1. Storm 99.1
2. Roosters 81.9
3. Raiders 47.6
4. Rabbitohs 36.3
5. Eels 32.8
6. Sea Eagles 36.2
7. Broncos 27.9
8. Sharks 24.2
9. Panthers 19.7
10. Wests Tigers 19.4
11. Knights 23.3
12. Warriors 26.4
13. Cowboys 23.9
14. Dragons 32.4
15. Bulldogs 45.1
16. Titans 97.5