PREVIEW OF NRL ROUND-11 MATCHES (all times AEST):
THURSDAY May 18:
Cronulla v North Queensland at Southern Cross Group Stadium, 7.50pm
Head to head: Sharks 25 Cowboys 16
Last clash: Preliminary final, 2016, Sharks 32 bt Cowboys 20 at Allianz Stadium
TAB: Sharks $1.48, Cowboys $2.65
FootyTAB: Cowboys +6
Johnathan Thurston (shoulder) is racing the clock to take on the Sharks, and in turn prove himself fit for State of Origin I in just under two weeks. The Cowboys scored a gutsy win last week over Canterbury after Michael Morgan produced a virtuoso performance. Hooker Jake Granville is set to play despite fears he had aggravated a leg injury last week in his comeback game. It's hard to know what to make of the Sharks - they're winning ugly at the moment but winning nonetheless. Chris Heighington is back for the Sharks after missing last week for personal reasons and will be a direct swap for suspended prop Matt Prior.
Key: Put simply, this game hinges on whether Thurston is passed fit.
FRIDAY May 19:
Warriors v St George Illawarra at FMG Stadium, Waikato, 6.00pm
Head to head: Warriors 5 Dragons 20
Last clash: Round 4, 2017, Dragons 26 bt Warriors 12 at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
TAB: Warriors $1.48, Dragons $2.65
FootyTAB: Dragons +6
The Dragons are doing it tough without Gareth Widdop but have been losing no admirers with their effort. After losing three in a row, they could slip to the edge of the eight with a loss here. Jack de Belin and Paul Vaughan have been mentioned as possible Origin bolters and will need to produce huge games. Against the Panthers last week, the Warriors were exciting for 40 minutes and diabolical for the other 40. If they produce another similar performance, serious questions will start being asked of their big four of Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as well as coach Stephen Kearney.
Key: Will the Warriors bother to turn it up or will they go through the motions again?
Brisbane v Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm
Head to head: Broncos 19, Tigers 5, Drawn 1
Last clash: Round 12, 2016 - Tigers 19 bt Broncos 18 at Suncorp Stadium
TAB: Broncos $1.16, Tigers $5.25
FootyTAB: Tigers +12.5
The Tigers begin life after five-eighth Mitchell Moses, but it is the Brisbane No.6 all eyes are on come Friday night. Anthony Milford has his last chance to impress Queensland selectors before the side for the first Origin is named, and he will be desperate to prove he is an adequate replacement for Johnathan Thurston if he is ruled out injured. He has the added bonus of Ben Hunt returning from a hamstring complaint alongside him. Jack Littlejohn gets Moses' No.6 jersey at the Tigers, while Aaron Woods is also named to return from a hamstring injury.
Key: How Ben Hunt fits back into the Broncos' line- up. If he is anywhere near his best alongside Anthony Milford, the Tigers should be easy pickings.
SATURDAY May 20:
Gold Coast v Manly at Cbus Super Stadium, 5.30pm
Head to head: Titans 6, Sea Eagles 9
Last clash: Round 15, 2016 - Titans 30 bt Sea Eagles 10 at Cbus Stadium
TAB: Titans $1.62, Sea Eagles $2.30
FootyTAB: Sea Eagles +2.5
Manly have been dealt a massive blow, losing Tom Trbojevic for at least the next six weeks, and it will no doubt impact on them this week. The fullback leads the NRL for line breaks this year with 13, and has set up seven tries. In his place, the Sea Eagles have been forced to name Matthew Wright in the No.1 jersey. Gold Coast look a new team in the past month, having amassed 38 points in last week's win over Melbourne - the most of any team against the Storm since March 2014.
Key: Daly Cherry-Evans will have to be at his absolute best for Manly's attack to fire without Tom Trbojevic at the back.
Tip: Gold Coast
Parramatta v Canberra at ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm
Head to head: Eels 27, Raiders 28
Last clash: Round 5, 2017, Raiders 30 bt Eels 18 at GIO Stadium
TAB: Eels $2.35, Raiders $1.60
FootyTAB: Eels +5.5
The sudden arrival of Mitchell Moses at Parramatta changes everything for this clash. The Eels looked ripe for the picking against a fired up Canberra after losing playmaker Corey Norman (knee) for six weeks following their 48-10 last-round loss to the Sydney Roosters. But, after finally being granted a Wests Tigers release after his last-round defensive shocker, Moses is ready to be unleashed at halfback for what should be a revitalised Parramatta, also featuring returning fullback Bevan French. The Raiders will still be out to prove a point after their shock last-round defeat to Newcastle, especially with Queensland forward Josh Papalii back from his bizarre drink-driving ban.
Key: Can Canberra's backline duo - winger Jordan Rapana and centre Joey Leilua - rekindle their attacking bromance and help snap the Raiders' three-game losing streak?
SUNDAY May 21:
Newcastle v Penrith at McDonald Jones Stadium, 2.00pm
Head to head: Knights 23, Panthers 18, Draw 3
Last clash: Round 4, 2017, Panthers 40 bt Knights 0 at Pepper Stadium
TAB: Knights $3.20, Panthers $1.78
FootyTAB: Knights +10.5
The last time these two sides met, the Panthers mauled the Knights 40-0 in round five. What a difference six weeks makes. The Knights earned arguably their best win in two years with their upset - but deserved - victory last round over a shellshocked Canberra. The morale-boosting win has Newcastle ready for a shot at redemption against Penrith on their home turf. The Panthers are a much more vulnerable proposition than round five after snapping their five-game losing run last week by scoring 30 unanswered points against the Warriors - their second-biggest comeback win in club history. Corey Harawire-Naera returns to Penrith's back row.
Key: Can Newcastle fullback Dane Gagai block out rumours he is heading to South Sydney and inspire another Knights boilover?
Canterbury v Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium, 4.00pm
Head to head: Bulldogs 85 Roosters 88 Draw 5
Last clash: Round 2, 2017 - Roosters 28 bt Bulldogs 24 at Allianz Stadium
TAB: Bulldogs $2.85, Roosters $1.43
FootyTAB: Bulldogs +6.5
Fullback Will Hopoate is set to make his Sunday debut for the Bulldogs after easing his religious stance. The Bulldogs sorely missed Josh Reynolds last week but his injury gives Matt Frawley another chance to prove he is first-grade material. There are no changes to the Roosters' side who demolished Parramatta last week, with Mitchell Pearce looking to drive home his outstanding form to NSW selectors. Latrell Mitchell made a brilliant return to first grade against the Eels and is poised to wreak more havoc on the left edge.
Key: Can the Bulldogs' attack bounce back after a torrid night last week in Townsville?
South Sydney v Melbourne at nib Stadium, Perth, 6.30pm
Head to head: Rabbitohs 4 Storm 22
Last clash: Round 22, 2016 - Storm 15 bt Rabbitohs 14 at AAMI Park
TAB: Rabbitohs $3.15, Storm $1.36
FootyTAB: Rabbitohs +7.5
It's hard to tell which Rabbitohs side will travel to WA, such is their inconsistency. One of their four wins against the Storm came in Perth seven years ago with John Sutton, Sam Burgess and Dave Tyrrell the only players named in the 21 who can draw on the memory. Robbie Farah was in sparkling form during last week's win over the Tigers and will have his final Origin audition before Laurie Daley announces the NSW team next week. The Storm had a rare slip up against the Titans last week but remain top of the tree despite coach Craig Bellamy lashing them for their recent performances.
Key: Expect the Storm to respond emphatically after