So influential has Ryan Papenhuyzen become in the NRL this year, Andrew Johns sees his absence as a “12-14 point turnaround” in favor of the Panthers for this Saturday night’s Magic Round blockbuster, to be broadcast live and free on Nine.
The Storm are on fire, sitting on top of the ladder with a whopping for an against buffer of +77 on the second-placed Penrith, with the two competition frontrunners equal on 16 points.
Yet even coming off their first loss of the season at the hands of local rivals the Eels, Johns is strongly favoring the Panthers to stop Melbourne in their tracks at Suncorp Stadium.
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“I just think without Papanehuyzen, the way they play, he links with [Cameron] Munster and Jahrome Hughes, I think it’s a 12-14 point turnaround for them,” Johns told Brad Fittler on Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth’s Tips.
“I think we’ll get a huge game from Nathan [Cleary] this week. He’ll be disappointed, he missed two important goals and then missed that field-goal (in the Panthers’ loss to the Eels), so I think Penrith will hit back.”
Fittler, meanwhile, stuck with the Storm juggernaut to roll on, saying “they just look unstoppable at the moment”.
The mouthwatering top-of-the-table clash comes after it was confirmed Papenhuyzen, who leads the Dally M voting on 15 points, will miss 4-6 weeks after injuring his knee and his hamstring in separate incidents during Sunday’s victory over the Dragons.
The Storm have named off-season recruit Nick Meaney in the No.1 jersey for Saturday night’s game, opting to retain in-form halves combining Munster and Hughes in their usual positions despite the fact that both are accomplished fullbacks.
The Storm have won six straight games and in the last three rounds have amassed 162 points, conceding just 18. It’s a hot streak the likes of which has rarely been seen before, setting up Magic Round’s most unmissable contest against last year’s premiers.
Scroll below for the current leaderboard and Round 10 tips by Johns, Brad Fittler and all Nine’s expert tipsters!
Andrew Johns: Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
Brad Fittler: Knights, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles, Dragons, Storm, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
David Middleton: Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Roosters, Cowboys
Peter Psaltis: Bulldogs, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Titans, Storm, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
Michael Chammas: Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Tigers
Johnathan Thurston: Bulldogs, Broncos, Warriors, Titans, Storm, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
Allana Ferguson: Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
Matt Thompson: Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Roosters, Cowboys
Billy Slater: Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Titans, Storm, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
Ruan Sims: Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
The Mole: Knights, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
Ben Glover: Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Titans, Panthers, Sharks, Eels, Cowboys
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