2024 NRL: Round 17 Preview, Dragons vs Dolphins

Check out the match preview and prediction for the round 17 clash between the St George-Illawarra Dragons and the Dolphins.



St George-Illawarra Dargons vs Dolphins
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Date: Sunday, 30 June 2024, 2pm


Dragons: 1. Tyrell Sloan, 2. Zac Lomax, 3. Moses Suli, 4. Max Feagai, 5. Mathew Feagai, 6. Kyle Flanagan, 7. Ben Hunt, 8. Francis Molo, 9. Jacob Liddle, 10. Jack de Belin, 11. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 12. Jaydn Su’A, 13. Tom Eisenhuth, 14. Blake Lawrie, 15. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 16. Toby Couchman, 17. Luciano Leilua, 18. Michael Molo, 19. Christian Tuipulotu, 20. Ryan Couchman, 21. Jesse Marschke, 22. Jack Bird, 23. Fa’amanu Brown

Players cut from final squad:

Dolphins1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 2. Jamayne Isaako, 3. Jake Averillo, 4. Herbie Farnworth, 5. Tesi Niu, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Isaiya Katoa, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Jeremy Marshall-King, 10. Kenny Bromwich, 11. Connelly Lemuelu, 12. Euan Aitken, 13. Max Plath, 14. Felise Kaufusi, 15. Mark Nicholls, 16. Ray Stone, 17. Tevita Pangai Junior, 18. Josh Kerr, 19. Sean O’Sullivan, 20. Kurt Donoghoe, 21. Trai Fuller, 22. Oryn Keeley

Referee: Adam Gee

Embed from Getty Images


Both sides will have potentially have players backing up from State of Origin mid-week, with Ben Hunt, Jaydn Su’a and Zac Lomax for the home side and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow plus Felise Kaufusi for the Dolphins. At this stage you would expect three of the four to play, as it wouldn’t surprise if Kaufusi has the week off with the excellent Josh Kerr currently 18th man.

A timely return for the Dragons this week with Mosese Suli returning to the run-on side, which will be a key battle given the recent form of Dolphins star off season signings in the centre of Jake Averillo and Herbie Farnworth. Both were blunted a little last week after winger Jack Bostock left the field early. The Dolphins will miss Jack Bostock’s industry, speed and work under the high ball, he has been one of the revelations of the 2024 season, but in Tesi Niu they have a capable replacement. Niu did start the season as a first-choice centre.

Jack Bird has been named among a gang of five players on an extended bench for the Dragons. Bird looks the most likely to sneak into the matchday team and will provide an extra punch for the home side. With the Origin players backing up the benches become important, and one could argue the Dolphins slightly have the edge. Early signs on Tevita Pangai Junior last weekend in his NRL return were very promising with his offloads causing the Storm some trouble, and with the quiet achievers Mark Nicholls and Ray Stone giving it their all they are well covered. That’s not to say that the Dragons bench doesn’t have their claims too.

Probably the key battle for the game will be the halfbacks in a master versus the apprentice style head-to-head. To underline their importance these two halfbacks on show this Sunday are the top two for kicking metres in the NRL in 2024. Ben Hunt has been as good as ever this season, his 20 try assists tops the competition, and most have forgotten about his heading for the exits during 2023. Isaiya Katoa is the most promising young halfback in the NRL, and his development during 2024 has been outstanding after getting an extended run in the position, and the Dolphins have wisely recently re-signed him for many more seasons to come. His combination with Kodi Nikorima has been a joy to watch. Both halves are surrounded in the backs by enough firepower to win this game, so it’s up to these midfield maestros to get the best tune out of them.

Both teams come into the game with inconsistent form, with the Dragons winning and losing two of their last four games and the Dolphins last four record being one win and three losses. But both sides have beaten much fancied opposition in that run, with the Dragons upsetting a depleted Penrith and the Dolphins defeating Cronulla in recent weeks. St George-Illawarra’s form all season has been inconsistent all season, with the Dragons unable to put more than two of any result together in 2024. Some media talk for the Dolphins has centred around the accusation that Wayne Bennett is essentially coaching two teams, and the Dolphins are suffering as a result. But you have to look further than the results. The Melbourne loss was arguably one of their best performances of the season and they lost to Canberra in golden point. Four of their six losses have been by six points or less. And their current fifth position is a few places higher than pre season expectations, so it’s not panic stations yet.

This will be the fourth clash between these sides in two seasons, with all wins going to the home side so far. The last win saw the Dolphins defeat the Dragons by 38-0 which at the time was the new franchises best attacking and defensive effort in a game. This is only the Dolphins’ second match in Sydney this season, but their first two rounds ago ended with a win against the high-flying Sharks. The Dolphins seem to like paying NRL sides from Sydney this season, they have a 100% record against Sydney sides at all grounds over six games in 2024.

Another thing going against the Dragons is Sunday. They have lost 10 of their last 11 Sunday games. The Dolphins aren’t much better this season with two wins and three losses.

Head-to-head stats can be found at Number Crunch Stats.


Check out all the NRL Predictions here.

Dragons by 6.

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