Friday Night Football kicks off with a spiteful encounter between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers. It’ll be the first matchup between the clubs since Ricky Stuart’s now infamous ‘weak gutted dog’ jibe on Panthers’ utility Jaemon Salmon, and there’s sure to be plenty of feeling in this one.

Next up, two teams looking to once again establish themselves as a Premiership contender, after indifferent starts to the 2023 NRL season, as the South Sydney Rabbitohs host the Melbourne Storm. Both should be highly entertaining affairs with plenty of feeling in both.

Draftstars has numerous contests, with the biggest being a $12,000 total prize pool in the Rabbitohs vs Storm contest. Don’t forget the $10,000 Raiders vs Panthers contest, with the winner pocketing almost a grand! There’s also a $5,000 contest involving both Friday Night matchups. Whatever your style, there’s a contest for you this Friday night, so let’s dive in and find some value selections.


Team News

The Raiders have lost superstar five eighth Jack Wighton (suspension) for two weeks, however they luckily get Jamal Fogarty back after a one week absence, meaning Matt Frawley just shifts to five eighth to cover Wighton. With the return of Jordan Rapana from suspension, young winger James Schiller goes back to reserves. The rest of the 17 named remains the same.

For the Panthers, they are again without Liam Martin, with recruit Luke Garner joining him on the sidelines. Scott Sorenson makes a return to the starting team in place of Garner, with Lindsay Smith joining the bench. Soni Luke (concussion) misses out, with Tyrone Peachey named to make his return for the Panthers off the bench. 

The Rabbitohs have only the one change from the 17 named last week in the victory over the Sea Eagles, with Hame Sele named to return, at the expense of Ben Lovett.

Finally, the Storm also have only the one change, with Tyran Wishart dropping to the reserves, replaced on the bench by Tom Eisenhuth.

Betting Markets

Canberra Raiders ($4.00) vs Penrith Panthers ($1.25)

Points total – 40.5 points

South Sydney Rabbitohs ($1.55) vs Brisbane Broncos ($2.45)

Points total – 40.5 points

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This seems like a chance for the Panthers to kick start their season, with a trip to the Nation’s Capital to take on a Raiders side without their best player. The Raiders currently sit in 16th place on the ladder, and despite Head Coach Ricky Stuart undoubtedly having his troops up for this grudge match, there’s a real chance the Panthers could blow the Raiders out here.

In the second game, I like the Rabbitohs to get the job done against the Storm. It should be a tight game, but the Rabbitohs have had a far tougher schedule in the opening month of the competition, and they haven’t been embarrassed, despite going 2-2. Conversely, the Storm have lost to the Titans and Bulldogs, two games they would have expected to win, and looked ordinary at times against the Tigers last week. I give the Rabbitohs a small edge in this one.

Love It – Campbell Graham - $14,330

Campbell Graham could be the most complete centre in the game right now. This week, he gets a Storm left edge defence that has been leaking tries live a sieve. In fact, every right centre that has lined up against the Storm has scored a try this season. Looking more towards Graham, he has two tries this season (both scored against Cronulla), and two scores above 60. He has a solid floor, given he makes his tackles and gets involved running the football, and with one or two attacking stats, can easily get his score up over the 50-point mark. I love Graham this week in a matchup that could have plenty of points.

Love It – Cam Munster - $21,720

Munster came back last week with a solid performance in the Storm’s 24-12 victory over the Tigers. In a relatively low scoring game, Munster contributed all over the stat sheet on his way to 68 points. With Jahrome Hughes out, Munster is going to be forced to play out of his skin if the Storm are going to have a chance against the Rabbitohs. Another reason I’m looking at Munster in this slate is a point of difference (POD) selection at half. With Cleary, Grant, and Cook all undoubtedly well owned, Munster is the sort of POD that can push you over the top.

Love It – Zac Hosking - $13,940

What a Panthers debut for the ex-Bronco last week. Despite being in a losing side, Hosking was unbelievable on the right edge, making 54 tackles (0 Missed), running for 109 metres and 5 tackle breaks, whilst also scoring a try, for a massive 95.9 points. Whilst we can’t expect that again, Hosking has shown that he’s willing to get involved in the defensive workload, whilst also being a dangerous ball-runner on the right edge for the Panthers. The Knights pillaged the Raiders’ left edge defence last week, and I’ve got to believe Nathan Cleary will be peppering them with short balls to Hosking close to the line agains this week. A big chance at a try and a 70+ point performance.

Hate It – Hudson Young - $18,000

We had some trouble with Young last season, as the strong backrower often looked overpriced based on his try scoring ability, only to go and score again the week we fade him. He’s had two quality games in a row in DFS, scoring 59.8 against the Knights last week, after a 48.8 against the Sharks the week prior. This week, the Raiders get the Panthers, the team with the best defence in the competition. And whilst Young has the floor of a decent edge backrower, his ceiling is only as good as his attacking stats will allow, and against a Panthers side conceding just two tries per game, I’m happy to fade Young in this spot.

Hate It – Cody Walker - $15,870

Walker is in that awkward mid-range that you’re not too sure whether it’s a good idea to pick him, save some money and hope for a masterclass, or leave him out and hope for a couple of brain snaps. To be honest, either is possible just about every time the fiery pivot laces up the boots. I’ve advocated for Walker several times already this season, and he hasn’t performed too badly. With a low score of 33.7 and a high of 58.1, he’s got a seemingly narrow window that you can count on. This week though, I don’t trust Cody and implore you to find the money to go up. Walker has zero attacking stats in his last 3 matchups with the Storm, who seem to have his number. A big-time fade candidate this week.

Who Knows – Latrell Mitchell - $18,260

Tough one this week, however Latrell is always a candidate for this pick. Latrell’s scores have gradually decreased each week this season, and whilst I don’t expect that trend to continue, Latrell isn’t a fullback that’s going to go and run for 200+ metres in a game and get you a solid score of base statistics. You are hoping he can set up a try or two, make a break or two, and kick a few goals, to justify the price tag. But, it’s Latrell, and every week all of the above is possible. Whilst I won’t have him across many, if any, of my teams, he’s always a guy you hate not having somewhere in your portfolio.


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