It’s arrived, that gargantuan State of Origin is hovering over the rugby league world like the spaceship arriving in Independence Day. It sends TV ratings sky rocketing, social media into melt down and pilfers teams of their best players. It forces the NRL into split rounds which fans despise, Pay TV abhors and fantasy players hate – suck it up princesses, it isn’t going away! Clubs cringe having to bear the brunt forced to include fringe first graders which dilutes the standard of the competition unless your team isn’t affected, then it’s a potential welcome two points handed to them on a plate. Origin is the biggest event in Australian sport so I have some three word slogans for club land – deal with it, get on board, build a bridge (and get over it)… that last one is still three, the brackets saved me!
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Parramatta Eels
This is a massive game for both sides especially the Rabbitohs. It’s not quite panic stations yet but lose this one, and they’re heading towards code red for the cardinal and myrtle. The Bunnies were very good against the might of the Storm but just fell short. They’ve uncovered a gem in backrower Angus Crichton, his strong running has added a dynamic dimension to the Bunnies right side. Sam Burgess was again the sides strongest and he is doing all he can to get his side across the line. Nathan Brown has been one of the Eels best this year and he’ll love locking horns with Slammin’ Sam, it’ll be like two mountain goats fighting for mating rights in rutting season. The Eels will be better this week as Mitchell Moses gels with his team mates. They pushed the Raiders and are just lacking the final polish to get over the line. Inconsistency is their major problem. The kicking games of Moses and Adam Reynolds could be the difference, Reynolds will want a big game to push his case for Origin if the Blues come knocking later in the series. I think he’ll help knock the Eels off.
Rabbitohs by 6
New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos
Okay here’s the deal, every side hates Origin except the Warriors. This is the time of the year the Warriors use to get in the groove and gain momentum. Of late though the Warriors have been grooving like a record with a broken needle (kids ask your grandparents).The Warriors fortunes seem to ride with Kieran Foran. When Foran debuted for the club he lifted the team, once he announced he was heading back to Sydney, they have entered a deep depression. They need to fling themselves out of this funk. The Broncos on the other hand go into Origin every year, close their eyes and hope they come out the other side still in decent shape. The old master, Wayne Bennett, will have the baby Broncos chomping at the bit to make their mark. Bench players are handed golden opportunities to shine and Bennett has a good crop coming through. Herman Ese’ese has been enormous, in shape and form. Kodi Nikorima has been dropped in a big shock handing Benji Marshall a surprise spot at 6 alongside the returning Ben Hunt and Benji would love to show the Kiwi Test halves there is still spring to his step. Shaun Johnson has been disappointing it’s time for him to stand up and there is no better time and team to play. If the Warriors cannot beat the decimated Broncos, fans are entitled to rip up their membership – they won’t make the finals. I cannot believe what I’m about to tip, if the Warriors lose somebody slap me!
Warriors by 8
Cronulla Sharks v Canterbury Bulldogs
The first rule of Fight club is you don’t talk about Fight club, come get me Brad Pitt because I’m spilling the beans. The King of the ring Paul Gallen will lift with Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham out, his stats sheet will look like the Manhattan skyline. Gallen will miss not playing Origin and will take it out on the nearest mutt he can get his mitts on. The Bulldogs will still be seething at a poor call against the Roosters, Des loves playing mind games and will hand out the ‘hard done by’ card at training firing his men up. In reality it was the Bulldogs poor first half that cost them. Expect a faster start from both sides and a rough and tumble game. This will be a backyard brawl between two hard packs, even missing their Origin heavies you’d still scare your grandmother if you brought them around for Sunday roast. There’s some big beef on show. Sam Kasiano has calves that would land him first prize at the show. The Dogs young bull Adam Elliott’s star is on the rise and a future Origin player in my book, look to him to lift. The Sharks have key game breakers absent. No Fifita, Graham and James Maloney swing’s the pendulum the Bulldogs way.
Bulldogs by 7
Canberra Raiders v Sydney Roosters
The Chooks will travel to the nation’s capital on the team bus trying to work out who’s playing where. The Roosters ranks have been ripped apart by Origin and will start severe underdogs but they still field a very dangerous side. Latrell Mitchell was devastating last week and looked to have picked up a sternum injury but has been picked and if he plays the lethal left side featuring Mitchell and Daniel Tupou could be the Roosters path to victory. Joey Leilua’s defence has been suspect and with the expected traffic coming his way, he’ll be under the microscope and severely tested. Shannon Boyd will be shattered to have missed out on the Blues side and watch him play out of his rather large skin in the hope to play some part if injury occurs in the Origin series, being a war of attrition it always does. Game management has been one of the Raiders failures this season. With all the odds in their favour, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer have the chance to control a match and steer the side to victory, they must take it. At home at near full strength expect the Raiders to ransack the Roosters, there’ll be plenty of points this will be a feast for the fans.
Raiders by 14
Enjoy the footy and remember gamble responsibly. Even though it’s a split round and Origin swallows up all the oxygen in the rugby league atmosphere, the NRL rolls on and there’s important points on offer. Every club playing this round will be eager to gain two precious ones then put their feet up and watch the Blues and the Maroons bash the living daylights out of each other in glorious HD.
Here’s another three word slogan – bring it on!