Carnage! That is the only way to describe what Origin II has done to the NRL. The following names will be missing from this weekend: Slater, Cronk, Smith, Chambers, Boyd, Tedesco, Cordner, Morris, Frizzell and the biggest fish of all Johnathan Thurston, who has been ruled out of not only this week but Origin III and the season! Origin is awesome but is cannibalising the NRL. The intensity is immense and the wounded warriors that are able to play have to display tremendous courage and strength of mind and body to drag their bodies back onto the paddock. They are the elite for many reasons, one being not only the ability to back up but be their sides top performer. Another word for them is inspirational.
New Zealand Warriors v Canterbury Bulldogs
This is a vital clash for both sides. Sitting on 14 points apiece this is obviously a must win as the loser slips further behind the pack and neither team has shown any consistency that suggests they can string together the bag full of wins they’ll need to play finals footy. Origin is the time the Warriors shine and their forwards must bring a barrel of attitude to get over the Dogs of War. Kieran Foran is out which tips the scales towards the Doggies. Shaun Johnson will need to play a blinder to compensate. Hold the phone Bulldogs fans, the gorgeous Grub, Josh Reynolds is back! The Bulldogs have missed his enthusiasm sorely and he’ll let the Kiwis know he’s around. Reynolds loves getting into anyone and everyone, even his own team mates! Origin II man of the match Josh Jackson will relish having the opportunity so soon to play to get over the disappointment. Add David Klemmer to that, he’ll aim up on some Warriors to release his frustration. The Warriors have a poor record against the Bulldogs, it ain’t gonna get better here.
Bulldogs by 6
Wests Tigers v Gold Coast Titans
The Battle of the Battlers is taking place at Campbelltown in Sydney’s west also known as Battler’s Paradise. The Cleary Bus will arrive with youngsters Esan Marsters and Matt Eisenhuth on board rewarded by Ivan Cleary for the strong starts to their careers. Unfortunately James Tedesco won’t be taking to the field and he is a huge loss. Tuimoala Lolohea and Luke Brooks add another game to their fledgling halves combination and the Tigers will hope they click. They and their long suffering fans need something to smile about. Neil Henry will be looking for some energy from his men as the Titans have been flat of late and that all starts in the engine room and the Titans strength is their front row. Jarryd Hayne has had the spotlight put on him after an ordinary second half in Origin II, so expect the champion to hit back at the critics. He’ll also enjoy the freedom fullback brings, he has been found out defensively in the centres. Fullback is his best position as the Hayne Plane can just glide about and do some loop-de-loops whenever he pleases. This is a hard game to call, expect plenty of points but the Tigers season is in a tail spin, Titans for me.
Titans by 4
North Queensland Cowboys v Penrith Panthers
This was all going to be about Johnathan Thurston. JTs 300th game has unfortunately been put on hold as his shoulder got a hammering in Origin. He’ll miss this game and be lucky to be back for the decider. The Cowboys have not been getting much bang for their buck from JT this season. Since the Test match he’s played one game for the Cowboys. North Queensland have confirmed Thurston requires season ending surgery! It’s horrendous news for the Cowboys, the Maroons and all league lovers. Te Maire Martin has been named on extended bench against team he left this week, so I’d expect him or young gun Kyle Laybutt to take JT’s place. With Thurston gone, Martin’s signing takes on extra importance. Michael Morgan will take the reins and is playing brilliantly. His flick pass for Dane Gagai’s try in the Maroons late comeback was just sublime. The Panthers are on a roll and were a big chance before Thurston pulled out. Matt Moylan is playing supreme footy at the moment and he’ll take advantage of JT’s injury. There’s some colossal match ups on the edges, Coen Hess fresh from his first Origin experience and Jason Taumalolo crashing against the Penrith young backrowers Isaah Yeo and this year’s find of the season Corey Harawira-Naera. The Panthers are flying and can take down the Cowboys minus the great one.
Panthers by 7
Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos
This is a massive game for the Raiders with the Dragons slipping the Green Machine have to get on a roll. A push start to their stalled season can begin against the Broncos who are always vulnerable post-Origin, even more so now Darius Boyd is out for 6 weeks with a broken thumb. The Raiders have been the hard luck story of the NRL, the close losses racking up and it’s time to turn the tide green. Things are looking up as Shannon Boyd is back which has Junior Paulo doing cartwheels as big Junior has been playing a lone hand at the coal face in the front row. Kurt Baptiste’s return from injury has also added much needed spark off the bench as Adam Clydsdale was wasting an interchange spot as Ricky Stuart barely used him. In the Broncos camp Wayne Bennett is up to his usual mind games, keeping Ben Hunt in purgatory on the Broncos bench, with Benji Marshall and Kodi Nikorima named the halves combination. Sadly for the Broncos Wayne’s camps are not like the American Summer camps you see in the Hollywood teen flicks, the only scantily clad person seen is Sam Thaiday twerking in his budgie smugglers behind Benny’s back in the dressing room. Look for Slammin’ Sam to respond to his Origin omission with a stormer. The Raiders need to beat teams above them to make the finals, it begins this Saturday.
Raiders by 12
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm
The city of churches welcomes rugby league as the Roosters take this home game against the Storm to Adelaide. Both teams were praying their stars got through Origin II unscathed as at full strength this was the game of the round. The big man upstairs is either hard of hearing or was off on leave as the Storm’s stars that the people of Adelaide were so excited about seeing in the flesh will not be making the trip. It’s times like this that the giant spectre of Origin ruins the NRL. The Storm side will now resemble the split rounders which does allow exciting youngster Brodie Croft another chance to display his rare talent. The Roosters will miss inspirational Blues skipper Boyd Cordner, but the Chooks are now raging favourites to quell the Storm. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been in great form and will wage war on Kiwis team mate Jesse Bromwich looking to impress World Cup selectors. As strong as the Storm’s club system is which transitions replacements smoother than anyone else, the Roosters look to have too much firepower for the Storm to handle minus the Big 3. Latrell Mitchell is the man most likely to entertain the masses in Adelaide.
Roosters by 10
St George Illawarra v Newcastle Knights
The Dragons are on the slide and need to dig their heels in to stop the rot. In bad news, Jack de Belin is out suspended for a crusher tackle and is a big loss. JDB has been one of the Dragons best through their slump. Tyson Frizzell also misses out succumbing to a rib injury he took into Origin II. In better news for Dragons fans, there is no better team to face trying to regain form and confidence than the Knights. As hard as they try the Novocastrians just haven’t been up to the weekly grind that is the NRL. It’s a tough school and the Knights youngsters are learning via the school of hard knocks. The other 15 teams should send the Knights some flowers and chocolates for the service they provide. The Knights meanwhile will view this as a chance to snatch a rare victory. Hopefully Dane Gagai can bring back his Origin form, he was unlucky not to pick up the man of the match honours, Gagai was sensational. To win the Knights forwards have got meet the Dragons pack head on, Mary McGregor will have the Dragons fired up after recent fizzling performances. Another loss here and the slippery slope is steering them out of the Top 8 swiftly.
Dragons by 12
Cronulla Sharks v Manly Sea Eagles
What a smashing game to end the round with, this will be rough and tough. The Sea Eagles have been soaring and this will be a hard examination of their game, they like to toss the ball about but when you play the Sharks, especially in the Shire, you need to bring you’re A game and your attitude needs to be on point. Andrew Fifita versus Martin Taupau will be the highlight. Taupau will rage at the Sharks and the collision will bring a Kapow bursting out of your TV screen like Batman (vale Adam West). Fifita fills out his jersey a lot like Batman squeezed into his costume in the 1960s, luckily for us Fifita wears his undies on the inside, unless he goes commando. For the Sharks, Daniel Mortimer off the bench gave a great cameo last week and Shane Flanagan will seek another energetic 15 minutes out of him again. The Sea Eagles have their own X factor blasting off the pine in Addin Fonua-Blake. They’ve coined this match the Battle of the Beaches who will kick sand in the other teams face? Fifita and Wade Graham are the likely suspects to get the Sharks home but if both Fonua-Blake and Taupau explode and deliver second phase play the Eagles are in this beach footy game up to their necks. The Sharks are tough to beat and this one will come down to the wire.
Sharks by 4
Enjoy the footy and remember gamble responsibly. Let’s hope the footy is half as exciting as Origin II and its aftermath. I also hope Joey Johns has taken a chill pill and settled down, he nearly blew a gasket post-Origin in his severe assessment of the Blues second half game plan, lack thereof. Johnsy must have slipped in a quick meeting with Dr Google during the second half of Origin as he had Jonathan Thurston booked in for surgery faster than the keyboard warriors south of the border whinged about the refereeing. The Blues got beat fair and square, get over it and move on. My head is aching over all this bleating from sore losers. It now seems Johns was right and JT is gone, who needs a medical degree I’m backing Joey’s intuition. I saw Dr Johns about the pain emanating from my brain yesterday and he’s booked me in for surgery on my left foot tomorrow morning. Wish me luck. I’m also 6 months pregnant too apparently I’m having a hermaphrodite. Lucky he bulk bills.