We have a full round this week, jam packed with stars as everyone is back on board before we gorge on Origin III which devours the NRL. There are spots up for grabs and a couple of positions that need shoring up – looking at you here Jarryd Hayne. For a few teams, it’s getting to the pointy end, season life lines have hit critical, every game matters.
Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bulldogs
This match always revives memories of the great rivalry of the 1980s. The magical Eels led by Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny versus the brutal Dogs of War with Turvey Mortimer at the helm. Glory days indeed, peel off the rose-coloured glasses and sniff the smelling salts. The Eels trophy cabinet is barer than Sterlo’s scalp, while the Dogs still attempt to play brutally but lack the finesse and success. The Bulldogs were woeful against the Warriors and obviously need to win, they’ll point to mathematical equations but they’re just playing for pride. James Graham is missing so it falls to Josh Reynolds to imitate the feisty Ginger ninja and pump the team up and berate anyone within a 5m radius, which is usually Graham himself. Reynolds will make it his mission to pressure (re: smack) Mitchell Moses every moment of the match. The Eels have forced their way into the 8 and need to win games like this to stay there. It will fall to the usual suspects Corey Norman and Clint Gutherson to get them home but their razzle dazzle will only work off the back of enforcers like Nathan Brown. The Bulldogs will try bash the Eels in the first 20, Nathan Brown will lap that up and dish out a meaty mauling of his own to muzzle the Doggies.
Eels by 8
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons
The Titans season goes on the line again, as it will every game from… oh let’s not sugar coat this, the Titans season is in the rubbish bin but they’ll continue to try turn every piece of trash into treasure. They were impressive in taking the Tigers apart and the man who led the way has the most to play for, Jarryd Hayne is the one NSW Blue under the microscope. He was brilliant in patches last week and under pressure will raise his game again. Hayne’s clash opposite fellow custodian and Blues brother Josh Dugan could be pivotal. Dugan was very good backing up after Origin and the Dragons need him to play another big game as Gareth Widdop needs help. The Saints dodged a bullet running down Newcastle, their halves of football contrasting like night and day. Widdop’s magic lit the wick that set the Dragons alight and the return of Jack De Belin and Euan Aitken could be the tonic required to cure the Saints of their footy that’s been sick (and not in the cool way).
Titans by 6
Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm
This will be a Friday night blockbuster on and off the field. The Battle of the Boxes, Bennett versus Bellamy will be chalk and cheese. Bennett is quiet as a church mouse, whereas Bellamy goes off like an extra mature Gorgonzola, veins popping out of his neck like he’s about to morph into Godzilla. On the field its state versus state, except it’s the same state. Both sides are stacked with QLD’s finest and NSW fans will hope they belt the living daylights out of each other. The Storm’s Big 3 are back on deck and the Broncos will be on high alert, especially with Billy Slater slicing through the ruck. Waiting for Billy the Kid will be Mad Josh McGuire who will take great pleasure in preparing Slater for the huge hammering he’ll receive in Origin III. Sam Thaiday missed out on impressing QLD selectors after copping friendly fire from Tevita Pangai Jr, he’ll hope Pangai’s left hook is holstered and the only punches thrown at Suncorp are at the Manny Pacquiao v Jeff Horn stoush on Sunday. From the opening round bell this will be a ding dong battle, Craig Bellamy throwing some phantom uppercuts in the coach’s box like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. After a toe to toe slugfest, the Storm’s heavyweights will be too sharp and the title favourites will land the knockout blow in a close one.
Storm by 1
Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks
The Roosters were lucky to escape Adelaide with the precious two points as the Storm lost power in the final ten minutes no coincidence seeing the match was in South Australia. The Roosters will be on a high but must come down fast as the Sharks were flat against Manly and Shane Flanagan will not accept another tepid display. The Sharks will blast out of the blocks in an attempt to redeem themselves and rock the Roosters off their rhythm. Andrew Fifita has been quiet since Origin I and will try to generate some extra energy to get the wrecking ball swinging. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Dylan Napa are the keys to stopping Fifita as is Jake Friend who in plugging the ruck will rack up his usual half century of tackles. Across the scrum from Friend will be Nu Brown, replacing Jayden Brailey, the rookie breaking his jaw last week. Brown is a good player and about 5th choice rake but chosen due to injuries and Daniel Mortimer’s release, his ball skills good be handy in helping break the Chooks down. The Blues halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce will oppose each other and the winner of that battle within the battle could be the match turner.
Roosters by 8
Manly Sea Eagles v New Zealand Warriors
Rugby league travels across the Nullabor to the golden west as Perth hosts this clash between two of the NRL’s entertainers. The Sea Eagles are searing sides with their red-hot form and will be warm favourites to win this. Martin Taupau will wind up to wage war on the Warriors from so far away it will have locals thinking it’s Dennis Lillee in his heyday pushing off the boundary fence at the WACA. Daly Cherry-Evans, in career best form, has his last chance to remind Maroons selectors what good form he’s in and what a great bloke he is – just ask him. Tom Trbojevic will eye off a spot in the Blues squad and that spells trouble for the Warriors. Kieran Foran is back but it was pleasing for Stephen Kearney that his side won last start regardless though Manly are a step up from the miserable mutts the Bulldogs were. Nathaniel Roache replaces the injured Issac Luke at dummy half and he was super impressive last start, taking on Manly’s in-form Api Koroisau will test the young Warrior number 9. Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck should enjoy the brilliant Perth weather and the carnival atmosphere in the crowd might bring out the best in these two show stoppers. The West Australians should enjoy the fun and there’ll be plenty of tries but the Sea Eagles look unstoppable at the moment.
Sea Eagles by 14
Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys
Canberra this is it, this is the moment. The Green Machine needs to turn into the Time Bandits, travel back one year and take the form they were in, bottle it and bring it back home. The Raiders require a prodigious roll on to make the finals. It can be done but it starts now! Sticky Stuart has stuck with the squad that he has faith in but another loss here and he will be forced into drastic decisions. One change Stuart has made is place the Coal Train, Dave Taylor, on the bench. His X factor could be the missing ingredient. The Cowboys have made their move and included Te Maire Martin at five-eighth to replace Jonathan Thurston. Martin is a very good player but it’s a big ask to gel immediately with his Cowboys teammates who will not appreciate the Canberra cold. The Canberran’s will be fired up and the Cowboys will receive a frosty reception. The Cowboys game plan is no secret. The big boppers, Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess, will run straight and hard and give Jake Granville the opportunities to scoot into space. If the Raiders can control the ruck the Green Machine can get into gear.
Raiders by 6
Newcastle Knights v Wests Tigers
Here it is folks, the game we’ve all been waiting for – the Battle for the Wooden Spoon, the Race to the Basement, this clash between the cellar dwellers will be a box office best seller. McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle will be packed to the rafters as this is the Knights chance to win again! It’s a grand final come early. The Knights were brilliant in the first half last week and showed what they can do with the ball, but without it they’re a revolving door at ten paces. The Ross Dog, Nathan Ross, and Dane Gagai can make the ball sing but the Knights must tackle or James Tedesco will tear them apart. Tui Lolohea will be determined to rebound from his Titanic horror show last week. There’s been scuttlebutt about relocating the Tigers out of Sydney, if Lolohea repeats that rubbish Ivan Cleary will be relocating him onto the wing. Lose to the battling Knights and the Tigers fans may start a GoFundMe campaign to shift the side to Antarctica. The wooden spoon is usually frowned upon but at least the Tigers would have one item in the trophy cabinet in their new club house at Mawson’s Hut. If I was a gambling man, plump your hard earned on 60+ points being scored as this will be a try fest. Any lovers of gritty tough defence look away now, the horror! The horror! The loser of this wins the spoon and ushers in their season of apocalypse now.
Knights by 4
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers
Another must win for the Rabbitohs, though to play in September Sam Burgess will have to pull a whole warren of rabbits out of his hat and arse. Big Sam is back after a glute injury and hopefully he’s fully fit because the only way the Bunnies get away from the bottom of the table is for Slammin’ Sam to play his magic flute and persuade his band of merry men to follow his tune. Angus Crichton is one Rabbitoh who can hold his head high, his displays this year have been sensational and it will be awesome to watch him and Panthers young champ Corey Harawira-Naera excelling on the edges for their respective sides. The Panthers cannot afford another slip like the late loss in Townsville last week. They defended stoutly but their attack was well contained. Matt Moylan and Nathan Cleary will seek to roll out their running game but to achieve that the pack must barge over the Bunnies. Reagan Campbell-Gillard and James Tamou need to punch out some good numbers to give the Panthers room to pounce. Surely Souths don’t believe they can make the finals? I doubt they do though we’ll find out Sunday, the Panthers have more motivation.
Panthers by 12
Enjoy the footy and gamble responsibly. The way Jock tipped last week, your best bet is turn the screen upside down!