Another split round to devalue the NRL and leave a taste in your mouth worse than an off lamb chop. Luckily the NRL has shown this season that there are enough brilliant youngsters out there combined with old heads, and those considered not good enough to play Origin – yeah that’s you apparently DCE – that will provide good value to everyone bar Mark Reasons of stuff.co.nz who definitely won’t be watching the ‘violent stupidity’ of rugby league. Reasons crack at Sonny Bill Williams was warranted, it was an ugly head shot but why bring our great game down at the same time? It was solely SBW’s fault don’t blame rugby league. I do like union but not its superiority complex. As for violence Mr Reasons union men aren’t angels remember All Black Richard Loe and his elbow spreading Paul Carozza’s nose across his face in the Bledisloe years ago or have you conveniently forgotten? Union players are not choir boys, they display their fair share of violence and off field shenanigans without league’s early intervention. While you’re adjusting union’s halo Mr Reasons, why don’t you watch your first game of league since the 70s, when it was violent, and you may be surprised, even mildly excited by the amazing skill and courage on show. SBW will be watching as he has a month off cooling his heels. Back on the NRL, don’t be fooled this is just the entrée before the main course next Wednesday, but hors d’oeuvres can be as tasty and fulfilling. The matinee idols may not be top billing but they’ll play their roles to the best of their ability – you will be entertained*
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Roosters have been ravaged by Origin III with four players out while the Bunnies are unaffected. The Rabbitohs rediscovered their razzle dazzle and were red hot last week in dismantling the Panthers and will be warm favourites to win. The Chooks were thrashed by the Sharks and on top of losing their stars, using NRL logic the Bunnies should win by 75. As we all know the NRL doesn’t have logic in its vocabulary – exhibit a) the Bunker. The Dally Messenger Dictionary of Rugby League includes small words with one syllable usually with three letters like try but mostly four like goal or head and butt in Mark Reasons skewed view. Typical usage is the term ‘one set’ when the player in question has lost the ball and then blame deflects asking his mates to put in for ‘one set’ after his monumental stuff up. Four letter words are generally put into practice when the ref goes up to the bunker signalling try, opposition players usually harangue said official and display their disappointment by saying “Come on Sir” or as Mr Reasons hears it, “F@ck off ref, you c…” oh yeah back to the footy. The Bunnies back row behemoths Sam Burgess and Angus Crichton will dominate the Roosters and off the back of this Adam Reynolds will look for fast ball out to the in-form flashing feet of Alex Johnston or repeat sets to choke the Chooks out of contention. Luke Keary would love to play a blinder against his old team mates, look to the corporate boxes and give the Gladiator himself Russell Crowe a two fingered salute. Unfortunately for Keary I think it’ll be thumbs up from Rusty and the Rabbits.
Rabbitohs by 8
Penrith Panthers v Manly Sea Eagles
This is the match of the round, not really much to crow about when there’s only four to choose from, thank you Origin! It’s like saying your favourite megalomaniac leader is Kim Jong-Un, a small pond as there’s only Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and John Grant in the running – I don’t know enough about Theresa May to include her but if the worst thing she’s done is run through fields of wheat then she falls just short. Speaking of Putin, he’s more popular in Queensland then Daly Cherry-Evans. Poor old DCE knocked on the door, rang the doorbell and threw a brick through the window but no one answered so he’ll be champing at the bit to put in a pearler to prove to Maroons selectors what a mess up they have made. This is a massive game for the Panthers after being torn to shreds by the Bunnies. They have to rebound quickly as they’re up against the soaring Sea Eagles who will want to maintain their trajectory to the top 2. Matt Moylan had a rare shocker and won’t repeat that dire display. The Panther forwards were soft and have to muscle up on Martin Taupau and Brenton Lawrence. If the threadbare tackling rears its ugly head again, Manly could post 50. The Panthers will be better, couldn’t be worse really, and the backrow of Corey Harawira-Naera, Isaah Yeo and Trent Merrin are the key to success. Lose this one and the Panthers season will be on the nose more than DCE in the Maroons Origin camp. Applying NRL logic and Jock’s unpredictable, some say warped thinking to this one, it’s the desperate Panthers to take the spoils, its Jock’s sure thing upset of the split round! I think Jock may have run into Sonny Bill’s shoulder.
Panthers by 4
Melbourne Storm v Parramatta Eels
You just have to love the split round luck of the draw. The Storm lose their legion of legends to Origin III – the Big 3 plus another three, six players in total – while the Eels are fortunately at full strength. Parramatta were lucky to dodge the Dogs last week and are even luckier to catch the Storm minus Slater, Cronk, Smith and Co. Parramatta will want to make a statement and entrench themselves in the Top 8. The attacking combinations of Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson are showing encouraging signs though still troubled by inconsistency. Parramatta’s belligerent backrow of Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa and Nathan Brown is their strength and they will aim at the Storm’s youngsters, invisible targets painted on their purple jerseys. Ryley Jacks and Brodie Croft will see more traffic than Parramatta Road in peak hour but they can handle it. The beauty of the split round is these young guns are handed golden opportunities to shine in the big time and they will again represent the purple jersey with pride. Proudly debuting for the Storm at the age of 65, Nate Myles will be a great calming presence for the fledglings and he will want to show Craig Bellamy he is not a spent force at this level. Negating the Eels backrow is the Storm have a trio of terrific talents in the experienced Dale Finucane, Tohu Harris and the fabulous in-form Felise Kaufusi, Mitchell Moses better look out as the Storm will test his suspect defence all night. The blend of youth and experience is a magic mix and Bellamy will hand them the challenge of taking down the Eels. ‘No excuses’ is the mantra in Melbourne. Give these young Storm players a sniff and they will run all over the Eels and bring Purple rain on the Eels parade. AAMI Park is not far from the Crown Casino precinct, which is handy because this will be a toss of the coin, heads or tails? I’ll back youth.
Storm by 2
Canterbury Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights
A split round classic. Two ordinary sides come together in the only game on Sunday to hopefully provide some entertainment and a close contest. They should pay people to watch this, open the gates or taken it bush because the only interest in this for the neutrals is whether the Dogs can string more than three passes together in a smooth fluid motion, backwards would be a bonus. The Bulldogs are missing their Blues Origin players with Josh Jackson and David Klemmer huge losses. Big Sam Kasiano has been named in Klemmers 13 jersey and I hope it’s been to the tailor’s, as it’ll need altering especially around the waist. Kasiano will enjoy starting, a rarity for him. Off the bench Francis Tualau was impressive last week and he can expect more game time with the 80 minute man Action Jackson missing. The Knights are playing for nothing but pride and Nathan Brown will want to see an improvement on last week’s wooden spoon showdown debacle as the toothless Tigers still had more bite than the numb Knights. Brown has been unfairly put on notice to show why he should be coach for next year. Boy it’s a tough school coaching in the NRL. Check out the cattle the Knights put on the paddock each week, Wayne Bennett could sprinkle his famous magic dust over the whole herd and still end up with nothing but bulldust! Points for both sides have been hard to come by and with three Mata’utia brothers playing for Newcastle this week, there’s a fair chance any the Knights score will come from one of them. The Bulldogs will not have given up on playing finals footy though I think there’s more chance of Des Hasler shaving his head than the Dogs running round in September, but they’ll have too much class for the Knights.
Bulldogs by 10
Enjoy the footy and remember gamble responsibly. It’s a split round so place your bets if you feel the need, the need for greed. I’d pocket it myself and save it for a rainy day because rounds like these are hard to pick, you’re likely to be walking back home minus the shirt off your back.
Hopefully Mark Reasons enjoys the All Blacks versus British and Irish Lions decider it’ll be a cracker. If he loves incredible theatre, atmosphere and great athletes competing in an elite arena he’ll be at home watching that match but if he places his bias aside and tunes in next Wednesday he’ll view exactly the same and some in State of Origin III.
* unless it’s the Bulldogs playing.