Coming into this week’s games coaches are treading with trepidation as the Wests Tigers have set the benchmark at two losses as a sackable offence. The board backed Taylor one moment then dropped him like a stone the next, you wouldn’t want to go on a hunting trip with them standing behind you. The lunatics have officially taken over the asylum in Tiger town.
Coaches have got plenty on their plates, fortunate if it’s not their own head, and the concussion discussion will keep them focussed. With concerns players have been negligently left out on the field the NRL has acted strongly. The microscope will be on every tackle and every bump. Jason Taylor had his own concussion test after being knocked out of the NRL coaching ranks on Monday, according to the Wests Tigers he failed and won’t be allowed back onto the field. I think the Tigers board needs a Head Injury Assessment because it is doolally!
Players miss the tackles, drop the balls and disobey team instructions but it’s the coaches who ultimately pay the price. Which teams are going to follow the game plan and bring home the bacon this week?
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters
One of league’s oldest rivalries continues and kicks off round four. Both teams are in good form. The Roosters are flying high, unbeaten and playing attractive attacking football. Blake Ferguson has been named on the extended bench increasing the firepower at the Roosters disposal. Luke Keary has been excellent but will he be distracted by playing the team he left on reasonably average terms? There was no farewell thrown at Russell Crowe’s property when Keary departed. The Bunnies have some real problems this week with Hymel Hunt, Braidon Burns and George Burgess all suspended, Burgess out for having his elbow head butted by Mitch Barnett. Michael Maguire has completely rejigged his side with the dangerous Cody Walker shifting to fullback, where Alex Johnston has played so well, and moving John Sutton to five-eighth. The battle up front will be fierce as rocking the Roosters off their rhythm, is Souths best chance to win. Sam Burgess will wage a one-man war, his clashes with Dylan Napa and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be bone rattling, while Luke Keary will no doubt be in Big Sam’s sights. The Roosters are in fine fettle and look far too settled.
Roosters by 10
Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights
Potentially ripped off last week, okay they were robbed! The Panthers are one of ten teams sitting on two points in the NRL log jam. They will view this week as a must win especially at home as they try to pop their head above the pack. Bryce Cartwright returns and adds another string to this lethal attacking outfits bow. The Panthers attitude went up a gear against the Chooks, the pack led superbly by Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Trent Merrin in particular who, after a slow start, is getting back into Kangaroo form. Anthony Griffin will look for more of the same. As one coach bit the dust this week, I want to praise Nathan Brown and the Newcastle club for the patience they are showing in their home-grown youth policy. The castle is being built stone by stone on firm foundations for future success. Newcastle have points in them but are outclassed, if the marauding Panthers play to the same intensity of last week, the Knights won’t be able to get the draw bridge up quickly enough.
Panthers by 20
Brisbane Broncos v Canberra Raiders
The Broncos face off against the Raiders in what should be the marquee game of the week. The Raiders blasted the hapless Tigers into smithereens last Sunday and with it Jason Taylor’s career. Brisbane took the Storm to the edge of the precipice before finally succumbing to a freakish try. Suncorp Stadium should be shaking at the prospect of this showdown, especially Josh Papalii colliding with Sam Thaiday. Slammin’ Sam introduced the thumbscrew to Jesse Bromwich, I wonder what medieval torture technique he has in store this week – the Raider rack? Dave Taylor made a good start to his Canberra career and will be out to show his old club he can still play. The Coal Train is half man half mountain and looks like an 8-foot bloke who had an anvil fall on top of him! Maybe Sam should use the rack on Dave? Jock likes a grumble, here’s mine for this week, scheduling. The Raiders are dangerous but the issue is Canberra have a short five-day turnaround and have to travel, while Brisbane as usual have a full week to prepare. TV is God hence the league mad city gets their Broncos fix in prime time every Thursday or Friday night. They have a set routine they can follow, Wayne Bennett gets to down to the club for the raffles and bingo every Wednesday night – maybe this will be the week he wins the meat tray! Meanwhile the other fifteen teams have to constantly adjust training patterns each week. In saying all that I think this one will be close. The Raiders are unpredictable and will attack from anywhere and will need to try the unorthodox to break down the Broncos brick wall. Expect a tight game but the extra few day’s rest for the home side may be the difference. Broncos to outlast the raiding party from Canberra.
Broncos by 8
Manly Sea Eagles v Canterbury Bulldogs
Both last start winners with coaches under pressure. Another win here and Des Hasler and Trent Barrett will be feeling giddy with the knowledge they have job security until at least round 7. The loser will feel like that ‘full backing of the board’ email is sitting in the draft folder just waiting to be sent. Manly were great in roping the Cowboys last week, things are starting to gel and they get back Marty Taupau to bolster the forward pack. A necessity, when taking on the Bulldogs bullies. They jagged a win against the Warriors and will fancy their chances if their forwards lay the foundation for the improving back line. The Morris twins like Dessie’s new free style of play and Brenko Lee has added much needed spark. The Sea Eagles halves were very good last week, Daly Cherry-Evans and Blake Green hold more trick cards than their counterparts, while in Tom Trbojevic, they have the joker that can bust this contest open.
Sea Eagles by 6
Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks
Guess who’s back, back again? Corey’s back, tell a friend…and if your friend is an Eels fan they’ll cheer as they were ordinary against the Titans minus Norman. Eminem lived in a white trash trailer park in 8 Mile and that’s where the Eels should have spent the past week toughening up. The Sharks were not much better. A repeat of the Sharks flaky first half display against arch rivals St George and Norman and friends will batter them. The Sharks will have a warm glow returning to the scene of their historic drought breaking Grand Final victory but the glow will turn to a growl once they switch on. James Segeyaro has come into the Cronulla squad after being reluctantly released by Leeds. An interesting move as rookie Jayden Brailey is going well but at this stage of his career just lacks the attacking spark that Segeyaro will bring. There were worrying signs in the Eels deplorable loss last week that won’t be fixed if the team stand back and hope Corey Norman will do the business on his own. The Sharks will try to shut him down but will they succeed?
Sharks by 2
Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys
Two sides that cover the extremities of the state of Queensland do battle with the fittest troops they can wrangle together. Both team’s squad’s depths are being tested with the heavy injury tolls. Dale Copley and Daniel Vidot debut for the Titans while Gideon Gela-Mosby debuts for North Queensland as Justin O’Neill’s hamstring injury sees him join the growing group of corralled Cowboys. Last start the Titans had an incredibly courageous victory over the Eels and will see the depleted Cowboys as a great opportunity to string a couple of wins together and get their season heading north. Starting props Ryan James and Jarrod Wallace have been immense and the Titans best in the opening three games. Kane Elgey’s attack has been good but he is a revolving door in defence, expect the Cowboys to send plenty of traffic his way. Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper will run at the lightweight Titans halves all game. The Cowboys were poor last week but at least they avoided golden point! This could be a cracking contest and dare I say it could go to extra time?!? Jonathan Thurston just feinted but I think he’ll be the difference.
Cowboys by 1
Wests Tigers v Melbourne Storm
This game is compulsory viewing. The NRLs basket case takes on the professional brief case. The golden basket handed on to the Tigers from the Eels. How will the Tigers players react to all the distractions? The Wests Tigers have shown hearts the size of peas the past couple of weeks. If it takes a sacked coach to bring out a spirited showing here, then the players should be lined up and shot. Tigers assistant Andrew Webster has been handed the coaching role for now at the Wests Tigers otherwise known as the poisoned chalice. A new coach usually brings a new attitude and the pouting players perform. Red alert for the Storm as this happens regularly in world sport most recently with Leicester City in the EPL. From 1-17 the Tigers must put in, they have started their previous two games well but dropped off markedly once their line has been breached. If heads drop against the Storm this could get embarrassing. Melbourne welcomed Billy Slater back last week and though his timing was off, he’ll be much better off for the gallop. Good timing for the Storm as they lose Cameron Munster with a broken jaw. Origin auditions begin early as Slater battles NSWs incumbent James Tedesco the best of the Tigers not so big 4. Seriously it is an offence to the word big to call Tedesco, Mitchell Moses, Luke Brooks and Aaron Woods the big 4, their form doesn’t warrant it especially Brooks. If the Tigers are to upset the league leading Storm, then these four must play out of their skins or they’ll be skinned.
Storm by 14
St George Dragons Illawarra v New Zealand Warriors
Well, well, well who saw this? Three rounds in and the mighty Dragons are sitting pretty in third!! I certainly didn’t but I wouldn’t crow if I was a Dragons fans as consistency is not their friend. The powerful forward pack is firing and the Dragons back row has been sensational. Centres Euan Aitken and Josh Dugan have been in sterling form and if given good service from the halves they can worry the Warriors out wide. The Warriors give consistency a bad name but have two big names back in their side this week. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck starts at fullback and hopefully he can stay fit as he is one of the NRLs excitement machines and makes a huge difference to the Warriors play. The other huge factor in the result of this game is the potential return of Kieran Foran. Named as 21st player he is obviously ready and if selected will keep it simple and help steer the side around letting Shaun Johnson dance. Mind you Johnson will need to step and shake his money maker because if Tyson Frizell gets hold of him he’ll hit him back across the Tasman! This is a hard game to tip but the Warriors have a sharper edge to their attack.
Warriors by 4
Yet again it has been a week of controversy in the world of rugby league and I wouldn’t want it any other way! It always gives us punters plenty to enjoy and even more to discuss.
Enjoy the footy and remember gamble responsibly and wish Wayne all the best at bingo, maybe he should try calling it, might bring him out of his shell a bit.