It’s the ANZAC Round of the NRL and that means a mountain of respect and admiration meted out for all our magnificent troops past and present. Our weekend warriors take a minute to remember them and then wage war belting the living daylights out of each other for the following 80 minutes and for some teams the next 80 minutes could be pivotal to their campaigns.
Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles better bring their D game down to the nation’s capital, and by that I mean defence. Their left side was torn apart by the Storm and guess who raids down the right side for Canberra? Yep, the NRL’s most menacing attacking beast Leipana. Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua are in magnificent form and could monster Manly if they don’t tighten up. The Raiders are looking every bit a top four team, there are no inherent weaknesses. Marty Taupau returns for Manly to rattle some Raiders ribs and if the Sea Eagles are to upset the apple cart, it will have been because Taupau turned the Green Machine into Granny Smiths.
Raiders by 16
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos
The Bunnies are in the wrong half of the table and meet a Broncos side in the top half who would love to keep the status quo. Sam Burgess has somehow avoided suspension for an alleged shoulder charge, his lawyer must have been Johnnie Cochran arguing successfully ‘if the charge don’t fit you must acquit’! Burgess in combination with young buck Angus Crichton is the Bunnies best bet of causing an upset if they can buckle the Broncos. The stoush between Cody Walker and Anthony Milford could be decisive but the big difference is the talent surrounding Milford is of a higher quality and in Darius Boyd and Matt Gillett, the Broncos have men who lead by example and form exemplary.
Broncos by 12
Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers
The battle for the western front begins Super Saturday. The issue for both is that they are well behind the advantage line. Penrith’s promise and potential must be realised and they need to win to regain their pizazz and propel up the ladder. Leaders Matt Moylan and Trent Merrin have been down on form and it’s time for them to rise and shine. Parramatta’s second half fight back last week showed glimpses of the electric Eels but unless some consistency can be found the Panthers will pull the plug on them. Until Mitchell Moses is allowed to disembark the Cleary bus, all the pressure falls to Corey Norman to light the way.
Panthers by 8
North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights
The Cowboys comeback last week has given hope that there is life without JT of the Thurston variety. John Asiata filled his golden boots extremely well, though he had trouble squeezing into them, Asiata turned into Cinderella and the Cowboys had a ball in the second stanza. The Knights were completely outclassed last week and they will have to meet the Cowboys challenge head on or the score line could get as ugly as Cinders sisters. The dynamic duo on each edge, Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess are in super scary form, terrorising all before them. The Knights better buckle up and strap in for a bumpy ride, I sense some serious turbulence.
Cowboys by 14
Cronulla Sharks v Gold Coast Titans
Good news for the Titans, the Hayne Plane may be back, Jarryd Hayne named on an extended bench along with Kiwi stars Kevin Proctor and Konrad Hurrell. Bad news for the Titans, they’re playing the reigning premiers the Sharks who are in supreme form and at home. Cronulla’s mean defence has been impenetrable a bit like the boundary of the Shire, people living under the dome rarely seem to leave it but the one thing the Titans can do is attack. They have the game to trouble the Sharks, Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey will ask questions but unfortunately for them Cronulla have the all the answers, they won’t even need a cheat sheet.
Sharks by 12
Wests Tigers v Canterbury Bulldogs
The war of the Moses: Mitchell fighting to leave the Tigers, Mbye fighting to stay in the Bulldogs side. Des Hasler has again named Matt Frawley outside the 17 but Houdini Hasler is fooling no one as Frawley is certain to play and once taken the field force Mbye into hooker, Michael Lichaa’s minutes dwindling. The Bulldogs are playing two different styles, their game completely changes when Frawley enters but its working a treat so why change. Des hates change, look at his hairstyle. The Tigers are all the talk in league world but unfortunately it’s for off-field matters. The Tigers need to dodge the distraction and contract a winning mentality, and an agreement that includes a ‘harden up’ clause as the Dogs of War are approaching.
Bulldogs by 10
Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons
ANZAC Day is one of rugby league’s great occasions. It is a privilege for these two sides to play in this match, fans and players alike treasure it. This one should be an absolute beauty. The Dragons welcome back Josh Dugan and he adds strike power to an attack led by English wizard Gareth Widdop that is lethal and league leading. The Roosters can score points from anywhere but their defence is suspect and that is one area where the Dragons have a major point of difference. If the Chooks can match the intensity of the Saints then it’s game on. The Luke Keary, Mitchell Pearce combo is in fine fettle and could swing the game the Tricolours way but I think one set of fans will be marching to a certain tune at fulltime.
Dragons by 6
Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors
ANZAC Day Part Two features a Melbourne side practically unbeatable at home but the Warriors don’t fear them and traditionally match up well against the Storm. The Warriors will fancy their chances especially as their spine led by Kieran Foran has improved the side tenfold. They had a tough examination in Canberra last start and face another one in Melbourne. Unluckily for them they meet Melbourne after the Storm no doubt received a spray of cyclonic proportions from Craig Bellamy after last week’s lax defensive effort. The Storm will not reproduce that drivel, ‘Bellyache’ won’t accept it and the player’s professional pride and bleeding ear drums won’t allow it. The clash of the custodians, Billy Slater and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be delectable and one of the highlights of the round.
Storm by 12
Enjoy the footy and gamble responsibly, and on ANZAC Day that means ‘Two Up’ at your local. Speaking of war and associated games Donald Trump could have us all forgotten as we all get nuked caught up in his game of mine is bigger than yours with Kim Jong-Un – hair that is. The Battle of the Bonkers Bouffant between these pair of berserk boobs is going down to the wire. Who will come up trumps? Hopefully mankind, fingers crossed we make it through to the end of the season and beyond.