A great occasion this weekend will be celebrated with the NRL honouring the involvement of women in this great game with the “Women in League” round. NRL games will be overrun with pink and it is a great occasion to honor those women who are heavily involved with a club, team or player. Over 140, 000 women and girls have a direct connection with Rugby League in many various roles that range from administrators, players, coaches, employees, volunteers, club members or mothers. While not out on the field, women play a major role in this game and it is a great occasion that, for the 7th year in a row, we can pay tribute to their work. However the NRL players, coaches, supporters and referees will also look to raise some much needed funds for the McGrath Foundation that pours a lot of money into breast cancer research. Let’s hope that the action can also live up to the heights of the weekend and deliver fans another great round of football.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
As there are two games being broadcast, for the fourth week in a row the Rabbitohs will feature in “Friday Night Footy” and they are quickly making the rest of the competition take notice of them with their dominating performances. This will kick of the action in NSW and as the Storm lost to the Panthers last Sunday, they will head into this round on top of the competition and have everything in front of them. Coach Michael Maguire will be quick to put out the flames on their rising success, as he knows this is only the start of their journey. It would be disappointing to see them play so well for the majority of the season and then tumbled out of the finals in the first few weeks. Each game for them now is a chance to develop and improve their play. With players like Greg Inglis, Issac Luke, Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds in your side, it is always going to be difficult for opposition teams to handle and the phrase “premiership credentials” is certainly fitting. The last time I checked though, the competition was never won in Round 10 and they need to keep pushing towards their ultimate goal of winning the premiership. The rest of the competition will be trying to dismantle their success and formulate a game plan that breaks them apart. For the Tigers, it seems that premiership success is the furthest thing from their minds at the moment and they need to focus all of their attention on their current predicament. They are sitting in 16th spot on the table and have a points difference that is 43-points worse than any other team (-120). They are in a hole at the moment and their injury list is certainly not doing them any favours. Pressure is mounting on their entire squad and as well as coach Mick Potter, people are beginning to question whether or not a few of their stars should be resigned. Obviously, a lot of attention is focused around Benji Marshall and his inability currently to spark success from his side. If this continues, the Tigers could very well end up with the dreaded wooden spoon and games like this one are going to make it very difficult for them to return to winning form. However rugby league can be a strange game at times and after seeing the Storm to beat the Panthers last week, anything is possible this season. The Tigers will aim high, but have their work cut out in this game. Let’s see if there is anything that can perhaps influence this decision one way or another.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Heading into this week, the only change for the Rabbitohs has been forced upon them by the match review committee. Andrew Everingham has been outed for two weeks following his contact with Matt Bowen in the second half of last weeks match. It seemed like an innocuous incident but it did leave Bowen on the ground and injured for some time. Neither the referee nor the touch judges deemed the contact dangerous at the time and upon viewing the incident, he certainly does have a point. You see contact like that every week and some people have made comparisons between his hit and others demonstrated by fullbacks over the weekend. For what it is worth, the NRL MRC have gotten this one wrong and consistency needs happen if they are going to take this stance. His replacement in this game is Justin Hunt and from what we have seen of him last season, he is certainly able to perform on the wing. As Hunt is promoted, Dylan Farrell has been called onto the extended as bench as 18th man and joins Jeff Lima who is 19th man. Apart from that, Maguire is sticking solid with the team that has gotten the job done for him in the past few weeks and rewarding his players for their effort.
Ok, someone get on the phone to ASADA and tell them that they are barking up the wrong tree with the Sharks and the real problem is out at the Tigers! The side they have named this week is evidence as there is the puzzling change of naming Benji Marshall on the bench and Liam Fulton in the starting side at 5/8. By his own admission, Marshall has been struggling to find form and appears to be still battling an injury known as turf toe. However to put him on the bench and add Fulton to the starting side sure is puzzling. Looking at it, the only reason coach Mick Potter may be taking this option is to tighten up the Tigers defence early and allow Marshall to ease into the game from the bench once the paced of the game has settled. Regardless, they are playing against a side that is the best in the competition and attacking flair is certainly what they need. Apart from that, Bodene Thompson is moved into the second row to cover for Fulton’s move and Ava Seumanifagai is called into the side in jersey 16, while Ben Murdoch-Masila is shifted to 18th man and will be likely to miss this game altogether.
Overall = Rabbitohs 11 Tigers 9
Last 5 games = Rabbitohs 4 Tigers 1
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 3 Tigers 3
Stats that matter
- The Rabbitohs are tough to break down and their strong forward pack is doing a very good job of carrying the ball forward. They average 9.02m per carry (2nd) and constantly have the opposition on the back foot. The Tigers are the opposite to this and find themselves struggling to finish their sets in attacking position. They average just 8.36m per carry and are ranked 16th in the competition.
- Be sure that the Rabbitohs are dangerous and hard to stop when in full flight. They average 4.5 line breaks per game (5th) and will be tough for the Tigers to hold. The Tigers will not be able to return the favor though asthey only average 3.2 line breaks per game (=14th).
- The Tigers task will be made even more difficult by their loose defence. They average 28 missed tackles per match (15th) but were able to reduce this against the Sharks where they missed only 17 tackles. The Rabbitohs are benefitting from their strong structure and miss a little less with 23.3 tackles (=5th).
TAB Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.09 Tigers $8.00
Centrebet = Rabbitohs $1.07 Tigers $9.00
Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.08 Tigers $8.50
Betfair = Rabbitohs $1.08 Tigers $11
After declaring the “Panthers v Storm” game as a forgone conclusion, I am a little reluctant to declare the Rabbitohs but it does seem as though they will be too tough for the Tigers. They outclass them in every area of play and will make attacking very difficult for them with their strong defence. Be careful when betting on the Rabbitohs, they have not reached their peak just yet and tend to “play-down” to their opponents level at several stages during the game. The Tigers will be competitive early on, but it will be the Rabbitohs that prevail in the end. The 13+ option does seem like the most suitable and a Rabbitohs should be able to completely handle the Tigers to a point where they cover the line, and then some. However, there are not many options that will entice you to have a bet so consider a few exotic options as well.
Rabbitohs -20.5 @ $1.85
Grab a good first = Bryson Goodwin FTS @ $11 – Given the other possibilities within the Rabbitohs side and how short they are, Goodwin does offer some value to punters looking to pick a first try scorer. He has been in great form recently and the Rabbitohs will be spreading the ball early to stretch the Tigers out.
A complete blowout = Rabbitohs 30+ (exact winning margin) @ $2.25 – This selection does give a little more value than the line but it does mean that the Rabbitohs will have to blowout the Tigers on the scoreboard. It is certainly a possibility so think long and hard about this option.
Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans
Queenslanders are never one to be out done and perhaps the game that is being played there is going to be a little more exciting than its NSW rival. Despite the appearance of the high-flying Rabbitohs, this Queensland Derby will draw a lot of attention away from them and will be a game that is definitely worth viewing. Having only just faced one another in Round 5, there are a lot of similarities between both sides and it should make this clash even more interesting. They both have a very strong forward pack that is lead by an underrated hooker and boasts several representative players. They also have talented outside backs that can finish a backline movement and be solid in defence on the edges. However the difference between the two sides is no doubt within their halves. Although they are sitting in 8th spot on the table, the Broncos are in a lot more trouble than they appear. They are failing to finish their attacking sets off with enough potency to heap pressure on the opposition. In terms of their stats, their completion rate (76.4% – 1st) and errors (8.9 – 1st) are very good, but their points scored is not and more importantly their win column is not anything that opposition sides will fear. Peter Wallace and Scott Prince are going to draw a lot of criticism for this but perhaps coach Anthony Griffin needs to take a look at his sides performance and act accordingly. There are not many decent 5/8’s floating around in the NRL so perhaps they should pursue a younger player within their youth program but the tough decision does have to be made on either Wallace or Prince at this point. The Titans were forced into this decision at the end of 2012 and seem to be benefitting from the chance they gave to Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly. Ironically, it was the departure of Scott Prince that led to this but their play suggests that they are moving in the right direction. So far, the Titans would be happy with their performance and certainly do have a lot of improvement left in them as the season progresses. Whether or not they can maintain this for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but they are surrounded by experience and will be up for the challenge. These two sides may be close in comparison, but once the fulltime whistle blows, they could perhaps be further apart and heading down different roads in their 2013 campaign.
The obvious omission from the side for the Broncos this week is Scott Prince, but don’t get too excited about Anthony Griffin making the tough call just yet as the move was the result of injury. Prince was certainly a talented player in his day but his best years do seem to be past him. Of course, this would all change if the Broncos were to get a few wins on the board. His replacement this week is utility Ben Hunt and it will be interesting to see just how Wallace is able to cope with this new combination. The other key absence from the Broncos side is Ben Hannant who will be out for an extended period of time due to injury. Unfortunately for QLD fans, he may even miss the SOO period because of it. His replacement is Josh McGuire who last week showed how he wants to be noticed as an enforcer and will stand up for his halfback when he is attacked late. The other changes that occur are on the bench as David Stagg is promoted from 19th man into jersey 14 and Mitchell Dodds is called into the side as 18th man. One player will have to miss out and Griffin will probably leave it up until the last minute before naming his side.
Gold Coast Titans
After a very tough contest last week, the Titans are going to be boosted by a few players returning from injury. Ashley Harrison returned last week to take his place in the back row and that forced Luke Douglas back to the bench. The same has occurred this week with Douglas named to start in jersey 17 and Nate Myles pushing back up into the front row. Ben Ridge vacates the team altogether and the new face on the bench is hooker Matt Srama who has recovered from a finger injury. The “man-of-the-match” performance put in against the Dragons by Beau Falloon has kept him in the starting side for the time being. Cartwright honestly believes that he is offering more for the Titans at this point but Srama will be able to maintain the intensity set by Falloon once he comes onto the field. Mark Ioane is move to 18th man and Sam Irwin is relegated to 19th man and may be there to cover a possible late withdrawal to Srama.
Overall = Broncos Titans 4
Last 5 games = Broncos 4 Titans 1
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 6 Titans 1
Stats that matter
- Despite boasting so many representative players, the Broncos are still struggling to gain decent metres within their sets and finish them with good field position. They average 8.49m per carry (15th) where as the Titans are slightly better than them with 8.91m per carry (7th). It may not seem like much, but the ability to continually have the opposition coming off their own line does build pressure.
- The Broncos need to improve their defence and are quite loose in the middle of the field. They miss around 26.9 missed tackles per game (13th) and need to get greater numbers into the first up tackles. The Titans are slightly better as they miss around 24.4 tackles each game (9th).
- The points that both side average in attack and defence suggest that this game will be a close contest. The Titans score around 19.4 per match (7th) and concede 17.7 (8th), while the Broncos score 17.3 (9th) and concede 16.1 (6th). This also perhaps builds a case that the total points scored in this match may just remain under 40.
TAB Sportsbet = Broncos $1.60 Titans $2.40
Centrebet = Broncos $1.57 Titans $2.45
Sportsbet = Broncos $1.57 Titans $2.45
Betfair = Broncos $1.63 Titans $2.46
The QLD derby is always difficult to select and this game is no different. On one hand, the Titans are a far better side than the Broncos in terms of their ability to finish off attacking sets and build pressure on the opposition. However the Broncos know how to control the ball and may benefit from the incoming of Ben Hunt at 5/8. The overall success does rest on the shoulders of the halves and it seems as though the Titans will have what it takes to get over the line. Not only that, they will also be driven by the embarrassing loss they had to them in Round 5 (32-12). This game will be a very close contest and could only be decided in the last 10 minutes.
Titans @ $2.47
By the skin of their teeth = Titans 1-12 @ $3.75 – The Titans are outsiders in this game and having them winning this game in a close contest does offer some very juicy odds. It certainly shouldn’t get out to the 13+ margin so this is the one that you should go with in this game.
Double up again = Draw/Titans (HT/FT double) @ $21 – Last week I recommended this option and it deliver a nice $17 winner. I am not backing away from it this week, the game is going to be very close and both sides could be locked up at HT.
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels
Saturday night action is back this week with 3 games and there will be a lot of pink floating around tonight. If you can, get out to a ground to watch a game and take a female family member or partner with you to show them that the game does care and value the roles they play. If they did have a preference, they would probably steer clear of this game due to the current standings of both sides. The Dragons are struggling to get back to the form that saw them net three consecutive victories after a slow start to the season and the narrow loss to the Titans last Sunday certainly will not help their cause. It was a tough way to lose a match and Jamie Soward expressed his feelings to the referees in regards to his final field goal attempt, but there were several opportunities given to them throughout the match to win the game. Effort is something which is evident in their performances, but like several other teams within the competition, it is execution that is letting them down. They need to go back to the formula they had in their 3-game winning streak that relied on strong forward play and limiting the decisions that the halves had to make in attack. For the Eels, they will see this as another opportunity to build momentum within their season and ensure that people are quickly forgetting the performances this season that have had them branded as “hapless”. One win over the Broncos isn’t exactly going to put those thoughts to bed but it is better to head into a game with winning form as opposed to losing. They are rebuilding slowly and coach Ricky Stuart does not have the squad that he wants just yet. At the moment, they are relying on a strong team dynamic, belief and confidence in their ability and overall desire to win the close contests. This is probably why they have not chalked up too many victories this season and individuals are “carrying” the team. Last Saturday it was the “Jarryd Hayne Show” that delivered them the 2-points and he was supported at different stages by the forwards and halfback Chris Sandow. For success to continue, they need a consistent team effort over the entire 80 minutes to build pressure on their opposition. Perhaps the criticism of this game was a little harsh as two Sydney-based teams are going to be pushing very hard for victory over a rival. So tune in to see what this game offers because if both sides play to their potential this game could be an exciting contest but if they’re off, we are heading for a mistake riddled game that could get boring very quickly. Either way, it’s a game of rugby league!
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The big news for the Dragons this week is the inclusion of new signing Josh Dugan at fullback. There was some speculation that he would play last week but this wasn’t the case. They have given the young star a lifeline and he will want to make the most of this opportunity. This means that his focus should be on football and keeping himself out of the headlines for the wrong reasons. His inclusion into the side has forced Jason Nightingale to move back to the wing but that is a position where he plays some of his best football. Matt Cooper has been named for the third straight week but again, there is uncertainty over whether or not he will take the field. If he doesn’t pass the fitness test, 18th man Cameron King could take his place in the centres. After a few strong weeks coming off the bench, Michael Weyman is named to start the game in the front row. He has forced Jack Stockwell back to the bench and this changing role will bring about new challenges for him. Weyman strengthens up the middle of the field and will set a very high intensity from the opening whistle. It was only a few years ago that Weyman was pushing for SOO selection but after suffering an injury setback, he could be about to recapture that same form.
Buoyed by their success last week, Eels coach Ricky Stuart felt the need to make minimal changes to his lineup. In the centres, Ryan Morgan has been dropped back to NSW Cup and Api Pewhairangi will take his place. This is a puzzling move as Morgan has displayed solid performances this season but perhaps Stuart wants great attacking flair on the edges. Darcy Lussick is off the bench and out of this game and his replacement is Junior Paulo. It does limit the impact that the Eels get from the bench but they have several players that are capable of the challenge that the Dragons pack offers them. A few more of their players should put their hand up at different stages to take control of the game. This would limit the weight placed on Hayne’s shoulders and allow him to play with a little more freedom. Then again, if he wants to play fullback for NSW in SOO, this is the type of pressure that he has to get use to.
Overall =Dragons 13 Draw 2 Eels 11
Last 5 games =Dragons 4 Draw 1 Eels 0
At WIN Jubilee Stadium = Dragons 2 Draw 1 Eels 1
Stats that matter
- The Eels are struggling to pressure their opponents and need to look no further then their completion rate and errors. Currently, they are ranked in 14th spot with a completion rate of just 68.9% and their errors have them placed in =12th with 11.9 per game. It is a different story for the Dragons though as they have a completion rate of 72.7% (7th) but commit an alarming 11.2 errors per game (9th).
- The Eels are tightening up their defensive structure and are reducing the missed tackles each week. They are ranked 7th overall and miss 23.7 per game, while the Dragons are fraught to make their first up tackles. They miss an average of 26.6 tackles per game and this has them ranked in 12th spot overall.
- Discipline is a big problem for the Eels at the moment as they are conceding 7.7 penalties per game (14th). The referees may have a large impact on this game as well as the Dragons average 6.2 penalties per match (=7th).
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $1.47 Eels $2.47
Centrebet = Dragons $ 1.45 Eels $2.80
Sportsbet = Dragons $1.45 Eels $2.80
Betfair= Dragons $1.45 Eels $2.90
Another difficult game to select and there is only one word that can describe this contest…ugly! Despite a solid win over the Broncos, the Eels are yet to find their groove and they are still struggling with doing the little things in their play. By no means are the Dragons at that point either, but the comparison between the two sides forward packs may hold the key. The Dragons are a much more mobile pack and have the ability to release the pressure heaped upon them when they are carrying the ball off their own line. They also have a talented hooker that is capable of controlling the game. Both sides have their superstars and the return of Josh Dugan to the NRL may also spark the Dragons into action. Not only that, they will have the added advantage of playing at home in front of a very vocal crowd. This contest will be very tight and could come down to the last few minutes of the match, before it is decided.
Dragons 1-12 @ $2.85
Draw a conclusion at HT = Draw/Dragons (HT/FT) @ $15 – This game is going to be a tight contest and both sides could head into the break with scores locked. Given I am tipping the Dragons to prevail in the end, this option is worth some consideration to offer a little more value to your investment.
Back into the fold = Josh Dugan to score at try @ $2.25 – You can see the headline now, “Triumphant return for Dugan!” and given the impact he can have on a game, he is a chance to get over the line at some stage for a try. The odds being offered are not what you would see for him when he is in form but there is only one way to impress at his new club and that is with a polished performance. A try would go a long way to settle the nerves some Dragons fans may have of him.
Penrith Panthers v New Zealand Warriors
Well if you thought that the Dragons v Eels was going to be a tough game to get through, then you’re going to be surprised with this game. It is always great to see the Panthers in the “Women in League” round though because it is their chance to run out in their “pink panthers” uniform. So far this season, both sides have played anything but attractive football. While the Panthers were able to beat the Storm last week in grinding fashion, it was only their 3rd win for the season and in the big scheme of things, it will do little to relieve the pressure on them if they slip back into their losing ways. As stated in last week’s preview, effort is always evident with the Panthers and they will benefit from this in coming seasons, just not in the immediate future. However they will be ready for a contest each week and you can be sure that they will be wanting to win this game on the back of their surprising victory last week. Confidence will not be as high for the Warriors but they will perhaps have the extra motivation of playing against former coach Ivan Cleary who left them at the end of 2011 to take up this position. It seemed a little strange at the time, but he obviously knew what he was doing and the Warriors have struggled since then to regain the edge Cleary gave them under his guidance. They were very structured when he was there and last year that seemed to be thrown out the window. New coach Matt Elliot has wrestled with this problem since he came to the club and the structure he has reinstalled into them is evident in their play. The biggest issue for the Warriors however, is playing for the entire 80 minutes. Against the Bulldogs last week, they started very well but failed to score a point after 32 minutes and allowed the Bulldogs to score 24 unanswered points. It was disappointing to see them finish in this manner after a strong start, but full credit must go to the Bulldogs. They are improving slightly but until they play consistent football, they will be without any public support. This is one of two games kicking off at 7:30pm and maybe this will not be your first preference. Either way it is a chance to win some money on the outcome on the match so conceivably there are some positives in this contest after all.
Given the achievements of the Panthers last week, Cleary would be reluctant to change his side. That is probably the reason why we see no changes to the 17 this week other than Mose Masoe now wearing jersey 16 and James Segeyaro in jersey 14. Nathan Smith has also disappeared as 18th man and this Panther side will head into this weekend with full fitness. Of course, they are still missing a host of players but the squad which they have at the moment is proving that they will be able to get the job done given the right circumstances. Isaac John stepped into the 5/8 role last week amid a lot of pressure but he was solid in his performance and it took some of the responsibility off the shoulders of Luke Walsh. It was also their scrambling defence that allowed them to hold to Storm to just 10 points in the end. Cleary will want to bottle that effort, execution and desire that was shown against the Storm and hopefully use it here.
New Zealand Warriors
Matthew Elliot is still finding the right balance within his side and it seems as though he is uncertain as to just what is the best combination in certain positions just yet. Konrad Hurrell has been dropped back to NSW Cup again and Carlos Tuimavave will take his spot in the centres. Hurrell has struggled to find the same form that saw him “crash” onto the scene last season and he should use his time in the NSW Cup to develop his game further and work on tightening his defence up. As Tuimavave is called into the side from 18th man, the new face there is Suaia Matagi who will probably only get a start if there is a late withdrawal. That is the only change for the Warriors this week but they will no doubt be boosted by the news that second rower Feleti Mateo has chosen to re-sign with the club for a further 3-years. He apparently fielded several big offers from other clubs but chose to stay with the Warriors, where he has been since he moved from the Parramatta Eels. Mateo is undoubtedly a confidence player and he needs to play every week full of it. When he is “on” he can be one of the most dangerous forward ball runners in the competition as he is able to offload the ball with ease. This opens up second-phase play and while the Warriors are trying to stick to a structure, it is this that has a lot of other sides worried when facing them.
Overall =Panthers 15 Draw 1 Warriors 14
Last 5 games =Panthers 1 Warriors 4
At Centrebet Stadium = Panthers 7 Draw 1 Warriors 7
Stats that matter
- The Panthers have the loosest defence in the league and miss an average of 29 tackles per match. The Warriors are slightly better though and this may just give them the edge in this contest. They miss 25.3 tackles and are ranked in 11th.
- The Warriors defence is certainly not as good as their completion rate and in this case, they have the worst in the league with an average of just 68.2%. Surprisingly, the Panthers aren’t ranked that low and they are benefitting from a strong structure under Cleary. Their completion rate sits at 72.8% for the season and they are ranked in 6th spot in the competition.
- This contest could be very high scoring as both sides average a lot of points. The Panthers allow 22.2 points per match (12th), while the Warriors give away 24.7 points (15th). Whether or not the attacking ability of both sides will allow this to happen though is another point altogether.
TAB Sportsbet = Panthers $1.70 Warriors $2.20
Centrebet = Panthers $1.65 Warriors $2.30
Sportsbet = Panthers $1.72 Warriors $2.15
Betfair= Panthers $1.75 Warriors $2.26
So what approach do you take into this game? The Panthers are a side that is coming off a strong performance over Melbourne and are playing at home. The Warriors are travelling away from their home base and will have the scoreless second half still in their minds following their loss to the Bulldogs. In a game where momentum is everything, you would think that the Panthers would have their tails up and ready for any contest now. However a week is a long time in rugby league and it perhaps the Warriors have learnt from their mistakes. There is no easy solution to deciding the outcome of this game but given the effort the Panthers have shown this season, I am willing to say that they should be able to get the win in this game. This is one of the few weeks (maybe even the first) where they head into a game as favorites so it will be interesting to see just how they handle the pressure.
Panthers -2.5 @ $1.90
Margin to go by = Panthers 1-12 @ $3.10 – This game will probably be close and it would be surprising to see the Panthers get out to a 13+ margin. This is a more suitable selection and one that does offer a fair bit of value.
Off to a great start = Manu Vatuvei FTS @ $8 – The last 3 weeks, a Warriors Try has been the first scoring play in their match. Two out of three of these tries have been scored by Vatuvei and he has scored first three times this season. This may force the Panthers to come from behind but it certainly is possible.
North Queensland Cowboys v Sydney Roosters
The “main” game this Saturday night is up in Townsville and is the most exciting game by way of default. The Cowboys have several question marks hanging over their head at this current point in time and that is definitely a problem as they look to move forward towards a finals spot. They are inconsistent and are struggling to put in a strong performance away from home. Last week against the Rabbitohs, several people were of the opinion that the Cowboys were hard done by in a few close calls, but at the end of the day they had their winning opportunities and were unable to hold the Rabbitohs to anything less than 28 points. The final score was definitely not a true reflection of the game but you did get the feeling that the Rabbitohs were always in control of the final outcome. The Cowboys can ill-afford to continue along this line of second-rate performances and it is only going to get tougher for them with the SOO approaching. It is disappointing to see in the sense that everyone knows what they are capable of. They have a monstrous forward pack that is well supported by the outside backs and two play makers that have the capability to win the game with their ability. It is a case of “if” with the Cowboys and it is a scary thought that they are yet to reach their potential but if they do, the rest of the competition will have to take notice of them. It is certainly not a matter of “if” for the Roosters and they are living up to their potential at this stage. Last Monday, there grinded out a tough victory over the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval and an effort that was made even more impressive as they played the last 11 minutes minus Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, as he was sent off for a high shot on George Rose. By no means were the Sea Eagles at full strength but that win will give them the confidence to tackle any team in this competition. Their star-players are beginning to stand up and lead this team through their own individual actions, while also pushing hard for a spot in SOO. James Maloney is neck and neck with Todd Carney and is doing everything possible to run out in a blue jersey on June 5th. Perhaps the combination that he is forming with Mitchell Pearce will be considered as both players are benefitting from having the other present on the field. Pearce probably more than Maloney, but it cannot hurt to carry that combination into the opening SOO game. Also, there is no better test for them here than coming up against the QLD and Australian 5/8, Jonathan Thurston. Before they get too far ahead of themselves though, it needs to be a team effort and they will not be able to play with the freedom that they are familiar with unless the forwards get the job done up front. This game is sure to “liven” up the night’s proceedings and is one that shouldn’t be missed.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys had a few changes to their side last week to face the Rabbitohs and it seems as though those same changes are going to carry over here. Michael Morgan is out of this game and as was the case last week, Ray Thompson will take his place at halfback. Thompson was a ineffective in most parts against the Rabbitohs but the more time he has in this position, the better he will get. Robert Lui is making his return from injury in the QLD Cup, meaning that Thompson will only have limited opportunities to make his spot in the side a permanent one. Due to Thompson’s promotion, Scott Moore was promoted to the bench and his role in the side was to relieve Rory Kostjasyn at hooker. Scott Bolton is also named to play in the 17 and he takes Joel Reithmuller’s spot in the side and will look to maintain the efforts of Matthew Scott and James Tamou when he comes onto the field.
After a very bruising encounter last week, it is no surprise to see the Roosters name the exact side that took part in that game. They wouldn’t have had much time to review the fitness of their players and obviously had not decided what plea they would make for JWH. As it turns out, he has been suspended for 5 weeks after they chose not to contest the charge and risk a possible 7-week rest from the game. It does seem like a tough charge for the incident, especially given the fact that he was sent off but his prior convictions have come back to haunt him. They have not named a replacement just yet (Thursday PM) but it could be a number of players. Kane Evans could get his start from the NSW Cup or Frank-Paul Nuuausala could start the match meaning another player could replace him on the bench. Evans has been strong in the lower grades and will be a valuable learning curve for the youngster in years to come.
Overall = Cowboys 8 Roosters 20
Last 5 games = Cowboys 4 Roosters1
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 4 Roosters 10
Stats that matter
- The Cowboys are their own worst enemies at the moment and their errors are stopping their momentum with the ball. Currently, they commit 11.9 errors per game and are ranked =12th in the competition. The Roosters are ranked higher (5th) but still complete too many errors for their liking (10.7 per games).
- The Roosters and the Cowboys are two of the most exciting teams in the competition and are troubling sides with their line breaks. The Roosters average 6 line breaks per game (1st) and the Cowboys are just slightly behind that with 5 (2nd).
- The Roosters defence is very tight and tough to break down. They limit their missed tackles and they are able to make the one-on-one tackles. They average just 17 per game (1st) but the story is very different for the Cowboys who miss a very high 27.6 per game (14th).
TAB Sportsbet = Cowboys $2.10 Roosters $1.75
Centrebet = Cowboys $2.00 Roosters $1.83
Sportsbet = Cowboys $1.98 Roosters $1.85
Betfair = Cowboys $2.06 Roosters $1.89
This is a very difficult game to select and there are going to be several factors that impact on the final result. Firstly, the Roosters are going to find it difficult to back up from a tough and bruising encounter against Manly on MNF. After the Rabbitohs played them, they had a 7-day turn around and were still slow to start against the Broncos. The Roosters only have 5 days to prepare for this game and majority of that will focus on recovery and they will also lose another day for the trip up to Townsville. Secondly, the Cowboys will relish the chance to head back home and usually play very well in Townsville (only 1 loss to the Storm in Round 2). However the Cowboys are going to be very difficult to support based on their performances this season. Their forwards are lacking a spark but this is the time of the year when a few of them will be pushing hard for a representative spot and need to carry some momentum into that game. In saying that, Maloney, Pierce and Jennings are pushing for selection in their own right and will want to turn in a good individual performance that contributes to the teams success. I am banking on fatigue getting the better of the Roosters and will stick with the Cowboys for the win in a very tight game. Be careful when investing your money on this game though, it could go either way and Roosters win definitely wouldn’t be a shock to the system.
Cowboys @ $2.10
Slim to no chance of 13+ = Cowboys 1-12 @ $3.50 – As the name suggests, it would be very surprising to see this score line get out to a 13+ margin given the tight defence that the Roosters display. If the Cowboys are to win, then this option is best suited if you are looking for more value.
Decide on this one = Either side under 6.5 points (Tri bet) @ $2.75 – If you cannot decide on who will win this game, well maybe this is the option for you. This option doesn’t select a winner, rather banks on a close game and nothing else.
Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders
In a replay of one of last year’s semi finals, the Sharks will host the Raiders in the first game on Sunday afternoon footy. Unfortunately, there are only two games that will feature today and that means the 6:30pm game has been and gone once more. However don’t stress, it will be back to our screens in Round 13 and ensures that the Sunday action goes well in to the night. This game is going to be an intriguing encounter for a number of reasons aside from the fact that it is a replay of an NRL Final. In recent weeks, both sides have experience a revival of form and seem to have things heading in the right direction after “slow” starts to their seasons. The Sharks certainly have had their fair share of reasons and for now, the dark cloud that was ASADA hanging over their head has disappeared for now as all further interviews that were scheduled were suspended. They can now get back to solely focusing on their football and nothing else. They are still without their captain Paul Gallen but if the forwards turn out the same performance they did against the Tiger and Knights, his loss will not be felt as much as it has in past years. Wade Graham has stepped up to the mark, as has Luke Lewis and they are leading the rest of the forwards strongly in setting a platform for their halves, namely Todd Carney, to build upon. They faced a Tigers side last week that was out to make amends for their Round 8 effort and it was tight heading into HT at 6-all. However they regrouped and were able to produce an exciting second half display that allowed them to score 24 unanswered points. They were certainly working off the back of the confidence they received from their strong win over Newcastle the previous week and it highlighted just how important winning form can be in this competition in terms of momentum. The Raiders are riding the same wave of momentum following their two recent victories over the Storm and the Knights. The Storm victory was the highlight of this and it was that performance that allowed them to fight back from a 14-point deficit against the Knights to score 44 unanswered of their own. By no means are they one of the competition favorites but they are building towards something that they hope will have them feature in the end of season finals. Certain individuals are standing up within their squad and making a name for themselves, while also contributing to the teams cause. They need to play a more consistent brand of football before then and focus on limiting their mistakes (12.3 errors – 15th) and opportunities their opposition get with the ball. This will come with time and they are benefitting from a strong home record, but this needs to carry onto the road as well. They will have a chance in this game to do that and so will several players in both sides to push their case for representative selection.
Following a dominating performance over the Tigers, Flanagan has chosen to name the same squad as last week and stuck solid with those players who go the job done. As an outsider viewing the Sharks, you would be wrong for thinking that they were not missing their captain. There are a few rumors floating around that Gallen may now not return before the first SOO game. The Sharks wouldn’t mind that because the new recruits they have at their club are able to fill his void at the moment. Todd Carney is thrust in the spotlight again and the pressure on his shoulders is coming from Roosters 5/8 James Maloney. Carney is turning out some very solid performances and he is a key reason why they have gone on a winning streak. He will probably say that SOO isn’t at the front of his mind just yet and although he isn’t admitting it, he is probably using it as motivation each week. He can probably relate some of his success to the platform that the forwards are setting for him and they have one of the most dynamic packs in the competition. The challenge for them is the players coming off the bench maintaining the high intensity that is set.
The Raiders had a few late changes last week and it seems as though coach Furner has stuck with the same side here. Josh Papalii is back in the second row and he replaces Joe Picker, who returns back to the bench at the expense of Jake Foster. No doubt that Papalii’s inclusion to the side is a boost as he offers plenty in attack with his ball running and offloads and is one of the hardest hitters in defence. Blake Ferguson’s form has also been pronounced but the challenge for him now is to maintain the high standard that he has set. If he does, it will no doubt lead to a Blue jersey when June comes along. The one weakness for them that hasn’t been really exposed just yet is at hooker. Youngster Anthony Milford comes off the bench to lift the intensity and Matt McIlwrick is the man that is charged with leading the team from the start. If opposition sides are able to pressure this area, it may place an extra burden on the halves and be the downfall in their performance.
Overall = Sharks 31 Raiders 28
Last 5 games = Sharks 2 Raiders 3
At Shark Park = Sharks 19 Raiders 8
Stats that matter
- You probably wouldn’t expect a high quality contest with the completion rate of the two sides. Time in possession is everything and you need to limit the amount the opposition spends with the ball if you want a chance at winning. The Sharks completion rate for the season is at 68.5% (15th) and the Raiders are only slightly ahead of them with 69.6% (13th).
- The Sharks forward pack needs the time with the ball because they are ranked 6th overall for metres per carry with 8.91m. This highlights the quality within the pack and will only be boosted within the pack. The Raiders also need to improve their forwards contribution to their side as they only make 8.83m per carry (10th).
- The Raiders still concede a lot of points in defence and need to tighten up in the middle of the field. They allow their opponents to score an average of 29.3 points per match (13th) whereas the Sharks are far better and concede just 15.7 points (5th).
TAB Sportsbet = Sharks $1.70 Raiders $2.20
Centrebet = Sharks $1.65 Raiders $2.30
Sportsbet = Sharks $1.65 Raiders $2.70
Betfair = Sharks $1.74 Raiders $2.32
Full credit must go to the Raiders for their recent performances but unfortunately for them, that is going to count for nothing here if they do not show up ready to play. The Sharks are a side that is desperate to win each match given what they have gone through this season. Assisting their cause is a good home ground advantage and the Raiders poor form away from home (1 win, 4 losses). The slow start that the Raiders had against the Knights suggests that they are not quite there just yet and will need to work hard to get a win here. The Sharks are the more fancied option with the bookies and I am going to stick with them to get a tough victory, in a very close contest.
Sharks -3.5 @ $1.90
Tight game, close outcome = Sharks 1-12 @ $2.85 – The Sharks should be able to get the job done but the form that the Raiders are in suggests that it will be a close contest. It would be surprising to see the Sharks get a 13+ victory given they only score 16.3 points in attack.
A high scoring affair = Total points Over 40.5 @ $1.90 – Back track a little to “Stats that matter” and see that the average points that both teams concede suggest that this match could go over 41 points. Given this match is also played in the day, points should be free flowing from both sides.
Newcastle Knights v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Sunday afternoon football concludes this weekend with an intriguing clash between the Newcastle Knights and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium. Make no mistake about it, both sides have very experienced coaches leading them and they are looking to claw their way back into some consistent form. The Bulldogs suffered a slow start to the season and this was mainly due to the toughness of their draw. A lot was made of the Roosters start to the season based on the “charity” of it in the opening 9 to 10 rounds. The Bulldogs have had the complete opposite and are now only facing teams that are considered premiership hopefuls, rather than contenders. Some have described the Knights as being contenders, but they still have a lot more areas in their game to develop before they can get there. Obviously they started strong against the Raiders, but failed to go on with the job and made a lot of poor defensive reads. They allowed the Raiders too many opportunities to offload and the second phase play resulted in plenty of points. Then when they had the ball, they made too many errors (10 in total) at crucial points in their attack. Bennett does have his work cut out with this aging squad and the magic he was able to work at the Dragons seems to be further away here. He does not have the luxury of a young forward pack and there are a few players out there on weary legs. You can never write them off though and they are a side they play’s very well at home. They cannot rely on this to get them through to the end of the season though and the better sides in the competition will be able to travel here and beat them. There are only 3 outcomes possible on the overall result, but the effect of it could last for more than a week and have a significant impact on the sides success in the following rounds. This is it for Sunday footy and once the fulltime whistle blows, we will only have MNF left to look forward to. So let’s make the most of it and celebrate the Women in League round with a great day in the sun.
The Knights are still reeling from their capitulation against the Raiders after a strong start to the game. It is no surprise to see that Bennett has chosen to make a few changes because of that. As I pointed out last week, playing Kurt Gidley at 5/8 took away from the potency of the forwards and they missed his strong defence in the middle of the field. However they are boosted by the return of Jarrod Mullen this week and this allows Gidley to move back to 9. This also forces Travis Waddell back to the bench and Matt Hilder out of the side altogether. Bennett has also chosen to drop Timana Tahu back to the NSW Cup and we see a new face in Joey Leilua take his spot. Tahu is no doubt a better player than what we have seen this season but Leilua will want to make the most of his chance and keep Tahu down in the lower grades. The only other change occurs on the bench as Korbin Sims in finally named in the 17 and David Fa’alogo is out of the side. Sims has been named as 18th man for the last few weeks and there has always been speculation that he will be a late inclusion and most of the time he has been. There is no concern this week, he will take his place in the side and look to offer some impact when he takes the field.
This is the first time this season that the Bulldogs have named a full-strength side, including the extended bench of Martin Taupau and Tim Browne. The only change from their side last week is the return of Krisnan Inu in the centres at the expense of Tim Lafai. Inu served a hefty suspension for his dangerous tackle on Greg Inglis and will be hoping to make up for lost time in this game. The Bulldogs forwards are also looking to spend more “game time” together and build towards recapturing their form. They are always a threat when they are attacking and they showed this in minor areas against the Warriors. Everyone knows the quality they possess with the ball but last week against the Warriors and the previous week against the Tigers, we saw their ability to tighten up the middle of the field. Defence is always a key focus for Hasler-coached sides and they are only going to improve as their stars return to full, match fitness. Although a lot of their success is attributed to their forwards, Josh Reynolds plays a vital role each week in their side and he seems to be “clicking” with Trent Hodkinson at halfback. This has been one area where the Bulldogs have had uncertainty but if he keeps up his performances, Kris Keating will find it hard to get back into the side.
Overall = Knights 17 Draw 1 Bulldogs 19
Last 5 games = Knights 3 Bulldogs 2
At Shark Park = Knights 11 Bulldogs 6
Stats that matter
- So far this season, the Bulldogs average 8.60m per carry (13th) but this statistic is improving. In the last two weeks, they have averaged 9.2m and a sign of the impact that the stars players are having upon their return to the side.
- Both sides are very tight in defence and miss a limited number of tackles. The Bulldogs are ranked 3rd in the competition with just 21.7 missed tackles per game and the Knights are just slightly better than that. They miss an average of 21.1 and are ranked 2nd in the competition.
- Perhaps due to the easier draw they’ve had this season (compared to the Bulldogs), they Knights average a greater number of points in attack with 21.7 per game (4th). No doubt the Bulldogs are getting their average higher but tough defences they have faced so far has made it difficult and they are only averaging 16.9 per game (=10th)
TAB Sportsbet = Knights $2.50 Bulldogs $1.55
Centrebet = Knights $2.40 Bulldogs $1.60
Sportsbet = Knights $2.40 Bulldogs $1.60
Betfair = Knights $2.58 Bulldogs $1.55
It is hard to like the Knights based on their inconsistent performances but they are playing at home this week and you have to judge them on that form as well. They have only suffered one loss there this season and they always make it difficult for the opposition to beat them there. Despite this, I am going to stick with the Bulldogs because I sense that they are working back into form and on the brink of returning to the team that we saw in 2012. For those of you who suggest they are unable to enjoy the same success as they did last year, they were in almost the identical position last season in terms of wins and losses and were able to take out the minor premiership. This game will be a close contest and expect the Knights to again make a strong start, but it should be the Bulldogs that prevail in the end.
Bulldogs 1-12 @ $2.85
Form start to finish = Knights/Bulldogs (HT/FT) @ $6.50 – As stated above, the Knights are one sides that always starts the game strong and are just not able to go on with it. We know that the Bulldogs can make a late comeback too so expect them to be able to claw the Knights back by the fulltime whistle.
Last chance for Morris = Josh Morris FTS and/or LTS @ $11 – I have been harping on for the last few weeks but surely Josh Morris isn’t that far away from scoring his first try for the season. I am willing to bet that with the weaker defensive centres he is facing, it could be his time. Given that, take the odds on him to get there first and/or last.
Melbourne Storm v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Monday Night football again delivers us a mouth-watering clash and this week we have a battle between rivals in the Melbourne Storm and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles to look forward to. This rivalry has been brought about in the last few years or so as both sides were the dominant force in the competition and it has definitely had its highlights. Everyone will remember the “Battle at Brooky” game where there was a brawl on the side of the field between Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart as they were walking from the field. It is no secret that these two sides hate one another and will always lift for this game, as neither will want their pride to be beaten out of them. For the Storm, pride is something that they will want to come back into their performances after suffering two consecutive losses. It seemed a shock at first when they loss to the Raiders in Round 8 but it then backed up the following week with a loss to the Panthers. At times during that performance, the Storm didn’t appear interested in the contest and fatigue was affecting their game. Not only that, they carried the wrong attitude into the contest and suffered the consequences. You would’ve liked to be a fly on the wall during Craig Bellamy’s HT and FT speeches because it no doubt was a wake up call for them. It was always going to be difficult for the Storm to maintain such a high intensity following their trip to the UK for the RLWCC and the lead into the SOO period does generally bring about their downfall. They will need to work out a solution to their problems quickly, otherwise the losses they suffer now may just come back to bite them at the end of the season. Manly are also fighting to get some pride back after suffering another loss at home. The “fortress Brookvale” tag seems to have disappeared this year following losses to the Rabbitohs and the Roosters. For them, it was another tough game and a very physical contest, something that they generally enjoy. However the usual Sea Eagles team that would’ve been setting the high intensity for them contest was unable to fight back against the Roosters. They needed to have a better contribution from their forwards to release the pressure on their halves. That wasn’t the case and they lacked creativity at crucial times. The pressure is on both sides and it is only going to build on the loser. This game is going to be a cracking contest so let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.
It probably isn’t time to hit the panic button just yet but you would think that a few more sub-par performances would have some players introducing themselves to the reserve grade coach. This week, Craig Bellamy has chosen to maintain a similar squad and only make a few changes to the bench. Brett Finch is back in the NSW Cup this week and vacates the bench while the two players named in the side are Slade Griffin and Lagi Setu (18th man). It may not be the way they take the field but we do have a fair indication. Comment has been made that the “Big 3” are beginning to look tired and are perhaps saving themselves for the SOO period. Not only that, in recent weeks a lot of their fragilities have come to the forefront of their play and it is sending a message to the rest of the competition. People are very quick to judge a situation when things are not going to plan but a win would put all of those thoughts to rest quickly.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
For the third week in a row, the Sea Eagles are featuring in MNF and last week we saw a completely different team take the field compared to the one that was named. This week, the side that is named is fairly similar to the one that played against the Roosters last week. Peta Hiku will play fullback in place of Brett Stewart and may change with Jorge Taufua at some stage to get him more involved into the game. That is the only change to the starting side and their stability is very important to their success. David Gower comes back into the side at the expense of James Hasson, who has been moved to 18th man. Tom Symonds is also named to play, despite being a late withdrawal against the Roosters with a hamstring injury. With all of the injuries and suspensions to their side they definitely have their backs against the wall and are finding this stage of the season a little difficult to deal with. However Manly are a club that like this position more than most and prefer to perform well when there are no expectations of them.
Overall = Storm 13 Sea Eagles 10
Last 5 games = Storm 3 Sea Eagles 2
At AAMI Stadium = Storm 2 Sea Eagles 0
Stats that matter
- In the past few weeks we have seen a decrease in the Storms performance and they are well below their best in several stats. When in winning form, they averaged 9.4m per carry, 5.3 line breaks and 22.9 missed tackles in their first seven games. However in their two recent performances they have averaged 8.9m per carry, 2 line breaks and 25 missed tackles.
- The Sea Eagles are also seeing a few of their stats affect their performance and it is uncharacteristic of them for it to happen in defence. In their first seven games they were very tight and missed onl