To finish off the representative weekend, the league is staging the traditional “City v Country” fixture on the mid-north coast of NSW in Coffs Harbor. This clash dates back all the way to 1911, but was only instituted as a SOO selection in 1987. Since then, it has always been a focus for NSW fans hoping to see a “selection trial” between players pushing for a spot in the Blues team. The concept had a 3-year break between 1998-2000 due to the Super League War but it was reinstated in 2001. Since then, a lot has been written about its validity in the calendar but the ARL believes that it has a lot of value to them and promoting rugby league in the country areas of NSW. With the amount of trouble that the fixture has confronted this season, it could be the last one for sometime. Since the original teams were announced on Sunday night, there has been a host of players withdrawing from this game. An alarming factor to this is that in some cases, the club doctor was the one to rule to the players out of the match. The clubs do have an obligation to their players and they are the ones who are paying their wages each week so they do have grounds, but it does little to promote the game. Consider the players that have been called into play this game; and the reason why this match may be the last in its format becomes clearer. One player has played only 4 first grade games, another has played in the NSW Cup all season and another has played limited minutes off the bench for his side. Those players are certainly talented, but to be picked in their current predicament does devalue the representative honor. It is meant to be a genuine selection trial for the Blues but how many players out of this contest will go on to play SOO football? There is probably only going to be 4, maybe 5 players out of this game that will represent the Blues throughout the series. Laurie Daly has also come out and publicly stated that he has a very good idea of the side that he wants to pick. That must be frustrating for those players involved in this contest but they will want to put on a good performance and show the fans what they are capable of. At the end of the day, regardless of who is playing, people are still going to watch this contest. There isn’t anything else to watch on Sunday afternoon so why not tune in? Better still, lets invest some money and try to grab a winner or two out of this floundering concept.
1. James Tedesco 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Michael Jennings 4. Joel Reddy 5. Jorge Taufua 6. Curtis Sironen 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tim Grant 9. Nathan Peats 10. Tim Mannah 11. Tony Williams 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Feleti Mateo Interchange: 14. Tom Symonds 15. Adam Cuthbertson 16. Andrew Fifita 17. Wade Graham 18. Jamie Buhrer
The City side has been hampered by a lot more injuries than their country counterparts. If you were to compare the two sides, the Country team is a long way ahead of the City team on paper. This will not impact their attitude; there are still 17 players that are going to run out and play a tough game of football. City have named Adam Reynolds at 7 and this is his real chance to push for representative football. Laurie Daly made it quite clear a few weeks ago that Mitchell Pearce was going to be the NSW halfback, but with an injury to him heading into this match, the door is remaining slightly ajar for Reynolds. They could do a lot worse than him considering the goal kicking accuracy he could bring to the Blues and in tight SOO contests, it would be a valuable asset to have when points need to be converted from 4 to 6. In the backline, they will have a strong left hand with Jennings and Taufua. Jennings proved to everyone last season that he can do the job at SOO and his football has only gotten better since he joined the Roosters in the off season. The same cannot be said about another mid-season recruit Tony Williams. Williams is a shadow of his former self and Daly commented that he has to do a lot of work to force his way into his side. It is no secret that he does have to improve his play but after watching his game last week against the Roosters, perhaps he is just struggling to fit into the Bulldogs style of play. When he does though, he will be a very damaging player. Tim Grant is another player that has struggled and has even been dropped back to the bench for the Panthers. That could’ve woken him up a little and Daly will hope that he can get back to the form that we saw of him in the back end of the SOO series. Their shining light in the forwards will definitely be Ryan Hoffman, who was certainly unlucky missing selection for the Kangaroos. He does rely on some good ball play, but he can run a very accurate angle and force defensive errors from his opposition.
1. Michael Gordon 2. Akuila Uate 3. Jamal Idris 4. Jack Wighton 5. James McManus 6. James Maloney 7. Josh McCrone 8. Willie Mason 9.Michael Ennis 10. Aiden Tolman 11. Josh Jackson 12. Boyd Cordner 13. Trent Merrin Interchance: 14. Sam Williams 15. Tariq Sims 16. Ryan James 17. Alex McKinnon 18. Beau Ryan
As mentioned above, the Country side is a lot stronger than the city team. Compare all areas of the field, and they win just about every facet. They have a better halves pairing in Maloney and McCrone. McCrone has always been a consistent player for the Raiders but he is fairly lucky to be here given the injuries to Jarrod Mullen and Todd Carney. Maloney has earned his spot and he will be pushing very hard for the 5/8 spot in SOO. His task may be made a little easier with the injury to Todd Carney, but some people have also suggested that Greg Bird may also be considered. Take him out of the back row and you will lose majority of his effectiveness around the field. The real strength for the country-boys is in their forwards. Their back row is particularly strong and features 3 very young and talented players. The leader at the moment is Trent Merrin, who has been unbelievable so far this season for the Dragons. They also have a very talented and sizable bench to call upon. Tariq Sims can be compared to Tony Williams somewhat, in that he has failed to reach the heights that were expected of him after a promising display in 2012. He is slowly getting back into his groove and will no doubt be a bolter for the squad with a big performance here. Ryan James from the Titans will also join him on the bench. James has offered the Titans a lot of impact when he has taken the field and is always making it difficult for defenders to bring him down. At the back for Country, there is Sharks fullback Michael Gordon and the two Knights wingers. Uate will certainly come under some pressure from attacking kicks and his defensive reads can often let his side down. If there were any chance that this will happen in SOO, Daly would be very foolish to pick him. Gordon may just grab a spot on the wing for the Blues and would be an asset for them given his goal kicking accuracy.
Recent History (since 1987)
Overall = City 13 Draw 1 Country 9
Last 5 games = City 2 Draw 1 Country 2
Stats that matter
Average winning margin:
Overall: 9.4 points
City: 7.2 points
Country: 12.7 points
- Since 1987, City have won 13 contest but only 1 of those has been by 13+ points (22 points in 2009). Surprisingly, Country have won 9 contests and 4 of those have been by a 13+ margin (20 points (1994), 13 points (1997), 32 points (2001) and 18 points (2010)).
- Since 1987, the total average points is 36
TAB Sportsbet = City $2.75 Country $1.47
Centrebet = City $2.75 Country $1.45
Sportsbet = City $2.75 Country $1.45
Betfair = City $2.54 Country $1.52
Consider this, the Country team is a lot stronger than City, yet the City side will probably get more players that contend for SOO. What does that suggest? That’s right, Country are a far better team and where City shines, is in their individual players. Country are developing players that are going to be prominent in future years, just not this one. That does not mean that they will lose this game. What we are going to see, is a Country team that is very talented and possess a lot of youth that will ensure that NSW has strength to call upon. Perhaps it could be time for Laurie Daly to give a few of those youngsters a chance. Sound silly? Well make a final judgment on this game at fulltime, Country will win this match by a decent margin.
Country -6.5 @ $1.90
By a Country mile = Country 13+ @ $2.60 – The City team will be competitive, but it will be the Country side that eventually prevails and by a decent margin. Have a look at the history between the two sides and you will see that Country are a better chance of taking this game out by 13+.
History can be a factor = Total match points 31-40 points @ $3.25 – History demonstrates that this match averages 36 points in a contest. Of course, it can be very difficult to select this but I am willing to take it on, as I don’t think the City side will be able to score too many points.
I have followed Rugby League since I was young enough to watch it and growing up in Sydney, it was inevitable. I will always make it my business to watch all 8 NRL fixtures per week and follow it with more than just passion. During my playing career, I have played at several representative levels, with and against current players. I began writing previews on NRL games early on in 2012 and really found a passion within this. I enjoy listening to various people and their opinions on the game, and then forming my own. Coupled together with another passion, gambling, I soon learnt that there was a market out there for more than the rugby league diehards. Hopefully I can pass on my knowledge of the game to help you win some cash.
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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