Round 11 marks the last round before the sides are picked for SOO and there is certainly a lot of interest around the final makeup of both teams. You can barely watch or listen to an NRL game without the line “SOO selection” being mentioned. I advise that you do not make a drinking game out of it either because you may just be out of action before HT. However this round also marks the final time we will see a full round of fixtures (for a couple of weeks) and several teams will welcome the bye week with open arms.
A week is a long time in the NRL and a lot has occurred in the lead up to this round. There have been several rules changes, aimed at promoting the speed of the game and reducing the “downtime” within games. If the NRL were to get serious on this issue and really look after the fans, they would adopt a system similar to that of basketball, whereby any time the ball is out of play, the clock stops and restarts when the ball comes back into play and under the direction of the referee. This would mean that the players are still gaining some rest when the ball is kicked out or a try is scored, conversely it would also ensure that the fans would see a full 80 minutes of action. Just imagine how much better this game could be if the clock was stopped when the ball was out of play? Take a look at a few of the game this weekend and you would be surprised as to how much time is “wasted”.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Brisbane Broncos
The NRL round will open this week with another two games in Sydney that are surprisingly not featuring the Rabbitohs after we became comfortable watching them for the past month. It is the Bulldogs that are again one of the feature games this weekend that are broadcast on free-to-air TV and they will want to make amends for their poor showing last Sunday against the Knights. It will not be easy for them though as they have to get past a confident Broncos outfit that will be boosted by the last start victory at home. Both sides have had their struggles this season and while they have looked impressive in parts, they have been as equally disappointing in others. There are several question marks that still hang over the head of both sides as they are yet to produce a consistent effort. For the Bulldogs, it was their defensive fragilities that has let them down in some games this season. Unfortunately for them, they chose to leave their worst performance to the Knights, where they were looking to build further on the recent run of success. Full credit must go to their opposition though as they were able to limit the effectiveness of the key players at the Bulldogs. They will want to ensure that this is only a “one off” effort and have a quick opportunity to turn things around. On the other hand there is the Broncos, a side that was heading down a dark path but resurrected their form against one of their rivals, the Titans. Their regular 5/8 Scott Prince was out through injury, but it seems as though he may have been a player that was holding them back in attack. Ben Hunt filled his boots very well and they finally used their amicable completion rate to aid them in victory. They are temporarily “back on track” but still have a long way to go and a loss here would derail their season again. This game may surprise a few viewers as there is more than just SOO selection and competition points on the line. Make sure that you tune into this game as it promises to be a cracker!
Fresh off an embarrassing performance against the Knights, Hasler has maintained the same lineup as last week aside from Krisnan Inu. In another moment of madness for him this season, Inu carried out leg-pull on Knights wingers James McManus that was sickening to say the least. It fired Willie Mason up to some extent and he let his thoughts known to the alleged culprit, Ben Barba. Video replays cleared him but leveled the charge at Inu and following his poor record for the dangerous tackles on Greg Inglis, he faces another stint on the sidelines. His replacement was Tim Lafai in the first instance and he has again been called into the side. Nothing else changes for Bulldogs though and perhaps the form surrounding their past few wings was clouded by the performance of their opponents. The only side that has gone onto prove themselves is the Sharks and even they look unstable in their performance at times. Still, I will not write off the Bulldogs just yet and they are capable of producing a successful run of games once they find their combinations again.
Coming off a strong performance, the Broncos will only look to take their performance to the next level. They finally reaped the rewards for some disciplined play (see completion rate below) and perhaps the inclusion of Ben Hunt at 5/8 had a positive effect on their halves pairing. Scott Prince was taken out of the side due to injury (due to return in Round 12) and maybe this is a blessing for the Broncos attack. A bit of money came in the lead-up to that game with the withdrawal of Justin Hodges through injury. Hodges is named to play this week and his replacement last week, Jordan Kahu, will switch to the other side to cover for Jack Reed who is out through injury. This also means that Lachlan Maranta keeps his spot on the wing. On the bench, Jake Granville will attempt to fill the utility role following the injury to David Stagg, who could find that this injury in the last of his very long career. Coach Griffin has also named a few extras though to perhaps cover for a late injury and this means that Dunamis Lui and Denan Kemp may be a chance of getting a late call up.
Overall = Bulldogs 18 Draw 1 Broncos 43
Last 5 games = Bulldogs 3 Broncos 2
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 5 Broncos 5
Stats that matter
- The Broncos really benefitted from holding onto the ball last week and it is no secret that they are the best in the competition at completing their sets (77.2%). Last week they increased this to 83.3% and the more time they had with the ball, the less attacking opportunities the Titans had.
- The same cannot be said for the Bulldogs but they are holding their own and are ranked in 7th position in the league for completion rate with an average of 72.2%. Last week they were woeful though and it was their worst performance of the year. Their completion rate suffered and was at a very low 58.1%.
- Missed tackles are still a problem for the Broncos and they need to limit this figure to stop the opposition scoring points. Currently they miss 28.5 tackles per match (14th), whereas the Bulldogs are a lot tighter with just 22 misses per game (3rd).
TAB Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.50 Broncos $2.65
Centrebet = Bulldogs $1.55 Broncos $2.50
Sportsbet = Bulldogs $1.55 Broncos $2.50
Betfair = Bulldogs $1.58 Broncos $2.72
In this contest, you have one side that is coming off a 26-point victory and the other has their tail between their legs after a 36-point loss. It seems like a pretty straightforward decision in selecting a winner, however the margins in those games may have been a little miss leading. The Titans were a long way from their best and again were impacted by injuries, while the Knights were very “hot” on the back of two disappointing performances. In the same instance, the Broncos did everything right in their match and the Bulldogs turned out one of their worst performances this season. Even more confused? Well neither side has shown enough this season to suggest that they can win this game so I am going to suggest that you stay away from this fixture altogether. Don’t waste your money, there are plenty of other games this weekend to make a profit on. For the sake of selecting a winner, the Bulldogs are the side that I am leaning towards, simply because the Broncos have been terrible on the road this season and the Bulldogs should bounce back following their performance last year. If you do want to invest, this could be a low scoring contest so bet around that.
No bets…save your money for other games.
Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys
You could hear the collective sigh of relief out at the Tigers twice over the weekend and the first one was when the fulltime whistle went in their Friday night game against the Rabbitohs. This was their third Friday night fixture in a row and disappointingly in those games, they have lost by a combined margin of 104 points. It was no doubt their worst performance against the Rabbitohs and they look as though they were boys playing against men. The second sigh came on Saturday night when the Panthers pasted the Warriors, as it defected a lot of attention away from their own poor performance. Fans will not be quick to forget it though and they have been lucky that the opposition have not piled more points on them. The problems with them also seem to carry over into the boardroom where there is a major conflict between the Western Suburbs organisation and the Balmain members of the club. That did remove some of the attention from their on-field performances, but only just. It is still fresh in a lot of people’s minds and it has been a long time since you have seen a first grade rugby league side play with such poor defence, little effort and a disinterested approach. The Cowboys will have to be careful though because their club is very close to turmoil given their recent flat performances. They have one of the strongest rosters in the league but are still yet to learn how to win away from Townsville. They cannot rely on this to get them through the season, especially considering that they are prone to dropping the odd game at home like last week. It was the Roosters that were able to grind out a win against them last week in abysmal conditions. Sure, the Cowboys had a chance to win the match, but it was the Roosters strong defence that limited them to only a few scoring opportunities. You cannot imagine how frustrating it must be to follow the Cowboys and the despite the recent performance of their opposition, they are still a chance at losing this match as it is played on the road. Both sides are desperate to find a “catalyst” to play consistent, winning football and this game may just offer them the opportunity at unearthing it. Let’s hope it’s a more exciting contest than it promises to be and possibly another chance at winning some money for the weekend ahead.
If there was one side that was generating a lot of interest around the naming of their team this week, it was the Tigers. It was mainly to see if Benji Marshall would be named and no surprise to see that he is promoted back from the bench and into the starting side. There has been a major reshuffle though as Liam Fulton has moved back to the second row to accommodate for Marshall’s move. The underperforming Adam Blair has now pushed up into the front row and Suaso Sue is shifted back to the bench. A lot has been written about Blair’s form since he made the switch and a lot of it is warranted given how much money they are paying him. He is struggling in defence and he looked out of his depth against the Rabbitohs. Last week saw the debut of rookie David Nofoaluma on the wing and it was a tough beginning, but the wraps on him are high. The Tigers are also boosted by the return from injury of Braith Anasta and he slots straight back into the starting side at lock, while Eddy Pettybourne is moved back to the bench. You would hardly suggest that Anasta can tighen up the middle to the extent that th Tigers need, but he will bring experience to this lineup. Pettybourne also join’s Matt Utai (18th man) and Ben Murdoch-Masila (19th man) and will look to bring impact off the bench. Time and patience from the fans is running out for Potter and he needs to get things right sooner or later.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys are also a side that is searching for something to spark their season and perhaps they captured some of that last week with the return of Robert Lui. Since he has moved to 5/8, the Cowboys have struggled to find a player that compliments Thurston in the halves and it seems that Lui should be able to fill that void somewhat. It will take him some time to get back to that level after just returning from an injury. To accommodate Lui’s return, Ray Thompson shifted back to the bench and will fill the utility role, while Scott Moore heads back to the QLD Cup. Coach Henry can still find no place in his side for Jason Taumalolo (19th) and he will join Ricky Thorby (18th man) on the extended bench. Henry has also been a coach that has come under some criticism for the role he has played at the Cowboys and their continually failures. This could be his last season at the helm if they are unable to fulfill their potential.
Overall = Tigers 14 Cowboys 12
Last 5 games = Tigers 4 Cowboys 1
At Leichhardt Oval = Tigers 4 Cowboys 1
Stats that matter
- Both sides are performing poorly so far this season but are their own worst enemies. The Tigers commit an average of 11.3 errors per match (10th) but are a nowhere near as bad as the Cowboys. They average 12.2 per match and are ranked in 14th spot overall.
- It is no surprise to see the Tigers performing so poorly in terms of missed tackles. While overall this season they average 30.1 miss tackles per game, it was their effort last weeks that was so disappointing. In this game they missed a colossal 49 tackles against the Rabbitohs and conceded 54 points for their troubles. The Cowboys are also struggling with missed tackles and in the last 3 weeks they have missed 38.7 tackles.
- Discipline is also a problem for the Tigers and they are ranked 16th in the league for penalties conceded. They give away an average of 8 penalties per game and this is only going to give the Cowboys greater attacking possession and field position.
TAB Sportsbet = Tigers $3.60 Cowboys $1.30
Centrebet = Tigers $3.30 Cowboys $1.35
Sportsbet = Tigers $3.50 Cowboys $1.32
Betfair = Tigers $3.65 Cowboys $1.35
Similar to the other Friday night game, this game is very tough to pick. The Tigers are on a terrible losing streak and will want to avoid their 9th straight loss. On the other hand, there are the Cowboys who are terrible on the road and are yet to live up to their expectations. You would also expect the Tigers to be a much-improved side, whether or not they will be able to match it with the Cowboys is another story. You never know what you’re going to get when you back the Cowboys on the road but then again, how can you have the Tigers on their recent efforts? Well there is some method in the madness based upon their line breaks. The Cowboys are in the top 5 for the competition for this statistic and the lazy Tigers defence may be unable to hold them. As for a margin, that is a lot more difficult to pick but given the Tigers run of outs, the Cowboys should do this easily.
Cowboys – 9.5 @ $1.90
Not a close game = Cowboys 13+ @ $2.20 – The Tigers defence has been very poor in recent weeks and it will take a much better effort to ensure the Cowboys have limited scoring opportunities. Expect a large score line here and there is a bit of value around this betting option.
Take to Tate = Brent Tate FTS and/or LTS @ $11 – Tate is one of the best centres in the game and it will be surprising to see his name not read out for the QLD side. He will probably play wing for them too but against his inexperienced opponents, he will give them a lesson in how to play this position in the top grade.
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Penrith Panthers
It is another “Super Saturday” ahead for NRL fans as we are again seeing 3 games played. It is very difficult to watch all three games in succession and the reason the NRL moved a game to Sunday was to alleviate the problem of missing a live Saturday night game. Luckily, there will be no issue for this game, as it will kick off proceedings for the night. Last week, both sides were tipped to feature in tedious games, except it was anything but that for their fans. The Dragons got off to a great start against the Eels and were able to maintain it for the entire contest. It was also the first time we saw Josh Dugan in Dragons colours and he played a game in the form that fans would like to see more of. When the Dragons are playing well and winning, they look very good but it seems as though they are struggling to beat the top teams in the competition. When it comes to those who are not contenders, they can put them away with a dominating play. The trouble for them now will be determining whether they are capable in putting away the “surprising” Panthers. The last two victories for them have been more than confidence boosting and it has sent a loud message throughout the competition. Yes, they are rebuilding their club but it will be extremely difficult to get a win against them and if you take them lightly, you will pay for it. They are not at the peak of their powers yet, however they are working towards it and Ivan Cleary should take some credit for it. Following a victory over the Storm, they racked up 62 points against the Warriors in front of their home fans. Things are beginning to look up for them, although they will be the first to say that their job isn’t done just yet. They have another tough contest this weekend against the Dragons and while both sides are full of confidence, it will be their execution that gets them the win.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
It was a very strong performance for the Dragons last week but they cannot get caught up on their effort, as it was only the Eels. However, it seems as though they have unearthed a winning combination with the purchase of Josh Dugan. Whether you like him or hate him, Dugan is a talented footballer when he has his head in the right space. It is a primary focus for him to keep things this way for the time being and not diverge away for any reason. There is no real difference to the Dragons backline this week either as Daniel Vidot and Jason Nightingale will simply swap the numbers they will be wearing. Matt Cooper has been named as well but he has been a late withdrawal in the last few weeks. Mitch Rein was also a late withdrawal last week and the only players that is named to be a late inclusion into the side is Cameron King. This suggests that Rein’s fitness may not be up to standard. Staying in the forwards, Bronson Harrison returns to the starting side and swaps with Tyson Frizell, who will start from the bench. If the Dragons continue this run of form, they could be difficult to stop. They have the capabilities within the forwards to pressure sides and they just need to ensure that their halves and outside backs finish off their attacking plays.
Going by the last two starts for the Panthers, you would hardly expect them to make many changes to the side. There has only been a minor change that occurs on the bench and that is the return of Ryan Simpkins to the side and the dropping of Sam Anderson. When they are in winning form, the Panthers critics are staying away but some credit does have to go to Ivan Cleary and his ability to motivate the players that have come into the side. Isaac John is doing a great job and he is offering solid support for halfback Luke Walsh. Along with John, youngster Matt Moylan is proving safe at fullback and Adam Docker is tough to get past (along with Nigel Plum) in the middle of the field. This will probably be the same side that is kept throughout the SOO period as well as not many Panthers players are pushing for selection other than Tim Grant. Grant has obviously learnt from his mistakes early this season after being dropped to the bench and has not looked back since. This perhaps reflects the attitude of the entire Panthers squad and they need to maintain this for the remainder of the season.
Overall = Dragons 16 Panthers 8
Last 5 games = Dragons 3 Panthers 2
At Suncorp Stadium = Dragons 2 Panthers 1
Stats that matter
- Neither the Dragons or the Panthers have had the best start to the season but they are showing some signs of improvement. Against the Eels, the Dragons improved on their average season completion rate (73.3%) to finish the game with 79.4%. The Panthers were even better though and finished their game against the Warriors with a completion rate of 88.4% (74.6% for the season).
- The Panthers have some exciting individuals within their side and are always threatening the line. They are ranked equal 2nd in the league with 5.2 per game and are well ahead of the Dragons, who average 3.8 (=9th).
- This game could be a very close contest as both sides are nearby one another in terms of points conceded. The Panther concede 20.6 points per match (10th), while the Dragons are just behind them with 20.7 (11th).
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $1.40 Panthers $3.00
Centrebet = Dragons $1.45 Panthers $2.85
Sportsbet = Dragons $1.45 Panthers $2.85
Betfair = Dragons $1.44 Panthers $3.10
Who would’ve thought a few weeks ago that these two sides would head into this game on the back of winning form? Well that has just made the decision even more difficult to pick. Considering the Panthers also have as many injuries as the Tigers, their effort level is very pleasing. Nevertheless, effort will only take you so far in this game and it may just be where the Panthers are brought undone. The Dragons have a far superior set of players and the Panthers form may be clouded a little. The Dragons should get a 13+ victory here, but don’t let that throw you. This will be a tough game for them and had the game been played at Penrith, it might not have been such a big margin.
Dragons -7.5 @ $1.90
13+ is the way to go = Dragons 13+ @ $2.60 – It is stated above in the verdict that the Dragons should get out to a decent margin of victory here. It will not be easy and considering they should be able to cover the line, this betting option will offer you a little more value.
New club, same try scoring ability – Josh Dugan FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Like or loath the circumstances around Dugan, he played a great game last week and crossed for two tries. I recommended getting on him to score one and he delivered so why not expect him to get the first or last try here? He is only going to get better with the more games he plays.
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm
Arguably the most anticipated game this weekend will take place at Allianz Stadium and features the Roosters (2nd) and the Storm (3rd). It is a top of the table clash and is one to wet the appetite of any fan of the game. The Roosters have enjoyed the rise that has taken them to 2nd spot on the table and they have been impressive in certain areas. Of course, there have also been several bumps along the way but so far they have proved themselves as a worthy premiership contender. Fans will be quick to mention though that they have also not really been tested just yet and are unproven against the top sides in the competition. There is no better way to put that thought to bed other than winning here and they will take a lot of confidence from their last game. It was a grinding victory to them in testing conditions and they were able to defeat a Cowboys side that is usually strong at home. Before Roosters fans get too excited, the Cowboys have been a shadow of the quality that we all know they possess but full credit must go to the Chooks for the win. At the end of the day, you can only play what is in front of you. If they were to get a victory here, people will now mention that Melbourne are also another top side that is struggling. They haven’t won a game for 3 weeks after starting the season on a 7-game winning streak. There have been two shocks amongst that and the biggest was against the Panthers. Nevertheless, the Storm will be always able to remain in a contest due to the quality they possess within their roster. They have the “Big 3” and despite not being at their best, they are always a threat. It seems as though the entire squad is playing under fatigue and they are now feeling the effects of a trip to the UK for the RLWCC. Usually it is the post-SOO period that the Storm struggle with but perhaps their mid-season slump has come early this year. Coach Craig Bellamy will be desperate for answers and they appeared to be still searching for them after the 10-all draw with the Sea Eagles. The rivals were locked at the end of 80 minutes and were again unable to be separated at the conclusion of golden point. It meant that they shared the points and unfortunately their fatigue was increased and now have a short turn around to contend with. It is also the last chance that James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce will have to demonstrate that they are a suitable pair to lead NSW into SOO this year. Aside from that, a win for the Roosters should now have the competition on notice, but be sure that there will still be a lot of excuses floating around about their rise to success. If people haven’t already, they will soon have to recognise them as a genuine premiership contender and this match will only work to boost their credentials. It’s a shame that this game has to clash with another NRL game on at the same time but pick your preferences and select this game to be your priority as it promises to be another great game of rugby league.
There are no changes to the Roosters side that took the field against the Cowboys. Of course, the one that was named featured Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who was ruled out through suspension. Luke O’Donnell was the player that was called into the starting side to fill the hole left by JWH but he has not returned to the same form that he was in when he left the game. It is very hard for players to leave the NRL for the UK Super League and arrive back at the same level, or a better player. As he is promoted from the bench, Lama Tasi was called into the side. This is the last week for SOO selection and Pearce and Maloney sure have made compelling cases for their selection. Pearce is almost assured of selection and the biggest problem is selecting a 5/8 to partner him. Maloney has formed a formidable combination with him at the Roosters and Daley may choose to go with this winning formula. Either way, they face another tough test here against the QLD halfback, hooker and fullback, a week after facing (and beating) the QLD 5/8.
Having featured in MNF, the Storm have had little time to assess their injuries or fitness of their squad. There were a few late changes heading into that game and they have carried over into this game. Ryan Hinchcliffe returned from a forced layoff due to injury and he slots straight back into lock. This was the case on MNF and Tohu Harris shifted back to the bench and will start this game from there. He has been somewhat of a revelation for the Storm and the impact that he will offer for the Storm will be vital to their success. The other change occurs in the backline as Maurice Blair will start in the centres in place of Will Chambers. Blair was the sole try scorer for the Storm and he was solid for them on the edge. Whether or not he is up to the same standard that Chambers sets, but it will be good for them to have a player of his quality coming into the side. On the bench, Lagi Setu will swap with Slade Griffin and take the field in jersey 17, while Griffin is named as 18th man.
Overall = Roosters 11 Storm 13
Last 5 games = Roosters 2 Storm 3
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 6 Storm 2
Stats that matter
- Errors have been a limiting factor on the Storm’s performances each week and it has cost them 5 competition points in their last 3 games. They average 12.2 per game (14th) and can not give the Roosters extra attacking opportunities at their line.
- The Roosters have one of the tightest defences and miss the least amount of tackles in the competition with just 17.8. The Storm are not far behind them in the rankings (4th) but the number of tackles that are missed is larger than most think (22.9).
- The Roosters are ranked 1st in the league in line breaks with 5.8 per game but the Storm are not too far behind them with 4.2 per game (4th).
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.60 Storm $2.40
Centrebet = Roosters $1.60 Storm $2.40
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.62 Storm $2.35
Betfair = Roosters $1.65 Storm $2.46
There is a lot of hype around this game and it is sure to be a great contest. Given that, it is certainly no easier to select a winner here. The Roosters are the team with all the momentum going into this game and the Storm appear to be in some kind of slump. They are trying to drag themselves out of it but fatigue appears to be getting the better of them. It certainly does not become any easier considering the short turn around they are coming off following their MNF game. This is the first time this season that the Storm have started as outsiders in a contest. This will be a close contest and a Storm win certainly wouldn’t be a shock to the system. However the Roosters have the defence to hold the Storm and the attacking ability to score points. Get on the Roosters in a very close game.
Roosters -3.5 @ $1.75
By a feather = Roosters 1-12 @ $2.80 – This game should be a very close contest and given the fact that the Roosters are tipped to prevail, then add some extra value to your bets with this option. It would be very surprising to see this game get out to a 13+ margin on either side of the scorecard.
Prevail in the 2nd half = Draw/Roosters (HT/FT Double) @ $15 – Given how close this contest is tipped to be, the teams could be heading into the sheds at HT with the score locked up. There is plenty of value around this bet but it is a bit of a risk when taking it.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders
Unfortunately for Sea Eagles and Raiders fans, this game is going to be overshadowed by the other 7:30pm game, but it does not mean that this game will not be a good contest. It does feature two exciting teams in the competition and on their day, the Raiders are capable of producing anything. The Sea Eagles are a traditional, hard-nosed football team that knows how to grind out a tough victory. This is usually done on the back of some very tough defence and this has been exemplified in their last few victories. However they are still not at full strength and have several players on the sidelines that will only boost the clubs strength upon their return. For now, they have fatigue and injuries to contend with but they will not be one that shy’s away from a contest. This was evident in their MNF game against the Storm. They were probably the better side for majority of the contest and didn’t deserve to lose the match, however they were never really able to put the nail in the coffin and make the Storm pay for their mistakes. It will be something they will want to resurrect here, along with their home ground tag of “Fortress Brookvale” that has been penetrated in the last two visits to the ground. Despite this, the Raiders will want to keep the Sea Eagles losing streak going at this ground. It is a tough task by any means but it will be made even more difficult by the fact that the Raiders are woeful this season on the road. It is disappointing to see, especially when they are possess such talent, but until they are able to get that right within their side, people will not consider them as a contender for the title. It would send a loud message to the rest of the competition though if the Raiders were to get a victory and further boost the stocks of those players that are vying for a call up into the SOO squad. It was the same old story last week for the Raiders as they failed to get the better of the Sharks in Cronulla. They eventually went down by 10-points and had plenty of scoring opportunities to get, but failed to capitalise on them. Execution is the key for the success of the Raiders and they can take a few positives away from their last game, as they were still able to score 20-points without their halfback. Majority of the time, the halves are everything in rugby league and if they are not prepared for this game, they will get a lesson from the Manly pairing. If you can, avoid viewing the score of this match and try to view this game as though it was live as it promises to be another good contest this weekend.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
It is no surprise to the see the Eagles again name an unchanged lineup heading into this game. Of course, it could be a different team that takes the field on Saturday night as coach Geoff Toovey does like to spring a late surprise or two. It is amazing to note that in their last game, David Gower didn’t take the field at all. There were a lot of positives to take away for the Sea Eagles against the Storm and majority of that is around their defence. They were very strong in the middle of the field but it was also complimented by the scrambling defence and the cover on the edge of the field. A lot of credit does have to go to their halves, Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans. Normally, the praise for them is reserved for their attacking ability, but it was their strength in saving points, which was incredible to say the least. Of course this does limit the impact they are able to have on the game in attack and Toovey will not want his halves using all of their energy in defence.
There is only one change to the Raiders side this weekend but there could be a few more, closer to kick off. Shaun Berrigan is in at hooker for Matt McIlwirck, who has been dropped back to NSW Cup. Berrigan has been named as 18th man for the last few weeks but has failed to prove his fitness in time for the game. Furner has been reluctant to rush him back into the side but he is sure to add a lot of experience to their lineup and in a vital position. Furner has also opted to name an extended bench of 7 and a this means Sam Williams (18th man), Jarrad Kennedy (19th man) and Jake Foster (20th man) are a chance of playing this game. The biggest decision for Furner will be on the fitness of halfback Josh McCrone, who was carried off in their last game against the Sharks. Williams would be the player to come straight into the side and would ensure that the Raiders lose little impact around the field with his play. Williams is on the outer at the club and there are several other NRL clubs circling, so expect a big performance from him if he does get a chance, as it will only serve to boost his asking price. Also expect a big game from Blake Ferguson who has bolted into contention for one of the NSW wing spots. His play in recent weeks have been of a high standard but he still has a few anomalies to get out of his game before he will become an SOO certainty.
Overall = Sea Eagles 26 Draw 1 Raiders 17
Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 4 Raiders 1
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 14 Raiders 9
Stats that matter
- The errors committed by both sides are too high at the moment and they are giving their opposition too many opportunities with the ball. The Raiders are stuck in 14th spot with 12.2 errors per game, while the Sea Eagles are just ahead of them in 10th spot with 11 per game.
- Both sides are also similar in the amount of missed tackles that are made per game. The major difference though would be in the points that they would concede per game and this suggests that the Sea Eagles have a better scrambling defence and are much better when they get numbers into the tackles. The Raiders miss an average of 26 tackles per game (10th), while the Sea Eagles are just ahead of them with 25.6 missed tackles per game (9th).
- As eluded to above, the Raiders concede far too many points. So far this season, they average 24.5 points in defence (13th) and cannot afford to let Manly score that many because they will win. They concede just 11.8 points per game (2nd) and have proven themselves as a very tough defensive line to crack.
TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.45 Raiders $2.85
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $1.45 Raiders $2.85
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.45 Raiders $2.85
Betfair = Sea Eagles $1.46 Raiders $3.05
This seems like a pretty straightforward selection but the short turn around for the Sea Eagles does make this a closer contest then most think. The Raiders are a side that is capable of producing anything on their day but the task against the Sea Eagles does seem to be beyond them. For starters, they are a side that is yet to win on the road and travelling to Brookvale Oval is one of the NRL’s toughest trips. Secondly, they are too ill disciplined in their play and suffer too many lapses in concentration to mount pressure upon their opponents. Finally, the Sea Eagles will be desperate to get a win following their draw against the Storm. As for the margin, it really could get out to anything but given the fatigue from MNF kicking in, 1-12 seems like the suitable choice.
Sea Eagles 1-12 @ $3
More for your margin = Sea Eagles 7-12 @ $5.50 – If you want a little more value from your margin bet, then this is the option you should consider. It is a little more risky than the “suggested bet” but you will be rewarded for making this call on the contest.
Lyon’s Den = Jamie Lyon FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Lyon is one of the best centres in the game and while he has ruled himself out of SOO contention (to the frustration of everyone), he would still be able to cut it with them. Expect him to give a lesson to the young Raiders centres and we may as well go along for the ride with him and hopefully cash in.
New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights
Normally when we see the Warriors kick of Sunday action, we are getting our NRL fix a lot earlier at 12pm, however this week will be a little different. The Knights travel over to New Zealand this week and the game will kick off at 2pm EST (4pm in NZ). It is a little later than we are used to but the usual Warriors flair at home is sure to be present. It will have to be considering in their last match they were comprehensively beaten by the Panthers and never really looked a chance. It was more than a poor showing from the Warriors but some of their players didn’t seemed phased as they were seen to be joking with the Penrith players at the conclusion of the game and there was a jovial mood present. This set a lot of people off and considering how poorly they played, you can understand why. The mood would have changed once they entered the sheds, as coach Matthew Elliot seemed anything but jovial in the press conference. It was their lack of execution that really cost them and this impacted on their ability to build pressure on their opponents. You would think that Elliot’s job would be unsecure at this point but the Warriors organisation cannot afford to pay out another coach after sacking Brian McClennan at the end of last season. Elliot may be given until the end of next year and developing this talented side will be a key focus for him. He should perhaps take a leaf out of the Wayne Bennett’s book of coaching as he has undergone some tough decisions at the Knights recently. Things are slowly turning around for them but they still need to learn how to win on the road. So far this season when they have travelled, they have put in very poor performances and people are questioning whether or not they are the “real deal”. Nevertheless when they return home, they turn out an impressive display and have everyone talking about their potential for the season. The top teams in the NRL know how to win in any circumstances and the Knights need to play patient football and a mirror the style that they play when they are at Hunter Stadium. It will be interesting to see which Newcastle team turns up to the game this week as there have been several suggestions by their players that they are desperate to get a win on the road and be recognised as a genuine threat for the title. There will still be plenty of questions to still answer at the end of this game but enjoy the ride that this game will take you on.
New Zealand Warriors
Could you blame Warriors coach for wanting to ring a host of changes on his squad this week? Certainly not and while there are a few shifts in personnel, there are not as many as you would’ve thought. Kevin Locke is welcomed back into the side at fullback and his return has forced Glen Fisiiahi back the extended bench and he is named as 18th man. Dane Nielsen has also made his way back from injury and will slot into the centres at the expense of Carlos Tuimavave. He moves back to the bench (jersey 17), however following the news that Ben Henry has suffered a season ending injury, he will probably be rushed straight back into the side. Henry has torn his ACL and Tuimavave will want to cement down his spot in the side with the extra chance that he has here. That is it for the starting side but on the bench, Ngani Laumape is named as 19th man and Pita Godinet is the 20th. Godinet may come back into the side to fill the utility role if Tuimavave is promoted. A few more performances like last week though and a few players may get the tap on the shoulder to go and introduce themselves to the reserve grade coach.
Travelling has been a trouble for the Knights this season but they will want to build on the positive effort against the Bulldogs. Coach Wayne Bennett has chosen to keep the same side that got the job done it that contest and as a side, they will only benefit from the consistency within their lineup each week. As they are travelling across to New Zealand, they have named Kevin Naiqama as 18th man. The Knights are at their best when they have Kurt Gidley working out of hooker and Mullen and Roberts controlling the flow of the game in the halves. Gidley can play any position and should probably get the utility role for NSW in SOO. The Knights are not the youngest teams in the competition and a lot of their age is within their forward pack. This could become a problem for them, especially when they are playing a very physical game. However the players that are coming off the bench have been adding enough impact to mask this and they would want this to continue. The highlight for them would be the play of youngster Korbin Sims and his dynamic ball running ability. The rest of the forward pack needs to make this a priority on the road and have the opposition on the back foot, so their halves have more time with the ball to make their decisions.
Overall = Warriors 13 Draw 1 Knights 15
Last 5 games = Warriors 4 Knights 1
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 7 Draw 1 Knights 8
Stats that matter
- How bad were the Warriors last week? For starters their completion rate was a woeful 55.6% and they made 13 errors with the ball. This has been a problem for them this season and their season average is 67.2% for completions (16th) and they commit 12 errors per game (12th).
- It is a different story for the Knights as they are playing more disiciplined football. Their completion rate for the season currently sits at 75.1% (2nd) and they only commit 9.4 errors per game (2nd).
- The Knights have also tightened up their defence with a much better structure. On top of missing 21.6 tackles a game (2nd), they also only allow their opponents to score an average of 16.1 (=6th). It is a completely different story for the Warriors as they miss 26.2 tackles per game (=11th), but allow mountain of points at 28.4 per game (15th).
TAB Sportsbet = Warriors $2.30 Knights $1.65
Centrebet = Warriors $2.30 Knights $1.65
Sportsbet = Warriors $2.25 Knights $1.67
Betfair = Warriors $2.42 Knights $1.69
If the Knights are serious about being considered as a contender this season, it is time for them to step up and show what they are capable of. Much like the Cowboys, they need to be able to win on the road and play the same brand of football that they do when they are at home. The Warriors are similar to them and returning home can only help them. Not only that, they will want to come out in this game and rectify their performance against the Panthers. Whether or not this is enough to get the victory is a completely different story. I recommend that you invest your money on the Knights in this clash, with the more difficult decision related to the margin. It will be difficult for the Warriors to limit the Knights and their scoring opportunities (see “Stats that matter”) and the 13+ option looks better when you consider how many points the Warriors concede each match.
Knights -3.5 @ $1.90
By more than a tri = Knights Over 6.5 points (Tri Bet) @ $2.30 – This option requires the Knights to just win by more than a converted try. Given how many points they put on the Bulldogs last week (and the trouble the Bulldogs had with the Warriors), they should be able to handle this bet with ease.
Go for a little more = Knights 13+ @ $3.40 – This option does seem a little ambitious when you consider the Knights poor record on the road. You would also think that the Warriors would be out to put in a better defensive effort but the is more problems than meet the eye there at the moment. Take on this option and you will reap the rewards.
Parramatta Eels v Gold Coast Titans
It is a fantastic occasion this weekend as the 3pm main game is taken to the regional area of NSW. More commonly referred to as “the bush”, country football is struggling at the moment to gain any real attention from the governing body and any opportunity that an NRL club will take a fixture out there, they will jump all over it. For a long time now, it has been the backbone of the game but it has also been shunned, dare I say mocked, with one “City v Country” fixture each year along with a few trials. This is one of the greatest games of all and we need as many juniors playing it as possible. It has been the Eels decision to move the game there, nevertheless it is also a clever marketing strategy that will see them boost the income for a game where they would struggle to pull a big crowd as it is an out of town team. Some good news needs to happen out at Parramatta because their on field performance isn’t delivering what they had promised at the beginning of the season. They are starting to slip back into their old ways and we are seeing glimpses of the “2012 Eels” side that earned the wooden spoon. I can continue to harp on about it, yet Ricky Stuart does not yet have a squad that he wants recruited to the club and he needs an opportunity to work with those players first before he can be judged completely. If anything, Titans coach John Cartwright is lucky to still maintain a job in the NRL following consecutive disappointing seasons with a very talented squad at his disposal. It is no different this season and whilst they do not have a top class halves pairing, both Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer are playing beyond the expectations many had of them. Elsewhere in their side, the forwards are not playing to the best of their abilities and this is mounting the pressure on the rest of the squad. Their ill-disciplined cost them against the Broncos and they were humiliated once the fulltime whistle blew. It is another chance at redemption for both sides and regardless of the quality of the contest, this match will be a great spectacle as it is being played out in “the bush”. You can bet that the local community will embrace this game and hopefully we see more of it in the coming years. You may also want to invest some money on this contest so lets take a closer look and see if we can find a winner or two.
Following another disappointing effort against the Dragons, the Eels have made minimal changes to their side. The backline will remain the same and no doubt the Titans will aim to target the same weaknesses that have been on display for majority of this year. They have talented outside backs, but they are caught out of position a lot and make poor defensive reads when the ball is spread to their side of the field. The forwards look a little difference but there is only one change of personnel, along with a swapping of numbers for Tim Mannah (from 10 to 8) and Fuifui Moimoi (from 8 to 10). Kelepi Tanginoa is out of this game with a hand injury and his replacement is Matt Ryan. Ryan has been in and out of this team all season and he gets another chance to nail down a fulltime position in the side. The bench remains the same although Brayden Wiliame has been named as 18th man for the trip to Mudgee.
Gold Coast Titans
Injuries are still causing a lot of trouble with the Titans side and again they heading into this game with a few players on the sidelines as well as a few under an injury cloud. Last week the replacement hooker Beau Fallon was carried off the field with a leg injury and it limited the impact both him and Srama were able to have around the ruck. Obviously, Srama is his replacement for this week and his promotion from the bench has opened a place for utility Sam Irwin to come into the side. Dave Taylor has not been named in this match and the replacement for him is Mark Ioane. He was charged following his high shot on Broncos halfback Peter Wallace but was later cleared by the MRC. They will now have to make way for him and Ioane could be the player that misses out. He would join 18th man Luke O’Dwyer as another player who could be watching this game from the sideline.
Overall = Eels 3 Titans 6
Last 5 games = Eels 2 Titans 3
At Mudgee Stadium = Never played at the venue
Stats that matter
- The Eels completion rate continues to head south. So far this season it has peaked at 85.7% in Round 5 but is now down to an average of just 68.8%. This also relates to their high level of errors they commit and they need to reduce it from the high level of 11.8 (11th). They could perhaps something away from the Titan who are ranked 5th in completion rate (73.8%) as well as 5th in errors (10.5).
- Discipline is a major problem for both sides but the Eels have a lot more work to do over the Titans. Ricky Stuart has highlighted how his side has continually felt the wrath of the referee’s and has some substance to back up his argument as they concede 7.7 penalties per game (14th). Eventually, some of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the player and the Titans team will want to reduce their 6.9 penalties (11th).
- The Eels cannot continue to rely on individuals and need to work more as a team when they have the ball. This is probably why they are ranked in 16th spot for line breaks with 3.2 per game. The Titans are ranked above them but are not too far ahead of them with 4.4 (6th).
TAB Sportsbet = Eels $2.20 Titans $1.70
Centrebet = Eels $2.20 Titans $1.70
Sportsbet = Eels $2.20 Titans $1.70
Betfair = Eels $2.26 Titans $1.75
When trying to select a winner for this game, common sense must prevail. The Titans are a better side on paper and have proven themselves more than the Eels have so far this season. The fact that they are playing away from home shouldn’t matter too much, as the Eels are also “on-the-road” in Mudgee. If the game was played at Parramatta Stadium, it might’ve been a different story. You also have to look at the strengths of both sides. The Eels have several individuals capable of producing a distinctive effort on their own accord, however this contributes little to the team’s overall momentum in their sets. The Titans have a very strong forward pack at their disposal and they should be able to set a good platform up front for the halves and outside backs to work off. As for a margin, I am leaning towards 1-12 as the Titans still switch off at points during the game and the Eels will be out to rectify their disappointing showing against the Dragons last week.
Titans – 2.5 @ $1.90
Not so Titanic margin= Titans 1-12 @ $3 – As stated above in the verdict, this game will be a lot closer than most think. The Eels haven’t exactly been impressive in defence this season but they will turn out a better effort here. Also, the Titans will find it difficult to mount pressure with poor finishes to their attacking sets.
Kelly the Key = Albert Kelly FTS @ $15 – He is in some great form at the moment and sure can find his way to the try line. He is always a chance to get there early as well as opposition teams try to pressure him and he throws caution into the wind when they do.
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs
NRL MNF football again delivers us a fantastic contest and this week it will take place down in the Shire as the Sharks are hosting the competition leaders, the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Sitting at the top of the table, they could actually head into this game in second spot if the Roosters are able to beat the Storm. That will not worry them too much and they seem completely focused on their own goals and featuring heavily at the business end of the season. Everything seems to be moving in the right direction, however there was a spanner thrown into the works this week following the revelation that second rower Ben Te’o was involved in a police matter during the ANZAC Test weekend. At this stage no formal charges have been made and he had let the Rabbitohs organisation know as soon as the incident happened but they never informed the NRL. We shouldn’t go into it too much though because the real action, which we want to see, is out on the field. Sharks fans will also be of the same opinion and it is pleasing for them to see attention drawn away from the ASADA issue and taken towards their on field performance. They have won three games on the trot and this is all without their captain Paul Gallen. I did allude to the fact a few weeks ago when he was injured that the 2013 side is going to be able to cover the hole left by him due to the recruits they have brought to the club. Nevertheless, last week they had to do it without Gallen and Luke Lewis but as the hole grew even bigger, more of their players were able to put their hand up and many turned out a very impressive performance. They are a tough football side and the controversy that surfaced to begin the season has definitely brought them closer together as a squad. Make sure that you park yourself in front of a TV for this one because like last week, this promises to be another Monday night thriller.
Having had a few tough weeks with players missing but still being able to grind out a win, the two most notable inclusions this week are Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis. However it will be surprising to see both players take the field in this game. Gallen was quoted on Sydney radio on Tuesday morning saying that he would probably sit out this week and just get himself right for SOO. Whether or not he is throwing off is another thing but it would be surprising to see him take the field and risk further injury that could possibly rule him out of Game 1. Due to Gallen being named, Chris Heighington moves back to the bench but he would probably start the game if Gallen were ruled out. The other changes also occur on the bench but it is nothing major, just a reshuffle of a few players. Sam Tagatese moves back to 18th man and youngster Tyrone Peachey is named as 18th man. Peachey debuted last week and gave plenty of hope towards youngsters coming through their system.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
There were a few late changes last week to the Rabbitohs side and they have been carried into this week. Justin Hunt was named as a replacement for the suspended Andrew Everingham but was later ruled out and replaced by youngster Dylan Walker who made his first grade debut. It will be a great learning curve for him to play with so many experienced (and talented) players and he has promised a lot when playing in the younger grades. The other big change was the promotion of George Burgess to the starting side at the expense of Dave Tyrrell, who is now named as 18th man. On the bench, Jeff Lima will take his place in jersey 17 and will relish his opportunity to get back onto the field and show his worth to the coach.
Overall = Sharks 41 Draw 3 Rabbitohs 36
Last 5 games = Sharks 2 Rabbitohs 3
At Shark Park = Sharks 27 Draw 1 Rabbitohs 11
Stats that matter
- The Sharks are improving and have three consecutive victories as evidence. More important for them though is they are getting the little things right on the field. So far this season, they are ranked in 15th spot for completions with an average of 68.6%. However in the last three weeks, they have averaged 78.1% and need to ensure that this continues.
- The Rabbitohs have a very tough pack of forwards to handle and are complimented well by their sizable outside backs. They are hard to stop with the ball and this is the reason why they average 9.3m per carry of the football (1st).
- While the Sharks are very good at limiting their opposition’s points (16.1 per game – 6th), they are struggling to score with their attack. This season, they average 17.7 points per game (10th) and will need to find a way around limiting the Rabbitohs scoring (26.5 per game – 1st).
TAB Sportsbet = Sharks $3.40 Rabbitohs $1.33
Centrebet = Sharks Rabbitohs
Sportsbet = Sharks Rabbitohs
Betfair = Sharks Rabbitohs
There is a reason the Rabbitohs are favorites as they headed into this round at the top of the competition table. However it has been a few weeks since they have had a tough contest against a forward pack that is willing to take it to them and they may be caught off-guard early on in this game. That does not mean that I am ready to side with the Sharks by any means, but I am stating that they are in this contest. The Rabbitohs should win the game based on the strength of their forwards but they do have a superior set of outside backs to finish off a ball movement when needed. As for settling on a margin, MNF football has thrown out a fair share of thrillers so far this season and while it will not go down to the last kick of the ball, it will be a game where the Sharks are always within striking distance, but unable to get close enough to worry the Rabbitohs, so go 1-12.
Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $2.85
Draw a HT conclusion = Draw/Rabbitohs (HT/FT Double) @ $17 – Not including the game last week against the Tigers, the Rabbitohs have been a little slow out of the blocks in a few of their games. This could happen again here playing away from home and I am willing to take the value on offer of the scores being tied up at HT and