2013 NRL Round 14 Preview

NRL

Round 13 has come and gone, while at the same time it marked the halfway point of the season. It wasn’t focused on at length however several NRL clubs would’ve reset a few of their goals and aimed towards finishing the season on the right note. Some of those clubs sitting at the bottom of the table would still foster hopes of finishing in the Top 8 but time is of the essence and they may run out of games. Either way the club football will continue to roll forward amongst the SOO talk. It’s nauseating at times to say the least and it us sure get even more intense following a few injuries over the weekend. For supporters of sides not really in contention this season, it is a good way to escape the failures of their clubs and I suppose you cannot get too angry with that. I guess w

e are just all going to have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Round 14 will also see the return to a full round of fixtures following two consecutive weeks of teams having the bye. There are still a few sides yet to have their first and this will continue right through the SOO period. There will be two games this Friday and both will occur in Sydney, although the attention will firmly be on battle between two very fierce rivals.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Manly and the Bulldogs have always loathed each other but it intensified when Des Hasler chose to leave the northern beaches and head out to Belmore. It was a move that was always going to benefit the Bulldogs but the Sea Eagles have not struggled as much as many thought they would. Coach Geoff Toovey is doing a solid job of maintaining the motivation within his side and his players are continually able to reach their best. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for either team though and along with their flaws, they have also suffered through a few tough periods. The Bulldogs seem to be emerging from the other end of that and it appears as though they are finally putting a slow start to the season behind them, to fight their way into contention. There is still plenty of time for them to do that and now that they are back to full strength, it would be surprising to see them miss out. This is one side that you always have to be wary of and it will be a good measure of just how far they have come after they were beaten by the Sea Eagles 20-6 in Round 5. Regardless of what is happening at Manly, they are always going to be a difficult side to play against. They are tough, uncompromising and will make the opposition side work for a victory. They have a lot to prove in this game as “fortress Brookvale” has lost some its shine this season after losses to the Rabbitohs and Roosters. The Bulldogs will be trying extremely hard to extend this but they have Manly standing in their way. This game has all the makings of a Friday night classic and it will be a great way to start the weekend.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

The Sea Eagles have a very tough week ahead with a short turn around following a loss to the Warriors. Not only that, fatigue will be high as teams generally struggle to regain their fitness after the flight back. It hasn’t changed their lineup at all going into this match and the only difference to their side will be Tom Symonds (15) and James Hasson (14) swapping numbers this week. There is some doubt around the fitness of Steve Matai, but he has been named here and at this stage, he is expected to take the field. Everything else will remain the same and despite the loss, Toovey would be happy with the performance of a few of his players on an individual level. Peta Hiku is one of those who come to mind and he is beginning to find his feet in the NRL and is making the most of being a replacement for Brett Stewart. He was almost the reason why the Sea Eagles fought their way back into the game against the Warriors despite the performance of the forwards. They were unable to maintain a lot of their momentum generated early and allowed the Warriors the chance at offloading the ball. They will want to bounce back here against one of the biggest and strongest packs in the competition. Expect a great battle up front from both sides.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

As anticipated, the Bulldogs had a few late inclusions to their side that beat the Cowboys. Both of their SOO stars, Josh Reynolds and Josh Morris were late inclusions that forced Joel Romelo and Tim Lafai out of the side. They have also been named to take their place in the side this week and the same players will vacate the lineup. Tony Williams also made a return from injury and he came off the bench, after replacing Tim Browne. This week, Browne moves back to 18th man, Josh Jackson will play from the bench (jersey 15) and Tony Williams will return to the starting lineup. He will partner Frank Pritchard in the second row and no doubt he is desperate to return to the form, which saw him selected for the Blues in last years SOO. As mentioned above, this will be a great battle up front and the Dogs appear to have a stronger set of players to call upon from their bench. They are able to maintain a strong platform that is set early and players like James Graham and Jackson only tighten up the middle of the field. Expect more of the same here and the Sea Eagles will be forced to attack the edges rather than go through the middle of the field.

Recent History

Overall = Sea Eagles 62 Draw 5 Bulldogs 50

Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 3 Bulldogs 2

At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 33 Draw 3 Bulldogs 18

Stats that matter

  • The Bulldogs are tightening up their defence since their stars have returned to their side. They now average just 22.2 missed tackles per match (2nd) and are tough to break down. As for the Sea Eagles, they are getting progressively worse. In Rounds 1-7 this season, they averaged 21.3 missed tackles per match but from 8-13, they have averaged 33.6 and now average 26.4 for the season (10th).
  • Both sides would like to reduce the amount of errors committed per match. While the Bulldogs are in 6th spot, they still average 10.5 per game. This is a fraction ahead of the Sea Eagles who commit 11.1 for the season (9th).
  • This game is going to be very close and the total points scored shouldn’t be too high. The Bulldogs average 18.2 points in attack (11th) and the Sea Eagles are a fraction ahead of them with 18.4 (9th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.70 Bulldogs $2.20
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $1.65 Bulldogs $2.30
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.70 Bulldogs $2.20
Betfair = Sea Eagles $1.71 Bulldogs $2.26

Verdict

This game is a lot closer than the odds suggest, however you must consider the impact that a trip to Townsville and a quick turn around will have on the Bulldogs. If they were playing Manly at home, you would be inclined to go with them without hesitation. It’s not as if it will be too physically draining on them but the edge that is given to the Sea Eagles at their home ground is enormous. On the other hand, the Sea Eagles are also backing up from a sturdy road trip to New Zealand and that is certain to catch up with them at one point during this game. The Bulldogs have the wind in their sails and have won 6 of their past 7 matches, while the Sea Eagles have won just 3 and 1 of their last 4. As for declaring a winner, I like the Bulldogs to just get ahead of the Sea Eagles here. They are back to full strength now and the Bulldogs forwards should be able to establish a stronger platform for them to build off. There still isn’t too much confidence in this selection but as this match will be close, we need to select options in and around those particular markets.

Suggested Bet
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.70

Line up with the Doggies = Bulldogs +2.5 @ $1.90 – Given the fact that I am inclined to back the Bulldogs, this bet may be the option to go along with. They are offered the benefit of the line and may need it when the final whistle blows.

Double with the draw = HT/FT Double: Draw/Sea Eagles @ $13 or Draw/Bulldogs @ $17 (depending on who you think will win) – Make your own mind up on this one. It will be a close enough game and the sides may even head into the break all locked up. If that does happen and you fancy one side to prevail, then this is the bet for you. It adds a lot of value and doesn’t have to worry about selecting a margin.

St George-Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys

The “other” game this Friday night will kick off down in Wollongong and will feature two sides looking to finish the season on the right note. Optimistically speaking, that is probably concerned with a run to the finals but their time is limited. Both sides featured in Saturday action last week and it was the Dragons that sprung an upset over the Knights that caught a lot of people’s attention. They played a tough brand of football and were able to outmuscle a side that was perhaps expecting to win rather than really “working” for it. Of course the other reason there was focus on that match would be to see how the Dragons would perform following the “dropping” of Jamie Soward back to the NSW Cup. Winning form is always good form to take into a match and it will be hard for him to find his way back into the team if the side continues to finish on the right side of the scoreboard. The Cowboys could learn a little from the Dragons coach Steve Price (as a few other sides could) in that it may be time to make the tough call on a few fledging players. This competition is a “results-based” game and if the Cowboys do not begin to have results falling in their favor, we could see a major shake up at the club. Everyone is ready to right off Neil Henry and his side but in defence of the Cowboys, they are still in with a chance of making the finals and they would gain nothing by sacking Henry at this stage. It would only create greater disharmony within the team at a time when they need anything but that. The news around that is that Henry does have the full support of the playing group but perhaps they should let their on-field performance do the talking over anything else. There is a lot on the line in this match for the Cowboys and a loss could just be the straw that broke the camels back. While this game won’t be the most exciting or anticipated game of the weekend, the final whistle could trigger a whole host of outcomes. Let’s take a look at the match and see if we cannot unearth a winner or two for ourselves.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons maintain relatively the same side this week and the big news is again Jamie Soward. He is out of this week’s side as well and it appears as though he could be heading for an early departure from the club. It was always going to be difficult to force his way back into the side, however he didn’t do his chances any harm with a relatively strong game for the Illawarra Cutters. He would’ve felt pretty good for himself but now Steve Price cannot justify replacing Stanely in a team that won also. In the forwards, Bronson Harrison is out of this week’s team and replacing him in the second row is Tyson Frizell. He has been dynamic when he has taken the field and he has another opportunity to cement down a starting spot in the team. As Frizell was promoted from the bench, Leeson Ah Mau is recalled back into the team and Daniel Vidot drops out of the side altogether after being named 18th man last week. Nathan Fein is lucky to get another chance in jersey number 7 and after watching the reserves go around, Josh Drinkwater isn’t too far away from breaking his way into the side. Fein just needs to focus on taking the ball to the line with conviction and putting the defence in two minds. This will open up holes for his outside runners and will allow them the chance to break over the advantage line.

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys had a few changes heading into their last game but they have retained relatively the same side that was named. Thurston returns to the side following the birth of his first child and he will wear the number 6 jersey as per usual. This has forced Michael Morgan back out of the side and JT will partner Robert Lui. Ashley Graham is named to start following his late withdrawal last week and Kalifa Faifai Loa is out also. Ray Thompson was a surprise selection at hooker and this move has forced Rory Kostjasyn back to the bench. Hooker has been a major problem for the Cowboys and without a quality number 9, this pack is always going to struggle to fight their way into a match. There was some controversial news on Tuesday as it was released that their prop, James Tamou was picked up for drink driving. It has now been released that he will miss this game (as well as SOO) and Ricky Thorby (18th man) should be his likely replacement. Thorby will probably come off the bench and either Ashton Sims or Scott Bolton will push up into the starting side. There is a lot on the line for the Cowboys, and as they have done all season, they have named a strong team. Hopefully this week they can finally realise their potential and go on with the job.

Recent History

Overall = Dragons 11 Cowboys 12

Last 5 games = Dragons 3 Cowboys 2

At WIN Stadium = Dragons 6 Cowboys 4

Stats that matter

  • The Cowboys are their own worst enemy this season and they are unable to build any real momentum in attack. They are ranked 15th in the league for errors and commit an average of 12 per game. In the last 2 weeks they have averaged just 10, but it still too high if they are aiming to build pressure.
  • Apart from the efforts of Josh Dugan, the Dragons are struggling to cause the opposition defensive line any issues. So far this season, they average just 3.3 line breaks and are ranked 15th overall. Alarmingly for them, in the last three games they have averaged just 1.7 and as highlighted above, the halves need to take the ball to the line a little more.
  • While the Cowboys average more points conceded than the Dragons (Cowboys 20.1 – =10th v Dragons 19.2 – 9th), they are able to score more points and this favors the scoring balance towards them. The Cowboys score just 16.2 (12th), however the problems are far worse for the Dragons who only average 14.8 (15th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $1.55 Cowboys $2.50
Centrebet = Dragons $1.53 Cowboys $2.55
Sportsbet = Dragons $1.52 Cowboys $2.60
Betfair = Dragons $1.56 Cowboys $2.72

Verdict

The Dragons are carrying some momentum into this game, but the Cowboys are playing with ‘almost’ everything on the line. It is very hard to have the Cowboys based on their shocking away record and I swore never to give them another chance after their loss to the Tigers two weeks ago. Regardless, I am still drawn towards them in this encounter for a number of reasons. The Dragons struggle to score points and their defence will be tested up against this Cowboys team. If their defence is unable to hold them, they will struggle to score enough points to stick with them. I am still reluctant to tip them (and probably should stick to my morals) but the Dragons have disappointed at several points this season. Put things into perspective and the Cowboys need a win a lot more than the Dragons do. I am going to stop short of selecting them, but if I had to I would go with them. Instead, I am going to search for a few other bets around that may just work into our favor given how the two sides play their football.

Suggested Bet

Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.75

First Team Try scorer (FTTS) = Josh Dugan (Dragons) @ $5 – It is hard to go past Dugan in his recent run of form. He was the main contributor to their victory last week and with a possible NSW jersey on the line, expect him to lift his game even further.

And/or

Kane Linnett (Cowboys) @ $7 – While the Cowboys light hasn’t been shining too brightly, the form of this man has somehow remained constant. Bringing him closer into calculations is the fact that the Cowboys love to swing the ball to their left hand side late in the tackle count where Linnett plays. Expect him to be on the end of one of their attacking raids.

Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers

The first game to kick off Saturday night action will head down to Canberra as the Raiders have a quick turn around from MNF and have the task of hosting the Panthers. It is always easier for a side to back up from MNF if they’ve had a victory and the Raiders will take a lot of confidence away from their dominant display over the Broncos. There are still plenty of areas for them to improve on and it was a little disappointing that they couldn’t go on with the victory by putting the Broncos to the sword. It is a learning curve though and they will be better for that win, regardless of how it was achieved. Staying at home will also assist them and it is one of the toughest road trips to make in winter but the Panthers will try to come out on top. If you can cast your minds back to Round 1 of the competition, it was the Panthers that came out on top, however they are a vastly different team to what they are now. Since then, they have been hit hard by injuries and they have had a few players step in to fill the roles vacated by regular first graders. Trouble was struck last week though when it came to light that a few players had to miss out on the game against the Tigers because of “second-tier” salary cap restrictions. It will take too long to go into the full details of it but the NRL should think about giving some compensation to teams that suffer a shocking injury toll like the Panthers and Tigers have had. On the field for them, they lost a lot of their structure against the Tigers and were unable to finish off the game with any momentum. Full credit must go to the Tigers for their effort but the Panthers will be upset that they let that game slip through their grasp. Lucky for them, they will get another chance here and will want to put the thought of that match behind them. Let’s see if they can bounce back to winning form or perhaps the Raiders can make amends amends for their Round 1 loss. It will be interesting to watch but even better if we are on a winner, so let’s see if we can’t start the night off on the right foot.

Canberra Raiders

The Raiders would’ve had minimal time to analyse the fitness of their squad following their MNF game. Furner has decided to maintain the same team, albeit with a slight alteration. Glen Buttriss was a late inclusion to the team (last week) and he is named to start the match. This has forced Shaun Berrigan out of the team altogether and the utility role will again be filled by exciting youngster Anthony Milford. Even more intriguing is the naming of representative forward Dave Shillington on the bench and Dane Tilse being the player that is promoted in his place. Perhaps we are reading into this a little too much and the move is related to giving Shillington a little more time to recover following his appearance in SOO. Either way, he will be vital to the Raiders team when he comes onto the field. Josh Papalii now has the opportunity to push hard for a spot in the Maroons side with a possible reshaping of their back row. He is a strong enough player but still has a few mistakes in attack and defense in his game that are holding him back. Regardless, he will still be a player that NSW fear when he takes the field and strong performances at this level can only build his case.

Penrith Panthers

As mentioned above, the Panthers had a few changes to their side last week that were caused by salary cap restrictions. The main change was the withdrawal of Matt Moylan from the side and he was replaced with Wes Naiqama. The same change is carried over here and Naiqama will again play fullback. Tim Grant was also a late withdrawal but that was not related to the cap restrictions. Instead, he was taken out of the side through injury (broken hand) and he has not been named to return here either. His replacement in the starting side was Mose Mosoe and he has again been called upon to do the job here. This has opened a spot up for Cameron Ciraldo to come into the side and he will join Matt Robinson. Robinson had been playing second row for a few weeks now but the return of Josh Mansour in the centres has allowed Lewis Brown to move back to the second row. Ryan Simpkins has been named as 18th man but he would probably miss out on this match and is just to cover for a late injury.

Recent History

Overall =Raiders30 Draw 1 Panthers 31

Last 5 games =Raiders2 Panthers 3

At Canberra Stadium = Raiders 15 Panthers 7

Stats that matter

  • The Raiders are still making too many errors and turning over the ball to their opponents. They are averaging 11.9 (14th) for the season and the better sides in the competition will be able to make them pay for their mistakes. For what it is worth, the Panthers are playing very disciplined football and average just 9.9 errors per match (3rd).
  • The Raiders forwards are integral to their success. Each time they have won this season, they have average 9.3m per carry of the ball. To put things into perspective, they are 8.86m for the season.
  • Both sides need to limit the amount of missed tackles they are making on defence. The Raiders miss an average of 27.8 (13th), while the Panthers are struggling as well, committing 28.6 (14th) per match. This could be why both sides fail to build pressure in defence, regardless of how physical they are with their contact.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet =
Raiders $1.18 Panthers $5.00
Centrebet = Raiders $1.22 Panthers $4.50
Sportsbet = Raiders $1.22 Panthers $4.50
Betfair = Raiders $1.29 Panthers $4.20

Verdict

As is the theme for majority of this round, this is another tough game to pick. The Raiders have form going into this match but the Panthers will be egger to bounce back from a shock defeat to the Tigers. Conditions will be made to favor the Raiders though and they are always a better side when they are playing out of their home ground. They were out of contention early in the Round 1 loss as vital errors cost them the chance at possession and building pressure on the Panthers. As both sides have improved considerably, it is the Raiders that are looking as though they are the more accomplished team. Despite a short turn around from their MNF match, they should be able to grab a victory over the Panthers here in a game that will probably blowout towards the end.

Suggested Bet

Raiders 13+ @ $1.90

Find value in this margin = Raiders 13-18 @ $4.50 – There isn’t a whole lot of value around the Raiders but there is still some left in this bet. They are playing well at the moment and while I have mentioned a “blowout” above, the fatigue from their MNF match may just get the better of them towards the end of this game.

Don’t forgo Fergo = Blake Ferguson FTS @ $7 –He is still performing well following his SOO debut and with Game 2 fast approaching, you would expect his run of good form to continue. He has a clear height advantage over the Panthers and the Raiders right edge is dangerous in more way than one. If you do not like him, Jack Wighton ($8) will be playing outside him.

Cronulla Sharks v Parramatta Eels

The second game this Saturday night will feature the Cronulla Sharks up against the Parramatta Eels in the second installment of the “Johnny Mannah Cup”. There is sure to be a lot of emotion again, just like there was earlier this season and both sides will honor the memory of another person taking too early. For the Eels, there is little hope of them making the Finals at the end of the season and they are still stuck in a hole at the bottom of the table. They hardly deserve to be anywhere else either given their performances this year. Be ready though, some people will be quick to mention the ride they went on in 2009 and say that it still could be a possibility. That was an unbelievable achievement in that season but a lot of things would have to change quickly for that to happen. They are lacking creativity in attack and persistence and toughness in defence. Their players look lost for answers and the task for Ricky Stuart motivating his side becomes even more difficult following the news that around 12 players have been told to look elsewhere for clubs next season. Expect a lot of selfish and individual play to rear its head during this time as players are trying to demonstrate their worth to other clubs in the competition. This could also have a positive effect however, we are just going to have to wait and see the outcome of it all. Over at the Sharks, they would’ve wanted to crawl into a similar hole following a very disappointing performance to the Storm. They were aiming to put together 5-winning games, although they were unable to do so as their opponents regaining some of their early season confidence. They will want to quickly forget that and make sure that the same mistakes are not made in the future. They have just pushed themselves into the Top 8 and will want to remain there and give the competition a shake at the business end. Returning home should aid their cause and you would expect them to get back into the winners circle. Nevertheless, the Eels are a challenging team to face (when they play well) and they have an uncanny knack of dragging their opponents down to their level and trying to beat them there. Let’s see if the Sharks can rise above it in the final game to end the night on.

Cronulla Sharks

The Sharks have named exactly the same side that ran out against the Storm last week but we all know that wasn’t the way they took the field following the suspension to Paul Gallen. Chris Heighington was called into the side to play lock and Sam Tagataese (19th man) was promoted to the bench. They have gone back to their original positions and Tagataese, along with Tyrone Peachey (18th man) will probably only get called into the side for a late injury. Having seen how the Sharks have changed so much this season, anything is possible. As for their on field performance, they need to strengthen up the edge of the field. Their centres have been weak at best and opposition teams are not hesitating to target them. The Sharks strong defence also forces them to the edges more than most so it will be an area they will want to fix up as soon as possible. Last week was sure to only be a lapse of concentration and the Sharks will want to put the memory of that match to bed very early in this game.

Parramatta Eels

The Eels have a few changes to contend with this week and the main one is the omission of Jarryd Hayne through injury. The bigger concern will be for the Blues and it will be an agonising wait for Laurie Daley and his selectors. Last week saw

Hayne start off the bench and come onto the field to play 5/8. This prompted Jake Mullaney to be moved to fullback and Luke Kelly was another late inclusion, who started in the 5/8 position. They are still all over the place at Parramatta but majority of this team resembles the side that was “named” last week. As Mullaney is called off the bench, Ben Roberts is in to fill the utility role and it will be interesting to see just how Ricky Stuart chooses to use him. Reni Maitua has also been named, despite choosing to sit out the match last week following the news that he was told to look elsewhere for a contract. You will just have to watch this space to see if he takes the field, however he is now missing the captains “c” next to his name. In the centres, Jacob Loko is out of this game and the new face is Cheyse Blair. Loko was strong when he received the ball but has been dropped back to NSW Cup where he will play in the back row. He is a damaging ball runner and perhaps this is a move which Ricky Stuart has one eye on the future. If he can put in a solid performance, we may see him brought back into the side in a new position.

Recent History

Overall =Sharks 40 Eels 37

Last 5 games =Sharks 2 Eels 3

At Sharks Park = Sharks 20Eels 13

Stats that matter

  • Wondering how bad were the Sharks last week? For starters they missed 39 tackles, their worst for the season. Low and behold, the Eels also committed the same amount of missed tackles, however this is a fair way away from their worst total of 47 and may be a reason why they average 27 for the season (12th).
  • The Sharks should be able to outscore the Eels this week by using their defence as a means of attack. On average, they concede 17.6 points per match (7th) and are streaks ahead of the Eels. They concede the highest amount of points by any team with 27.8 per match.
  • The Sharks need to improve their error rate in games. At this point of the season, they average 12.7 errors per match (16th) and need to improve this area of the game as they continue to move forward. The Eels are slightly better than them and they commit 11.3 per match (10th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Sharks $1.15 Eels $5.75
Centrebet = Sharks $1.15 Eels $5.75
Sportsbet = Sharks $1.15 Eels $5.75
Betfair = Sharks $1.15 Eels $5.75

Verdict

The Sharks are undoubtedly the favorites for this game and there are plenty of reasons why they can and should win this game. They have a stronger pack of forwards and their players appear stronger in their structure. Jeff Robson and Todd Carney are able to provide that for them but a lot of that resides with the performance of their forwards. Their pride was beaten out of them last week and they must bounce back here if they want to change opinions on that effort. The

Eels hardly have demonstrated the desire and ability that suggests they will be able to overcome another superior opponent. Some consideration does have to be given to them as there are several players that will be competing for their careers. The Sharks will have to fight for this win but they should be able to come out and get the victory here. It will be a fairly close game initially, but they should be able to draw away towards the end of the game, while limiting the scoring of the Eels team.

Suggested Bet

Sharks 13+ @ $1.70

Figure out this one = Sharks 13-18 @ $4.50 – The line is set at 14.5 and the bookies are never far away with their selections. The Sharks should go close to covering that and given that the suggested bet is at 13+, this may just be the better option to take if you’re looking for a little more value to add to your bet.

Can he or Carney = Toddy Carney FTS @ $13 – He will be one player that will definitely want to make amends for his performance last week in both attack and defence. He isn’t the strongest defender around but his attack also suffered under the pressure of the Storm line. Expect him to relish the extra bit of room given to him and he will take the ball to the line in a more effective manner this week.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Gold Coast Titans

A big day of Sunday football will kick off at 2pm with two sides coming off a bye facing one another in an unusual location. The Rabbitohs and Titans will do battle up in Cairns in what is another move by an NRL club aimed at covering some of the losses they would’ve had if they were to keep the game down in Sydney. We saw the Eels do exactly the same thing only a few weeks ago and again, it was against the Titans. They are the new boys to the competition and given their steady rise (and falls) since their inception, it is always going to be difficult for them to foster any real support for their team away from home. It isn’t as if you could complain about their “brand” of football either because it has been exciting at times to say the least. Their play is evidence why they went into the halfway point of the season in 5th spot on the ladder with 16 points. Everything hasn’t gone to plan for them just yet but they are still managing to make a new halves pairing work well enough to grab a victory. Aiden Seizer and Albert Kelly have shown experience well beyond their years and they are leading a talented side around the park on the back of some dominating displays from their forwards. They possess plenty of firepower up front but will now be tested against one of the best in the competition. The Titans would’ve been pleased with their standing so far, however the Rabbitohs are undoubtedly more than pleased with their efforts. The job for them now is to continue on their successful run and ensure that they carry as much momentum as possible into the Finals. The top teams generally struggle during the SOO period but this Rabbitohs side will not be missing too many players through representative duty. Instead, they will be able to continue to develop the combinations within their team that started way back when they took a punt on a young halfback by the name of Adam Reynolds. This was similar to what the Titans went through only last season and it has paid dividends for them to date. A lot of the credit must go to the senior players in their side and they have used their experience wisely in mentoring the younger players in the team. Their coach Michael Maguire has them firmly grounded and they will want to celebrate a “home” game in the best way possible, by honouring the fans who would rarely get to see them play with a win. The Titans won’t just allow this to happen though and the game promises to be a good one from the opening whistle.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Even though they were without their SOO players in their last-start victory over the Knights, they will be happy to welcome them back here. They are still strong without them, but they are certainly the edge that is given to them against the other top teams in this competition. Greg Inglis returns to the fullback position and this move has pushed Nathan Merritt back to the wing. Inglis was damaging when he got the chance in Origin but the Maroons needed to get the ball to him more often to make the most of his potential. Merritt’s shift back to the wing has pushed Bryson Goodwin to the centres and Beau Champion is out of the team altogether. In the forwards, the QLD interchange players, Ben Te’o and Chris McQueen return and will partner one another in the second row. This has forced Ben Lowe back to 18th man while Nathan Peats has also been relegated back to the bench (20th man). Sam Burgess returns from a one game suspension and he will be fresh and ready to go. He will play lock in this game and this has allowed Maguire to push Dave Tyrrell back up into the front row. There is an extended

bench of 7 named and there is no clear indication of which way Maguire will go with this side. George Burgess has been named as has Josh Starling and Jeff Lima. Justin Hunt (19th man) is there to cover a possible late injury to one of the backs and Jason Clark has vacated the side. The most enthralling selection is around the naming of Luke Keary in jersey 14. He was a late inclusion against the Knights and when he took the field, he played 5/8. He has been knocking on the first grade door for some time now and he looked great with the ball in hand. So good that he has forced John Sutton to push up into the lock and allow an extra forward rotation. This is a nice problem to have and it could be a sign of things to come at the Rabbitohs.

Gold Coast Titans

The Titans were also lucky enough to enjoy a week off and also welcome back their SOO players. The backline remains the same and for the halves, this should only boost the confidence in the players around them. In the forwards, Nate Myles returns to the front row and this has recalled Luke Douglas back to the bench. This move has also forced Mark Ioane out of the team and back to the QLD Cup. Jamie Dowling will also join him as Dave Taylor has been moved back to the bench to accommodate the return of Greg Bird. Watch for a big game from Taylor when he takes the field as he is up against his former team for the first time this season. Expect the Rabbitohs forwards to also welcome him to the field when he does get a chance. Ashley Harrison is the third SOO back into the Titans side and he will start at lock. The only other addition to the side is Ben Ridge as 18th man, but he will probably miss out if all players are fit and ready to go.

Recent History

Overall = Rabbitohs 4 Titans 4

Last 5 games = Rabbitohs 2 Titans 3

At Barlow Park = Never played at the venue

Stats that matter

  • Both sides possess a very strong forward pack and are able to make their way strongly off the line. The Rabbitohs are ranked 2nd in the league for metres gained per carry with 9.19m and their forwards can put them in attacking positions at the end of their sets. The Titans are not far behind them though and they are ranked 4th in the league with 9.14m per carry, but they have averaged 10.6m in the last 2 weeks.
  • The Rabbitohs defence is tight around the ruck and they make it difficult to play a fast game with the way they slow down the play-the-ball. First up tackles are also important and they miss an average of 24.3 tackles per match (4th). The Titans aren’t at that level just yet and are ranked in 9th spot with 25.7 misses a game.
  • No wonder the Rabbitohs are top of the competition as they score a lot of points, while still being able to limit how many their opponents score. In attack, they average 25.2 points per match (1st) and are able to hold their opponents to just 15.1 (4th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.30 Titans $3.60
Centrebet = Rabbitohs $1.34 Titans $3.40
Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.33 Titans $3.45
Betfair = Rabbitohs $1.37 Titans $3.45

Verdict

The Rabbitohs should be ready and raring to go in this game and will have enjoyed a chance to regroup in the week off. The Titans also had that luxury and it will be a case of which side is able to click into gear quicker. With the level of professionalism that the Rabbitohs have demonstrated this season, it is likely that they will be the side that does it better. The forward battle will be a great one to watch but the Rabbitohs have the edge over their opponents at the hooker position and the quality of players they are bringing off the bench. At this stage of the season you would also prefer to have the Rabbitohs halves playing in your team rather than the Titans pair. That is not to discredit them, but they will find it tough here under some fierce pressure. The toughest decision is selecting a margin and the 13+ margin is favored by the bookies. This does seem practical but I am going to recommend the 1-12 margin as both sides may be a little slow off the mark following the bye and may run out of time to get ahead by that much.

Suggested Bet

Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $3

Over the top = Total points Over 42.5 @ $1.90 – Both sides have a great attacking ability and this means that the total points scored in this match should the set mark. They could also be a little slow to start the match and this could mean poor defensive reads from both sides.

Walk right in = Dylan Walker to score a try @ $2.25 – This NRL rookie is quickly finding his feet and he is learning what it means to play in the NRL each week. He has the benefit of playing with some fantastic players that are in a rich vain of form. This price is for him to just cross the line and I don’t mind backing his raw ability to deliver here.

Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights

The 3pm “main game” heads south to Melbourne this week as a resurgent Storm side welcome a Newcastle team that is struggling for consistency. The thought that the Storm were on a downward spiral has been demolished in their last two wins over the Roosters and the Sharks. People were beginning to doubt just how well they were going to go this season as they were predicted to experience even tougher times through the SOO period. Player fatigue is at the forefront of this and their SOO players were always going to find it tough. Bellamy has motivated his side out of their mini-slump and a lot of this has related to the “other” players who have been able to lift their own performances. Consequently, this has released the pressure on the “Big 3” and they are able to perform without the complete weight of the team on their shoulders. As for the Knights, they would’ve been happy to go through the challenges the Storm have gone through if it meant they would have winning form at the end of it. So far this season, they have only performed well at home but last week they were beaten by the Dragons at Hunter Stadium. This sent more than shockwaves through their side and it would’ve been a wake up call that they needed. Whether or not they will benefit from it is another question. I have said it for a number of weeks now but Wayne Bennett has his work cut out for him in trying to turn around the fortunes of this side. They are slow at times in the middle of the field and while they have a lot of positives, opposition sides are very good at targeting the fragilities within their side. If this continues, they can wave goodbye to their chances this season and it will be another case of “what if” for them. Time will tell and there is no tougher task for them than heading down to Melbourne this week with the form that the Storm are in. Tune in to see if they can step up to the mark or the Storm’s roll will continue on into the second SOO game.

Melbourne Storm

Coming off a very strong performance against the Sharks, the Storm have quickly put to bed any thoughts of their fledging performance. The Big 3 came back into the side last week and stepped up to the mark that we have come to know and expect from them. There is no change to the starting side at all although Maurice Blair will now wear jersey 4 (3 last week) and Will Chambers will wear number 3. On the bench, Bellamy is confident that all players will be able to make their way onto the field and he has dropped the players that were named on the extended bench last week. This is no surprise as they were only named to cover for the withdrawal of one of their SOO players or a possible late injury in the warm up. A major reason why the Storm were able to perform a lot better can be put down to the performance of Cameron Smith out of hooker. When they have been flat, he has not been jumping out of the ruck with his usual determination and their forwards were struggling to build any momentum. Expect him to regain his best form and create extra room for Cooper Cronk to weave his magic.

Newcastle Knights

The Knights will take the same side that took the field against the Dragons into this game, albeit with the inclusion of Beau Scott on the bench. News broke late that he would make a return from injury and he was able to come off the bench and pushed Adam Cuthbertson out of the side. Neville Costigan has been named as 18th man but he has filled this role for a number of games this season without

any luck in taking the field. All eyes will also be on whether or not Craig Gower will be included into their side. He was signed last week as a 35-year old and his role at the club isn’t clear. They have a functioning halves pairing but the experience that Gower would offer would also assist them. Perhaps it could be similar to when Gidley was fit and we may see him come off the bench and Tyrone Roberts may push into hooker for a little while. Gower was a quality player in his day and it will be interesting to see just how he returns from playing overseas. Players rarely return equal to or better than what they were before they left. Either way, expect the entire Knights side to strive for a better team performance than last week.

Recent History

Overall = Storm 16 Knights 12

Last 5 games = Storm 5 Knights 0

At AAMI Stadium = Storm 4 Knights 0

Stats that matter

  • Both sides are ranked in the top half of the competition for completion rates and this is probably reflective of their coaches focus on completing their sets and building pressure. The Knights are ranked in 4th spot with a season average of 74.5%, while the Storm are just behind them in 5th spot with 73.8%.
  • The Storm are strong coming out of trouble and when they are in the “green zone” on the field their forwards create plenty of room for their halves and Smith to operate. This can be put down to their metres per carry and so far this season they average 9.23m with each run and are ranked in 1st spot.
  • In recent weeks the Knights have lacked creativity in attack and this is probably one of the reasons why they were unable to score many points against the Dragons. They average just 3.5 line breaks in each game this season (11th) and their halves need the forwards to create more room for them in attack.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet =
Storm $1.16 Knights $5.50
Centrebet = Storm $1.18 Knights $5.15
Sportsbet = Storm $1.18 Knights $5.15
Betfair = Storm $1.20 Knights $5.30

Verdict

It is hard to go past the Storm in this game given how poor the Knights have been away from home. Not only that, the Storm are back to playing some entertaining football and will be a threat all over the field. The Knights will find this difficult to handle and their forwards will struggle to get on top throughout. This means more room for the “Big 3” to move and they will look to make the most of every opportunity. The margin of this game does depend on which Newcastle side will show up for this contest. Unfortunately, we won’t know this until once the game has started but I am willing to bank on the fact that the Storm will be able to get the job done comfortably.

Suggested Bet

Storm -13.5 @ $1.90

Win some more value = Storm 13-18 @ $4.50 – This requires you to make a call on just how much you think the Storm will win by. The Knights have shown glimpses of a strong defensive structure this season and it would be surprising to see them lose by more than 18+.

Just in time = Justin O’Neill FTS @ $9 – In recent weeks he has moved back to his customary position of wing and this week he will come up against Kevin Naiqama. Naiqama has been solid in attack but at times he has been caught out of position in defence. The Storm will have no hesitation this week of targeting that weakness and they are one side that likes moving the ball out to their left hand edge.

Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors

The final game on Sunday will kick off at 6:30pm and features a replay of the 2002 grand final. A lot of time has passed since then and now the two sides will be only focused on winning this contest. Both sides will be carrying a lot of momentum into this game and they will not be short on confidence. With that being said, you would be wrong for thinking that because the Roosters are higher on the table, they would posses more confidence. Despite winning last week, they were disappointing in the sense that they were unable to put the Eels away in a manner that their current form suggested. Many thought that the margin would be beyond 20 points and while only a converted try away from that, the score line flattered them. Maybe it was a fatigue from their halves backing up form Origin and considering they won the game, they can relax and focus their attention towards this week. It can be difficult to mentally prepare yourself for a match against an inferior opponent and their coach Trent Robinson will be having none of that surface for this week. The Warriors have a massive amount of momentum in their favor and they will worry little about their standing on the table. For them, they will want to extend a 3-game winning streak to 4. Two of those wins have come at home but it has been the manner that they have performed in that has a few people thinking that they are a chance to push for a berth in the finals. It will have to happen on a more consistent basis for people to completely agree with that thought and teams generally do struggle to capture the 4th consecutive win. Considering the quality of the Roosters, a win would certainly put the rest of the competition on notice at this point of the season. The motivation is there for the Warriors and the job for them is now performing on the road and when the pressure is on. So sit back and relax before a tough working week ahead with this NRL match; and let’s see if the Warriors are becoming the real deal or were just “lucky” to win the games they did.

Sydney Roosters

The Roosters limped over the line last week and while they were able to capture a win, they still will be filthy with their efforts. Their attack was always going to be strong but it was their defence that let them down. Normally, they are strong in the middle of the field and they limit the amount of points their opponents score. Perhaps it was just a minor slip up and they will be desperate to get back into the winners circle. They will have a few players that will know they are going to be picked for SOO and that may even play on their minds here. As for team changes, Robinson relises that there is no need to jump to conclusions and he has decided to make just the one alteration. Lama Tasi is out of this match and Isaac Liu, who will wear jersey 17, will replace him. The bench is very important for the Roosters and at this stage of the season, they need to build up consistency within their interchanges to maintain the platform set by the starting side. If they are able to get this right, the rest of the competition will definitely not want to play them in a crucial game.

New Zealand Warriors

With the pressure slowly releasing for the Warriors, the doubt around team selections has ceased (for now). There is again no need for Matthew Elliot to change his lineup and he has stuck with the side that was able to beat Manly last week. As they are traveling this week, Elliot has felt the need to add a few players

incase there is a late withdrawal from the side. Suaia Matagi was the 18th man last week and this week he is the 19th, with Ngani Laumape (18th man) and Charlie Gubb (20th man) also join him. They will probably miss out on selection and even if they do, they will be able to play for the Auckland Vulcans. There was a strong focus on structure this season and now it is finally playing dividends for them. Even more pleasing will be the fact that they are now able to find the balance between their structure and disjointed offloading that creates unpredictability in their attack.

Recent History

Overall = Roosters 13 Draw 1 Warriors 17

Last 5 games = Roosters 3 Warriors 2

At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 7 Draw 1 Warriors 6

Stats that matter

  • The Warriors are always a dangerous team when they throw the ball around but it is the second phase play they are getting from offloads that is allowing their line breaks to happen. For the season, they average 4.2 (=7th) per game but in their last 3 victories, they have averaged 7.4. Unpredictability in small doses works wonders for them.
  • The Roosters were uncharacteristically poor last week in defence. They missed 42 tackles (20.4 season average – 1st) and this allowed the Eels to score 24 points throughout the match (12 per game season average – 1st).
  • On the issue of points, the Warriors will have the hands full trying to hold the Roosters to a low total. So far this season the Warriors concede an average of 25.4 points per game (14th) and the Roosters score an average of 24.3 per game (2nd).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet =
Roosters $1.26 Warriors $4.00
Centrebet = Roosters $1.28 Warriors $3.85
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.28 Warriors $3.85
Betfair = Roosters $1.29 Warriors $3.75

Verdict

Ok, I acknowledge that the Warriors are going to have to show a little more to the fans before you can tip them with confidence. Notwithstanding this, they do creep into calculations given their recent performances. The Roosters would’ve had some time to regroup following their match against the Eels and you would expect to see a different performance from them here. Nonetheless, they have a young side that may be fatiguing a little at the halfway point of the season and their SOO players could have one eye on their selection and may just be going through the motions in this game. I will stop short of selecting the Warriors in this game but will say the odds are not a true reflection of just how close this match could be. Let’s frame out bets around that market and a few other trends.

Suggested Bet

Warriors +10.5 @ $1.90

The beast against Easts = Manu Vatuvei FTS @ $8 – He has been in outstanding form this season when he has been fit and the Warriors look to get the ball to him as much as possible. Given he has scored 6 first tries in their last 8 matches (4 of those have been first in the match) he is again one of the favored players to cross the line first.

That’s it for this game folks, not much on offer when all things are considered.

Brisbane Broncos v Wests Tigers

Round 14 concludes this week with another MNF match featuring the Broncos. It has been a break in tradition for them in recent weeks as they are more accustomed to playing on Friday night. Unfortunately for them, it seems to be their least favorite timeslot as they have been woeful in their past two outings. Along with the Cowboys, they are one of the biggest disappointments this season and they seem to be a long way away from finding answers. Each week more questions are being asked and not many are being answered; and this is only building the frustration from their fans. Coach Anthony Griffin may find himself searching for a new job if things do not change and it would be nothing short of fair. He has had this side for a number of years now and since the departure of Darren Lockyer, he has been able to do little with their development. The problems are also numerous at the Tigers however their win last week momentarily released the pressure that was mounting. The Broncos could take a leaf from the Tigers in this department and maybe it could have a positive effect on their organisation. The Tigers are not out of the woods just yet though. They still have a horror injury toll to contend with and at this stage; they must rise above it and try to salvage something from this season. You would say that they are out of contention at the moment and they should just focus on finish the season on a high note. I say it every week, MNF is always produces a great game and this should be no different. Despite the current standing of both teams, I think we are going to see a very desperate game as both teams need a victory at this point in their 2013 campaign. Let’s see who can execute better on the night and start the week off on the right foot, and with a little more money in our bank accounts.

Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos had little time to assess their players following their last MNF game to the Raiders, but relatively the same side should take the field here. The last minute change for them in that game was the inclusion of Justin Hodges. He came into the centres and pushed Josh Hoffman to the wing and Aaron Whitchurch was left out of the side. That is exactly how they will take the field here and the only changes that will occur will be on the bench. Scott Anderson is out of this game and Jarrod Wallace takes his place. Dunamis Lui is named as 18th man but he will probably miss out. If the Broncos are to get their season back on track, their forwards might want to take some ownership of the game. Last week they were pummeled out of the contest by the Raiders and the pressure was on their halves. That is the last thing they need because they are failing as it is to mount any pressure at the end of their attacking sets.

Wests Tigers

It was a gutsy performance from the Tigers last week to fight their way back into the game but watching it, you felt that the Panthers lost it rather than the Tigers winning it. The game was there to take and they were unable to put the Tigers away. Some credit does have to go to the Tigers though and they can be proud of their effort. This week, we see Joel Reddy move from the centres and take Marika Koroibete’s spot on the wing. In a sickening piece of footage, Koroibete dislocated his elbow and will join the Tigers injured list. In some positive news, Blake Ayshford was able to get fit for this match and he is included to play in the centres. Robbie Farrah is again out of this match and Masada Iosefa will play hooker. He is a decent player but they will sorely miss Farrah’s contribution to this side. The bench remains the same and they will look to add some much needed impact when they take the field. Expect another big game from Aaron Woods and he has finally been rewarded for his hard work with a selection in the NSW SOO team for Game 2.

Recent History

Overall = Broncos 16 Draw 1 Tigers 4

Last 5 games = Broncos 4 Tigers 1

At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 4 Tigers 3

Stats that matter

  • The Broncos have the worse defence when it comes to missing tackles. At the moment they are ranked in 16th spot with an average of 30.8 per game. What is worse for them is that it isn’t improving; in the last 4 weeks they have averaged 39.5.
  • Both sides are struggling to build momentum in attack and it does have something to do with their forwards. The Tigers have obvious excuses for only averaging 8.39m per cary (16th) and a fully fit squad probably would average a lot more. The Broncos have no excuses and their “representative” players need to take a stand and improve on their 8.52m made with each carry.
  • This match probably will not be a high scoring contest. Both sides have struggled to score points this season and that’s probably not going to change here. The Broncos average 18.3 points per game (10th) but the story is a lot worse for the Tigers. They average just 13.8 (16th) and it will only be harder to create scoring opportunities without Farrah.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Broncos $1.26 Tigers $4.00
Centrebet = Broncos $1.28 Tigers $3.85
Sportsbet = Broncos $1.25 Tigers $4.10
Betfair = Broncos $1.30 Tigers $3.95

Verdict

This game is a very difficult one to select and there is a lot of contributing factors that can change just how this match will play out. The Tigers are carrying winning form into this game and their confidence is going to be high. They are still heavily impacted by injuries but this side is beginning to find some momentum among the players that are standing in for the regular first graders. On the other hand, the Broncos have numerous points to prove and a win here will steer them in the right direction. The post-SOO period is always difficult for them and they can ill-afford to allow that to happen again this year. It appears as though the Broncos will be able to capture a win here, but they will have to work for it. It is a chance for them to get their combinations functioning together again and put their two previous performances behind them. It’s not likely that this will be a high scoring contest and the Broncos may struggle to win by anything more than 12 points.

Suggested Bet
Tigers +11.5 @ $1.85

Marginal victory = Broncos 1-12 @ $3 – It is a less fancied option with the bookies but given the performance of both sides this season, it will be a lot closer than most people think. Cash in on the value and cheer on a close contest.

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Author

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Scooby

Hey guys, i'm Scooby! 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.

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