NRL football returns this week after a break for representative fixtures. It is always good to watch those contests but for fans of NRL teams, it was hardly satisfying to their NRL cravings. Fixtures will kick off this weekend with the traditional games on, undoubtedly the best and most sacred day in the Australian calendar, ANZAC Day. This is a celebration of all of those people who have been brave enough to represent their country in battle and a chance for the common person to pay their respects to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Too often in sport, people (myself included) will refer to teams and players as “going to battle”, but today we recognise the true heroes in our society and pay our respect to the service they have given this country.
Sydney Roosters v St George-Illawarra Dragons
Players participating in this fixture always make mention of how moving it is to get the opportunity to play in this game and hear the “Last Post” before they play. It is a truly great spectacle and both sides are always ready to put on a show; and they rarely disappoint. Last year, the Dragons staged an epic comeback to score a try in the dying seconds to take the lead from the Roosters. This year we see both sides traveling fairly well after 6 games. After 3 games, there was a lot of uncertainty around the future of Dragons coach Steve Price and it is amazing what a few wins can do to a team. The pressure valve has been released a little and despite the loss of Jamie Soward to the Panthers, they were able to entice a quality 5/8 in Gareth Widdop for 2014 and beyond. They need to ride the momentum their forwards are creating at the moment as it is putting them in winning positions. Trent Merring is the one player who is putting his hand up and really leading his side well. He is pushing hard for a spot in SOO and will be hard to leave out on his current form. The Roosters will relish the opportunity to take the battle to the Dragons in the forwards and it should be an intriguing contest to watch. Along with SBW, they have players like Boyd Cordiner, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Jake Friend, who are young and talented. They are strong in defence and relish a challenge against another set of forwards. They are supporting their halves nicely and allowing them greater room to move. This is another strength of the Roosters and the speed out wide needs to be used in order for it to be an effective part of their game plan. So make sure you’re settled late on ANZAC Day, hopefully after winning at 2-Up, and be ready for a great contest that these teams are capable of producing.
The Roosters will have had some attention around the naming of this side after they had several players participate in representative fixtures. However, fans will also be interested to see if they named players that were “ruled out” of those games. So, it is no surprise to see the Roosters name a relatively unchanged lineup. The only difference is Aidan Guerra being named on the bench, at the expense of Isaac Lui. Mitchell Pearce has been named despite an injury ruling him out for City, but it did appear that the injury he suffered was a lot more serious that the one to SBW. Injury will be the only reason that Pearce misses out on SOO selection but the pressure from other players is mounting. SBW has no such issues and the Roosters will just hope that they can keep one of their star players on the field as much as possible. They want to get value out of him and he cannot deliver that on the sideline. SBW has been in sublime form lately and his ability to offload the ball is creating havoc by drawing in two defenders as well as some “fancy” footwork at the line. They need to ensure that they are not over-using him but in recent games, we have seen him pop up on both sides of the field. That freedom makes him a greater threat to the opposition and the task of handling him becomes even more difficult. Of course, the game has to be set up by the rest of the Rooster pack before they can execute other areas of their game. The Raiders showed how the Roosters can be fragile at times and lose momentum in their play. Pearce and Maloney have to ensure that this side remains focused and sticks to the game plan.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons weren’t at their best against the Tigers, but some credit does have to go to them and how they were able to scrape home in the end. They are proving a better side than most people thought and the pressure that was mounting on coach Steve Price seems to have subsided for now. The last thing a playing group needs is uncertainty over their coach and the Dragons have seemed to rise above that for now. They have made no changes to their starting side but have welcomed the naming of Michael Weyman as 18th man. He was injured at the beginning of the season and the Dragons have missed his contribution to their lineup. He is no certainty to start this match, but it will be a boost to their side if he was to take the field at some stage. He would offer a lot of support to Merrin and Dan Hunt in the middle of the field, as well as gain extra metres with each carry. Soward and Fien are also improving, but whether or not these two players are capable of continually leading this side remains to be seen. How successful they are, will reflect upon whether or not their forwards are dominating up front and when the forwards are on top, the halves are not pressured as much and their play is positive. If this doesn’t happen, they will struggle to gain any form of momentum on the field and their outside backs will rarely see the ball.
Overall = Roosters 10 Draw 1 Dragons 17
Last 5 games = Roosters 2 Dragons 3
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 9 Dragons 9
Stats that matter
- The Roosters are completing their sets and this is a big reason why they are being consistently put into scoring positions. They average a completion rate of 73.1% and are ranked 3rd. The Dragons aren’t too far away but are ranked 9th overall at 71.6%.
- Defence is a key point for the Roosters and their missed tackles are ranked 2nd in the competition, only behind the Knights (Yes, the Knights!!!). They average only 18.7 per game while the Dragons need to tighten things up. They are ranked 11th and average 25.3.
- The Dragons forwards have been solid so far. They need to take greater notice of Merrin and his ball carrying ability. As a team, they average 9.04m per carry, slightly ahead of the Roosters who make 8.89m per carry.
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.30 Dragons $3.60
Centrebet = Roosters $1.35 Dragons $3.30
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.35 Dragons $3.30
Betfair = Roosters $1.38 Dragons $3.55
The Dragons have dominated this clash in recent years and the Roosters have not won this fixture since 2007. They almost changed that last season, but the Dragons came from behind to grab a late victory. The Roosters should be able to turn the tide now though, given how well their new recruits are performing and how tough their defence is. The Dragons have turned around their season since losing the first three games, but they still have a long way to go. They are still switching off at certain points of the game and not putting in a complete 80-minute performance. Having said that, the Roosters are still finding their feet but are improving each week. The Dragons will need to lift their performance considerably in order to get a victory here. It is not beyond them and this fixture is always fantastic to watch; yet a close contest is on the cards and perhaps a low scoring game. Not that it will not be exciting, just a traditional game of rugby league.
Dragons +8.5 @ $1.95
Close call = Roosters 1-12 @ $2.85 – I expect the Roosters to get a win and the suggested bet leans towards a close game. All things considered, the margin of choice should be 1-12 rather than 13+ ($2.30). A little more value as both sides will be focused on giving little away in defence.
SBW the FTS key = Michael Jennings FTS @ $11 and/or Roger Tuivasa-Sheck @ $10 – The reason I have named two players is because I am unsure what side of the field SBW will pop up. Jennings plays on the left and RTS plays on the right so I am hedging my bets through both players.
Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors
The second game on ANZAC Day will kick off at 7:30pm down in Melbourne as the Storm host the Warriors. This game has only been apart of the ANZAC Day fixtures in recent years but it was certainly a great move by the NRL as it rides on the tail of the “massive” AFL clash that is across the road at the MCG between Collingwood and Essendon. There is no doubt a rivalry between the two codes, nonetheless, lovers of sport will be encouraged to attend both events and celebrate this great occasion. The Storm remain undefeated so far this season and they were pushed in their last fixture against the Rabbitohs. It was a tough contest between the two undefeated sides and eventually, the class of the Storm got them over the line. The Rabbitohs were slow to start the game and you can never give the Storm a head start in a match. Their defence was tough and they were very strong when carrying the ball off their own line (9.4m per carry). It was a lesson for the Rabbitohs in how to win the close games and it may not be the last time we see these two sides do battle with just competition points on the line. The Warriors are still struggling to find their feet in the competition but do appear to be improving each week. New coach Matthew Elliot is focused on developing a strong structure within his side and will not tolerate loose play by his team. This is slowly improving their average error rate (11.5 per match) and missed tackles per match (26). The problem now for the Warriors is actually kick-starting their season. They have had one win so far and this has given them a win percentage of 16%. We are heading in to Round 7, time is running out for the Warriors and before they know it, Round 13 will be upon them and it will be the halfway point of the competition. They need to begin chalking up wins and getting their winning percentage up and rising up the table. They have a lot of potential but are yet to discover the right combinations to foster a winning formula. They need to focus on their strengths and play towards them, whilst limiting their mistakes in attack and defence. This game will be a great way to end an amazing day and fans should tune in to watch the tribute that is given to the ANZACs. If you haven’t lost all your money on “two-up”, try and invest some money here and claw back some of the earlier losses.
The Storm have only made one change for this game and the injury to Ryan Hinchcliffe has forced a reshuffle to the back row. Following a very strong performance on debut for the Kiwis, Tohu Harris has been moved to lock and Kevin Proctor has been promoted to the starting side. Proctor was also strong for the Kiwis and will be better for the experience. Rather than naming 4 players on the bench, coach Craig Bellamy has named 7 players and again, there is some uncertainty over a few of their star players. Backing up from the representative weekend, you would expect most (if not all) of them to play, but you can never be so sure. Despite the obvious factor of the “Big 3”, you can see why the Storm are so successful with the other representative players they have. They have players like Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Proctor, Will Chambers and Gareth Widdop. They are always going assist when any of the “Big 3” are out, but they can never completely fill the void. For what it is worth, I expect all of them to play but there could be a few late changes in other positions.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors are working very hard on playing consistent football but again, were their own worst enemy against the Raiders last week. It must be extremely frustrating for Elliot to have to watch their demise each week. Their task is not made any easier with the injuries to captain Simon Mannering and winger Manu Vatuvei. Mannering was ruled out of the Kiwis side to play the ANZAC Test and his replacement for the Warriors is Ben Henry. He has suffered his fair share of injuries but has recovered in time to offer the same strength in defence that Mannering did. By no means is he up to that standard but he is gaining vital NRL experience to get him to that level. Glen Fisiiahi comes onto the wing after the passing of his sister to replace Vatuvei. Vatuvei only returned from a lengthy lay-off last week and it is sad news to see him again out of the game. The only other change for the Warriors is the inclusion of Jerome Ropati as 18th man and who may even be a late inclusion if Elliot wants to strengthen his defence. Knowing how many points the Warriors can leak, this may be a wise move but it is unclear on who would miss out. It certainly shouldn’t be 5/8 Thomas Leuluai, who should be motivated by his non-selection in the Kiwis side last week. Foran was the obvious choice at 5/8 but many thought that hey would be selected on the bench. It just shows that his form has not been up to scratch and he is a big reason why the Warriors struggle for consistency. He is not the only reason why they are struggling and he will need more support from halfback Shaun Johnson.
Overall = Storm 16 Draw 2 Warriors 13
Last 5 games = Storm 3 Warriors 2
AT AAMI Park = Storm 1 Warriors 2
Stats that matter
- This game features two ends of the spectrum in terms of metres per carry of the ball. The Storm are ranked in 1st place with and average of 9.29m, while the Warriors are ranked 16th with just 8.4m per carry.
- Amazingly, the sides are level on errors per match. 11.5 is the current number and the Warriors opponents are making them pay for their mistakes. The Storm are able to get out of tough situations like that through their defence but will not want to rely on that too often.
- Continuing on from above, the Storm are a lot tougher to break down than the Warriors. They only average 22.5 missed tackles per game whereas the Warriors average 26 per game.
TAB Sportsbet = Storm $1.12 Warriors $6.50
Centrebet = Storm $1.17 Warriors $5.35
Sportsbet = Storm $1.16 Warriors $5.50
Betfair = Storm $1.17 Warriors $6.00
The Storm are on top of the competition and there is no reason why they will not get a win here. The Warriors are yet to completely show improvement within their side and it will be very surprising if they were to get a victory here. Of course, you can never invest any money on this contest until you are certain of the final sides. If the Storm were to miss one of the “Big 3”, I would still be inclined to invest money on them, but it would be a totally different story if there were two missing. As for a margin, I expect this game to be a close contest as there are signs of fatigue starting to show in the Storms players and the early season trip to the UK for the RLWCC may just be taking its toll. In that case, take 1-12.
Warriors +15.5 @ $1.90
More value for the margin = Storm 1-12 @ $3.25 – This is exactly the same as the other ANZAC Day game, there is plenty of value around the Storm and this much sounds very enticing. Especially when the Melbourne players are starting to look fatigued.
Waqa’s Success = Sisa Waqa FTS @ $9 – This guy can always find his way to the try line and has a knack of popping up at the right time on the field. With some uncertainty around the defensive readings of the Warriors centres and wingers, this guy may find himself with a little more room than he expected. Give him an inch and he will certainly find his way to the try line.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v South Sydney Rabbitohs
It is a very unusual position this week, but there will already be two games played as we head into Friday Night Football. Not to worry though, this game promises to an epic contest between two of the best sides in the competition. Last week, we saw the Rabbitohs take on the Storm in a “top of the table contest” where both sides were undefeated. This week the task does not get any easier for them and whilst not undefeated, they only have one loss to their name. No doubt, both will be featuring in the Finals at some point but there is a long way to go before they reach that point. Either side would jump at the opportunity to get a win against a possible Finals opponent and this game is sure to be a great contest. The Sea Eagles have been heading in the right direction ever since they opened their season with a solid win over the Broncos. There were a few doubts as to their credentials for this season but with each performance, they are proving their worth more and more. Their success does rely on a tough and brutal game of football and only a few sides in the competition will have the strike power within the forwards to match it with them. The Titans are one and they were able to inflict the only loss the Sea Eagles have had this season. Judging by the quality the Rabbitohs possess, they should be another threatening opponent for the Sea Eagles to try and overcome. Last week, the Rabbitohs quality was challenged by the Melbourne Storm. It was always going to be an exciting and close contest but a great measure to see how they compare against the best in the competition. The Rabbitohs are looking good in certain areas of the game, but have a lot of improvement left in them and have to get a few things fixed within their play. It was no secret that their slow start had them coming from behind and chasing the Storms points. They can ill-afford the same start here and the Sea Eagles will be very wary of not repeating the same mistakes they did against the Titans. This game is going to be a thrilling contest, which will be an arm wrestle right until the end. Fans of rugby league will be happy to know that this game will take place on free-to-air TV and air live into both states. Make sure that you’re watching this game and lets see if there is any money to be made on it.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
There is only one change to the side that beat the Sharks last week and unfortunately for Manly, it is not the return of Glen Stewart. Joe Galuvao is out of this game and David Gower takes his spot on the bench. Stewart was tipped to return for this game and would’ve brought a lot to the team. Sea Eagles fans will love the opportunity to see their forwards up against a pack with the quality that the Rabbitohs possess. The difference between the two apart from size is also their strength on the bench. The Rabbitohs seem to have more firepower but that will count for nothing if they are unable to close down the Sea Eagles halves. Each game this season, they have controlled the tempo and followed a structure that has lead to their success. Like many other sides in the competition though, they need their forwards to gain them an early advantage. Only one side has been able to crack that and many teams will try to emulate the Titans. The Sea Eagles have a good mixture between youth and experience within their lineup and they are a tough side to break down.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Rabbitohs fans, players and coaching staff were definitely nervous following the sight of Greg Inglis limping around Canberra Stadium after the ANZAC Test. He was immediately pouring water over the fire and stated that it was nothing more than a knock to his hip and that he would be fit in time for the next game. Well he has been named and the Rabbitohs have assured everyone that he will be fit for this game. The only other change to the side is in the centres as Beau Champion returns to the starting side following injury and Dylan Farrell has been dropped back to NSW Cup. It is interesting to note that he will play 5/8 for the North Sydney Bears and is a suitable back up for any position within the backline as he is still very young and has several NRL games to his name already. As mentioned above, the Sea Eagles will relish the opportunity to face the Rabbitohs but they will be just as keen. As a whole, they were very slow start against the Storm and although they were within striking distance towards the end of the game, they left their run a little late. It wasn’t mistakes that were causing the issue because their completion rate was outstanding (84%); rather it was the end to their attacking sets that failed to build pressure on the Storm. If they want to contend for the title, they need to learn how to continually build pressure and use the platform that is always set by their forwards. Adam Reynolds will want to build on his positive performance in his first representative outing for City. He is heaping the pressure upon NSW selectors and Laurie Daly to pick him ahead of Mitchell Pearce. It appears that Pearce will get the nod but it cannot hurt his chances to continually turn out impressive performances.
Overall = Sea Eagles 71 Rabbitohs 57
Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 4 Rabbitohs 1
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 32 Rabbitohs 20
Stats that matter
- The Rabbitohs have improved their discipline with the ball and are giving themselves a great opportunity to score points, courtesy of their completion rate. They average 75.8% and are ranked 2nd in the competition.
- The Sea Eagles are not being punished for their errors (11.3 per match) or their below-average completion rate (70.4%). You need to use the ball when you have it and turning it over to the opposition gives them a greater opportunity to score points.
- The Sea Eagles know the importance of a strong defence and are not going to let their opposition break their line too often. They only average 21.3 missed tackles per match whereas the Rabbitohs are a little worse at 23.8.
TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.70 Rabbitohs $2.20
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $1.66 Rabbitohs $2.25
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $1.70 Rabbitohs $2.20
Betfair = Sea Eagles $1.71 Rabbitohs $2.36
This is a very difficult game to pick and you could go either way. My confidence in selecting a winner here is low, so be wary when investing money on this game. For the Sea Eagles, their tough defence and halves make them very stiff opposition on any occasion. This time, they are playing at their home ground that got the nickname “Fortress Brookvale”, due to the difficult task for opposition sides of winning there. On the other hand, the Rabbitohs possess a very tough and durable pack, as well as several superstars sprinkled throughout their lineup. Manly are already an established side, whereas the Rabbitohs are still struggling to reach that level. Their last start loss to the Storm demonstrated that as they were slow to start the match, but once they find their feet, they are going to be very difficult to handle. I think it is best to sit back and enjoy this game, rather than invest money on it. For what it is worth, I will be tipping the Rabbitohs to get the money in a very close contest. The reason is simple, I think they have been pushed further this season by the top sides and the Sea Eagles have only really had one difficult game against the Titans to revert to. They are also rank outsiders, so if you trust my judgment there, then take a gamble on them.
Save your money, but if you must then I recommend the Rabbitohs @ $2.36 and 1-12 @ $3.50
North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders
Saturday night action kicks off up in Townsville this weekend as the 5:30pm game ventures north. The Cowboys will be looking to improve on a gritty performance against the Broncos and actually deliver the 2-competitions points to them. It has been a slow start to the season for them so far and with the players they possess on their roster, they are too talented to be sitting in 11th spot with only 2 wins to their name. They are just behind the Raiders who have captured 3 wins so far and are proving that they are able to move beyond the off field issues that have followed them each week. They were really feeling the pressure after they started the season looking very unenthusiastic and lacking motivation. Full credit must go to coach Dave Furner for turning around their performance (for the time being) and find the formula that makes this young side tick. Cowboys coach will be hoping to do the same and a lot of it will have to do with Thurston. He is the nucleus to their team but there is a lot of pressure being placed on his shoulders. Their forwards are not breaking down the opposition in the middle of the field and allowing JT to work his magic. They did make some moves in the right direction against the Broncos but they cannot let up there. They need to pressure this young Raiders side and show them just how tough it is to win games up in Townsville. This game probably won’t be the most exciting contest of the weekend, which is why it is scheduled to be on Saturday night, nonetheless both sides desperately want the 2-competition points that are on offer and will stop at no means to get them.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys had several late changes in the game against the Broncos that impacted on their overall performance. However, the team that is named for this week is not too dissimilar to the one that was named two weeks ago. The only noticeable omissions are Kalifa Faifai Loa being replaced by Ashley Graham on the wing and the players that were named to cover late withdrawals. Of course, Ashton Sims has been kept as 18th man and will probably be the player to miss out on final selection. Matthew Bowen has been named this week and without Clint Greenshields, you would expect him to start this game. He will offer extra flair in attack and give greater support to JT. Given their position on the table, it is difficult to understand how they have so many players backing up from the representative weekend. Their forwards possess a lot of quality but with a poor completion rate, they are failing to pressure the opposition. This has been one of the major downfalls in their play so far an unless they turn this around, it will not matter who they have as their star player, they simply won’t win the contest that matters most and won’t give themselves enough attacking opportunities.
The Raiders were able to get on top of the Warriors in their last contest but they are still struggling to put together an 80-minute performance. Their young halves are trying to work out how to work towards their strengths on a consistent basis. There are a few changes that coach David Furner has made to try and turn this around; he can only hope that this is the right formula because before they know it, it’ll be too late for them to make their run for the Finals. Josh Papalii is out of this game and Jake Foster takes his spot in the second row. As he was also ruled out of the ANZAC Test, Dave Shillington will miss this game and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs replaces him. Shillington is a massive loss to their strength in the forwards but he also brings a lot of experience to the side. The other big news for the Raiders is the inclusion of Terry Campese for the second week in a row. He made a long awaited return from injury last week and turned out a very strong performance. Furner has hesitated in allowing him to return to a full game and this could be the right move as he needs to be eased back into football and prevent further injury. It may also be difficult for Furner to decide who to drop from his side but McCrone is so durable, he can move into hooker when Campese comes onto the field. The final change for the Raiders is on the bench and Joe Picker is out of the side and Joel Thompson will make a return from injury after news surfaced that he had signed with the Dragons as of next season.
Overall = Cowboys 12 Raiders 18
Last 5 games = Cowboys 4 Raiders 1
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 8 Raiders 7
Stats that matter
- Both sides are terribly inconsistent and this is reflected in their completion rates. The Cowboys average 68% (14th overall) and the Raider 67% (15th overall). They are not effective enough with the ball and failing to mount pressure on their opponents.
- This is hampering the Cowboys attack and they are not having the opportunity to force their opposition into defensive errors. They average 5.7 line breaks per match and need the ball in hand to ensure this continues. For what it is worth, the Raiders only average 3.3.
- Discipline is important for the Raiders and they are not going to allow their opposition to make free moves down the field through penalties. They are ranked 1st in the league for penalties conceded at 4.3 per match. The Cowboys are a different story altogether and they will need the home field advantage to sway the referees opinion as they conceded 6.8 penalties per match (12th overall).
TAB Sportsbet = Cowboys $1.26 Raiders $4.00
Centrebet = Cowboys $1.28 Raiders $3.80
Sportsbet = Cowboys $1.30 Raiders $3.60
Betfair = Cowboys $1.24 Raiders $4.40
The odds suggest the Cowboys are going to get an easy victory here, but if you were to consider the history between the two sides, you may just be a little hesitant before placing your bets. The Cowboys were terribly unlucky in their last game against the Broncos, while the Raiders were “more consistent” than the Warriors. By no means is that something to add to their seasons accomplishments, but a win is a win nonetheless. The Cowboys need to tighten up their play. They could start with their terrible completion because they have the attacking potential to worry the opposition sides into errors. This is one of the few chances that the Cowboys have left for punters and the only reason that I am going to select them is because they are playing at home. Both sides are inconsistent but the home ground advantage should bring the best out of the Cowboys. As for a margin, that is lottery to pick, but I am going to suggest 13+ as the average margin of victory in the last 10 encounters is 14.2 points.
Cowboys -8.5 @ $1.80
Ride the Horse outta town = Cowboys +13 – Based only on the average margin of victory between these two sides, this seems like the logical selection. Neither side has momentum on their side but they have a lot of ability to score a lot of points.
Seems like a steal = Total points Over 42.5 @ $1.90 = As stated above, both sides have the attacking ability and the defensive fragility to suggest a lot of points will be scored in this contest. 42.5 seems to be a low estimate that is on offer so jump on board before the bookies catch on.
Wests Tigers v Brisbane Broncos
Had Channel 9 had their way at the start of the season, they probably would have selected this game to feature on their Friday night broadcast. Both side’s rate very well in both states but find themselves in the unusual situation of playing football on a Saturday night and it’s the second game and will kick off at 7:30pm out in Sydney’s west. Looking at the Tigers standing on the ladder, one would think that they are having a rough season. Sure, it has taken time to adapt to new coach Mick Potter’s game plane, however they are not without effort. There was one terrible display against the Sea Eagles where they failed to score a point and since then, the effort has really been there in their play. They pushed the Storm for 65 minutes and then forced the Dragons into kicking a field goal to win late in that game. They need to turn out an 80-minute performance that is going to grind out a win for them. The job is going to become a lot more difficult now with the amount of injuries they have suffered, nonetheless, other players will be brought into the side that will relish the chance to show their worth at the top level of the game. The Broncos were heading down the same path as the Tigers but have been able to win those close contests in recent weeks. Needless to say, they only have a 50% strike rate and need to get that number higher if they are to definitely make the Finals at the seasons end. Their attack is still looking flat and their halves are struggling to create scoring opportunities when they are in the attacking zone on the field. They are only averaging 17.7 points per match and Scott Prince and Peter Wallace need to take greater ownership of the side, otherwise they may find themselves unable to match their opponents scoring. They have their strengths that they work towards and the Tigers will be up for a contest to match them. It is always a tough trip out to Campbelltown for any side and all attention will be on the final score, as the pressure will mount on the loser and it will be released slightly for the winner.
Common sense has finally prevailed at the Tigers and James Tedesco has been named to play fullback. It was painful to see him play on the wing and despite all of his talent, he was out of position and struggling to make his mark on the NRL. Tim Moltzen has not been dropped, he has been shifted into halfback as Braith Anasta has suffered a groin injury. To cover for that move, Matt Utai has been named on the wing and certainly does bring some uncertainty to their defensive structure. Anasta is not expect to be back until Round 12 and with Benji Marshall not expected back until Round 9, it could be a painful few weeks for the Tigers. Fresh of his naming for the City side, Curtis Sironen will play 5/8 as he did in their last game against the Dragons. The last change to the starting side is the promotion of Matt Bell to play lock and the demotion of Liam Fulton to the bench. There has always been a lot of uncertainty over the fitness of Fulton and having Bell on the field from the opening whistle will promote consistency within coach Mick Potters’ team. On the extended bench, Shaun Spence is the new face and will be looking to make his NRL debut but he also has to compete with the other two players that are named. Potter is one coach who likes to spring a surprise or two so make sure you are paying attention to the final sides.
The Broncos will be encouraged by their last start performance against the Cowboys and where they were able to get the best out of their side. Their attack seemed to flow consistently and their defence was as strong as ever. Coach Anthony Griffin has always wanted to name a “regular” starting side and this week is not too different. Josh McGuire has been recalled to the team in jersey 17 and Nick Slyney has been moved back to 18th man. McGuire is progressing in the right direction but has a lot of expectation to live up to. The expectation wasn’t a high for the halves and they are still struggling to find their feet and work together as a combination. They have a good platform set up front by the forwards but are unable to work off the back of that. This is testament to their fantastic completion rate, yet their inability to average many points (17.7 per match). This must turn around and they can start with finishing their attacking sets with conviction and purpose.
Overall = Tigers 4 Draw 1 Broncos 15
Last 5 games = Tigers 1 Broncos 4
At Campbelltown Sports Stadium = Tigers 0 Draw 1 Broncos 4
Stats that matter
- Their halves are having the best opportunity of any side in the competition to use the ball as the Broncos are ranked 1st for completion rate at 77.6%. If they are unable to use the ball, either player may find themselves having to drop back to the reserves to find some form.
- Both sides need to improve their metres per carry and force extra pressure upon their opponents. They both average 8.46m per carry and this is probably decent so far for the Tigers, but no where near the level the Broncos should be at considering the quality players they have.
- The Tigers are too loose in defence and allow their opposition to many opportunities to break the line. On average, they allow 27.8 missed tackles (15th overall) per match. The Broncos are not much better though and concede 26 (=13th) per game.
TAB Sportsbet = Tigers $2.75 Broncos $1.47
Centrebet = Tigers $2.55 Broncos $1.53
Sportsbet = Tigers $2.65 Broncos $1.50
Betfair = Tigers $2.72 Broncos $1.53
The Tigers are currently shot to pieces. They are heavily impacted by injury and the road to success seems to be a distant thought for now. Sadly for their fans, the end to their troubles doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon either. The Broncos are not at the peak of their powers just yet, but they should be able to handle a weaker Tigers side. They should use this game to build some consistency within their side as well as build their average points scored. That’s correct punters, I am tipping the Broncos to put the Tigers to the sword and win this game by 13+ points. The “Suggested Bet” below is probably the best one of the weekend.
Broncos -5.5 @ $1.80
Loose defence equals a large margin = Broncos 13+ @ $2.85 – The Tigers are ranked 15th in missed tackles and are struggling to hold things together in the middle of the field. They may also not be able to chase the points down that the Broncos post, therefore the 13+ margin seems like the suitable option.
Operation target Utai = Josh Hoffman FTS @ $8 – Matt Utai is back in the top grade and his defensive fragility is sure to be targeted. Expect a lot of bombs to be flying his way as the Broncos test his ability to defuse them. Hoffman should be playing on the left hand side so expect him to have the best opportunity of scoring first.
Gold Coast Titans v Newcastle Knights
Sunday afternoon footy is a little different this weekend as there is no 6:30pm game, due to the ANZAC Day fixtures. Fans have definitely enjoyed seeing a game played later in the evening and it has alleviated some of the problems that people had when trying to view each game live. Nonetheless, the action will continue on Sunday as the Titans are at home to the Newcastle Knights. Both sides are looking to improve the fortunes of their 2012 campaign and seem to be building quite well into their season. They are playing exciting football and relying on some individual brilliance to contribute to a team victory. Sooner or later though, these sides will have to go to the next level and announce themselves to the rest of the competition. Neither side is yet to do that, but a few consistent performances may change that all around. The Titans were lucky enough in their last match, to fight back against the deficit the Eels had created and grab the victory. Ricky Stuart made a lot of noise about the penalty count, yet inevitably, it was the Titans good completion rate (75.6%) and strong ball carrying (9.76m per carry) that enabled them a chance to win the game. They have a capable pack of forwards that is at the peak of their game when it is a tough and physical contest. They were also able to hand a loss to the Sea Eagles on the back of some bruising work in defence. The Knights pack will have to come to terms with this, but will be up for the contest it presents. They are robust in defence and are building their game around that. They have the least amount of average missed tackles per game (16.5) and can limit the scoring opportunities their opposition has. It is very early on in the season to be suggesting this, but this game may be very vital as to either side finishes the competition at the end of the season. With that in mind, both sides will want to build on the strong starts they have made and give themselves the best opportunity at winning this encounter.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans are another side in this competition that is struggling to battle a few injuries within their squad. Lucky for them, it has not affected any of their major players just yet. They don’t have much depth to their roster either, so an injury to a key player or further injuries to their squad may stretch them a little too much for them to be able to cope. This week, coach John Cartwright has been forced to move Luke O’Dwyer from the back row into the centres and Steve Michaels has been shifted back to 18th man. This is perhaps to accommodate the return of Mark Minichiello to their side after a few stints in the QLD Cup, but he was given a chance against the Eels and took it with both hands. Matt Srama is also back to play hooker as is utility Beau Fallon (off the bench), who was a late withdrawal when he was meant to start against the Eels. Srama’s return will help add consistency to their lineup, as will the return of Aidan Sezer from injury. Anthony Don will also make his second start in the top grade as a replacement this week for winger David Mead who has suffered an injury to his jaw and will be out until Round 12. Finally, the gigantic David Taylor returns to the bench after he was dropped for disciplinary reasons. Hopefully he has learned from his mistakes, because he was offering terrific impact when he took the field and the Titans missed that in their recent encounter.
The Knights battled in their last win over the Panthers and anyone that watched that match would’ve been lucky to make it through to the fulltime whistle. The final score was 8-6 and even the most enthusiastic NRL fan would’ve found it difficult to watch. At the end of the day, they were able to get the 2-points and that is all that matters to them. This week, the Knights have only made a few changes and it highlights how they are continually striving for stability. Lock Jeremy Smith will be out until Round 12 as he was suspended for dangerous contact on one of the Panthers players. It was a sickening head slam and he perhaps is lucky to only get a 6-week suspension. Chris Houston has moved to lock to cover for him and Alex McKinnon has moved from the centres and is reinstated into the back row. Dane Gagai returns to the squad and will add some much needed speed on the edges for the Knights. In a further blow for the Knights, veteran Danny Buderus has been ruled out with a back injury. He was coming off the bench to replace Kurt Gidley at hooker and Travis Waddell will now fill this role. The “spine” for the Knights is looking better with each performance and they are the key to their success. They did take a few steps backwards last week and lacked creativity towards the end of their sets. This is the type of play that they want to avoid if they are trying to assert themselves as contenders and no doubt coach Wayne Bennett will have worked on that during the week off.
Overall = Titans 4 Knights 5
Last 5 games = Titans 2 Knights 3
At Skilled Park = Titans 1 Knights 2
Stats that matter
- As mentioned above, the Knights average the least amount of missed tackle per game (16.5) than any other team in the competition. The story is a little different for the Titans and they can be very loose in at times. They are ranked 12th overall and average 25.5 miss tackles per game, yet amazingly, only manage to concede 15 points per match.
- The quality of the Titans forward pack is shown in their average metres made through each carry. They are ranked in 2nd spot and average 9.2m per carry, while the Knights are ranked 10th with just 8.76m each time.
- The Titans are more of a threat in the attacking zone and will create more line breaks than the Knights. They average 5.3 per game, while the Knights are still figuring out their combinations and only average 3.7.
TAB Sportsbet = Titans $1.60 Knights $2.40
Centrebet = Titans $1.60 Knights $2.40
Sportsbet = Titans $1.60 Knights $2.40
Betfair = Titans $1.65 Knights $2.42
This game is very evenly balanced and very tough to call. The Knights have been playing good football this season, but only in parts and other than their opening game, they are yet to put together a complete performance. They are very difficult to tip, especially when they are on the road where they are yet to win this season. The Titans are not a complete side either, however they have shown a little more promise than the Knights this season. They have a very strong forward pack and the ability to grind out a very good win. It is also an added advantage that they are playing in front of their home crowd. A Newcastle win wouldn’t completely shock, but the Titans look like the more fancied option and have a greater chance at winning this contest with the players that the Knights are missing. As for a margin, the Knights have a very strong defence and the Titans are still trying to work on their combinations. Therefore 1-12 seems like the safest option and the most likely outcome.
Titans -2.5 @ $1.80
Closer margin than you think = Titans 1-12 @ $2.90 – Yes, daytime footy does always promise a lot of points. However it is mentioned above that the Knights will keep the Titans under a strong hold. They are not polished enough in their attack just yet and may not get too far ahead of the Knights by the final whistle.
Tri your luck = Titans Over 6.5 points (Tri Bet) @ $2.25 – This bet is probably the best option for you if you’re struggling to make up your mind whether to go 1-12 or 13+. It sets the Titans up for a victory by 6.5 points or more and offers some pretty decent value.
Cronulla Sharks v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
The 3pm “main game” this Sunday will conclude the NRL action today and it ventures up to the Central Coast of NSW, hoping to gain some momentum from the A-League Grand Final victory of the Mariners. It is the Sharks home game and NRL sides have been known to move a home game or two to another ground to gain some extra cash to help them break even on the books. Knowing how much trouble the Sharks are in this season, it may just be a move that will work for them. However with all the pain that their fans have endured, you think that they would want to keep the game down at Shark Park. This is purely a business decision and one that will hopefully pay dividends for them. As for the game, both sides participating have endured their fair share of off-field controversy this season. The Sharks have been entangled in the ASADA investigation and it seems to be taking its toll on the entire organisation. It got to the point last week where coach Shane Flanagan was fed up with ASADA as they cancelled meetings (at the last minute) that he had moved training sessions around to accommodate them. The NRL must step in soon so this issue is quickly resolved because it is certainly not helping the chances of the Sharks and their on-field play. As for the Bulldogs, every rumor under the sun has been suggested about them since the issue of Ben Barba broke. It seems that majority of them relate to team harmony and of course, when things aren’t going according to plan, people are going to suggest that there is something wrong inside the locker room. Being an outsider looking in, the Bulldogs do have their problems, but a rumor or rumors do not suggest that, it is their 16th place on the table. They are a shadow of the side that we came to know towards the end of 2012 but have fallen victim to one of the toughest starts to the season. So far they have played the Rabbitohs, Storm, Roosters, Manly and the Cowboys, all of whom are expected to push for a spot in the Finals. Their other opponent was the Eels and they faced them in form after they hammered the Warriors in Round 1. The job will not get any easier for the Bulldogs but you can never count them out. The quality of Des Hasler as a coach always makes them a threat and once they find their feet, they will be difficult for any side to stop. We are going to see two very desperate teams take the field and the winner will have the chance to release some pressure on them whilst the loser will no doubt have even more questions raised about them. This will be a great contest and a great way to end the weekend.
Apart from the ongoing ASADA investigation, the other big news in the Shire this week was the possible return of Todd Carney from injury. Since he left the field in Round 4 against the Dragons, the Sharks have failed to win a game (including that one). It is no secret that Carney holds the key to the attacking ability of the Sharks and they have struggle without him. They will welcome him back this week, just in time to make a strong case for selection in SOO in a few weeks time. Stewart Mills is out of this clash and Jonathan Wright takes his place in the centres. He will likely take his spot on the left hand side of the field as Ben Pomeroy has generally played on the right. The only other changes for the Sharks occurs on the bench as Chris Heighington returns from injury and takes Sam Tagataese’s spot and he is relegated back to 18th man. He will probably be the player to miss out as the Sharks will want Heighington in the side as he brings tackling strength to their defensive structure. It is also good news for Sharks fans that their entire representative stars will back up for this game. For those who doubted his selection, Luke Lewis turned in a fantastic performance for the Kangaroos and he must now emulate that effort for the Sharks. He has been playing well, just not up to the high standard that he usually sets for himself. This could be a turning point in his season so stay tuned.
The Bulldogs have named an unchanged lineup to the side that took the field in their last game against the Roosters. In saying that, Kris Keating was a late withdrawal with a lower leg injury and Trent Hodkinson was the player called in to fill the halfback duties. You cannot help but think that regardless of Hodkinson’s performance, Keating may find it difficult to break back into this side. Hodkinson was solid against the Roosters and looked to provide greater attacking options at the end of their attacking sets. Yes, they failed to score a point against the Roosters but a very good opposition defence limited him. This highlights the biggest problem for the Bulldogs at the moment; they simply do not have a quality halfback to lead this side around the park. Last season, they were able to disguise this with the momentum their forwards would build. However without their forwards at full strength, they are struggling to build through their sets and their attacking movement is limited. Josh Reynolds has been named, despite withdrawing from the City side. There is some news floating around that he is playing with a serious shoulder injury that will require surgery at the conclusion of the season. For now, he will push through the pain but even he is finding it difficult to reach the same heights as last year. You can never count out his effort though and he you will have to throw more than the kitchen sink at him to stop him. Much like Luke Lewis and the Sharks, the Bulldogs will be hoping that Frank Pritchard can play like he did for the Kiwis in the ANZAC Test. He was back to his dynamic best and was a handful for the Aussies at best. He will offer a lot of impact off the bench and his confidence should be high enough to carry his momentum forward.
Overall = Sharks 30 Draw 2 Bulldogs 52
Last 5 games = Sharks 1 Bulldogs 4
At Bluetounge Stadium = Sharks 0 Bulldogs 1
Stats that matter
- The Sharks are struggling to foster any consistency within their side as they have the worst completion rate in the competition at 65.9%. The Bulldogs are far better at 72.6% (7th overall) and they only need to improve the finish to their attacking sets.
- The Bulldogs are struggling without their usual forward pack and are only averaging 8.45m per carry (15th overall). This is making is difficult for them to attack their opponents line and they need greater metres from their forwards when they are coming off their line. The Sharks are not much better (8.80m per carry) and this may be a worry because they have a lot of quality forwards within their pack to call upon.
- Don’t expect too many line breaks in this side as both sides are struggling to worry opposition sides. The Sharks average 3 line breaks per game (16th overall) and the Bulldogs are just ahead of them with 3.2 (15th overall).
TAB Sportsbet = Sharks $2.05 Bulldogs $1.80
Centrebet = Sharks $2.00 Bulldogs $1.83
Sportsbet = Sharks $2.00 Bulldogs $1.83
Betfair = Sharks $2.12 Bulldogs $1.84
Keeping with the theme of the weekend, this game is another curve ball to try and work out. The Sharks are mentally exhausted due to the ASADA investigation while the Bulldogs seem to be struggling with finding their form from last season. Luckily, the dust has settled on their recent performance against the Roosters and people are forgetting just how bad they were. In saying that, some credit has to go to the Roosters for the way they played. For the Sharks, they are looking to bounce back after being outmuscled and outplayed by the Sea Eagles at Brookvale. They made the Sea Eagles work hard for the victory but you felt that the Sea Eagles were always in control of the game. They will welcome back Carney and this should make them a greater threat in attack. While the Bulldogs have not been winning games, they have been performing well in the stats, unfortunately that does not get you 2-competition points but it does suggest that the Bulldogs are closer to a victory than most think. Time is running out for the Bulldogs and this is going o be one of the last chances that they are given by punters. It would be very surprising to see one side run away with victory here and for that reason the 1-12 margin looks like the suitable option.
Bulldogs -1.5 @ $1.90
Slippery customer = Josh Morris FTS @ $8 – Morris will relish the opportunity to take on either Ben Pomeroy or Jonathan Wright in the centres. He is a top class player and needs to see more of the ball in an attacking position. Expect the Bulldogs to give him as many scoring opportunities as possible here against two players that he can cause a lot of trouble for.
Draw up some luck = Draw/Bulldogs (HT/FT Double) @ $15 – You can count on this game being a close contest throughout and that may just mean the teams head into the break at level pegging. It can be extremely difficult for either side to build an early lead and the Bulldogs may not prevail as a winner until late in the game.
Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels
Monday Night Football finally returns to our screens after a two-week break due to representative fixtures. Fans have definitely missed it and they will welcome it back with open arms. Heading back to work on Monday morning was never easy and the thought of MNF at the end of the day was certainly the light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of who was playing. It is not going to return with a “blockbuster” contest, but it does feature a rivalry between two sides that are battling for “western Sydney”. The Panthers have always had a stranglehold on anything west of Parramatta, but it s becoming increasingly difficult for their fans to support them each week with their performances. They have not won a match since their opening round win over the Raiders. It seems now that the Panthers were able to capture a victory because the Raiders were simply off their game. The Panthers are slowly getting things back on track and the road ahead is long. Even before a whistle had sounded this season, they were admitting that it would be very difficult for them to perform well in a “rebuilding season”. Something does have to change sooner or later though, as despite their enthusiasm and effort, they are not capturing the 2-points in a result driven competition. The Eels are also venturing down the “rebuilding” road but seem closer to a victory than the Panthers. However, it is their own performances that are continually letting them down, as well as discipline. Their coach Ricky Stuart came out in the press conference following their loss to the Titans and crucified the referees for their performance. While some of the calls made were 50/50, majority of the time they were right and the Eels only had themselves to blame. It may have been a clever move by Ricky Stuart to pose this distraction and allow some dust to settle in time for them to turn around their performance this week. At the end of the day, they gave up a 14-point lead and their defence (21 missed tackles) and completion rate (66.7%) was their downfall. Despite this contest not promising to be the most entertaining game this weekend, lets welcome back MNF to our screens. Remember, it is also a chance to win some money on the game and make the “tough start” to the working week, that little easier.
Things are not going as planned for them and despite the low expectations, their performances are beginning to exhibit a lack of conviction. This is separate from their effort, but they are also without a playmaker to lead them around the field each set they have. They have a whole host of injuries and there are a lot of changes to get through. Brad Tighe vacates the team this week due to injury but the full extent of that is not yet known. Dean Whare moves from fullback and back into the centres where he played for the Sea Eagles during certain points of 2012. Coming into the side at fullback is Matt Moylan who will make his first grade debut in this game. They are also without their other centre from last week, Wes Naiqama, who is replaced by back rower Lewis Brown. Brown is no stranger to the centre position and he was used there regularly at the Warriors. While he is a strong defender, he does struggle to get into the right position out wide and is prone to being shown up by a faster player one-on-one. Josh Mansour is also out of this game and Travis Robinson, who is the twin brother of Raiders fullback, Reece, replaces him. He will want to emulate the form that his brother has shown in the top grade and finally gets a chance. Blake Austin was named last week but it was Luke Walsh that was a late inclusion to the side. He is again named and it could be a number of weeks until Austin returns to the side as he is another player that has suffered an injury. Fresh off his representative game for City, Tim Grant is reinstated into the starting side and replaces Nigel Plum, who moves to lock for Cameron Ciraldo (hamstring). To cover for Browns’ move into the centre, Matt Robinson is named in the second row and will partner Sika Manu who has overcome a cork to his leg that was suffered at traini