2013 NRL Round 9 Preview

NRL

NRL action will begin in Sydney this weekend as two games are held at different points of the city. It will be an interesting comparison between the two crowd figures and be sure that there will be a lot of focus on the two contests. Round 9 is sure to be just as good as Round 8 as players begin to push hard for a chance to play in SOO 1 on June 5 in Sydney. It can become a bit monotonous and annoying in the lead up to the first team but it is a major part of the season. Before and after all of that though, club football will still be a major focus.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v North Queensland Cowboys

There are sides that are playing very well and others that are disappointing. Some are heavily impacted by injuries and are struggling to perform to the standards of the NRL while other have a side that is slowly getting back to fitness or just not performing at all. For fans of the Rabbitohs, this game is another step towards a possible berth in the finals and a chance to again prove that they have what it takes to win the competition this season. They have only suffered one loss to the Storm and look to be on track. Momentum is everything is this game and they must keep it moving in the right direction. In recent weeks, they have proved themselves to be a tough football team but coaches will soon figure out a weakness or two within their side. They are also lucky with the fitness of their players and it is a welcome change from past seasons. For the Cowboys, they are still attempting to find their groove and play consistent football. A road trip down to Parramatta last Saturday really tested their mental strength, as they were facing a side that is underperforming. The Eels turned in a far better performance than the previous week and had the chance to win the game right up until the final whistle. It was a great finish to the game but also a credit to the Cowboys and their scrambling defence. They didn’t have things their own way and could have only had themselves to blame if they were to lose. They were very loose in defence (42 missed tackles) and ill-disciplined (10 penalties); it is clear that a better side in the competition would have forced them into a losing position. That didn’t occur though and the Cowboys came out on top and more importantly to their cause, 2-competition points. It will be a tough task for them this week and they will have to be on their toes if they want to be competitive against the Rabbitohs. They are a quality side that continues to improve in certain areas each week, but also have a long way to go. This is also another chance for them to work on their fragilities and a chance for us to start the weekend on the right foot.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Having a great run with injury, the Rabbitohs have named an unchanged lineup for this game. Jason Clark was the only new player that we have seen in the last few weeks and he bagged the first try for the Rabbitohs and was unlucky not to get another. Maguire certainly does reward effort and has spoken at length about the effort he demands from his players and the role each of them plays within the club. This will make it very hard for any player to break into the side and players in the 17 will not give up their spot without a fight. In the halves, John Sutton and Adam Reynolds continue to build their case for a SOO berth. In a game where combinations are hard to forge in a short period of time, this gives Laurie Daley another option to consider. Obviously it probably is a last resort, but their improving performances can do their form or contribution to the Rabbitohs team, no harm. Bryson Goodwin has also been doing an amicable job in the centres since his switch there from the Bulldogs and deserves a mention. His defence has certainly improved and is reading opposition backline movements very well and cutting them off before they get into a scoring opportunity.

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys continue with relatively the same squad this week and only have a few players to return to full fitness. Antonio Winterstein returns this week and will take KalifaFaifai Loa’s spot on the wing. He is a key part to the side and will certainly strengthen up the edge of play, but Faifai Loa did a respectable job in his absence. In the forwards, Gavin Cooper has been reinstated into the starting side and will partner Tariq Sims in the second row, while Glenn Hall moves back to the bench. The other minor switch is the recalling of Ashton Sims in jersey 17 and Scott Bolton is moved to play 18th man. Scott Moore has been recalled to the team but may not get a start as he is 19th man. This suggests that there could be a possible injury to Rory Kostjasyn or Ray Thompson and with a late withdrawal of one of those players, he would come into the side. He would be keen to get back into the NRL after an extended stint in the reserves following a stable start to the season. Robert Lui was expected to be fit for this game but a delay in his return either means he is still not fit, or coach Neil Henry believes Matt Morgan has lifted his game. Be sure that if he is fit, Henry may make him a late inclusion.

Recent History

Overall =Rabbitohs12 Draw 1 Cowboys 9

Last 5 games =Rabbitohs4 Cowboys 1

At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 5 Cowboys 1

Stats that matter

  • Last week against the Broncos, the Rabbitohs were not at their best in terms of ball security. Their completion rate was the worst in any game this season (63.2%) and their errors were staggering (18 total). This type of play will not win premierships and they need to limit their mistakes.
  • The Cowboys were very measured with the ball against the Eels (87.2% completion rate) but their problems were in their defence. They missed a large amount of tackles (42) and allowed the Eels to gain extra metres coming off their own line.
  • The Rabbitohs are able to break down sides and threaten the opposition defensive line with each movement. They average 22.9 points in attack and look as though they will be able to out score the Cowboys (17.8points per game).

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.26 Cowboys $4.00
Centrebet = Rabbitohs $1.30 Cowboys  $3.65
Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.32 Cowboys $3.50
Betfair= Rabbitohs $1.32 Cowboys $4

Verdict

There is plenty to like about the Rabbitohs and their stocks are quickly rising in this competition. They are playing a brand of football that is troubling for opponents to try to figure out, as well as combat. They are very short to win this game and that is probably a combination between their terrific play and the Cowboys lack of consistency. It’s painfully obvious that they are still yet to click as a unit away from home and if every game was to be played up in Townsville, they would go very close to winning this competition. It isn’t though and this week will prove just as difficult away from home and against a quality opposition. The Cowboys will put up a fight but it should be the Rabbitohs that prevail in the end. Rather than selecting the winner, the most difficult thing for punters will be selecting the winning margin. Given the amount of points the Cowboys can concede and the Rabbitohs strong defence and attacking capabilities, 13+ seems like the right choice.

Suggested Bet
Rabbitohs -8.5 @ $1.80

Win on this margin = Rabbitohs 13-18 @ $4.25 – It is difficult to see the Rabbitohs really put the Cowboys to the sword (19+ points) and this option is the next best considering they should win by 13+. Plenty of value and punters are rewarded for picking a precise margin.

Decrease the risk = Rabbitohs 13+ @ $2.10 – If you’re a little uncertain on the margin listed above, then this option is the way to go. They should win by 13+ and get the job done comfortably. It will be tight early though and they may just be pushed to find another level.

Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sharks

It is very confusing as to why a side that is based in the west of Sydney is playing in the east and a side based in the east is playing out in the west, but that is just the situation we find ourselves in. The Tigers have a few grounds that they like to call “home” and Allianz Stadium is another one of them. It is a great ground to watch football at and the fans do like to attend the Tigers home games when they are played there.  You can’t help think though, that this current Tigers team will struggle to draw the same attention to this game as they have in previous years. They club is intensely struggling to keep their season alive and they are slipping dangerously close to the line that will ensure it is all over. They have a mounting injury toll to contest with in the process and this season is not going to be easy. It will be a very difficult test for coach Mick Potter in his first appointment as a head coach in the NRL and he will be trying to ensure that his players do not go down without a fight. Sharks fans will be able to sympathise with the Tigers to some extent and know what the pressure of underperforming can hold for them. There is no secret about it, the Sharks are playing to keep their season alive, recapture some form and have the focus on something else other than the ASADA Investigation. It was clear that their win over the Knights last Sunday meant a lot more to them than just 2-points. When Jeff Robson slotted over the field goal in the first period of golden-point, a collective sigh was released and celebrations likened to a semi-final victory followed. They proved that they can compete with the more fancied sides of the competition and were not going to let the issue of ASADA hassle them. This also came after they lost captain Paul Gallen in the opening minutes, meaning that their forward rotation was going to be effected. They do not have the same injuries to face as the Tigers, but the Sharks will be just as desperate to get the victory for the sake of their season. This game will not be the main focus of the nights action, but it is very important to the success of and pressure that the next few weeks will have for them.

Wests Tigers

Still struggling to cope with their injuries, the Tigers are a fair way away from naming a full strength side. They were boosted last week with news that Benji Marshall would be a late inclusion, but that made little difference looking at the final result. He came into the side at the expense of Jacob Miller, who was dropped back to NSW Cup and now looks to be heading overseas to play in the UK. This week see’s Marshall named and a few other reshuffles as Mick Potter attempts to spark his side into success. Tim Simona is called into the side off the bench to fill the centre role, while Bodene Thompson is relegated back to the bench. Jack Buchanan who is moved from prop, but will also look to add some impact when he takes the field, will join Thompson. The new face in the starting side is Suaso Sue and he has been rewarded for his solid play in the middle of the field. Potter is obviously looking for stronger play from the start of the game in his forwards and he has promoted Eddy Pettybourne to play lock, while Shaun Spence finds his way back to the bench. It is a shame to see the Tigers play so poorly but it doesn’t seem to be effecting to stocks of Robbie Farrah. On the back of his usual solid play, he is now a contender to take over the captaincy of NSW should Paul Gallen be ruled out.

Cronulla Sharks

The Sharks are looking to continue on their winning ways but have a few more things to contend with on top of the continued ASADA speculation. Since only having their star playmaker Todd Carney return from injury a few weeks ago, they are now going to be without their captain Paul Gallen. He has succumbed to an MCL injury and despite the rumors; he will not play this weekend. Club football is a major focus for Gallen and he will give himself every chance of playing for the Sharks, but you cannot help but think he may just avoid playing if it means he will start in the NSW Blues opening SOO encounter. This week, Chris Heighington took his place at lock and it is a timely return to the starting side against the side that dumped him and Beau Ryan last season. The new face on the bench is 18th man, Sam Tagataese who will relish the promotion to the starting 17. Shane Flanagan has chosen to again name an 18th man though to cover for a late injury in the warm up and this week Mark Taufua will fill that role. The final change is on the wing and SosaiaFeki replaces Nathan Stapleton, but this movement shouldn’t cause too much disruption to the backline. Last week, Andrew Fifita turned out a very impressive performance and is pushing hard for a representative spot. He will have to keep it up though and in the absence of Gallen, he can support Luke Lewis and Wade Graham, two players who have stepped up their performance in recent weeks.

Recent History

Overall =Tigers 15 Draw 1 Sharks 5

Last 5 games =Tigers 4 Sharks 1

At Allianz Stadium = Never played at the venue

Stats that matter

  • One of the keys to the Sharks success over the Knights was their ball security. For the first 7 rounds of the competition, they averaged a completion rate of 64.3%, but they in that game, they lifted that to 85%. It’s no secret, hold onto the ball and the pressure will build on the opposition.
  • They are struggling with injuries but the Tigers are not doing themselves any favors on the field. They have a completion rate (71.2%) that is ranked 12th in the competition and completing an average of 10.9 errors per game has them ranked in 7th.
  • The Sharks are managing to keep their defence tight and limiting the attack opportunities of their opponents. They average 23.1 missed tackles per game (4th) and concede 16.9 points per game (8th). The Tigers would like to be there and need to lift their performance. They miss an average of 29.4 tackles per game (15th) and allow 25.4 points (=15th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Tigers $2.80 Sharks $1.45
Centrebet = Tigers $2.65 Sharks $1.50
Sportsbet = Tigers $2.60 Sharks $1.52
Betfair= Tigers $2.64 Sharks $1.56

Verdict

All signs point to Cronulla! They are coming of f the back of a strong win against the Knights in Newcastle and will want to build on that momentum. Yes, they are without Gallen but the recruiting they have done in the offseason ensures that the hole left by him is a little easier to fill these days than it was in the past. They out score the Tigers in most areas in this game and have the stability in their halves to ensure their attack will be able to trouble the Tigers defence in the Tigers red zone. Not only that, the Tigers have a lot of fragile parts within their team and are struggling to develop cohesion. If their performance against the Bulldogs is anything to go by, this score could get very lucky and the Tigers may be rooted to the bottom of the Premiership table.

Suggested Bet
Sharks -5.5 @ $1.80

Slippery Sharks = Sharks 13+ @ $2.80 – Last week they were able to put 21 points past one of the strongest defensive sides in the competition and this week they face a defence that is anything but capable. The Tigers will put in a better effort than what we have seen of them in the last few weeks, but ultimately, the Sharks attacking options should be able to wear them down.

Ryan to open up = Beau Ryan FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – Love him or hate him, this “comedian of the NRL” is certainly a capable player. A lot of people were puzzled as to why the Tigers let him go at the end of last season and he will be egger to get one back on his old club. For him just to score a try, he is at $1.80, but these two options add a lot more value. No doubt he will have more than one opportunity to do so, let’s just hope Ben Pomeroy passes the ball to him properly this week.

New Zealand Warriors v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Saturday night football will kick off over in NZ with two teams that are looking to build on promising victories in their last game. For the Warriors, they remain at home for the second week in a row and will enjoy the extra time they have in their normal surroundings. It was a close run thing, but they were able to withhold a late charge from the Titans and prevail with a one-point win. It was lucky that Shaun Johnson chose to take the field goal opportunity when he did because in the end, it was the deciding factor. Otherwise the late try that the Titans got, could’ve been the winning one at that. They were out to a good lead and deserved it after a strong 60 minutes of play where they continually outplayed the Titans. Not only that, they were able to hold them to just the one try and things were looking promising. It still wasn’t a complete performance but they are working towards playing the entire 80 minutes of football. For the Bulldogs, it seems as though a few wins and players returning for injury have put to bed any rumours of team disharmony. Only a few short weeks ago, all kinds of messages and emails were floating around and suggesting that there was more than meets the eye to their current predicament. NRL fans love a good rumour, but the amount that actually turns out to be true, is actually quite small. Let’s just keep our focus on the field and enjoy what they are building towards. It was a much better performance last week, albeit against a weaker opponent. The Tigers were heavily impact by injuries, but it was the fashion that the Bulldogs were able to win in, that made it a little more impressive. People will be quick to dismiss that performance but they will also take some confidence away from their Round 7 win over the Sharks, who subsequently beat the Knights at home. Things are starting to look up and getting their squad back to full strength is allowing them to build stability within their side. Des Hasler will have his players minds focused on the bigger picture of NRL Finals, but they need to get there in the first instance. Emulating performances like last week would no doubt help their cause and they should only get better as the season progresses. Make the most of this game as there are only two Saturday night games and as it kicks off at 5:30pm, it may be over before you’ve had time to notice that it has started.

New Zealand Warriors

The Warriors coach Matthew Elliot has again made a few changes to his side but a lot of them have been forced upon him this week as opposed to last round where the changes were made due to form. Kevin Locke suffered a sickening injury that involves a disc in his back. A very innocuous injury but Locke was just running for a ball when he collapsed to the ground and suffered temporary paralysis. Very scary when you think about it but apparently the injury was the result of a sickening collision with the goal post a few years ago. His replacement at fullback is Glen Fisiiahi, who was only dropped back from the wing to NSW Cup, where he played fullback. Joining Fisiiahi in a return from NSW Cup is Konrad Hurrell and he replaces Jerome Ropati. The only other change for them is the 18th man and the new face is Carlos Tuimavave, who replaces Ngani Laumape as a possible option for Elliot. The Warriors will be looking for another big performance from Shaun Johnson; he is firing in his play at the moment and is really dominating with his long kicking game. The other Warriors players need to support him and limit the mistakes and raise the completion rate to give him more attacking opportunities.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

The big news last week for the Bulldogs was the late inclusion of Sam Kasiano into the side and the return of James Graham from suspension. Other than boost the Bulldogs play, it put to bed several rumors of team disharmony and the thought that he wasn’t actually injured and was taking a stance. It is amazing what a few wins can do to a team. Both players were welcomed back into the side and were well supported by a big forward pack. A lot of people speak of the Rabbithohs size in the forwards, but surely the Bulldogs are not too far off that. As Kasiano was a late inclusion, Martin Taupau was the player to miss out and he has this week been relegated to 18th man, along with 19th man Tim Browne. With their strongest squad almost named, the Bulldogs must now look to building momentum. It has been a slow start for them and they will fill some pressure with a few more losses. Now is the time for them to grab some much-needed victories and is certainly is an easier part of their draw compared to the start of it.

Recent History

Overall = Warriors 12 Draw 2 Bulldogs 15

Last 5 games = Warriors 2 Bulldogs 3

At Westpac Stadium = Warriors 0 Draw 1 Bulldogs 3

Stats that matter

  • The players returning to the Bulldogs side last week obviously had a positive effect on their squad. It was only the second time this season that they averaged over 9m per carry (9.1m). The Warriors need to lift their work rate and carry the ball off their own line better. They only average 8.54m per carry (13th).
  • The Warriors are still too inconsistent and are not working respecting the ball. They have a completion rate of 67.7% (15th) and need to improve if they are to match it with the Bulldogs (73.1% – 6th).
  • The Bulldogs have tightened up their defence and are ranked 3rd in the competition for missed tackles (22.3 per game). It is a different story for the Warriors though, while not completely terrible (24.6 per game) they are ranked =8th and would love to improve that standing here.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Warriors $2.60 Bulldogs $1.52
Centrebet = Warriors $2.45 Bulldogs $1.57
Sportsbet = Warriors $2.50 Bulldogs $1.55
Betfair = Warriors $2.68 Bulldogs $1.57

Verdict

Both sides played a weaker opposition last week and it was the Bulldogs that were able to put away the Tigers far better than the Warriors handled the Titans. Of course, that is not the only reason for investing my money with the Bulldogs, but it does give some perspective as to how they are travelling a lot better than the Warriors. The Warriors are too loose with their play and do not heap enough pressure on their opposition in the “red zone”. Sure, Shaun Johnson will be able to fire away a 40/20 or two, but they cannot keep their foot on the pedal and let their opposition off the hook far too often. The Bulldogs have a stronger pack of forwards and are slowly getting back to form. Expect another good showing from them here and they should be able to build their winning streak to 3.

Suggested Bet
Bulldogs -4.5 @ $1.90

Dogs win, but made to work for it = Bulldogs 1-12 @ $2.90 – The Bulldogs are still yet to gain their “mojo” from last season and it isn’t exactly going to come back immediately. For the Warriors, they concede too many points (24.8 points) in each game and even though they can score them, they will struggle to limit the Bulldogs.

Can Morris get there? = Josh Morris FTS and/or LTS @ $11 – Finally, Josh Morris’ price is getting at ‘juicy’ enough odds to have a bet, but it is because he is yet to cross the tryline this season. It is going to come sooner rather than later and could be this week  it as he presses hard for a SOO position.

Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos

The second Saturday night game will again kick off in Parramatta this week at 7:30pm and feature a desperate Eels side. Last week, they came sparingly close to a last gasp victory over the Cowboys but they were again let down by their lack of execution. Had Vai Toutai scored ‘that’ try, there is no doubt that the proceedings after the event would’ve been much different. Ricky Stuart would’ve had a more positive press conference and wouldn’t have thrown a line out like “the better side lost today”. The whole Parramatta organisation would’ve had a much better week and had the media focus on this game against the Broncos, rather than their inability to get a win on the board. There has been some good news to come out of it though, as Jarryd Hayne turned out an impressive display, NSW coach Laurie Daly suggested that Hayne would be the man to replace Brett Stewart if he was unable to take the field. It is relieving to see Hayne turn out a performance like he did and stand up and lead this Eels side, the challenge for him now is to continue on that form line and produce it on a consistent basis. The Eels could certainly use greater consistency from all of their players and not just Hayne. The Broncos are certainly not lacking effort, rather it is their execution at the attacking end of the field that is pulling them apart at the seams. They are unable to convert on good field position or dominant possession and are losing contests that they should perhaps win. Last week it was the Rabbitohs that they were unable to push the sword into and twist it. Before they knew it, the Rabbitohs had come out firing after HT and created a decent lead that they were able to defend. No doubt this lack of execution is within their halves and the questions about their potential continues to be raised. It must be extremely frustrating for Broncos fans to witness after so many years of dominant success. That is just the way this competition is and the more desperate sides, who are better at executing, are going to get the win. No doubt, we will see two sides here that try and display that in their performance but unfortunately there can be only one winner.

Parramatta Eels

Possibly deflated, this squad will want to carry the momentum from a narrow loss and turn into a winning performance here. Coach Ricky Stuart spoke after the game about how he thought the better side lost and maybe a few more wins earlier in the season would’ve given the Eels the confidence to back their ability and overcome the Cowboys. This week, Stuart has made just a few changes and shown faith in those players who were out there last week. Jacob Loko returns from injury and is reinstated into the centres, while Api Pewhairangi makes way and will take his place in the side as 18th man. This may be precautionary, incase there is a late withdrawal like we saw against the Panthers. Peni Terepo is rewarded for his effort last week and will start the game at lock. Joseph Paulo returns to the bench and it is clear that Ricky Stuart isn’t exactly sure just how to use him. He is definitely talented, but his role needs to be defined and whether that is starting at lock, coming off the bench or playing in the backs, remains to be seen. Finally, they are boosted by the return of club captain Tim Mannah following an ankle injury. He will start the match and Mitch Allgood is shifted back to the bench and Matthew Ryan leaves the team altogether.

Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos are almost banging their heads against the wall by not naming any or minimal changes each week. It was stated last week that Anthony Griffin may ultimately force his own sacking if this, and the losses, continue on. Sure, it is a good show of faith but the players have to begin to give something back to him and show that they value the trust he has in them. It is no secret, the real problem for them is their halves and their finishes to attacking sets. They fail to mount any pressure on the opposition goal line, regardless of the amount of possession they have at different stages of the game. This week, Jordan Kahu is rewarded for his solid performance in the centres last week in place of Justin Hodges. Lachlan Maranta is the player that misses out and Kahu will play on the wing as Hodges has been ruled fit for this clash. The other changes are on the bench and it is surprising that Josh Maguire is moved back to 18th man and Jarrod Wallace comes into the 17. If fit enough, no doubt Maguire will take his place in the side but Griffin has also named David Stagg as 19th man and gives him another option if he wants to tighten up his defence in the middle of the field.

Recent History

Overall = Eels 17 Draw 1 Broncos 27

Last 5 games = Eels 2 Broncos 3

At Parramatta Stadium = Eels 5 Broncos 15

Stats that matter

  • The problem with the Broncos does not lie within their completion rate (1st overall) or errors (1st overall), but may just be the metres they gain per carry (8.43m – 15th). Their forward pack working well but it is their halves that are failing to build upon some solid efforts.
  • For the Eels, their problems certainly do lie within their completion rate (68.2% – 14th) and errors (12.3 per game – 14th). They are not going to have very many attacking opportunities if they are continually turning the ball over when it matters and the opposition are not going to feel the pressure of their attacking sets. Alarming, there was no improvement against the Cowboys either (67.6% & 12 errors).
  • The Broncos are a lot looser than the Eels in terms of missed tackles but average less points then they do. The Broncos miss an average of 28.1 tackles per game (14th) but only concede 15.8 points per game (4th). The Eels are not making those first up tackles or getting numbers into the tackling opportunities. They miss an average of 23.9 tackles (7th) but allow a whopping 25.4 points (=15th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Eels $2.80 Broncos $1.45
Centrebet = Eels $2.65 Broncos $1.50
Sportsbet = Eels $2.70 Broncos $1.48
Betfair = Eels $2.96 Broncos $1.50

Verdict

The Eels have already proven this season how they are able to bounce back following a disappointing defeat the previous week but that was not the case against the Cowboys. The last two games will be fresh in their minds and they will be desperate to overturn the losing feeling. For the Broncos, they are on the same path at the moment but their performances are much better, but as stated above, they’re just lacking execution when it matters most. This game is going to be very tricky to pick and really, there is no clear selection. Common sense does suggest the Broncos but the unpredictability of the Eels does make them a threat. On closer look though, the Eels narrow loss to the Cowboys was perhaps masqueraded by the Cowboys poor performance away from home. It is too risky to have the Eels here and they are going to have to show a little more this season before you can tip them with confidence.

Suggested Bet
Broncos 1-12 @ $2.75

Bite off a little more = Broncos 7-12 @ $5.25 – If you are wanting to back the Broncos 1-12, also consider them 7-12 as it offers a lot more value but also means that you have confidence that they will cover the -5.5 line ($1.80) that is given.

Show them what they’re getting = Corey Norman FTS @ $11 – He is the new signing for Parramatta next season and Eels fans will get a chance to view their new player. Unfortunately in this game, he will be plotting against them and running out in a Broncos jersey. Wanting to show his worth, he will be trying even harder to get across the try line first.

Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights

Wait a minute…am I stuck in a dream here. These two sides only met in Round 4 and now they are facing one another again in Round 9! No its not a dream folks, just the outcome of the NRL draw and this game will kick off a “Super Sunday” of NRL action at 2pm. Of course, prior to this, you would have spent all morning pampering your mum or helping your kids spoil your wife, so now its time to reward yourself and tune in for some quality NRL action. The Raiders were the toast of the league last week as they were the first team to beat the Melbourne Storm and to make the accomplishment even better; they were able to do it down in Victoria. They were on their game and beat the Storm in all areas of the field. Knowing the consistency that the Raiders play with though, they could easily come out this weekend and lose by 50. The battle now for David Furner and his side will be harnessing his squad’s energy and ensuring they do not get too far ahead of themselves. For the Knights, they will be searching for answers following their loss to the Sharks in the first golden point game of the season. No need to search too far though, they were their own worst enemy and failed to put the game away when it mattered most. Their job was made a little more difficult once they lost Jarrod Mullen towards the end of the game also. They need to put that performance behind them and aim towards winning this game. This game should be a very tough contest and a tough game to pick, lets see if we can pick up a winner to maybe head down and grab that last minute gift you may’ve forgotten earlier.

Canberra Raiders

The Raiders are riding high from their win over the Storm and Furner was very cautious about changing the dynamic within his roster. It is important that he continues to build combinations within his team and strive towards a more consistent season. This week, Dane Tilse is promoted to the starting side in the front row and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs unfortunately misses out through injury. You thought that Dave Shillington may’ve gotten to nod if he was able to prove his fitness and he has. However he will have to wait to make his start from the bench and will look to get back into some form before pressing his case for SOO selection. Joe Picker comes from the bench and takes Jake Foster’s spot in the starting side, while he moves back to the bench. Shaun Berrigan is named as 18th man but will probably miss out with Anthony Milford and Matt McIlwrick able to fill the hooking roles. Blake Ferguson turned in a very impressive performance last week against the Storm and made a lot of people take notice of him. If he can just put his ego to the side, he will be able to build a strong case but he needs 100% of his energy focused on football.

Newcastle Knights

There were a few shock waves sent through Newcastle last week as Jarrod Mullen went down after an innocuous kick down field. Luckily, they have one of the best utilities in the game in Kurt Gidley, who is able to move form hooker and into fill the 5/8 role. Travis Waddell is promoted into the starting side against his former club at hooker and the new face on the bench is Matt Hilder. Korbin Sims remains as 18th man but if last week is anything to go by, he may just be a late inclusion for this game as well. Neville Costigan was the player that missed out on selection. A lot of people are starting to take notice of the Knights and their premiership credentials, but they still have a long way to travel. They need to perform on a consistent basis and need the best out of their forwards. They are being exposed in several parts of the field and can be loose with their play. Despite this, their defence is strong and they are not going to give away too many opportunities for the opposition to capitalise on.

Recent History

Overall = Raiders 20 Draw 1 Knights 17

Last 5 games = Raiders 1 Knights 4

At Canberra Stadium = Raiders 14 Draw 1 Knights 4

Stats that matter

  • The Knights are giving little away and making it very difficult for opposition sides to break them down. They only miss an average of 19.5 tackles per game (2nd) and the Raiders will not be troubling them with their line breaks (3.4 – 14th).
  • Their coach, Wayne Bennett, is molding the Knights and their completion rate averages a high 75% (2nd). The Raiders are yet to see to see the value of holding onto the ball and pressuring the opposition as they average 68.5% (13th). It was a remarkable improvement last week though and against the Storm their completion rate was 84.2%.
  • There is also a big divide between the amount of points that both sides concede. The Knights are benefitting from a tight defensive structure and average only 13.6 points (3rd). The Raiders are doing it a lot tougher and are struggling to hold their opponents each week as they average 25.1 points (14th).

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Raiders $1.55 Knights $2.50
Centrebet = Raiders $1.57 Knights $2.45
Sportsbet = Raiders $1.60 Knights $2.40
Betfair = Raiders $1.57 Knights $2.70

Verdict

As stated above, this is very tricky game to pick and could be a very close contest. The Raiders will be buoyed by their win over the Storm, whereas the Knights will be desperate to get back into the winners circle. Considering the injury to Mullen though, the Knights will find this task fairly difficult. They have had to move Gidley out of hooker and in 5/8. Hooker is undoubtedly his strongest position and the Knights are going to lose a lot of attack potential around the ruck. It will also take some time for Gidley to gel with halfback Tyrone Roberts. This is stark contrast to the Raiders who are slowly having Campese return to his best form and supporting Josh McCrone solidly in the halves. Throw in the fact that they’re playing at home and the task becomes even more difficult for the Knights to overcome.

Suggested Bet
Raiders -4.5 @ $1.90

No margin for error = Raiders 1-12 @ $2.90 – This game should be tight enough but the Raiders should prevail in the end. Given this, the best option for selection a margin in this game seems to be this one. There is decent value on offer as well.

Greasy Reecey = Reece Robinson FTS @ $11 – This bloke can sure find his way to the try line and is a greater chance when he is playing at home. There is great value on offer for him but if you want to play it safe, $2 is being offered for him just to score a try.

Gold Coast Titans v St George-Illawarra Dragons

The “main” game this Sunday will shift attention up to southern Queensland as the Titans play host to the Dragons at 3pm. The Titans have had mixed fortunes so far this season and do have their excuses. They have suffered a poor run of injuries and have struggled to field a consistent lineup. That factor aside, they are playing a lot better than most people had thought they would. I was certainly one of “those people” but can say that you know what you are going to get out of them each week. Effort will be there, determination will be there and their strong forward pack will be there; but it needs to all come together and be supported by the ball movement of their halves. In speaking of Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly, they are improving their game each week and appear as though they could be a long-term solution for them. A narrow loss to the Warriors last will only act as motivation here and the trip back home should help. For the Dragons, they will have to regroup following a disappointing loss to the Sea Eagles on MNF. Manly broke all kinds of records in their first victory at Kograh for some time and despite the late charge, always seemed to be in control of the outcome. For the Dragons, the most disappointing factor for them was their poor showing in the first half. They were loose with the ball (68% completions, 1 line break & 10 errors) and failed to build pressure on their opposition. Coach Steve Price must’ve lit a fire under them at halftime and they came out and scored 3 unanswered tries and level the scores at 18-all. A start like that here against the Titans could spell a lot of trouble for them but they could also have an interesting inclusion into their lineup. On Friday, they were able to capture the service of Raiders discard Josh Dugan and despite what you think of this situation, he will spend the next few years there and may even get his first start in Dragons colours in this game. This game may have more focus on it because of that reason alone, but there is always a good reason to sit down and watch some Sunday afternoon football, so why not join in?

Gold Coast Titans

The Titans have had little opportunity to assess their injuries before naming this side. It is always a tough trip across to NZ and they left battered and bruised, but with their pride still in tact. Now the Warriors aren’t the best team in the competition but they did have a few injuries to contend with. This week, there are only a few changes to take note of and their players will benefit from the naming of a similar side. Kevin Gordon is named again, but was a late withdrawal last week and Steve Michaels took his spot in the side. This week though, Michaels isn’t named on the extended which means that Gordon should be right to play. David Mead also returns to the side on the other wing and his return forces Anthony Don out of the side. The forwards may appear different, but they aren’t and the only difference is that Luke Douglas and Luke Bailey have switched numbers for this week. On the bench, Mark Ioane is moved to 18th man and Ben Ridge is brought back into the side and will wear jersey 16.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

It sure was puzzling, but the Dragons had to submit a team Tuesday afternoon and chose to name the same side that took the field the night before. This is to the frustration of the fans but certain publications need to have the teams released by this point to have their publication out to the public on time. Personally, it is a little exasperating to see late changes before the teams take the field each week but it does give you some idea of what team will take the field for them days out from a game. After suffering a knee injury against the Sea Eagles, Brett Morris is sure certain to miss this game, but unfortunately that means he will probably also miss the opening SOO game for the Blues. The announcement of Dugan’s signature on Friday may mean that he will take his place in the side and Jason Nightingale will move to the wing and Dugan will slot in at fullback. Outside that, there shouldn’t be any other drastic changes other than the possible return of Matt Cooper; but your best bet is to pay attention to the final teams.

Recent History

Overall = Titans 3 Dragons 8

Last 5 games = Titans 2 Dragons 3

At Skilled Park = Titans 1 Dragons 3

Stats that matter

  • So far this season, the Titans have been able to score more points in a match and have a higher average than the Dragons. The Titans score an average of 20 points (6th) where as the Dragons have found themselves up against a few tough defences and only score 14.8 per match (14th).
  • Both sides have a solid completion rate but going by the statistic above, the Titans are more efficient with it. The Titans complete 73.4% (4th) of their sets and the Dragons are just behind them with 72.5% (7th).
  • Last week, the Dragons were their own worst enemy and made a whopping 17 errors. They do not have the most potent attack and need to use the possession when they have it.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet
= Titans 1.45 Dragons $2.80

Verdict

It is very hard to like the Dragons in this game but you cannot help to think that the late inclusion of Josh Dugan may add some spark to their performance. Both sides are evenly matched in terms of season averages and it could be a piece of individual brilliance that decides this game. Don’t worry though, the Titans also have their fair share of attacking flair and will worry the Dragons defensive line. The Titans will look to build a victory around a solid performance from their forwards and create a force that has the Dragons on the back foot. They seem to offer a lot more than the Dragons in attack and for this reason alone; I am willing to tip them here. They will be boosted by the return home and should gain the 2-points in a close game.

Suggested Bet
Titans 1-12 @ $2.90

Create some breathing space = Titans 7-12 @ $5.25 – Like the Rabbitohs game, if you want a little more value out of your bet, then this is the option for you. This ensures that the Titans have enough breathing space to win the game but will still be pushed hard by the Dragons.

A late victory = Draw/Titans (HT/FT Double) @ $17 – Given just how close these sides are in the stats, the first half of this game could have scores locked at the end of it. It is a risky investment, but does pay the dividends if it gets up.

Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm

The 6:30pm Sunday game returns this week and if you are a fan of the “unwind” on Sunday afternoon, watching this game is always going to be a pleasure. It has been a few weeks since we were graced with this timeslot but it does ensure that the focus on Sunday goes well into the night. This week, it will venture out to Penrith as the Panthers look to hold a Melbourne Storm side that will be hell-bent on erasing the memory of their last start loss to the Raiders. It certainly was a shock to the system for them and something that they will look to learn from. It was going to come at some point but it seems as though they struggle to beat the Raiders each time they play. They will put that problem on the back burner and focus all of their energy towards this match and patching up a few areas that the Raiders exposed. For the Panthers, it will be more than just “patching up” a few “holes” within their team. It was a 24-point loss to the Roosters in the end last Sunday, but the score line perhaps did not reflect the way the match played out. Post-match, one of the Roosters players was quoted as saying that the Panthers were “tougher than the score line suggested” and that they were “a very physical opponent”. I guess it is a better situation to be in compared to a few other teams in the competition and their effort is usually always evident. Unfortunately, effort does not get a win in the NRL and they will have to improve in other facets of the game to out-do the Storm in this one. Before the working week begins, settle down to watch this game and maybe you can take a “day off” if you grab a winner or two.

Penrith Panthers

Struggling to cope with a massive injury toll, it seems as though this season is going to be a lot tougher in terms of “rebuilding” the club. I have said for a number of weeks now that Ivan Cleary has his work cut out for him and disappointing performances will not do their recruiting powers any favors. This week, there are a few changes that are again forced by injury. Tom Humble is out until Round 11 with an ankle injury and it is now onto 3rd choice 5/8 Isaac John, who is an unknown quantity at this level. Nigel Plum will start in the front row like last week as Sam McKendry was unable to take the field after suffering a broken neck in their win against the Eels. Due to Plum’s promotion, Adam Docker is the new face at lock and will be another player that the opposition runners do not want to run towards. Much like Plum, he is a “classic” defender and will cut players in half when they get close to him. On the bench, Sam Anderson is brought in to cover for Docker’s promotion to the starting side and Nathan Smith will remain as 18th man. There is some news around that Luke Walsh is leaving at the end of the season and with the pressure that is heaped upon him; this talented halfback may just be looking for a new club to further develop his ability.

Melbourne Storm

The Storm are still reeling from their shock defeat to the Raiders but that performance was not enough for Bellamy to change his side just yet. What he did do was add a few extra players to the bench to put some of those underperforming players on notice and possibly spring a late surprise with his side. Of course, there could also be a few players struggling for fitness before this match and they could be there as covers. The new faces on the extended bench are Maurice Blair and Brett Frinch, who push Slade Griffin, Lagi Setu and Kenneath Bromwich to 18th, 19th and 20th man respectively. The Storm are a side that can be difficult to break down, but the Raiders showed how to do it with certain attacking movements. Blake Ferguson made Justin O’Neill look inadequate in the centres and several of the Storm’s forwards would’ve been disappointed with the metres they made per carry (8.9m per carry v season average 9.4m Round 1-8). Maybe it was a sign that they are beginning to fatigue after a strong start to the season or perhaps a “blip on the radar”. Bellamy will not want this to become the norm and a win could quickly erase the memories of last week.

Recent History

Overall = Panthers 6 Storm 19

Last 5 games = Panthers 0 Storm 5

At Centrebet Stadium = Panthers 4 Storm 6

Stats that matter

  • The Storm are very strong with the ball and have their forwards continually moving over the advantage line. They average9.32m per carry (1st) and this is especially important when they are coming off their own line. This is a stark contrast to the Panthers need to model this as they are ranked in 11th and gain just 8.64m.
  • The Panthers have the loosest defence in the competition and average a very high 29.5 missed tackles per match. They need to tighten up in the middle of the field and make their first up tackles. For the Storm, they are a little better but can always improve. They are ranked equal 5th in the league with an average of 23.5 missed tackles in each match.
  • The Storm will have no trouble scoring points in this match. They score an average of 25.9 points per match (2nd) and that could possibly increase here. For the Panthers, they are only ranked in 7th spot but can only manage around 18.5 points.

Odds

TAB Sportsbet = Panthers $6.50 Storm $1.12
Centrebet = Panthers $5.75 Storm $1.15
Sportsbet = Panthers $5.75 Storm $1.15
Betfair = Panthers $6.40 Storm $1.17

Verdict

I hate to say it Panthers fans, but this game is pretty much a forgone conclusion. The Storm will be very tough for them to stop and will look to play themselves back into form. When you look at it, they weren’t that bad against the Raiders, they were just outplayed. As stated above, the Panthers will not be without effort and will make the Storm work for their victory. I am declaring that this game will not be a matter of whom, but rather a matter of by how much. The Storm will be on the right end of the scoreboard, but it could be a little closer than most expect. Punters must think that same as the +15.5 given for the Panthers is into $1.80.

Suggested Bet
Storm +13 @ $1.70

Win more with this margin = Storm 13-18 @ $4.50 – The Storm should win by 13+, but it would be very surprising to see them get out to a 19+ lead. This options looks the most suitable and will entice punters into better with the juicy odds on offer.

Just forget last week = Justin O’Neill FTS @ $11 – He gets a chance to redeem himself this week after being made to look very silly against the Raiders. He can also find his way to the try line with ease and expect the Storm halves to look to get the ball to the edges early.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters

MNF delivers an absolute cracker of a match this week as the high-flying Roosters travel to Brookvale Oval to face a Sea Eagles side that is very difficult to break down. MNF is always a spectacle and eases the pain of a return to work, but this game is going to be something else. It will offer the winner an opportunity to go into outright equal 2nd spot on the table and within striking distance of the Storm and Rabbitohs. Not only that, they will have the rest of the competition taking notice of them (if they haven’t already). For the Roosters, they are improving their performances each week but perhaps have benefitted from a “favorable” draw. Regardless, their forward play is strong and their backs are dangerous in attacking positions. Their players are doing their job individually and contributing to the team performance. James Maloney is a key figure in their success and as well as supporting Mitchell Pearce, he is also heaping pressure on the opposition with attacking kicks and using the solid platform set by the forward pack. The Sea Eagles will relish the opportunity to take them on in this area of the game and we could see a repeat of their Friday Night game against the Rabbitohs. It’s not that the Sea Eagles have not found their groove, but there is still something missing from their play. Last Monday, they were unable to put the Dragons away after a strong start to the match and a solid HT lead. They seem to do enough in their games to win the match, but are not dominating their opponents. Of course, it is still early on in the season for them and they are slowly getting back to full strength. Everyone is aware of their capabilities and will never take them lightly. Coach Geoff Toovery always has his troops ready to fire and this week should be no different. So make sure you park yourself in front of a TV and see what the top teams in this competition have to offer.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

As is the custom following MNF, the Sea Eagles have barely named any changes to their side. Since Tuesday when the side was named, news has surfaced that Brett Stewart will be out of this game through injury and may just struggle to make it back in time for SOO. As for who will play fullback for this game, Jorge Taufua could move there like he did against the Dragons and Esi Tonga will probably come onto the wing. Taufua was great when he moved there and was able to cross for the winning try. They are boosted by the return of Steve Matai from injury and he is slotted straight back into the centres and Tom Symonds makes his way back to the bench. Peta Hiku is not named on the bench and the new face is James Hasson. George Rose is also named and Jesse Sene-Lefao misses out on selection. Toovey does like to spring a late change or two with his side so make sure that you pay attention to my twitter feed for the final team sheet.

Sydney Roosters

The Roosters have no need to change their side, as their winning formula seems to be heading in the right direction, but stronger players returning and a few injuries have forced their hand. Martin Kennedy is promoted to the starting side in front row as Sam Moa is out for an indefinite amount of time with a knee injury. To cover for Kennedy’s elevation, Frank-Paul Nuuausala returns from a forced lay-off through injury. That is the only two changes for this weekend, as the Roosters look to prove themselves against a strong side. A lot has been written about the start they have had to the season and many people have suggested that they are benefitting from a very favorable draw. You can only play what is in front of you each week and they will take their opponent as they come. Yes, they have played teams that are outside the Top 8, but the fashion they have been winning in, is impressive. They are building towards the ultimate goal of pushing for the title at the end of the season and the wins they are accumulating now is only assisting their cause.

Recent History

Overall = Sea Eagles 79 Draw 2 Roosters 39

Last 5 games = Sea Eagles 4 Roosters 1

At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 34 Roosters 11

Stats that matter

  • The Roosters have tightened up their defence so much that they are now ranked number 1 in the league. They only miss an average 16.8 tackles a match and are benefitting from former defensive coach Trent Robinson returning to take up the head-coaching role. The Sea Eagles aren’t too far behind them in the ranking (=5th), but are a fair way behind with an average of 23.5 per match.
  • Both sides have a problem with the referees and are rarely coming out on the right side of the penalty count. The Roosters are ranked equal 12th with an average of 7.1 penalties, while the Sea Eagles are just behind them in 14th spot with 7.5 per match.
  • Expect a low scoring contest as both sides are ranked 1st and 2nd in the league for points conceded. The Roosters are tough to break down and allow just 10.3 points per match, while the Sea Eagles allow a further 1.2 with 11.5 points per match.

Odds
TAB Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $2.10 Roosters $1.75
Centrebet = Sea Eagles $2.12 Roosters $1.75
Sportsbet = Sea Eagles $2.08 Roosters $1.77
Betfair = Sea Eagles $2.22 Roosters $1.79

Verdict

The Sea Eagles have a fantastic record at Brookvale against the Roosters but I have a feeling that it has to end here. The Roosters are a far better side this season and will push the Sea Eagles right until the end. The potential they offer around the field far outweighs anything that the Sea Eagles are offering. I am not suggesting it is a forgone conclusion, however I will be happy enough to take the odds on offer and be confident enough that the Roosters are going to be able to get the job done. According to most people around the NRL, the Roosters are yet to prove themselves but they will certainly put the rest of the competition on notice at the end of this game.

Suggested Bet

Roosters -2.5 @ $2

A margin to go by = Rooster 1-12 @ $3 – This game will be very close, regardless of the outcome. If you want a little more value in your bet, then this is the option for you. The game may not be decided until the final moments so use this to your advantage.

RTS for FTS = Roger Tuivasa-Sheck FTS @ $11 – He will be playing on the right hand side and probably coming up against Esi Tonga out wide. RTS is one of the most exciting wingers on the scene and his stocks are rising very quickly. With one of the fastest sidesteps in the game, he could get a pass from SBW and find himself with some extra space to move.

Good luck!
Scooby

Author

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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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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