Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
North Queensland Cowboys v St George Illawarra Dragons
To kick off a tremendous Friday night double header, the Dragons head up to Townsville in search of their 3rd consecutive victory and 6th overall for the season. The Cowboys, by contrast, can score 50 points one week and let in 40 the next; they can fall behind by 20 in one half, and not allow a single point the next. If you think this sounds like the resume of a schizophrenic football team, you'd be right; but the question still remains; have the cowboys taken their medication this week?
They have. The class of their opponents will bring the best out of the home side on a balmy Friday night in the tropical north. After being blown off the park last week against South Sydney, the Cowboys will use home ground advantage as a springboard to stun the Dragons in the opening exchanges behind a rejuvenated and healthy forward pack. A let down game for Saints after their ANZAC Day miracle. Weyman v Tamou upfront will be an absolute highlight.
My tip: North Queensland 22-12
Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Must give credit to Eels coach Stephen Kearney. It seems he has subscribed to a theory of showing as much faith as he possibly can in his players without losing his mind. He's decided to retain a forward pack that gets over-run every week, a fullback who has never been known for his defence, a five eighth who may or may not actually play rugby league for a living, we are not sure... and finally his halfback who is back from reserve grade this week.
So, a test for Kearney and his men comes in the form of the greatest Sydney rivalry in the NRL as the Bulldogs play the Eels at ANZ on Friday night. The Eels can either reward their coach and their fans with a good performance...or suffer further shame. Most likely the Bulldogs will pick a weak point and exploit it, perhaps Ben Roberts' left and right shoulder defence, or perhaps Jarryd Hayne as the 'last line of defence'. Either way, the 'Dogs win and win well.
My tip: Canterbury 40-14
New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos
One thing that stands out about this game is seeing the Broncos at $1.70 during the week. Almost choked on my corn flakes. Whilst the Warriors are formidable at home, this is the same Brisbane team that are winners of 6 in a row, have allowed an average of 12 points in defence for the season, have an all-star line up and a perfect mix of youth and experience. However, just before I book a hotel room for me and the Broncos... New Zealand will not roll over.
Their youthful centre combination of Ben Henry and Konrad Hurrell will be a great foil for Justin Hodges and Jack Reed and considering both clubs enjoy the expansive game, the result of these battles will be pivotal. In the end though, the battle will be won by the visitors as they outlast a committed but out-gunned home side. Corey Norman the standout as he continues to impress after following in the footsteps of an immortal. Not a bad effort.
My tip: Brisbane 30-14
Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers
The unhappiest of finishes soured the Tigers victory against the Eels last week and if not for those unbelievable scenes at Parramatta stadium last Sunday afternoon, the Tigers may have kept a clean sheet in consecutive weeks. Critics would have suddenly faded away; fans would have started to believe again, premiership odds may have thinned even more. But alas, that 15 minute massacre DID happen; it was no nightmare.
Speaking of nightmares, the Titans season continues to look, taste and sound like a journey towards another wooden spoon. For the second year in a row, John Cartwright's men have lost 6 of their first 8 matches and to make matters worse, have now lost their halfback for this Saturday night