While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Remember all the talk last year from the rugby league talking heads, regarding the Broncos? They looked bigger, faster and stronger than every other side? Remember all that? Probably too dangerous to talk this way in 2013. Might be too suggestive. Either way, Brisbane were starting to look like their old selves until the Rabbitohs rolled over them a fortnight ago followed by a loss to the Eels which would have put the Bronco shareholders in a very bad mood.
The Titans won last week and were also in a very bad mood. Coach John Cartwright at least, definitely did not become a member of the Daniel Anderson fan club with his post-match comments. This Friday night, with the honour of opening the Women in League Round for 2013, let’s hope the Broncos and Titans both turn up with their best offering. If so, Brisbane’s best is better. Keep an eye on Greg Bird and Justin Hodges looking for each other.
My tip: Broncos 20-18
The Women in League Round continues as the table topping Bunnies host the cellar dwelling Tigers. So, in the tradition of honouring the tireless work of all footy mums, let’s take a moment to honour the mighty DNA of the Burgess’ boys mum, Julie. Speaking of DNA – Is it time to start talking about Greg Inglis possibly being one of the best footballers ever? Honestly. He plays nearly every backline position with class and will be remembered as one of the greatest.
The Wests Tigers of 2013, by contrast, will not be remembered. Unless they find something to cling to on Friday night, this could get very ugly – and by ugly, I mean even uglier than Joel Reddy making himself eligible for Queensland during the week. Fingers crossed he gets a flying GI running at him in a battle of two men who failed basic Geography in high school. South Sydney rolls on and wins well in front of their home fans at ANZ Stadium.
My tip: Rabbitohs 36-12
St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels
WIN Stadium Wollongong, Saturday 5:30pm
Your Saturday triple header kicks off from Wollongong as the Dragons host the Eels from WIN Stadium. The Eels continue to surprise. They seem to have bought into Ricky Stuart’s philosophy and are defending like their lives depend on it. Then, there are other times when they look like a team of reserve graders – except for Jarryd Hayne. Hayne has been an almighty influence on the Eels for years but these lasts few weeks have seen him look like a man desperate to win.
His opposite number on Saturday in none other than Josh Dugan. Ironically, Dugan looks like a couple of kids I knew from Arncliffe and Rockdale so he should fit right in at the Dragons, but that’s only half the battle. He must still earn a sign with his name on it – one that only the inventive Dragons’ fans can create. Josh 3:16? Stone Cold Dugan? Perhaps best if I leave it to the red and white army. Speaking of the army, they should have reason to celebrate here.
My tip: Dragons 18-14
Saturday night from Centrebet and there should be some feeling in this one. The Panthers, somehow, beat the Melbourne Storm last week so confidence must be high amongst this team of children from Sydney’s west. Led ably by Tim Grant, they’ll need to muscle up again this week to hold out the Warriors who looked potent in attack last week but did not have the craftiness to stay in front of the ‘Dogs; Coach Matthew Elliott must be getting frustrated.
Speaking of Elliott, he returns to the foot of the mountains to a team he would not recognise. By contrast, the visitors will look very familiar to former coach and current Panthers mentor, Ivan Cleary. Cleary’s fingerprints are still all over this NZ side but they now struggle for consistency. Fortunately for Warriors fans, they won’t on Saturday night as the home side struggles to keep their end up for two weeks in a row. Shaun Johnson leads the way.
My tip: Warriors 22-12
Watching the Cowboys sometimes makes you wonder what on earth they are waiting for. Best 7 on the planet. A star-studded forward pack. The amazing Matthew Bowen and the brave Brent Tate. Feels like this team should be one of the dominant forces in the NRL. They can be in bursts but then you remember how bloody far it is to travel for these Cowboys from North Queensland. This week, they get a reprieve from the kilometres, but not much else.
The Roosters are coming to town. Winners of their last 4 on the trot and most recently, coming away from Brookvale Oval with one of the finest performances you’ll see from a defence this year. They should have too many weapons for the Cowboys on Saturday night but this will be a ripper nonetheless. Michael Jennings v Brent Tate on the edge, with SBW v Tariq Sims up the middle and you have yourself the match of the round.
My tip: Roosters 24-18
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v Canberra Raiders
Sharks Stadium, Sunday 2:00pm
Plenty of talk mid-week about a possible square up on Josh Papalii after his encounter with Paul Gallen last year. If only we lived in those famous Rugby League times, when revenge would be sought every week on every field, in every game, as opposed to these empty threats. None of the current Sharks forwards will want to wake the sleeping giant that is this Raiders forward pack. But by gum I hope they do.
Speaking of sleeping giants, the boys from our nation’s capital seem to have woken up. They’ve beaten the Storm and crushed the Knights over the past fortnight and come into this match at Sharks Stadium on Sunday afternoon with an air of confidence. They’ll need it. Cronulla have won their past two matches and come home to the shire for the first time in 6 weeks. Home ground advantage the kicker here. Sharks in a tight one.
My tip: Sharks 22-18
Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Hunter Stadium, Sunday 3:00pm
A week ago, this column predicted the teaching of lessons by Timana Tahu to Blake Ferguson –history now reads that Ferguson scored 3 tries against the Knights legend; and that this same legend has been dumped to reserve grade. So, if its pearls of wisdom you’ve come for – if its crystal ball style previews you are after, best find a gypsy. Speaking of gypsies, Willie Mason comes up against the club that made him famous in what should be a beauty.
The Knights will be under the pump here. They’ve delivered some shoddy second half performances over the past fortnight and against a rejuvenated Bulldogs squad they will need to play the 80 minutes. They won’t. The visitors welcome back Krisnan Inu and could be back to their dangerous best for this. Trent Hodkinson is not part of that dangerous recent history, but ironically has been a major catalyst for this return to form. He delivers again.
My tip: Bulldogs 18-8
Melbourne Storm v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
AAMI Park Melbourne, Monday 7:00pm
Round 10 comes to a close from AAMI Park in Melbourne as the Storm host their most bitter rivals for Monday Night Football. So bitter, in fact, that it might be the trigger needed by both clubs to bounce back after tough losses last week. Melbourne looked exhausted against Penrith whilst Manly could not crack the amazing defence of the Roosters. Fingers crossed Glenn Stewart or Steve Matai aim up early to stir some feeling into this one.
Either way, Manly’s attack will need to recover from the loss of Brett Stewart quicker than they would like. Melbourne’s defence will be stingy, as usual, so we’ll need to see more from the Eagles than a couple of sweeping plays for their fullback. If not, the Storm will fall comfortably back into their tried and tested formula - Wrestle the stuffing out of the opposition until they give you the ball. It worked in September last year and it should work here.
My tip: Storm 16-12
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