Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
19 hours ago
Paul Mitry's previews for Round 3 are here - check them out and compare them to your tips ahead of the coming weekend of NRL action.
Check out the full list of NRL Teams for this weekend here.
All kickoff times are listed in AEDT (NSW & VIC time).
Thursday night football comes from AAMI Park this week as Channel 9 make the most of weeknight, prime time TV. They’ll also make the most of out the multi-million dollar cheque handed to them by the Waterhouse family to continue peddling the interests of their favourite daughter, Tom.
To digress, Ryan Hoffman plays his 200th NRL game in this much anticipated Grand Final rematch as Canterbury travel south to play the Storm.
The ‘Dogs are huge outsiders. They’ve started the season showing some attacking deficiencies and there is no bigger test of your attack than The Melbourne Storm. Can the Bulldogs function without Ben Barba? Can they win the yardage game without their big name forwards? No. They showed a healthy disrespect for posession last week and anything similar this week will have Melbourne do some serious damage.
Eels coach Ricky Stuart has already worked a few minor miracles at Parramatta in his short time there. Chris Sandow looks trim: Mitchell Allgood looks big: Reni Maitua is a club captain and future star Jacob Loko looks ready to go. Unfortunately for the Eels faithful, Ben Roberts is still Ben Roberts and taking Ben Roberts into Leichardt Oval will only bring you more of some vintage Ben Roberts. It is simply baffling.
So, the Tiger’s spiritual home comes alive this Friday night: shining brightly under lights with all its wonderful suburban history firmly entrenched in the bosom of Sydney’s inner west. Robbie Farah and his crew will pick apart the Eels in quick time. Parra will be spirited, but their number 6 cannot be protected in the defensive line – just as much as their number 1 will not protect his teammates. Tigers by enough.
The 5.30pm Saturday game… at Skilled Park? Honestly… haven’t the Titans suffered enough to then be subjected to the graveyard shift of rugby league fixtures? The Titans will struggle to get a 12k crowd as it is... let alone at this time. Anyway… as we fear the NRL is dooming another franchise to the scrap heap; credit must go to John Cartwright and his men. They turn up every week with a collection of old heads & young stars, all willing to work.
Their assignment this week? The in-form and very dangerous, Manly Sea-Eagles. They’ll be tough to slow down and then nearly impossible to stop when this game gets rolling. The home sides’ only chance is to come out swinging and get some points on the board while the Eagles are still a bit dusty from their Friday night on Cavill Avenue. Either way, Manly finish stronger and start their season with 3 straight wins.
A beauty from Allianz Stadium on Saturday night has the Roosters hosting the Broncos. Both teams had plenty of work to do after a disappointing 2012 – both teams started their resurrection with a loss – and then, most impressively, both teams won their round 2 matches on the road. The Roosters crossed the Tasman and came away with 2 points whilst the Broncos left Wollongong as convincing winners.
So, it’s your match of the round and be ready for some fireworks. The ill-disciplined Roosters pack will try and get away with everything they can... and by “they”, I mean Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the cheekiest front rower you’ll ever see. JWH will go head to head with Ben Hannant and Sam Thaiday and when the dust settles, it will be the masterful James Maloney who steers the chooks home in a tight one.
The Sharks, with all they have been through, don’t seem worried about their apparent cloudy future. They don’t seem too concerned with whatever horrible fate awaits them. Quite the opposite, in fact, seems to be happening in the Shire and it is a remarkable sign of willpower and focus to play the way they have. Scrappy, defiant, stingy and violent. In fact, they resemble the Sharks’ side of 2009 that made the semis and looked bad doing it.
The visiting Warriors have started the year with two losses and this is not the fixture you want when looking down the barrel of a horrible season. New Zealand need an open field and an open contest to be effective. They will be confronted with the complete opposite here and suffer the consequences as the brave Sharks continue this season of uncertainty as only they can. Michael Gordon and Todd Carney the standouts.
Last year’s corresponding fixture between these clubs signalled the beginning of the Michael Maguire influence. The light bulb finally switched on for the Bunnies on that day as they ran right through the Panthers. Now, Souths have immersed themselves in Maguire’s philosophy and are reaping the rewards. They’ll win the wrestle, complete their sets, give you nothing and punish your errors. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
So, as Souths continue their impressive run of form, the Panthers faithful await them on Sunday afternoon at Centrebet Stadium. This will be a cracker. Penrith don’t bend as quickly as they once did and visitors to the foot of the mountains should be prepared for a fight. The Monday night turnaround will have Souths off to a slow start but they are too classy over 80 minutes. Greg Inglis continues his charge towards immortality.
How does one show their face in public after tipping the Raiders at Skilled Park last week? Well, for starters it’s always important to get back on that horse after a rough ride and that’s we’ll be doing here. Sunday Night Football from our nation’s capital has Saints on the bus to Canberra. The Raiders make their home debut for season 2013 and what better opponents to have come and visit when your season already looks shot to pieces.
St George Illawarra have a much publicised history against the Green Machine and so why not mention it one more time: they’ve not beaten Canberra since 2007 and have not won a game in Canberra since before the dinosaurs. Speaking of which… the Dragons’ attack resembles some sort of prehistoric and long extinct creature that time forgot. If the Raiders can’t get on the board here, they are kidding.
A harsh lesson for both of these clubs last week. The Knights must have been feeling pretty good about themselves after a round one drubbing of the Tigers, only to go into Brookvale and not even trouble the scorers. They’ve still a lot to learn about the grind of the NRL. The Cowboys, similarly, would have been confident in the lead-up to their home game against the Storm last week, but Melbourne simply crush everyone.
How to pick up the pieces and restore confidence in a relatively young side? If any two coaches can do it, it’s these two. Wayne will have his forwards ready to rip in against a monster Cowboys pack this Monday night while Neil Henry will do as he has always done, give the ball to Jonathan Thurston and get out of the way. A beauty from Hunter Stadium will be decided in the final moments when the grinding style of the Knights gets them home.