GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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All times are AEDT on Friday & Saturday, with daylight saving time ending 3am Sunday (clocks go back 1 hour). All times are AEST on Sunday & Monday.
Round 5 kicks off with an absolute scorcher. Plenty of spite between these clubs with former Eagles coach Des Hasler now in charge at Belmore and not ashamed to raid his former roster. On top of that, who can forget the first 20 minutes of last year’s semi-final between these two powerhouse clubs: they almost played some football in between the dust ups - and what a sight it was. So here we go again on Friday night at ANZ.
Manly are elite. The Bulldogs will need to play their best game of 2013 if they are any chance here and this can only happen if their attack finds some of the rhythm it successfully displayed last year. Forwards going forward and the backs lightning quick. This year it seems more like the forwards going backwards, and the backs doing little. Canterbury will never go quietly but they won’t make enough noise to trouble the Eagles here.
A remarkable start to the season for the Gold Coast and more evidence to show that times do indeed change. John Cartwright was given a chance to prove himself under extreme adversity and he has responded by producing a playing group that refuse to buckle. The Titans have the 2nd best defensive record in the comp and whilst it’s still early days, the difference between now and 9 months ago is amazing.
What’s not amazing is my refusal to tip them. That’s just how stupid your humble weekly preview columnist really is; so why change now? The Broncos are due and with their smelly corpse showing signs of life last week against the Storm, this Queensland rivalry might be just what the doctor ordered for a failing former NRL powerhouse. Brisbane defends like they mean it and come home with plenty of spirit and a wet sail.
This may not be your match of the round but the story behind this one sells itself as a beauty. For starters, and most importantly, the Eels and the Sharks play for the inaugural Johnny Mannah Cup. It will be another emotional 80 minutes for his brother Tim. Speaking of Tim, the rest of the Parramatta squad could learn a thing or two about pride and passion by watching him. Tim is one of very few Eels players to show he cares.
Problem is that he and perhaps Jacob Loko are the only ones. An even bigger problem is that their leadership group aren’t even close to that level of effort; and the biggest problem is that they are playing against the Sharks this weekend. Cronulla are bouncing back from a humiliating local derby loss last week and whilst they won’t have a bunch of points in them without Todd Carney, it will be the fear of seeing a naked Paul Gallen that drives them to victory.
A tough start to the season for the Cowboys and whilst their roster suggests a 1 and 3 record seems completely unacceptable, coach Neil Henry will be waiting it out with patience. In reality, he has no choice but to stick with his team of very big names. Ivan Cleary, on the other hand, has no such requirement. He has dropped Luke Walsh and promoted Blake Austin to halfback alongside Tom Humble.
What better time to blood a new halves combination? The Panthers have lost 3 in a row and travel to a notoriously tough location at a time when their hosts will be desperate. North Queensland have the strike power up front to really trouble a Panthers pack that seems heavily out-gunned. James Tamou and Matt Scott will play up to their billing and Johnathan Thurston teaches his very young opponents a lesson in 1st grade footy.
Oh Sunday triple header!! How I’ve missed you!!
2pm on Sunday afternoon has the Bunnies travelling to Mt Smart Stadium to face the Warriors and what a year the Cardinal and Myrtle are having. Undefeated on the season and impressive winners against the reigning Minor Premiers last week, Souths are 2nd on the ladder and look like they are getting better. They’ve an insanely huge pack of forwards and a fullback who can literally do whatever he wants on the footy field.
The Warriors finally turned up last week to beat the Cowboys for their first win of 2013 and will do very well to back up here. They’ll stick with South Sydney for a while but won’t be able to match the grind. Adam Reynolds looks like some sort of Zen Master this year and will bring more of the same control whilst all around him play with fury. Souths win the wrestle and win the match to kick off a ripper Sunday arvo.
You’ve had an extra hours sleep, you’ve enjoyed the entrée from Mt Smart and now you switch over to channel 9 for the delayed telecast from WIN Jubilee. Just when you thought your Sunday was going well, it gets even better here with a raucous home crowd, Ray Warren back on the call for Sunday footy and all at one of Sydney’s most beautiful suburban grounds. Kogarah’s hill will be buzzing with anticipation of Wayne’s return.
Saints played with all the pride and spirit that could possibly come from the famous Red V last Saturday night. Some Dragons fans will tell you it merely kept the wolves at bay but either way, they face a tougher test here. Former mentor Wayne Bennett brings his new team to town and they are rolling. The Knights come off two big wins but more importantly, are becoming a formidable squad of huge forwards, speedy backs and a 5-star bench.
Winter has finally arrived. Sunday night football in our nation’s capital and with rain predicted, low evening temperatures forecast and victory unlikely for the home side, the Raiders faithful should turn up in their hundreds. Disappointing though, as it’s a fixture like this that often gives Canberra their advantage and even more so when the visitors are travelling from the sun-drenched eastern suburbs of Sydney.
We will see how far the chooks have come by their opening and closing 20 minutes in this match. Smart money says they’ve come a long way with leadership from James Maloney and Anthony Minichiello, ably followed by a young and powerful pack of forwards. They will take a few minutes to warm up but once they do, it will be curtains for the home side. They simply can’t keep up with the younger, faster and smarter Roosters.
Monday Night Football closes out round 5 with the struggling Tigers travelling to AAMI Park to face the top of the table Storm. True that the visitors are 2 from 4 and it’s only early, but they have a mountain to climb here and a mountain to climb all season. A back-row of Liam Fulton, Braith Anasta and Adam Blair may give you plenty of talent and plenty of courage, but they are not workers and this is one thing every pack needs.
The end result of this is an increased tackle count for Robbie Farah and this will prove too much to overcome against the Storm who, contrarily, boast a forward pack full of workers and are proud of it. The Farah v Cameron Smith battle will be tremendous as always but Robbie won’t have much in the tank when he is needed most. Melbourne pull away late and win their 5th straight for the season and 12th straight overall.