ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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Paul's back to preview what they call "Heritage Round"... check out his round 6 tips and compare your own!
Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
The kind of event that only rugby league can deliver. Burnt bridges, broken promises, angry loyalists, all bundled up perfectly to start the Men of League Heritage Round. The Bulldogs and the Roosters. Years of history, years of hatred and just when you thought these teams didn’t need another reason; Khoder Nasser came along to mess with Todd Greenberg. Does it get any better? No. 30,000 at Allianz Stadium will attest to it.
Must be said now that the ‘Dogs are struggling with the ball. They averaged 25 points per game over the back end of last year and over 5 rounds of 2013, they are pushing 13 per game. It seems the second man, second phase backline movement does not surprise opponents any more. Too many coaches have seen it. Too many video sessions. Now, with the defensive minded Roosters to deal with, Canterbury could be left without a plan.
Heritage round and Rivalry round sometimes look the same, don’t they? Plenty of recent history here, mostly based on proximity, but these teams have been involved in some almighty clashes and what better way to celebrate the history of Queensland Rugby League than to travel to Suncorp on a Friday night. The Cowboys and the Broncos have bought into this Queensland rivalry ‘thing’ and footy fans will appreciate it.
Mores the point, this is always a cracking game and expect the same here. The Broncos have the wind at their back and a spring in their step. Scoring plenty against the Titans last week, they showed an aggression not seen this so far this season. The Cowboys, by contrast, enjoyed the bye last week so they should be fresh. But it may not be enough against the resurgent home side who will be out for redemption after losing to their rivals 3 times last year.
Watching the Panthers this year is a bit like watching a team of demolition experts preparing to blow up a skyscraper. The whole bloody lot is about to be exploded from memory and turned to dust. The next generation of Penrith footballers continue plenty of success in the lower grades whilst the seniors simply wait to collapse. They are doing it tough and it won’t get better for Panthers fans until someone pulls the trigger.
The Knights, by contrast, are nearly done with re-building and despite last week’s loss at Kogarah, are looking the goods. They are heavy favourites at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night and will not be losing two in a row, especially to a team with about 75 ex Novocastrians in the squad. Darius Boyd continues his return to form and leads the home side to their 4th win of the season. Penrith just don’t have the points in them.
Canberra Stadium, 7.30pm – let’s hope the Raiders fans liked what they saw last week and turn up in good numbers to support an entertaining group of footballers. A plea to the Green Machine faithful in our nation’s capital - What on earth is there to do on a Saturday night that’s good enough to miss the footy!?!? In fact, damn you left leaning bunch of Public Servants… get there early because the NYC match at 5.30pm could be the best game you’ll see all year.
Moving on, Shaun Johnson seems to be finding his feet in Matthew Elliott’s new system and he’s also finally developing a relationship with his new number 9, Elijah Taylor. Ironically, just before the return of Nathan Friend. Speaking of Friend, the Warriors are desperate for some starch in their middle and if they aren’t starched up for this, the Raiders big men will carve them up. The visitors are still a few weeks away from their best.
If you’ve enjoyed the bottom of the table clash from Canberra before tuning in for this beauty, a tip of the hat to you for pushing the boundaries of delayed gratification. Its 1 v 2 on the ladder as South Sydney host the Storm from ANZ Stadium. May god have mercy on us all. Teacher v Student in the coaches’ box and a battle to see who can slow down the play the ball best on field. It’s obviously successful so let’s play on.
Craig Bellamy and Michael Maguire. Two men who collaborated to bring forth the slowest era in league history? That's a heritage worth celebrating. Bellamy and Maguire - godfather and drunk uncle of the wrestle, respectively. Would that make Wayne Bennett the creepy neighbour at this family gathering? Don’t answer that. Just tune in for a chess match of the highest order. Slater out means Souths win.
A danger game for the Sharks. They’ve lasted as long as they possibly can with the pressures they must be facing. As a football club, a business, a team and a group of individuals hoping to keep their jobs, this could be where it all comes unstuck. Sunday afternoon at Brookvale Oval against the scariest team in the NRL. The Eagles are rolling this year with 4 wins from 5 starts and their defence is allowing only 1 try per match.
Amazing; and combined with the Sharks’ problems scoring points without Todd Carney, things could get ugly. Cronulla are notorious for playing with enough grit and determination to keep things close, but if they are off their game by one inch, it will be over at halftime. They’ll fight hard but won’ have enough weapons across the park to trouble the Eagles. Kieran Foran back to career best form and Brett Stewart another standout performance at home.
The Sydney Cricket Ground comes to life on Sunday afternoon and what better way to celebrate our heritage. Two merged entities representing four regions steeped in rugby league history and rugby league royalty. No territory in NSW has more superstars born from its beachside bosom than Wollongong and no image is etched further into the minds of the league populace than the famous Magpies dressing room ‘slapfest’.
Our Heritage, indeed.
So, with Benji Marshall out injured and the Tigers backline reshuffle happening as we speak, it will be tough for Wests to maintain cohesion, but they will. Robbie Farah’s elite level of performance so far this season defies belief. He is literally responsible for every single thing that happens for the Tigers and this will eventually take its toll. But not this week. The Tigers bounce back from 2 losses in a row and the loss of their favourite son to cause an upset.
We still have time for a little more ‘heritage round’ bashing, so here goes. The only moment of history shared between these clubs is the 2009 semi-final played in the midst of Jarryd Hayne’s infamous run to the Dally M. And the only thing memorable about that game was hearing the Eels fans chant their anticipation for the upcoming Bulldogs encounter. You know the one. 75,000. That's heritage. Not this reheated leftover.
But we move on. Eels v Titans. Coach Stuart v Coach Cartwright. They know each other well after having spent plenty of time in charge of the Roosters and NSW together. They'll know what to expect. Ricky is building a new culture at Parramatta and Cartwright is re-building what he once broke. Not a lot of points scored here. The Gold Coast have a new respect for defending their line and that should be enough.