Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Round 9 kicks off on Friday night with a blockbuster from Sydney Olympic Park. The 2nd place Bunnies host the Cowboys at ANZ Stadium and this one will rock the very foundations. A mouth-watering battle between the forwards awaits us with Australia’s number 1 front rower Matt Scott, playing his 150th first grade game, up against the recently touted number 1 forward in the world, the Rabbitohs’ Sam Burgess.
If that’s not enough to get your old bones ‘a’ rollin’, keep an eye on Roy Asotasi celebrating his 200th NRL appearance by launching himself at this star-studded Cowboys pack. It’s matches like this that make the shoulder charge rule changes seem unforgiveable and leave us wondering what might have been. But don’t fret, footy fans, there’ll still be plenty to enjoy with Jonathan Thurston and Adam Reynolds going head to head as two of the best generals in the business.
My tip: Souths 22-18
Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
If the other Friday night match being played across town is a blockbuster, then this must be the lacklustre. The Tigers sit bottom of the table partly due to teething problems under Mick Potter’s new system and partly due to a horror run with injuries. They are struggling. Robbie Farah already seems burnt out after carrying the load and Benji is playing injured. They’ve 5 straight losses are averaging 7 ‘n’ change in attack over that span.
Their opponents at Allianz Stadium this week, the mighty Sharks, sit in 11th spot on the ladder but just when you think the entire club is about to fold, they continue to surprise as they did in Newcastle last week. They’ve been doing this for decades. Speaking of history, there is a little bit in this match with a number of ex-Tigers playing against their former teammates. Always makes for good viewing so tune in to see the young Tigers try hard but unable to play the 80 minutes.
My tip: Cronulla 17-12
New Zealand Warriors v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
What an evening of Rugby League we have coming out of Wellington this Saturday. Two teams that have copped a hammering in the early rounds only to display great patience and finally start showing signs of turning the corner. The Warriors have looked better every week after some horror performances, whilst the Bulldogs have won their past two. They meet at Westpac Stadium this week in a battle showcasing some of New Zealand’s finest.
None finer than Frank Pritchard, who plays his 200th NRL game in front his home fans and they’ll be turning up in droves. The curtain raiser aint so bad either with the respective NYC teams sitting 5th and 7th on the Holden Cup ladder. But when the big boys come out at 5.30pm, it will be desperate. Konrad Hurrell gets a call back to first grade only to face Josh Morris in what must be his greatest challenge to date but the great matchups don’t end there. A beauty.
My tip: Bulldogs 30-20
Your Saturday nightcap from Parra Stadium and fingers crossed the Eels fans have not given up hope just yet. Last week, if not for the miraculous performance of Jarryd Hayne, they could have easily been behind by 20 points early. This would have certainly destroyed the already fragile confidence of the Eels and opened the floodgates for a cricket score. Thankfully for Hayne and his Eels, he turned up every time they needed him.
This week, the Brisbane Broncos come to town and if the home side don’t get their act together early, they’ll be in trouble again. The Broncos get Justin Hodges back and are still sporting a pretty darn good forward pack. Combined with the ever improving halves play of Scott Prince and Peter Wallace, they are winners of 3 from their past 4 and sit 7th on the ladder. A team of this calibre should not be losing to the 2013 Parramatta Eels.
My tip: Brisbane 18-12
Fresh off one of the club’s finest victories, the Raiders host the Knights at Canberra Stadium to kick off your Sunday triple header. This group of kids from our nation’s capital have shown potential for some time but as they say, ‘potential’ just means you haven’t done it yet. Two things about this statement; 1. I don’t know who ‘they’ are and 2. Keith Richards may have been drunk when he spoke these words.
The Knights will have their hands full here. They’ve got plenty of experience in the club to know how to handle the toughest away game in the NRL and they’ll know they need to start strong or the Raiders will run over them. Kurt Gidley celebrates his 200th NRL match by switching, again, to halfback and he’ll trigger an upset for the visitors. Willie Mason and Kade Snowden lead from the front while Timana Tahu teaches Blake Ferguson a lesson out wide.
My tip: Newcastle 28-22
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons
Channel 9 really are aiming high this year aren’t they? In Rugby League terms, the NRL broadcaster won their grand final last year when they offered the league a billion dollars to show the greatest game of all on your TV screen. Now, they are obviously resting on their laurels. 2nd rate commentators, 3rd rate sponsors, delayed telecasts and now their Sunday Match of the Round is this rotten apple from Robina.
Moving on, the Dragons showed plenty of spirit to fight back against Manly last week and they’ll need every bit of it to have any chance against the Titans on Sunday afternoon. Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly have proven they can perform, but still have not proven they can perform each week. A tough ask for any young footballer but the Titans have nowhere else to turn. They needn’t worry though; Saints don’t look to have the points in them this week.
My tip: Gold Coast 24-14
Sunday night football from Centrebet Stadium has the reigning premiers visiting the foot of the mountains in what could be a very scary night for the Panthers. A team of relative no-names, $5.50 outsiders, their 81st halves combination of the season and all the while the Melbourne Storm are lurking around the corner – cue jaws music. Melbourne lost their first game of the season last week and will be peaking for this one.
So, you won’t find anyone game enough to tip against the Storm here but what Penrith coach Ivan Cleary will be looking for is some spark from his halfback in what must be another tough assignment for Luke Walsh – trying to salvage his NRL career whilst being tossed in and out of the team and now, playing against the world’s best defence. The Storm will not take pity on him and will not take pity on the Panthers. Melbourne by plenty.
My tip: Melbourne 26-6
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters
Quite a football team the Roosters have become. Suddenly, on paper, they look to have very few weaknesses except for the occasional loose carry by Daniel Tupou. Just on this – Tupou is odds on to lose the ball at least twice a game but unfortunately there is no market to be found on this one. Moving on, the Roosters are sitting 3rd on the ladder and also sitting pretty as owners of the best attack and defence in the NRL, statistically speaking.
Another huge challenge for them as they take on the Eagles at Brookvale. Manly sit just below the chooks on the competition table but go into this one as minor favourites with the boisterous support of their fans giving them an edge. Monday night football gives you your match of the round and what a beauty this will be. The two best five-eighths in the competition go head to head behind some very talented forwards. Speaking of forwards, this is where the Roosters have the goods.
My tip: Roosters 18-16
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