Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Catch your breath, whack on your raincoat and get ready for round 16 of the Premiership. The NRL simply does not stop for anybody and with Origin 2 still fresh in our minds and our broken hearts, South Sydney host the Raiders from ANZ Stadium on Friday night. September last year had these two young teams facing each other for a birth in the GF qualifier and that night, Adam Reynolds’ supreme kicking game was the difference.
Some top class footballers on show here with Reynolds’ and Terry Campese’s battle a highlight, but the Raiders may fall behind everywhere else. They played well enough at Campbelltown last week to win but did not get any luck. This week, they’ll need more than luck to outplay the league leaders. Canberra’s defense will be willing but their attack won’t have enough to trouble the Bunnies. Souths run away late with Sam Burgess a standout.
My tip: Souths 22-6
The Storm do not have a great record at Leichhardt but not many do. One of the few remaining suburban grounds that give you a tingle in that special place that white-collar types don’t like to talk about. They ignore that tingle and only think of the bigger stadiums and bigger profits with corporate boxes and shelter from the rain. Boring. The home of the Tigers will come alive on Saturday night. Both teams have won 3 from their past 4 but you wouldn’t know it.
It will be soaking wet and the surface may not hold up, but Robbie Farah and Cameron Smith will treat us to another master class in ruck play and toughness. There is nothing between these two and they’ll be remembered as two of the best rakes to ever play our game. On this occasion, it will be Smith who comes away with the points as the weather suits the Storm style more than it does the home side. Jason Ryles’ kicking game also a difference.
My tip: Melbourne 12-8
Penrith Panthers v St George Illawarra Dragons
Only a few weeks ago, the mighty Panthers marched into Kogarah’s WIN Jubilee Stadium and marched out with a smile on their face, two premiership points and a clean sheet. They’ve had two byes, two losses and a couple of Salary Cap dramas since that night whilst the Dragons have gone 1 from 3 and had their five eighth shipped to England. Rugby League can be a miserable hobby and an angry beast sometimes.
On Saturday night at the foot of the mountains, the weather might be miserable and angry but it will not dampen the spirits of the Penrith locals. They’ve a young team, a brand new attitude and playing against a team with the 2nd worst attack in the competition. In fact, this was many league fans’ prediction as the season began and 16 weeks later, Saints are still looking for points. They won’t find enough this weekend as Penrith get their first win in a month.
My tip: Panthers 19-12
Who the hell is paying the Titans travel bills? This club was on the brink of collapse last year and now sit 5th on the NRL ladder with a 7 and 6 record. Not great, but not bad at all for a patched together forward pack, a bits and pieces backline and a pair of halves who still look like they should be playing schoolboy footy. On the field though, Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly are playing with wisdom beyond their years and slowly learning that they need to be the leaders of this club.
The Knights, meanwhile, have all the money they could want, arguably the most respected coach in the NRL and somewhat of an all-star cast. Funnily enough, they’ve lost 6 from their past 7 matches including their last 4. They go into this game as favourites for the simple reason that they are playing at home on a Sunday afternoon. According to many of Rugby League’s talking heads, Newcastle are tough to beat in that situation. They are 2 from 3 on the season.
My tip: Knights 20-12
Sunday afternoon footy comes to you from Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland. Could be cold. The Broncos have a few rep players backing up and the home side are heavy favourites. The Warriors’ massive turnaround is mostly due to their forwards play, but the highlight has been Shaun Johnson. His battle against Peter Wallace will be interesting. In attack, Johnson makes Wallace look like an old lady crossing the road, on crutches, with arthritis, when it’s raining, and wearing only one shoe.
I wouldn’t say that to Wallace’s face for two reasons. 1. Because I’m pretty shy in public and 2 because he is one tough bastard. Defensively, Wallace can still knock ‘em over and has never been a liability in this area, as many halfbacks are. However, what will hamper the Broncos is their cohesion in attack. The Warriors, somehow, have the momentum and in front of their home fans on Sunday afternoon, they won’t disappoint.
My tip: New Zealand 24-18
North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sharks
Sunday night footy from the tropical north has the Cowboys hosting the 6th placed Sharks. Cronulla have won 5 of their past 6 and behind the play of Todd Carney, are looking good. The home side, by contrast, were on a 5 match losing streak until they beat the Dragons in Wollongong a fortnight ago. A good sign, but not a great sign. They’ll need their big name forward pack to muscle up against a very physical Sharks side.
This will be their biggest challenge, but the Sharks have a challenge of their own. The Cronulla forwards are elite and work hard each week, only to watch their backline fumble about in the dark like a virgin at schoolies week. Believe me, I should know. The Sharks three-quarter line lacks ball skills and attacking nous but really, all they need to do is follow Todd Carney everywhere. They get it right this time.
My tip: Cronulla 18-16
Sydney Roosters v Manly Sea Eagles
Monday night from Allianz. Your match of the round has the Eagles travelling across the bridge to face the Roosters. 3 v 4 on the ladder but 15 v 16 in your hearts. The battle of the Silvertails has written many chapters but in round 9 this year, the Roosters put pen to paper and put Manly to the sword at Brookvale. Since that night, with a draw against Melbourne and a couple of bye weeks in between, Manly have only 1 win.
The Eagles might find some respite this week with the Roosters halves mentally fatigued and their defence not as solid as it once was, but only if their forwards aim up and get good field position. They won’t. The chooks have plenty of firepower with JWH, SBW and FPN ready to take on the Eagles. This will go down to the final moments with the Roosters holding on in a beauty. Michael Jennings v Jamie Lyon a highlight in the 122nd meeting between these clubs.
My tip: Roosters 18-12