25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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Paul's Round 2 previews are here - have Round 1 performances changed his mind on certain teams? Check it all out!
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It simply does not matter when this game is played or what form these two clubs are in – it’s always enough to stir up the heated rivalry between the Dogs and the Eels. In round 1 Parramatta went a long way towards turning around their recent horrors whilst the Bulldogs did not look as potent as they were last year. But nobody cares; they will rip in to each other on Thursday night to kick off round 2 of the Premiership from ANZ Stadium.
So, as the grind of week to week football begins, a test for the new-look Eels to turn up against a revved up Bulldogs defense. A big ask. Des Hasler won’t be keen to start the season with two losses and this desperation will get the ‘Dogs home. Hasler’s intensity could only be matched by someone like R. Stuart so get ready for the 133rd meeting between these clubs to be as hostile as ever with the Bulldogs finishing stronger.
All my cards on the table? I’ve lost a shirt-load whilst betting against the Dragons at Wollongong. For some stupid reason I refuse to believe they are better at this safe haven of South Coast football. The interwebs tell us that Saints actually win 66% of their games at WIN as a merged entity; and you know what they say about statistics – they’re a lot like lingerie... they reveal plenty but it’s what they conceal that matters.
If you’ve made it this far into the preview – you’ll no doubt be chasing one more pearl of wisdom from a column that has delivered very few. (9% of total attempts were actual pearls, but you know what they say about stats) The Broncos defended poorly at home last week and the Dragons weren’t much better in Melbourne, but I’m going with the 66% on this one. Saints too good at home with their young forward pack leading the way.
Last week, the Roosters were defensively inept, lacked cohesion in attack, somehow more ill-disciplined than they were last year and slightly overpriced in general. Their high profile interchange forward was a weak link in the defensive line, despite what the grovelling free-to-air commentators would tell you. Fingers crossed that the coverage from Eden Park is less obtrusive and much less cringe worthy.
Some big signings and a much-heralded new coach will get the Roosters back on track and the 10 days rest won’t hurt either. Home ground advantage simply won’t be enough for the Warriors as they fumble to two consecutive losses to start the Matthew Elliott era. Konrad Hurrell v Michael Jennings a highlight but the real fun will be watching James Maloney sledge his former teammates for 80 minutes. Be entertained.
Your match of the round; and of the short season so far. The Cowboys started 2013 with a big win in Gosford over the Bulldogs while the Storm were all business at AAMI Park. Both clubs looked ready for big years and had all their superstars fit and healthy. So, a re-badged Dairy Farmers Stadium is now named after a phone number but before you praise the pure marketing genius of that idea, let’s stick to the footy.
Melbourne will be ruthless, will give away nothing and will defend like its September. The Cowboys are slowly learning what it takes to do the same and have some supreme talent on paper but not of the same ilk. Blink and you’ll miss something on Saturday night when the likes of Conk, Smith, Thurston and Bowen take your mind off the dark side of Rugby League that rears its ugly head around this time of year, every year. Melbourne by a finger nail.
This week’s turmoil could be a blessing in disguise for the Raiders. Reece Robinson is their lucky charm and one of the best outside backs in the game. A pretty darn good fullback, too. What stands out most about Reece Lightning is his unselfishness. It’s his instinct to pass to an unmarked teammate rather than go himself… to look after the team rather than look after himself. You can bet he’ll no longer be taken for granted by David Furner.
If the Raiders can unite as a club this week, beware their opposition on Sunday afternoon, the Gold Coast Titans. John Cartwright and crew had the perfect opportunity to slip one past the Sharks last week, who had no business playing a game of football in their condition. The Titans fell short and did not look great in the process. A small crowd this weekend will destroy any home ground atmosphere and make way for a Raiders upset.
So, as the plastic of politics leaves Sydney’s west, Rugby League does not… will not. Sunday afternoon has a beauty from Campbelltown Sports Stadium as the Panthers travel to face the humiliated home side. Imagine the Tigers’ surprise… bringing in a new coach and preparing for months for a chance at redemption after a disappointing 2012 campaign, to then get busted up by 40. A big test of their mettle this week.
To make the assignment even harder, the rejuvenated Panthers are not simply one game wonders. Granted beating the Raiders at Centrebet last week is not a miracle but there is something about these Panthers that has them looking confident. A big win awaits them here as the Tigers drop two in a row. Luke Walsh and Lachlan Coote standouts for the Panthers but keep an eye on Tim Grant and Keith Galloway knocking the stuffing out of each other. Awesome.
Both impressive winner’s last start and both with high hopes for season 2013. Manly delivered a perfect second half at Suncorp last week whilst the Knights signalled their intentions to be a force in the NRL last Monday night. Their forwards were brutal and expect more of the same on Sunday night at Brookvale Oval. The only difference being the colourful language used by the Eagles faithful to welcome them.
So, once the big boys have their say, it will be time for a chess match to begin and what amazing pieces on show here. Kurt Gidley is finally fit and not being wasted at fullback; Jarrod Mullen shedding the expectations of the past… and a couple of kilos; and then we have DCE and Kieran Foran who can attack a weakness quicker than a Seagull on hot chips. This is what they do here and Manly win their home opener in a close one.
What to make of the Sharks? An amazing week of what could only be described as soul destroying, followed by an amazing performance on the field in the face of actual extinction on Sunday. They must be congratulated. On Monday night, however, whether they ‘bring back Flanno’ or sing their team song from highest hills of Engadine, it won’t make a lick of difference here. The Bunnies don’t care.
Whoever is coaching Cronulla at the time will have a hard time getting them up for this match and if they are not completely committed up front and on defense, Souths will get quick ruck movement, good yardage and plenty of option play from Reynolds and Sutton. A danger game for the visitors as Souths continue their rise to the elite of the Rugby League world. Greg Inglis the stand out as always.