Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Paul is back for another look at the weekend ahead. Check out his tips and see if yours will match up...
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Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 17:
Friday night footy from ANZ Stadium to kick off round 17 of the premiership and what a beauty this would have been. Rather, we'll see an undermanned Bulldogs outfit defend bravely for as long as they can but ultimately, won't have enough points in them to trouble the competition leaders. The dangers of playing mid-season rep footy, I guess - but no doubt you've read plenty about this topic of late so let's get past it, people.
Michael Ennis has been named at halfback so it's not gonna be pretty, but it won't be a blow out. The ‘Dogs are battling their way through the rep season and like many good teams before them, are learning how to use their depth. Manly, meanwhile, have grown accustomed to it and will be on another mission to put the sword to Des Hasler's team. Keep an eye on Kris Inu facing Steve Matai. They've had some battles in the past - none better than the 2011 GF and this could be another one.
Saturday night in Kogarah. The visiting Cowboys have not won a game away from Townsville all year and the bookies think they are absolutely no chance again here. The visitors have some decent depth, these days. Michael Morgan subs in well for JT and their forwards don't look completely horrible without Matt Scott and James Tamou, but you just can't bet on them against a rejuvenated Dragons outfit.
Benji Marshall will never be the player from those highlights packages they keep showing, but he is most definitely back from the ugly, horrible and stinky caper that was his Rugby Union career. Benji is creating formidable combinations with Mitch Rein and Gareth Widdop, the two most important people in the Dragons'' playbook and this is great news for the Jubilee Avenue faithful. Saints win their third in a row and go into the bye with a fire back in the belly.
Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Saturday 7:30pm at Allianz Stadium, Moore Park
Tough times again in the Shire. In fact, the stink just seems to get stinkier from Caringbah to Como to Kurnell and beyond. With the cloud of PED's hanging over them; their superstars' contract torn up; their captain and coach not able to keep things in house and a wooden spoon in the mail, it cannot possibly get worse. Unless you have a game on Saturday night against the reigning premiers at their home ground, without your rep players. Good god.
The Sharks may have had their backs against the wall for what seems like forever, so they'd be used to the struggle, but it won't make a lick of difference here. The chooks will be stinging from last week's loss to Manly and will thrive on 8 days' rest. It will be just a matter of time before the floodgates open in this match with James Maloney and Sonny Bill Williams the key destroyers. A tough start to James Shepherd's coaching career but it can only get better for the Sharks, right?
Sunday afternoon from Leichhardt Oval - the sun will be shining, the crowd could be drinking and the home side will be underdogs. Sound familiar? Hell yes. The Tigers come into this match without their captain Robbie Farah and are heavy outsiders with the bookies. They host the second placed Panthers who lost for the first time in months last week and will be keen to atone and even more keen to celebrate Brent Kite's 300th first grade appearance. They will be confident.
But many have been at this graveyard in Sydney's inner west and if the visitors are not prepared for a blistering open 20 minutes from the likes of Keith Galloway and Martin Taupau, they'll be chasing from the outset. Braith Anasta almost single handedly won the game for the Tigers last week with his defence and his right boot; and he will once again lead the young Tigers around the park for an unlikely victory. Wests pull an upset and beat the Panthers for the 8th straight time.
The poor Titans get another game 48 hours out from origin - when nobody is really watching and nobody really wants to go out to the game on a Monday night. They've lost 6 in a row and now face the huge task of beating the Bunnies at a vacuous ANZ Stadium. They are $5.50 outsiders and the grim picture just paints itself. This is a mismatch. Souths might be missing GI and a couple of back rowers, but they have ample depth to cover them.
Michael Maguire has benched Issac Luke and for some reason; maybe he is bored. The Titans certainly are not, they'll be desperate to get their season back on track and will give it a good shake. They also welcome back Paul Carter from a drink driving charge only 2 matches after the incident (some people have all the luck). It won't be enough; but make sure you keep an eye out for Gold Coast's James Roberts playing against his old teammates - should be interesting.