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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 NRL Round 21:
Friday night from the insular peninsular and this will be a beauty. The Broncos have a great record on the road this year and have a number of young footballers who'd be willing to test themselves against the best in the Eagles. Pity nobody in Brisbane feels the same way. The Broncos decision makers certainly think it's time for change and with Anthony Griffin on his way out, it's hard to imagine how he will motivate these youngsters against the league leaders.
Manly have won 5 from their past 6 under a cloud of player dissatisfaction with the board. Whatever. This weekend is supposed to be about superheroes, or something, so let's talk about them. DCE and Kieran Foran will once again strike fear into the opposition defence and after they've had their say, Manly will walk off into the sunset after beating the bad guy (Justin Hodges), saving the world (the Northern Beaches) and winning the girl (Tom Waterhouse).
As the Panthers continue reeling from the news that Peter Wallace will miss the remainder of the season, coach Ivan Cleary has given up on the Matt Moylan five eighth experiment and promoted 22 year old Newcastle junior Will Smith to the number 6 jersey. Fingers crossed he plays like a superhero to get Penrith's season back on track. I'm thinking one of the cats from Voltron. Voltron was awesome. I think we had the Blue one at my house.
Moving on. The Bulldogs come into this match as favourites but with the Panthers already having beaten them once this year and the ‘Dogs in some poor form of late, it's hard to agree with the bookies. More so, if you watched the Bulldogs attack against North Queensland last week, it's even harder to agree with them. Both teams needing a lift this Friday night after both losing 2 in a row. It's not a time in the season when you want to be slumping.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v Parramatta Eels
Saturday 3:00pm at Remondis Stadium, Woolooware
Mad Monday time for the Sharks. Granted, they've won 3 of their past 5 including a few magnificent comebacks and amazing upsets, but its still Mad Monday time. So, as Todd Carney goes to Bali on scouting missions for this team's end of season preparations, the rest of the Sharks get set to face the Eels on Saturday afternoon at Remondis Stadium. Parra are only slight favourites but certainly will be the hot tip considering Superman himself is wearing the blue and gold number 1 jersey.
The Eels are specials here. Even though their away record doesn't inspire confidence, a dry track in the shire on Saturday should inspire plenty in Jarryd Hayne. The Eels forwards should give him a head start with Tim Mannah fully fit and the legendary Fuifui Moimoi playing his 200th first grade match. So many great memories, thanks Foo. The Plane the difference again here after proving he is not a bird or an actual plane, just super.
The Cowboys had lost Co-Captain Matt Scott and then Brent Tate after game 2 of the origin series; they were counted out as a premiership threat because of their paltry away record over a decade; Johnathan Thurston was exhausted and they had been destroyed by the struggling Newcastle Knights. Falling to pieces. But then -- somehow, after the bye, they beat South Sydney at home and went on to win 2 away games in a row?
That's not really a question. Just some punctuation to explain the upwards inflection in my voice when yelling in disbelief at my computer. Congrats to Paul Green and Jonathan Thurston for believing and never giving up. Just like Iron Man, or something. This week, the Cowboys head home to face the 13th place Gold Coast Titans and they won't get a better chance to solidify a spot in the 8. Matt Scott has been named and the home side will be riding high.
Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 7:30pm at Allianz Stadium, Moore Park
Saturday night at Allianz Stadium and its Iron Man v Captain America. The Kids love it. What they don't love is how the Roosters lost last week. Chooks fans cooked themselves up into an oily mess watching their heavily favoured, defending premier, star studded football team lose to the Knights in Newcastle and get shafted by the referees at the same time. Hilarious to the rest of us footy fans who support clubs with no cash, but not so funny for the tri colours.
This week, they head home to Moore Park to face a very dangerous Dragons team. Saints seem to be playing with a weight off their shoulders and some freedom in their attack. They've won four from their past 5 and the Gareth Widdop/Benji Marshall combination is shining. It will need to shine a hell of a lot brighter against James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce. Smart money says they will. Michael Jennings returns and the Chooks bounce back.
Sunday afternoon in the nation's capital and you won't hear me mention the weather, for once. The Raiders and the city of Canberra have bigger problems to deal with aside from the occasional bloody cold snap that lasts for 3 months, and can awaken the dead, and make you wish for the fires of hell to consume you, and make your ears fall off your face like shiny, frozen crystals and then watch them shatter on the icy ground. Canberra, feel the power.
Sorry, the Raiders have bigger problems. They've lost 6 from their past 7, they are getting dressed up like Hulk this weekend and more depressingly for the green machine, the Warriors are coming to town. Granted, New Zealand have lost two in a row but they are getting dressed up as an actual Warrior. So, this is a mismatch right from the start with the home side representing a doctor who can't control his rage and the visitors turning up to GIO Stadium to get back into the top 8.
Barlow Park in Cairns will host your Sunday afternoon match as the Newcastle Knights continue one of the most difficult seasons in their proud history. After an improbable victory last week, they take up the fight against the heavily backed Rabbitohs in the tropical north. Perhaps a tough week for Souths with a short back up from Monday night in Canberra to travel to Cairns, but that's not their biggest concern.
If Sam Burgess, John Sutton and Greg Inglis are struggling with injury, the Knights could be in this up to their eyeballs. Burgess 50/50 they reckon, Sutton certainly out and GI - well, you never know. Keep your eye on the market in this one. If it's just Sutto who's missing, Souths will welcome the ever improving Luke Keary into the halves and they will be too good. Kurt Gidley returns for Newcastle to replace the injured Jarrod Mullen but the Bunnies defence gets them home.
Round 21 comes to a close with Monday Night Football from Campbelltown Stadium and what can the visiting Storm possibly expect to see here? It could be anything, really. The Tigers are limping to the finish line in 2014. Emotionally, physically and mentally. Or as Phil Gould would say, ‘Mently'. They can't possibly be emotionally ready for this match; their captain won't come to training and their board of directors won't back their coach.
Physically, they are in even more strife with at least 7 first grade players out with injury. Lucky it's only the likes of Cooper Cronk and Craig Bellamy coming to town - both very sensitive souls who don't take winning very seriously and will take pity on the Tigers and not want to embarrass them too much. Melbourne by 50. Jokes - but this will be a test of character for everyone in the Tigers franchise; a greater challenge they will not face.