FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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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 25:
Round 25 and this one is just the tonic needed to get long suffering crowd numbers back to somewhere near respectable. The ‘Dogs hosting the Bunnies at ANZ stadium and this should be a beauty. Canterbury captain and loyal servant for 5 years, Michael Ennis, plays his final game in front of the blue and white faithful and this should spur him on to be even more annoying than usual. Issac Luke must really be looking forward to this.
Speaking of which, South Sydney fans should also be looking forward to this one after they were shown up by the Cowboys last week. The Rabbitohs come in as very heavy favourites and should be back to their best here. Which means they will slow down the play the ball and try to outmuscle the Bulldogs pack. This will be the highlight; two very big and very aggressive sets of forwards having a good crack at each other but it's the Burgess boys and Greg Inglis standing tall.
My tip: Rabbitohs 18-8
Brisbane Broncos v St George Illawarra Dragons
Friday 7:45pm at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Friday night footy comes to us from Suncorp Stadium, for the last goddamn time - finally. Or, at least until next year when your free-to-air broadcaster needs the ratings in Queensland and subjects us all to this diabolical scheduling stupidity. Moving on - Saints need this one to stay in the hunt, excuse the pun, and whilst they have a fantastic record up in Vegas, they will find the going very tough here as the Broncos continue their march towards a miracle spot in the 8.
I'll spare you the ‘for and against' jargon - but saints gotta win by plenty to be confident next week. They won't. Whilst Brisbane have been inconsistent of late, they play a brand of footy that will keep the visitors guessing. With the extra motivation of bidding adieu to a coach who has effectively raised many of them from pups, the Broncos should be too good here. Ben Hunt and the Brisbane back row lead from the front as Saints head towards Mad Monday.
Saturday afternoon from Hunter Stadium and by rights, the Eels should walk away with this one. With their season on the line and on the back of the best 40 minutes they have played in 3 years, they should march up the M1, throttle the home side and come home with 2 points and a place in the semis. But dagnab it - something happens to the slippery Eels when they go on a road trip and by the same token, something happens to the Knights when they play at home.
The punters disagree, Parra are sitting pretty as favourites as we head into Thursday and whilst I'm not one to argue with the weight of the dollar, here I go. The Knights play their second last game of one of the worst seasons in their proud history and at home over the past 3 games, they are undefeated. The scary thing is over the last 6 games overall, they've given up an average of just over 30 in defence. Good purchase, Brisbane.
There isn't a marketing team in the world that can help this one but true rugby league fans (read - gamblers) will be glued to their mobile devices to watch this one. Everyone watches footy via digital pass now don't they? Nobody wastes their money on our countries ONLY pay-tv provider anymore do they? Of course not. So, your 5.30pm game comes from GIO Stadium in Canberra as the Raiders host the Tigers and it might be a bit too cold for the visitors but things will heat up, for a few reasons.
Jarrod Croker is in a furious battle to be the seasons leading point scorer, bless him; Mitch Cornish finally gets the number 7 jersey and this will absolutely delight Raiders fans who have been begging for his promotion all season long. If these two fascinating reasons haven't sparked your interest to beyond supernova type proportions, then there's nothing I can do for you. Anthony Milford the standout again as the Tigers' suffering continues.
Saturday night from a wet and wintry Allianz Stadium and this is your match of the round. The reigning premiers host the Storm but it's a pity nobody will be there to see it. Melbourne are peaking at the right time of year, again, and the Roosters look downright unstoppable. They are at full strength and would be a terrifying sight for anyone right now except Storm coach Craig Bellamy who'll no doubt relish the challenge of facing the chooks so close to the playoffs.
Bellamy and the Storm may not show all their tricks on Saturday night but they'll certainly be hoping to slow this one down to a screeching halt. Cooper Cronk plays his 250th first grade match and as with his previous 249, he'll be quietly and subtly sledging his way through this as only Cooper can. Keep an eye on two premiership favourites getting under each other's skin as they jostle for position before the real matches are played in a fortnight.
The Warriors were shell-shocked last week at home when the Roosters taught them a footballing lesson. Now, with another chance to sneak into the semi-finals, they'll be battle hardened and won't make the same mistakes again on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Titans. They are $1.15 favourites and for those of you looking for desperate measures to win a tipping comp, look elsewhere. The Titans can't possibly mess things up here, can they?
Don't answer that. Just tip the Warriors and be done with your dreams of jagging an upset. Be done with your dreams of sneaking one back on the blokes who've been leading the tipping comp all year and just cos you think they'll play it safe and tip the favourites, doesn't mean that shit ain't working. I've really gotta stop talking to myself in these ‘previews'. The Warriors play their last home game of a difficult season and say thanks to their fans with a win.
Brookvale Oval on Sunday afternoon as the mighty Eagles play their last home game of the season and bid farewell to one of their favourite sons and much loved local junior, Jason King. A true warrior of the game and proud co-captain of the club, King will enjoy an emotional farewell at Brooky and his teammates will be just as passionate. Might be just the juice Manly need to get out of their current funk. Although, they've only lost 2 from their past 4 and are still sitting first.
So…… (take a deep breath) …….. with panic not setting in anywhere except a few commentators and league writers who can't find any good stories cos no player or coach wants to talk to them cos they are douchebags…. the Eagles continue another brilliant season and bounce back with a win here. Oh yeah, they are playing against Penrith. Expect the Panthers to start this game well and play good percentage footy but it won't last against a rejuvenated Manly squad.
North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Monday 7:00pm at 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
What can we say about the Cowboys? Well, they have the best halfback in the game but more than this, they have a halfback who is not a protected species like some of his counterparts, does not hide in the defensive line like some other halves, always plays injured, always behaves like a role model for kids and has lead his team to 5 wins from their past 6 matches. That's right ladies and gentleman, I give you Robert Lui.
Jokes aside, Jonathan Thurston could be a future immortal and as he primes himself for another shot at the title, this match on Monday night from 1300Smiles Stadium should be nothing more than a practice run for him and his crew of weapons. What can we say about the Sharks? Well, my mates recently booked a weekend at a house on the beach at Bundeena for the upcoming summer and I can't wait. Cowboys by a bit.