Cronulla Sharks Vs Central Coast Centurions
Toyota Stadium, Saturday, March 19
Referee: Chris Sutton
Summary: The Cronulla Sharks partnership with the Melbourne Storm got off to a shaky start in Round One, going down to a well drilled Jets side at Toyota Stadium. Things don't get much easier for them here either as they play host to arguably the most impressive side from last week's opening round, the Central Coast Centurions. The Centurions put the sword to a new look Windsor outfit on a stifling afternoon at Leichhardt with the likes of Shannon McDonnell and Ben Rogers running rampant for the Knights feeder team. A positive here for the Sharks is that the afore mentioned players will both be suiting up for the Knights in Townsville rather than down in the shire and with an added week of preparation under their belt, the home side will be looking for a much improved performance here.
Game Breaker: Tu'u Maori - The former Jet headed south over the off season looking for an opportunity under Craig Bellamy, but before appearing in the NRL, Maori will have to continue cutting his teeth in the NSW Cup with the Sharks. A member of the 2010 NSW Cup Team of the Year, Maori will get plenty of game time this week with both Anthony Quinn and Beau Champion recalled to the NRL and his match up against Keith Lulia should be worth the price of admission alone.
Prediction: Given their new association with the Storm, the Sharks combinations will get better the more they play together, where as the Centurions appear to have hit the ground running and despite the loss of Rogers and McDonnell I tend to favour them slightly, although a Sharks victory would certainly not surprise.
Manly Sea Eagles Vs Auckland Vulcans
Brookvale Oval, Saturday, March 19
Referee: Matt Noyen
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, March 23, 4.30pm
Summary: The long awaited and much anticipated return of the Manly Sea Eagles to the NSW Cup added much gloss and fan fare to what was a huge day of rugby league at Leichhardt last Saturday, but unfortunately for the boys from Brookie it didn't end with the two competition points. Going down in a good old fashioned arm wrestle against old foes, the Wests Magpies, the Sea Eagles should at the very least now be prepared for the level of competition they are going to face week in and week out in Australia's premier second-tier competition. The Vulcans managed to do something they were seldom capable of during the 2010 season, win away from Mt Smart Stadium. If the Vulcans can start consistently winning away from home then I would suggest they look legitimate top four chances based on last week's performance and the current depth in the squad.
Game Breaker: Alehana Mara - I am at a loss to explain why Mara is currently playing on the bench for the Vulcans. Not 12 months ago he was starting for the Warriors at NRL level yet now with Heremaia, Berrigan and Kingi all seemingly favoured ahead of him, Mara has been forced to prove himself all over once again. Whether it is a fitness issue, something more sinister or he has simply just fallen out favour with the powers that be, I cannot tell you. But based on his impact last week, if Mara is not back in the NRL with the Warriors soon, he may well be with someone else.
Prediction: Manly were up for the arm wrestle with Wests last week but the Vulcans are an entirely different proposition altogether. The Vulcans never die wondering with the ball in hand and I just question whether or not Manly have the firepower to go toe to toe with the Vulcans if they can't shut down Auckland's second phase play and this becomes an open affair.
Western Suburbs Magpies Vs Newtown Jets
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, March 19
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
Summary: Another clash of traditional rivals awaits those that can venture out to Campbelltown on Saturday, when the Jets, hot off the back of their solid performance against the Sharks make the trip west to take on the ever bullish Magpies. Enough has already been made of Wests current predicament with regards to the placement of players from their Wests Tigers relationship, but something that really stood out to me last Saturday was the Magpies ability to just play to their strengths. I don't think even the most ardent Magpie could mount the argument that they haven't been affected adversely with regards to personnel for the 2011 season, but this year's Magpies side looks to be one that on any given weekend, you will have to beat, they will not beat themselves. A simple attacking structure, good discipline both with the ball and without lead them to a solid first up win and I wouldn't expect them to waiver far from this script for the entire year. The Jets themselves are a side that takes pride in their completion rate and Saturday's game is really looming as a true test of attrition.
Game Breaker: Puna Rasaubale - WOW, What about this guy! To steal a nickname from the great Ray Warren, I am officially calling Puna the Like