A week out from the #NRL season kickoff, we look at the fantastic potential possessed across the Tas...
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NSW CUP MATCH PREVIEWS - ROUND 23
Cronulla Sharks Vs Western Suburbs Magpies
Henson Park, Saturday, August 13
Referee: Matt Noyen
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, August 17, 4.30pm
Summary: The Cronulla Sharks will be out to sure up their position at the pointy end of the competition table while the Magpies are out to continue their good recent run of form. A nail biting loss to the Bulldogs was followed up with a convincing come from behind victory against Manly last week by the boys in black and white and no doubt they will have the confidence in their own ability to cause the upset here.
The Sharks were far too good for Windsor last weekend and only some late consolation tries to the home side kept the score line from really reflecting the Sharks dominance. Another star studded side will be trotted out on to Henson for the Sharks with the likes of Paul Aiton, Johnny Mannah and John Williams named to play while Matthew Wright will also make his first appearance in the NSW Cup in 2011 after he was named in the centres beside Dean Collis. No real changes for the Magpies for the third week in a row and that consistency in their line up is being translated into positive results on the field.
Talking Point: Are the Magpies now in the box seat to avoid the dreaded spoon - With their win against Manly and the resulting swing in for and against, it would appear that the Magpies are now in the box seat to hand the spoon over to Manly. If you look at the draw both of these sides will face a tough task winning another match this year, but given the fact that the Magpies will receive two more points for the bye in round 25 they must now be favoured to avoid the dubious honour of finishing bottom of the ladder at season's end.
Prediction: Sharks should get the points but look for the Magpies to push them all the way. Sharks by 10.
Newtown Jets Vs Manly Sea Eagles
Henson Park, Saturday, August 13
Referee: Chris Sutton
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Summary: Another great rivalry awaits for those in attendance at Henson Park, with the Jets and Sea Eagles facing off in game two of the big double-header this Saturday. Manly will be disappointed with their effort against the Magpies as they had lead 16-0 early, only to concede the next 40 points of the match last weekend while the Jets also let a lead slip and were perhaps a touch lucky to have gotten out of Ringrose Park with a point in the end.
Greg Matterson has been forced to reshuffle his side once again this week and as a result Sam Latu moves to fullback in place of Mark Kheirallah, which gives Francis Vaiotu another chance to impress and James Koloamatangi and Ahmad Ellaz return to the starting 13 with both Tinarau Arona and Tom Symonds not named here. For the Sea Eagles they will welcome back Michael Oldfield who has been deputising for Michael Robertson in the NRL recently and young Jorge Taufua will play fullback in the absence of regular number one, Scott Blanch.
Talking Point: Any late changes for the Jets - There is some speculation that off the back of the dramas at Roosters HQ mid-week that perhaps one or more of the players stood down from the NRL may have to turn out for the Jets. There are pros and cons to this happening. Some would question said players motivation and if in fact they would make a positive contribution given the circumstances while others would relish the opportunity to see more representative quality players turning out in the NSW Cup. Not quite sure what good having a weekend off footy does for a player at this point of the Roosters season so you wouldn't be surprised to see some of the boys from Bondi strapping on the boots and taking to Henson Park come the weekend.
Prediction: Manly should be desperate but Newtown will know a win here assures themselves of a home final and should be too strong in the end. Jets by 12.
Central Coast Centurions Vs Windsor Wolves
Morrie Breen Oval, Saturday, August 13
Referee: Brett Suttor
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Summary: A huge clash up on the coast that could go a long way towards helping us sort out the final make up of the top eight. The Centurions went down to the Vulcans last week after a poor period just prior to and after the half time break which cost them any chance of victory while the Wolves started too slowly to ask any real questions of the Sharks despite rallying late to make the scoreboard look more respectable.
The Wolves know a win here effectively means that they will control their own destiny while a loss will make things very hard for them. Unfortunately for the home side they look set to be without Peter Mata'utia who has been called up to the Knights mid week in place of the injured Matt Hilder while the Wolves are boosted by the return of Ryan Walker from first grade. Such an important game for both sides and there promises to be plenty of points on offer for those that can make it out.
Talking Point: Who wants to play finals - You can look at stats, wins and losses, match-ups etc but in the end of the day this match will simply come down to who wants to play finals. A loss for the Wolves here will make things very difficult for them over the coming weeks as the Centurions will go four points clear while the Tigers will be three points clear courtesy of the bye this round. While the Wolves do have winnable games coming up over the remaining rounds, the same could also be said for the Tigers and Centurions (who have a bye in round 26) so I can't see how they can finish in the eight unless they manufacture a win here.
Prediction: Both of these sides have plenty of attack in them however both are fragile defensively. Will go with the home side but a Wolves win would not surprise. Centurions by 8.
Auckland Vulcans Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, August 13
Kick-off: 3.10pm (NZST), 1.10pm (AEST)
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: Match televised LIVE on Sky Sport 2 in New Zealand
Summary: The Auckland Vulcans are still a chance of claiming the Minor Premiership with four rounds remaining however with matches still to come against both the Dogs and the Sharks perhaps a top two spot is looking more achievable. They were very good at stages against the Centurions last week although their defence was suspect at times and it will need to be vastly improved over the coming rounds if they are to be considered a legitimate title contender.
The Magpies put in an improved showing against the Jets last week and as a result earned themselves what may end up being a very important point. With a top four spot all but gone for the Magpies, their attention should now turn to securing fifth place on the ladder and honing their play prior to the finals. The Vulcans field an international centre combination this week in the shape of Lewis Brown and Krisnan Inu while Wentworthville welcomed back Tom Humble last week and he has been named at fullback for this one.
Talking Point: Who would want to be Danny Howard - Let me start by saying that I think Danny Howard is an exceptional player. A no non-sense backrower that is as honest as the day is long and will always be there for his team mates... with that said... What about poor Danny who has been asked by Coach Brett Cook to fill a spot in the centres this week as other options such as Dylon Gilbert, Karl Filiga, Chris Hicks and Chris Walker are all unavailable either due to injury or retirement. No doubt Danny being the man he is would have said