Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
Central Coast Centurions Vs Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers
Morry Breen Oval, Saturday, August 7
Referee: Matt Hawkins
The Central Coast Centurions came oh so close last weekend to upsetting the Western Suburbs Magpies and forcing their way into the top eight in the process whilst the Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers dropped back to back games for the first time in 2010 and have fallen to third on the ladder as a result. The Tigers 24-12 loss to the Wolves wasn't a complete surprise though given the number of key players missing but what will haunt them was their inability to compete in the second half after heading to the sheds at the break with a 12-0 lead. The Centurions cannot afford too many more slip ups in the final five weeks if they are to feature in September and some may argue that now is a good time to be playing the Tigers, particularly at home. The Tigers will still be without the services of Meaney, Carr and Bennett but have been boosted by the inclusion of Mitch Brown who has been plying his trade with the Wests Tigers in recent times while for the Centurions, the loss of Kevin Naiqama will be lessened somewhat by the return to form of Byron Fruean who was amongst the Centurions best last round. It would be hard to see Balmain dropping three on end but with that said the Central Coast were not far off winning three on end themselves last weekend and have to be some chance of causing the upset at home.
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, August 7
Referee: Henry Perenara
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
In what looks to be the match of the round on paper, the fifth placed Western Suburbs Magpies will play host to the second placed Newtown Jets this Saturday. Both of these sides have been sneaking home against lower ranked opponents of late so there meeting here may give us a greater indication of just where these two clubs are at around a month out from the finals. Just two points have separated these sides in their two meetings so far in 2010 after an 18-18 draw back in Round 3 plus an 18-16 victory to the Jets at this very venue back in Round 15. This comes as no real surprise given their almost identical for and against after 21 rounds of play. Wests have based their play around having one of the league's most miserly defences whilst the Jets have the ability to score at the drop of a hat if and when the situation arrives. In team news, James Aubusson is named at halfback for the Jets while Kurt Kara continues to fill in at hooker due to the extended absence of regular number nine, Chris Corby. The Jets will be desperate to keep the pressure on the Dogs for top spot while the Magpies will not have given up hope of securing a top four spot before seasons end.
Shellharbour Dragons Vs Auckland Vulcans
Ron Costello Oval, Saturday, August 7
Referee: Phil Henderson
Even the most ardent Melbourne Storm supporter couldn't have begrudged the Shellharbour Dragons their drought breaking win last weekend. To put it into perspective, the last time the Dragons got to sing the team song Kevin Rudd was comfortably the leader of this nation, it was the middle of autumn and the Easter Bunny had only just returned back down his burrow! It was a win for the ages and what a way to break their run of outs, a comprehensive 38-14 victory on the road in Melbourne, but now the question is can they do it for their home fans in what is their last game at Ron Costello Oval in 2010 and possibly make it two straight? Three of the Dragons four wins in 2010 have been away from Ron Costello with only their Round Two win against the Sharks being in front of their home faithful. Out to spoil the party and take one step closer towards their place in the finals will be the Auckland Vulcans. The Vulcans got up against a flailing Sharks outfit in an entertaining match at Mt Smart last weekend and would surely view this as a must win match five weeks out from the finals. One side desperate to payback their home crowd for what has been a tough year on the park and another side who needs the win to keep their spot in the top eight, plenty to play for and should be highly entertaining.
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, August 7
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, August 11, 5.00pm
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
The Windsor Wolves put their hands up as legitimate title contenders last weekend after they reeled off 24 unanswered points in the second half to overhaul the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. The Melbourne Storm lost for the second week running and a third straight loss here may see them fall back into the clutches of Wentworthville for sixth place on the ladder and will certainly end any hopes they had of an unlikely top four spot. The Wolves second win of the season against Balmain last week should provide them the confidence they need to know they can mix it with anyone on their day. With only five rounds remaining top spot on the ladder looks unlikely but with a favourable for and against and only three competition points between themselves and Newtown in second, a top two finish is still very achievable. The Storm appear to be a shadow of the side that was so hot only a month or so ago and perhaps the clubs political landscape is finally starting to take its toll on the players. Hep Cahill will line up in the centres for the Storm in this one while Jesse Sene Lefao has moved from his regular centre position for the Wolves to the backrow recently with great success. A tough task facing an out of sorts Storm outfit at present and with a parochial home crowd cheering them on, a Wolves victory looks the likely outcome here.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Toyota Park, Saturday, August 7
Referee: Luke Phillips
An interesting match here for the Sharks. After having clung to their position in the eight for several weeks despite not winning matches, they were finally overtaken by their opponents last week in the Vulcans after they went down in a shoot out 44-34. Their match up here against the Dogs is their first of three against the current top three sides in Canterbury, Newtown and Balmain in the last five rounds. Even allowing for wins in their other two matches against Shellharbour and Norths it would be more than likely that they will need another victory along the way to qualify for the finals. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be hell bent on it not coming against them as they sit atop the ladder and are in the box seat to take out the minor premiership. Here is a scary statistic if you are a Sharks fan, the Dogs have won their last four games by a combined score of 196-28! After Ben Roberts successful return to first grade last week, Blake Green has returned to the NSW Cup along with Shane Neumann causing either more concern for Sharks Coach Tony Herman. A positive for Cronulla has been the steady play of prop Johnny Mannah in recent weeks which has seen him elevated to the starting side and he must not be far off a tap on the shoulder from Shane Flanagan.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs North Sydney Bears
Ringrose Park, Sunday, August 8
Referee: Gavin Morris
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
A massive game for both of these sides, but for very different reasons. After Shellharbour's big win last weekend the Bears need to start looking over their shoulders once again with a view to avoiding the wooden spoon whilst Wenty have only won one of their last six and are at risk of slipping down to eighth on the ladder or even worse (albeit unlikely) slipping out of the eight altogether over the coming weeks. The Bears cannot be taken lightly here because despite sitting second from bottom their most recent form reads reasonably well with two wins from their last four including a somewhat unlucky loss to the Jets at home last Friday night. Wenty would still be favoured to win this one but a lot of that will depend on their ability to bounce back from what was a real mauling at the hands of the Dogs at Terry Lamb Reserve last Saturday. The front row pairing of John Kaifoto and Daniel Sayegh were very good in a beaten side last Friday and their clash with opposing bookends in Micthell Allgood and Blake Blackburn will be a highlight. Also another reason to head out to Ringrose Park this Sunday is the club is hosting its Family Funday. Three games of league in total with FREE ENTRY and RIDES to ALL who attend. Click on the following link to find out more. http://www.nswrl.com.au/default.aspx?s=article-display&id=28712&title=ringrose-park-all-about-the-kids-this-sunday