Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
This week we look a...
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PNG HUNTERS v MACKAY CUTTERS
Kalabond Stadium (Kokopo), Saturday, March 8 – 2.30pm
Referee: Nick Morel
Head to Head: First match
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #PNGvMC
Buoyed by an historic opening round win over Redcliffe, the Hunters will go in search of back-to-back wins in their first match on home soil. Saturday’s clash against the Mackay Cutters at Kalabond Stadium in Kokopo is the first of three successive home games for the Hunters. Coming up against a passionate Hunters team which continues to capture the hearts and minds of rugby league fans, the Cutters will need to reproduce the steely resolve that saw them clinch an inaugural premiership last September. The Hunters have made one change from last week, with Joe Bruno replacing Gonzela Urakusie at prop. The Cutters have been forced to make one adjustment to their starting pack following the one-match suspension of Jason Schirnack (striking). John Asiata has been named at lock as Schirnack’s replacement, but Cutters coach Kim Williams may yet shift Dan Beasley from the bench to the starting side. Beasley was the Cutters’ best performer in last weekend’s 40-12 loss to Easts.
Ben ‘Dobbo’ Dobson (Triple M) says: How good were the Hunters last weekend! This team has put all the other Intrust Super Cup teams on notice. They are here to play and will be hard to beat at home in front of 10,000 screaming fans. PNG Hunters by 12.
Tweed Heads came tantalisingly close to opening the season with a victory over fierce rivals Wynnum Manly last weekend. The Tweed took the attack to Wynnum Manly in the second half, and were only denied in the closing minutes by a quick-stepping try from Kurt French. Tweed coach Aaron Zimmerle was impressed with the effort, but he won’t crack a smile until his team opens their 2014 account. They stand a good chance of recording a first up win this weekend, with several Gold Coast Titans players likely to bolster the squad for the Ipswich clash. They will come up against a former Titan and Seagull, with Marmin Barba named to make his debut for the Jets. Barba scored seven tries in 16 Intrust Super Cup games for Tweed last season, and he could be even more lethal this year under the attacking coaching style of Ben and Shane Walker. Troy O’Sullivan plays his 50th match for the Jets, who will be without injured pair Tautalatasi Tasi and Liam Capewell. Former Broncos NYC forward Josh Seage joins Barba on the bench, with Wes Conlon moving into the starting side as
Tasi’s replacement on the wing.
‘Dobbo’ says: The boys from Ipswich had a narrow loss against Norths. But they can make amends with the inclusion of Barba who will bring some attacking flair this week. If not, at least the female attendance will increase by double at the North Ipswich Reserve. Ipswich Jets by 6.
Having played a significant role in the development of boom young gun Cameron Munster last season, Central Queensland Capras coach Jason Hetherington is again turning to youth. Hetherington has selected Central Under 21 players Marlon Doak and Mark Johnstone at fullback and five-eighth respectively. Those key positions were last year filled by Munster and Brent Crisp. But with Munster now on the books of the Melbourne Storm and Crisp on the comeback trail from injury, new faces Doak and Johnstone will get their chance to step up against the Pride at Browne Park on Saturday night. The Capras are sweating on the fitness of centres Mitch Zorning and Smith Samau, but have been boosted by the return of big forward John Clayton. The Pride have injury concerns of their own, with coach Jason Demetriou set to assess the fitness of Matthew Wright and Sam Obst this week. The Pride shot straight to the top of the Intrust Super Cup ladder after a 36-0 victory over the Sunshine Coast at Barlow Park in round 1. But this match is poised to be a much tougher assignment given that the Capras are traditionally tough to beat at home.
‘Dobbo’ says: The CQ Capras’ first home game of the season promises to be a cracking match. Look out for Justin Castellaro, the Pride’s Italian representative winger from Ingham (I don’t know how that happens!), who has shown a taste for finding the try line. Northern Pride by 10.
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS v SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES
Stockland Stadium, on Saturday, March 8 – 6pm
Referee: Jarrod Cole
Head to Head: Souths Logan 8 Sunshine Coast 3
Twitter: #intrustsupercup #SCFvSLM
The Souths Logan Magpies will open their 2014 campaign on Saturday night when they travel north to take on the Sunshine Coast Falcons. The Magpies sat out the first week of the competition with a bye and will be keen to make their mark with a win first up. In their way however are a home side determined to improve on their round 1 result and to avoid recording their 20th loss in succession. Last week the Falcons were defeated 36-0 by a strong Northern Pride side – but there were still plenty of performances from the team that pleased coach Ivan Henjak; who singled out second-row pair Jacob Samoa and Rueben Baillie for special praise. The Falcons will go into this match with an unchanged line-up. Magpies coach Josh Hannay (who incidentally has played 27 Cup games in the past, scoring
192 points) has included Canberra Raiders contracted quartet Jordan Rapana (wing), Jack Ahearn
(five-eighth), Sam Mataora (prop) and former junior Mitch Cronin (hooker) in his formidable looking side. The Magpies have a superior head-to-head record, having won five of their past six matches against the Sunshine Coast.
‘Dobbo’ says: This year is a learning curve for the Sunshine Coast. They endured a tough day at the office last week but the effort was there. There is plenty of interest in how the Magpies will perform in their first outing of the season. This match will be closer than most think. Souths Logan by 6
Easts Tigers made an emphatic statement about their intentions this season with their opening round win – defeating the defending premiers Mackay Cutters 40-12 at Stadium Mackay. All of Craig Ingebrigtsen’s charges put in a good showing, with hooker Tommy Butterfield and forward Jacob Ling impressing in what was the Tigers’ biggest ever win over their Mackay rivals. While the Tigers did it relatively easily; their opposition this weekend Wynnum were locked in a tense struggle right to the end before they could overcome Tweed Heads. Coach Jon Buchanan has named an unchanged side for this weekend’s Channel 9 match and he will be hoping they have what it takes to record back-to-back wins to open the season. The Tigers however have been forced to make a number of changes, with lock Matthew Zgrajewski breaking his leg in the win over Mackay. Dane Hogan has been brought in as his replacement. Storm contracted players Richie Kennar, Hymel Hunt and Matthew Lodge have not been named to back up this week – but may yet still feature, with former Jets Jarrod McInally and Donald Malone set to debut for their new club. Liufau Hala and Liam Tyson have also been named to play in their first game for the club this year.
‘Dobbo’ says: What a cracking game this will be. Easts have shown already they mean business. Wynnum had a first up win but were a little rusty. XXXX will be flowing from the Chook Pen at BMD Kougari Oval … Sunday rugby league at its best! Easts Tigers by 12.
Two first round winners will face off at Bishop Park on Sunday with the Devils hosting Burleigh in the final match of the round. The Norths backline will feature a familiar name in Jharal Yow Yeh, who will take his latest step in his journey back from injury – one which was once thought so bad he
would never play the game again. James Geurtjens is the other new inclusion in the team that defeated the Ipswich Jets last weekend, while Brad McKee has been omitted. Forward Francis Molo will also not feature this week after he was named in the Broncos opening round NYC match against the Bulldogs. Bears coach Carl Briggs has been forced to name a replacement for utility Jamie Dowling who went down with a knee injury in the first minute of the Bears’ win over the Capras. Kyle McConnell was named to start in the back row, but will also have to be replaced after he copped a one-match ban for a shoulder charge. Steve Michaels has been added to the wing, shifting three-try scorer Khan Ahwang into the centres, while Jamie Anderson moves onto the bench. For Burleigh, this could be a tough road trip, with Norths having won four of their past five games between the two sides.
‘Dobbo’ says: A big crowd will be on hand at Bishop Park for the clash between the two round 1 winners. With a new coach and squad, Norths have plenty to prove in this competition. Norths Devils by 6.
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS – bye