Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
Came close to getting my first fully correct round with my tips - but Wenty blew that chance away with their stunning win over competition leaders Mounties last Sunday! Cronulla continue their resurgent form over an overwhelmed Jets while the Wests Tigers returned to winning ways over a disappointing Bulldogs outfit. The Warriors with some big inclusions were too classy for the Cutters. Big local derby wins were achieved by Manly (their 1st win for the year) & Newcastle.
The Round Eight teamlists for VB NSW Cup can be found HERE.
After all that its time to preview all this week's action that is Round 8 of the VB NSW Cup, including my new late mail feature.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Penrith Panthers
Remondis Stadium, Saturday, April 27 Kick-off: 12.40pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ and Radio coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury FM (hawkesburyradio.com.au/index.cfm)
SHARKS (8th - P7 W4 L3 F 186 A 163 +23); NRL Experienced Players: (13) - Gardner, T Robinson, Stapleton, Hampton, Holdsworth, Prior, Lichaa, D Fifita, Moors, Sopoaga, Politoni, T Robinson, Manumalealii
Late Mail: Expect Ben Hampton to start at five eighth for the Melbourne Storm with Manumalealii his likely replacement. Look for some possible late inclusions with Jonathan Wright /or Tinirau Arona with Anthony Tupou & Beau Ryan set to return to first grade for the Sharks.
PANTHERS (4th - P6 W4 L2 B1 F 158 A 118 +40); NRL Experienced Players: (9) - Watene-Zelezniak, Yeo, K Naiqama, John, Anderson, Cherrington, N Smith, Simpkins, Eisenhuth
Late Mail: Don't be surprised if Matt Robinson is a late inclusion for the Panthers now that Adam Docker has been cleared to play the Sharks. This may allow Vaipuna Tia Kilifi the luxury of another week's recovery time.
The Verdict: A real clash of the titans of NSW Cup in recent times & quite possibly the clash of the season thus far given it's a grand final replay of sorts. There are 22 players in both teams with NRL experience but Cronulla has two big inclusions which possibly swings things in their favour going into this clash with the return of Lichaa & Sopoaga. The Panthers having won 4 in a row including wins over the top three teams in consecutive weeks wil be refreshed after a bye but their momentum may have been stunted by the week's break. Some key injuries to Wes Naiqama & Luke Capewell won't help their cause either & for this reason I pick Cronulla to win this by 10.
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, April 26 Kick-off: 1.30pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
BULLDOGS (13th - P7 W1 D1 L5 F 126 A 174 -48); NRL Experienced Players: (6) - Low, Cook, Alaalatoa, Burr, Maitua, O'Hanlon
Late Mail: Moses Mbye may be a late call up having been named on an extended Bulldogs bench for first grade.
KNIGHTS (5th - P6 W4 L2 B1 F 191 A 154 +37); NRL Experienced Players: (6) - Mantellato, Wiliame, Dobson, Fa'alogo, Waddell, Hilder
The Verdict: The Bulldogs under new coach Andy Patmore are under the pump having slumped to last place having not won since Round 2 & are now missing the likes of Inu, Eastwood & Kasiano. It doesn't get any easier this week coming up against 5th placed Knights who showed no mercy to the Roos last week. The Knights should continue to heap misery on the one-time heavyweights of the NSW Cup & win by 16 points.
Newtown Jets Vs New Zealand Warriors
Henson Park, Saturday, April 26 Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports (www.steelesports.com.au)
JETS (10th - P6 W1 D1 L4 B1 F 94 A 188 -94); NRL Experienced Players: (9) - Gallant, Lane, Moga, Langi, Taumata, L'Estrange, Evans, Taukeiaho, Moujalli
WARRIORS (6th - P6 W3 D1 L2 B1 F 159 A 130 +29); NRL Experienced Players: (8) - Locke, Hurrell, Tuimavave, Gubb, Palavi, Peyroux, S Lousi, S Lousi
Late Mail: Good chance that Konrad Hurrell will be a late inclusion on the Warriors bench for first grade having travelled with the team to Melbourne which may see Dane Neilsen drop back to NSW Cup.
The Verdict: The Jets crash-landed with a thud against the resurgent Cronulla Sharks last week & have responded naming one of their strongest sides of the season with the inclusion of Taukeiaho & Langi. The Warriors welcome back Gubb, Peyroux & Sione Lousi but lose Townsend, Mateo & perhaps Hurrell to their NRL team. The Warriors have been on a roll with three straight wins including wins over Cronulla & Illawarra but beware the bounce back factor at Henson Park in front of what is surely going to be a vocal home crowd in the vinicity of 8,721 loyal Jets fans. Jets by 4 in an upset.
Illawarra Cutters Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
WIN Stadium, Saturday, April 26 Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
CUTTERS (7th - P6 W3 D1 L2 B1 F 150 A 123 +27); NRL Experienced Players: (10) - Quinlan, Daniela, Runciman, Mata'utia, Williams, K Stanley, Groat, Tia-Kilifi, Mataka, Garvey
Late Mail: Bronson Harrison may drop back down for the Cutters to accommodate Jack De Belin into the Dragons NRL 17 man squad.
The Verdict: Illawarra will be smarting after letting the Warriors get away from them early before storming home late to come within 7 points of the Warriors. The Cutters have surprised many in the NSW Cup & remain a strong contender for the finals. Manly having opened their account in style against the hapless Bears last start won't be an easy opponent but in saying that the Cutters should have a little too much class for the Sea Eagles. Cutters by 12.
Morry Breen Oval, Sunday, April 27 Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Lawrence McDonell
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
ROOS (9th - P7 W3 L4 F 136 A 196 -60); NRL Experienced Players: (2) - Corrigan, O'Meley
Late Mail: Wyong expected to be 1-17 at this stage
MOUNTIES (1st - P7 W5 L2 F 244 A 170 +74); NRL Experienced Players: (7) - Pangai, Sauiluma, O'Donnell, McIllwrick, Learoyd-Lahrs, Kennedy, Nicholls
Late Mail: expected to be 1-17 at this stage.
The Verdict: The Roos fairy tale season received a harsh dose of reality last week against a Knights side that inflicted their heaviest loss of the season to date. Despite the loss, coach Rip Taylor has stuck solid with his squad. It doesn't get any easier this week coming up against the table-topping Mounties who leaked over 50 points in their loss to the Magpies. Jarrad Kennedy returns for Jake Foster whose form as the competition's leading try scorer has earnt him a spot in the Raiders first grade spot. Clay Priest will play once again in place of Lagi Setu who is still out injured, in an otherwise impressive looking Mounties forward pack. The Roos could be in for another hard afternoon in the office & I expect the Mounties to win this by 20.
North Sydney Oval, Sunday, April 20 Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Phil Henderson
BEARS (12th - P6 W1 L5 B1 F 106 A 178 -72); NRL Experienced Players: (3) - Tuqiri, Neale, Areaiiti
MAGPIES (3rd - P7 W5 L2 F 234 A 180 +54); NRL Experienced Players: (8) - Hunt, Toutai, Morgan, Pewhairaingi, L Foran, Kelly, Paulo, Lasalo
Late Mail: Magpies expected to be 1-17 at this stage.
The Verdict: The Bears season has certainly stumbled thus far in 2014 culminating in an embarrassing loss to previously winless Manly & it could continue again this week against a Magpies side that put together its most impressive performance of the season in comfortably defeating 1st placed Mounties last start. The Bears are struggling largely from a large player turnover which has placed pressure to blood inexperienced players that have come through Souths' under 20's team. Nathan Merritt is a big inclusion for the Bears & may spark their season back to life. However if Liam Foran is given the same latitude as afforded to him from the Mounties last week, it could be a very long afternoon for the Bears. Magpies by 24.
Wests Tigers have the BYE