Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
IPSWICH JETS v EASTS TIGERS
North Ipswich Reserve, Saturday 3pm
Referee: Chris Butler
Head to Head: Ipswich 16 Easts 15 Drawn 1
Easts Tigers have named an unchanged team in their quest for back-to-back victories. However, coach Troy McCarthy is set to tinker with his starting line-up, with Isaac Kaufmann, Lance Morris and Matt Zgrajewski all named in the run on team this week. The Tigers showed enough against Souths Logan last week to suggest they'll be a major player in 2012.
The Jets lost few admirers last weekend, despite a 22-14 loss to the Northern Pride in Cairns. Ipswich led the match 14-4 after a near faultless first half before a number of handling mistakes - and a resurgent Pride outfit - killed off their chances. Like Easts, Ipswich is poised to go in with the same 17 players who opened the season.
The wet conditions in Cairns didn't suit the team's exciting outside backs last weekend and the likes of Javarn White and Donald Malone will be hoping for a dry track on Saturday.
The mystery punter says: Easts Tigers by 6. The Tigers have only won two of their last 10 matches against Ipswich but they have enough firepower to start the season with back-to-back wins.
MACKAY CUTTERS v NORTHERN PRIDE
Virgin Australia Stadium, Saturday 6pm
Referee: Clayton Sharpe
Head to Head: Pride 6 Mackay 2
The battle of the two North Queensland Cowboys feeder clubs always lives up to expectations and this game should be no different. The Cutters were outplayed by Redcliffe last weekend and they'll need to lift against one of the favourites for the competition. Cutters coach Anthony Seibold has made just one change to his side, with David Milne switching from wing to fullback in the absence of Dean Tass who is set to miss three to four weeks with a hip flexor injury.
Michael Thomas is the new winger and Seibold may yet have to reshuffle his starting pack with Tyson Martin likely to move into the Cowboys NRL outfit. The Pride has named Cowboys signing Robert Lui at halfback for his second appearance of the season. There is also a strong chance that fellow Cowboy Cory Paterson will be a late inclusion in an already powerful Pride line-up.
David Maiden's side produced a strong second half performance to beat the Jets last Saturday in slippery conditions and a wet surface is also expected to greet the players in Mackay on Saturday night.
The mystery punter says: Northern Pride by 8. Mackay always seems to lift at home in this grudge match but it's hard to go past the Pride.
SUNSHINE COAST v SOUTHS LOGAN
Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunday, 2.10pm* Live on Channel 9
Referee: Robert Gallacher
Head to Head: Souths-Logan 5 Sunshine Coast 2
More than 79,000 viewers throughout metropolitan and regional Queensland watched last Saturday's match between Wynnum Manly and Tweed Heads. That figure marked an 80 per cent increase on the corresponding round from the previous year. The opening TV match of 2012 went right down to the wire and Sunday's second installment is expected to produce another tight finish.
While the two teams are evenly matched on paper, their backgrounds are vastly different. The Sea Eagles are a relative newcomer to the Intrust Super Cup, while the Magpies have a long and distinguished history that dates back to 1933 when the Souths club was formed. Club greats include Mal Meninga and Gary Belcher, but for now the spotlight will fall on the Magpies' young stars, who need to lift after their 38-16 loss to the Easts Tigers.
Sunshine Coast also needs to improve after conceding 40 points in their round one loss to the Central Capras. Kristian Freed comes into the Sunshine Coast side for the injured Filinga Filiga (ankle), while Joel Fitzgerald and Zac Litherland move onto the bench replacing Robert Congoo and James Boyce.
The mystery punter says: Souths Logan by 6. The Magpies were soundly beaten by Easts last week but expect plenty of improvement from Mark Beaumont's side.
WYNNUM MANLY v CENTRAL QLD CAPRAS
BMD Kougari Oval, Sunday 3pm
Referee: Tim Rutherford
Head to Head: Wynnum 21 Central 7 Drawn 2
The Central Capras were written off by many before a ball was kicked this year but the impressive nature of their 40-22 round win over the Sunshine Coast suggests Central Queensland fans have a very good footy side to cheer for. A strong performance against the defending premiers would provide the Capras with another huge lift.
Captain and prop forward Tim Glasby was in outstanding form last weekend, while hooker Cheyenne Motu was menacing out of dummy half. Both players loom as key figures this weekend against a Seagulls outfit with class all over the paddock.
The hosts have included Bronco and 2011 grand final star Mitchell Dodds in an aggressive forward pack. Scheming behind the big men will be hooker Jake Granville, who is set to turn out for his 50th Intrust Super Cup match for the Seagulls.
The mystery punter says: Wynnum Manly by 12. After starting the season with a good win over Tweed, Wynnum should be too strong at home.
NORTHS DEVILS v TWEED HEADS
Bishop Park, Sunday 3pm
Referee: Shane Spicer
Head to Head: Norths 9 Tweed 8 Drawn 1
Powerhouse Norths back-rower Brendon Gibb turns out for a 50th Cup appearance. Gibb notched two tries against Burleigh last weekend and he'll be keen to celebrate a victory in his milestone match following last week's 36-24 loss to the Bears. Like the Devils, Tweed is also coming off a round one defeat.
The Seagulls have enjoyed the upper hand over Norths in recent battles, having won the last three encounters against the Nundah club. Norths have lost Bronco Scott Anderson back to the NRL side, but have named Dunamis Lui on a bench that also includes Broncos livewire Kurt Baptiste. In other milestone news, Norths flyer Daniel Ogden needs one try to become Norths' highest Cup try scorer - he has 45 equal with Kevin Carmichael and Steven Bell.
The mystery punter says: Tweed Heads by 2. Hard to split these two but Tweed showed enough last week against Wynnum to suggest they're in for another big season.
BURLEIGH BEARS v RECLIFFE DOLPHINS
Pizzey Park, Sunday 3pm
Referee: Nick Kalpakidis
Head to Head: Burleigh 18 Redcliffe 17
The Dolphins were impressive in their 28-18 round 1 win over the Mackay Cutters; despite an early setback which saw new recruit halfback John Kennedy leave the field with a knee injury midway through the first half. Luke Capewell came off the bench as his replacement and he and his fellow Brisbane Broncos Nick Slyney and Dane Gagai played well for the peninsular side.
The trio have again been named in the Dolphins line-up and will be expected to play a key role in the game against Burleigh. The Bears too notched an impressive opening round win, claiming a 36-24 victory over the Norths Devils. The Gold Coast side also boast players with NRL experience with Titans Brenton Lawrence and Bodene Thompson adding punch to the forward pack. Interestingly, both teams started well last weekend, but let their opposition back into the contest with some lapses in the middle section of the game.
The mystery punter says: Burleigh by 6. This Pizzey Park clash will be a ripper. We'll go with the Bears on the strength of last week's performance and the home ground advantage.