38 hours ago
Paul's back for another look at the weekend ahead. Check out his tips and see if yours will match up...
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A rough night in the making for New Zealand Rugby League. Granted, their forward pack deserves respect but when it comes time to put points and the board, cohesion will let them down. Coach Stephen Kearney has drafted Panthers back up Isaac John to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves. However, what's more concerning than the beginning of a Johnson and John era is the rest of their spine. Congratulations to debutants Peter Hiku and Ben Henry but they will do it tough.
The Australians, by contrast, will showcase their famous Queensland spine and no player shines brighter in this group than Jonathan Thurston. JT, with good service from his 9, should carve up the Kiwis and the Kangaroos should win well. The biggest challenges for the home side will be filling up the stadium and deciding on their victory song. If any cane-toad tries to sing the Queensland Origin song again, expect Paul Gallen to unleash his famous right hand.
Caltex Park in Dubbo comes alive on Sunday afternoon for the annual City v Country clash and this year's version is punctuated by future origin hopefuls. More so than previous years, selectors have chosen the best of a young crop of outstanding talent. Whilst they've still rewarded the likes of Beau Scott and Josh McCrone to keep the culture from dying, all other representatives look likely. The wonderful folk of the New South Wales Orana Region will brave the crisp and chilly conditions and be treated to a beauty.
And most of this beauty will come from City. The Country side is dominated by footballers who win with defence, with the grind. A forward pack boasting the likes of Aidan Tolman and Adam Docker will be hoping to slow down the ruck, waiting for the visitors to err. They won't. Brad Fittler's team has many attacking weapons but none more exciting than their back three. Matt Moylan, Jorge Taufua and Daniel Tupou are all in brilliant form and if the Reynolds boys can steer City's attack in this direction, they will prove too hard for Country to stop.
My tip: City 24-14