The #NRL teams are in for Round 17.
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There?s an old Meatloaf song that goes something like ?two out of three aint bad?. Well that?s what I was thinking last Saturday night as I dropped the Raiders v Parra clash but managed to keep the points from the other two games intact. I was pretty happy and looking forward to Sunday where I thought 6 from 7 was a real possibility.
But oh, how wrong was I? I failed to pick another single winner and limped into work with 2 for the week, tail firmly planted between my legs. 39/63 (62%) is a fairly average score now in comparison to last week and I?ve got some soul searching to do.
City v Country
We start the week with our second representative fixture of the season as the Country boys take on City on their home turf out at Dubbo. With NSW State of Origin positions up for grabs there is sure to be a few players keen to have a good game as we showcase Rugby League in the bush.
These ones are always hard to pick and with players such as Fitzgibbon, Hornby, Kite, Thompson, Anasta, Orford and Gower all keen to press their claims, this hit-out could prove to be a great selection trial.
Based off the strength of their halves I think the City team will come away with a win and it should provide an interesting insight as to who the NSW halves will be. Personally, I think an Orford/Gower combination would work well, and I?d stay away from Finch or Zoolander as neither is playing the type of footy that warrants a sky blue jersey.
Dragons v Warriors
Super Saturday kicks off in the ?Gong where the Dragons play New Zealand in what?s sure to be a physical encounter.
Saints have lost a number of key personnel and as a result have a somewhat young team on the field. With Ryles, Bailey and Sims out of the game through a variety of reasons, the team may be hindered, but the likes of Barrett, Gasnier and Cooper should ask plenty of questions out wide for New Zealand.
The Warriors are coming off the bye in round 9 following a loss to the Bulldogs in disappointing circumstances and travel to Wollongong looking for their first win since 1996 at the ground. I just don?t think they?ve got it in them this time around with some of the selections quite strange. Fien, who?s been playing well, finds himself at hooker as Rovelli goes into the halfback role. I?m a fan of the youngster, but I think he?s better off at five-eighth, where Ropati has been named for this match. Toopi has also been dropped to the bench.
The Dragons should have too much for the Warriors here and will keep their unbeaten record at WIN Stadium.
Storm v Cowboys
A top of the table clash awaits us after we?ve wiped the saliva from our mouths following the first game of the night. North Queensland set out on the NRL?s second longest road trip and wind up in Melbourne to take on the Storm.
Unfortunately, suspension has dulled this one with Crocker?s spear tackle earning him a nice long stint on the sideline with team mate Billy Slater. Other than those two players though, the Storm field a strong line-up and will push the Cowboys at Olympic Park. They have displayed some great skills lately with Hill and Geyer both leading the way.
It?s hard to resist the Cowboys here however, as they seemed to barely break into a sweat against the Panthers last week. Whilst they?ve been a bit down on the form they showed at the beginning of the season, North Queensland will have too much for a competitive Storm outfit, with Southern, Webb and Norton all starting for the visitors in what should be an entertaining game.
Broncos v Sea Eagles
Last year this game was held in very similar circumstances after the Sea Eagles came out and demanded respect as a contender in the comp. Things ended abruptly though, with Brisbane dishing out one of their famous footballing lessons to a team who did their level best to incite a riot. I don?t think the result will be any different to last year, but there are a few concerns in both camps.
Brisbane should have beaten Newcastle last week and I bet they know it. Benny would have been into them after the game, telling them it was the one that got away. I was convinced they?d win the match in the dying stages and I think they?re out to make up for the loss this week. Hodges is still playing terrific footy and with Webcke and Civoniceva calling the shots upfront, it?s hard to look past Brisbane. Lockyer also looks more at ease.
Manly should be fired up and ready to go this week but they also have the potential scratching of Ben Kennedy from the team. With this in mind I am favouring Brisbane to take care of the visitors with Orford, Kite and Watmough backing up from Friday night.
Bulldogs v Eels
A good old-fashioned grudge match is the next cab off the rank, as two teams with plenty of history go at it down at League Headquarters.
The Doggies won in a canter last week against Easts who started the game on fire only to fizzle out. Despite four important players backing up last week, Canterbury put the Roosters away and only have captain Andrew Ryan involved in the Dubbo stoush this round. There are a couple of unfamiliar names in the Canterbury backline but they?ve been getting away with it here and there lately. The pack is where Canterbury?s strength is though with O?Meley, Mason, Asotasi and workhorse Grimaldi all involved.
The Eels are a totally different story as they stagger about trying to recapture the sort of form that saw them win last year?s Minor Premiership. They appear to be battling mental scars as well as physical ones, but have listed a strong line-up for this match. With Morris back I think the Eels will go better but I just can?t see them getting up here even though the only player they have backing up is Dean Widders.
If the Eel?s pack fire this week they could trouble the Doggies, but my feeling is that Canterbury will run over the top of Parra.
Tigers v Knights
Newcastle jump on the F3 and head off to Campbelltown as the Tigers play host in the West. I?d expect a big crowd down there as it?s not often the Knights travel to these parts. The last time was in 2003 and the Tigers have knocked them off in their last 3 games there.
It?s a totally different set of circumstances this week though. Joey is fit and will be looking to dominate this clash. Kurt Gidley will be backing up but for the most part Newcastle take the field with the same team they did last week against the Broncos. This should give them a good base to work with, although they will suffer through Newton?s omission.
Tim Sheens has finally conceded to my pleas to move makeshift lock Jamaal Lolesi to the five-eighth?s role after several experimentations in that position. Marshall will come on at some stage to take over but I really think Lolesi was wasted in the forwards. There?s no doubt Wests will make a game of this one as they start to get most of their players back on the field and begin to move up the ladder.
But I?m going for the Knights - I backed against them last week and it cost me, so I?ll learn from my mistakes.
Raiders v Sharks
We travel to the Nation?s capital next as the in-form Sharks test out big game hunters the Canberra Raiders.
I was pleasantly surprised by the form of Canberra last week and that?s a major reason as to why I?m tipping them this week. They looked really good against the Eels and although they slowed down a bit in the second half, they have proven to me this season that they are a side which never gives up and can jag a win when hope seems lost.
Likewise, the Sharks are playing great footy and deserve plenty of respect. But I?m worried about their penetration now that Dykes is injured. Simmons, Thompson and Gallen are all backing up which will test them for sure. Ironically, people were wondering what would happen to Dykes when Kimmorley came back, so I think we?ve solved that mystery.
Despite their recent good form, I?m going to take the Raiders in this one. It?s at home and they have no one in the City v Country, giving them some extra fresh legs. It?s going to be close and while the Sharks can win, I just think the Raiders play to their potential each week and this should get them over the line on Sunday.
Panthers v Rabbitohs
Here it is Souths fans, the day you?ve all been waiting for. I suggest you get on the train out to Penrith and have a look at your team this week as I?m sure this will be their first victory for the season.
Penrith have seven players backing up from City v Country and will be a bit tired come Sunday. Besides which, their form of late has been atrocious, slumping to four losses in a row. Gordon on the wing is untested and Aiton on the bench must be there to cover Priddis in case he fails to make it through the game. But I?m not particularly impressed by their line-up.
On the other hand I think the Rabbitohs look great this week. MacDougall at fullback will prove enigmatic and their pack looks capable of taking the Panthers forwards apart. Fa?alogo and Galuvao will be explosive with Cusack providing some much needed stability. The Bunnies will take home the chocolates here.
The Roosters have the bye this weekend and could probably use a spell to sort out their heads. After a great win in Townsville they capitulated to the Bulldogs after taking a healthy lead early on in proceedings. They have the Rabbitohs next week and there?s sure to be some feeling in that one.