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Welcome to Round 14 everyone. Don?t forget that State of Origin players will be cutting up the oranges this week.
I was a very happy chappy sitting in the back bar of the Three Weeds in Rozelle last Sunday as the Tigers took on the Cowboys in the last game of the week. For, I had $20 on the Cowboys to win, and had earlier selected the Tigers to overcome them for a perfect round. I can?t say for sure that I?ll back it up with another perfect round, but here?s hoping.
It?s not often I get to gloat but excuse me this one time. I?ve lifted my game to 58 from 90 (64%) in the space of seven days and I?m feeling rather chipper. But hey, it doesn?t get any easier this round and you?re only as good as your last pick, so buckle up boys and girls, we?re in for a fair ride!
Sea Eagles v Tigers
Friday night begins with a feast out at Brookvale where the Tigers travel north to take on a sizzling Many club. The Sea Eagles have won the past two games there with the last Tigers victory at Brookvale taking place in early 2003.
With Kite, Bell and Menzies missing the home side will do it tough, but after a stirring performance against the Panthers last week away from home, I think they?re up to the task. Manly?s backline contains a few no-names but they?ve been playing well lately and I thought they should have won by more last week.
The Tigers on the other hand appear a bit disjointed and lacking direction. Prince and Marshall have both been firing of late but that?s about it. They need to start putting the foot on the pedal and accelerating in this competition otherwise they?ll be left behind.
Being at home and going with form I?m taking the Sea Eagles here in what should be a good old-fashioned stoush.
Panthers v Dragons
Super Saturday kicks-off in style with two rough and ready teams striding onto the pitch for the twilight match.
The Dragons take the field minus Bailey, Cooper and Gasnier who are out thanks to Origin duty and suspension. Whilst they managed a win over the Eels last week I think they out-did themselves and will struggle away from home this week. Looking at their team, there are plenty of rookie players in there who could be exposed.
For the Panthers, they welcome back favourite son Craig Gower who appears to have missed his chance with NSW this year. The rest of the side is more or less their best team so I think they?ll chuck in a good effort this week. They?ve had the benefit of a few home games this year and I think the Panthers will run away with this one.
Cowboys v Sharks
The second Saturday game throws up plenty of issues for the punter. Can the Cowboys bounce back from five losses out of the last six matches? Will Origin cripple them again? Will the bye affect the Sharks?
All these questions shall be answered during the night but what will we choose?
I think the Cowboys are due. They?ve lost plenty on the trot and will really need a victory against the Sharks here to solidify their lofty position on the competition table. There are a few missing thanks to rep duty, namely, Thurston, Webb and Lillyman but I think they have the juice to take home the points.
Cronulla, whilst they have been good of late, will struggle to compete in the forwards against the Cowboys. Their backline?s cancel each other out but the bench is where I think North Queensland have the advantage.
Rockin? Rod Jensen is back for the Cowboys and combined with a need to win and the Sharks returning from a week off, I think the people of FNQ will be happy with the result.
Rabbitohs v Broncos
The final clash of Saturday night could well prove a stickler in the overall scheme of things. You see, the Bunnies haven?t beaten Brisbane since 1989! But ironically, since that time Souths are probably fielding their best line-up and Brisbane their worst. It?s also first place against last place.
The new-age Baby Broncos are taking on the Rabbitohs out at Telstra Stadium in what?s sure to be a classic game. With Hodges, Hunt, Lockyer, Tate, Berrigan and Civoniceva missing from their line-up, Brisbane have had to search far and wide to field a team. Webcke?s presence should do enough to keep the Broncos on track however.
As for Souths, well they?re fielding the best side they have all year. Sutton is back to five-eighth with a full complement in the backline and a no-nonsense pack of forwards. I think this is Souths? best opportunity to win a game this year but I simply can?t pick them out of respect to the opposition. The Broncos should win and keep the Bunnies at bay for long enough to secure victory.
Roosters v Warriors
This is a hard game?
The Warriors travel across to Bondi to play a severely depleted Rooster?s outfit due to several factors. Wing, Anasta, Finch and Flannery are all on State duty whilst Minichiello and Roberts are injured. That?s a huge toll to overcome and whilst Morley and Fitzgibbon are both still in the pack, it?s no secret they?re looking elsewhere and their minds aren?t on the job.
The Warriors had a tough loss against a committed Broncos outfit last week and I think they?re ready to strike on Australian soil for the first time since round 4 against a Joey-less Newcastle. With Wiki?s exoneration and Rovelli in form I think they will trouble Easts and slowly overcome them, even with Price taking a week off through rep duty.
The Warriors to win, Easts will struggle to even compete.
Eels v Storm
These two teams are fairly evenly matched right now. The Eels, whilst struggling all year and missing 3 Origin players, will pull together following last week?s loss to the Dragons in difficult circumstances. As will the Storm, who are without several players through injury and suspension.
Yet another drinking saga has engulfed the Eels and this isn?t too handy when it comes time to select a team. Hindmarsh is the big loss as he is always taking the ball up. With Grothe and Tahu missing, the Eels do look a little weak in the backs.
But no more so that the Storm, who appear to be struggling to fill the loss of Inglis and Slater to Origin and suspension so far this year. They still have Crocker to come back but that won?t help them this week and they?ve looked susceptible to a loss for the past few games.
Eels by a few.
Bulldogs v Raiders
The long weekend winds up on Monday as Canberra travel up the highway to Homebush as they prepare to take on the Dogs. I was impressed with their efforts last week given the fact that a few players backed up from Origin and could have easily called in sick. With Sherwin back and Holdsworth taking the ball to the line more often, I think the Bulldogs will go well here.
The Raiders have made a habit of un-seating big name clubs but I don?t think they hold anywhere near the impact against a side like the Bulldogs. They play similar styles of footy and if they get bodies in motion they?ll at least be competitive on the night. With Smith still out the play will revolve around several different players like Carney, Withers and the Schif, so Canberra could cause a few headaches.
But I'll stick with an improving Canterbury.
The Knights have the bye in Round 14, and oh boy, don?t they need it. Joey?s complaining about being tired and after two straight losses I bet they?ll be happy to sleep in for the next few days. They?ll need all the help they can get when they head to Auckland next week to take on the Warriors.