The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Last week was one out of the box with five genuine upsets and another that was an each-way bet going against popular opinion. Round 16 proved to be the perfect storm for punters everywhere and this humble tipping tradesman was torn limb from limb. I stood agog in front of the television all weekend and watched one incorrect pick after another result in the ghastly total of 1 from 7, narrowly avoiding the duck.
Sanity reared its? head briefly with the Storm belting Souths, but the ensuing carnage saw me emerge from the dust with 60 from 104 tips thus far. In league, if you put in a shocker one week, the best remedy is to go out and have a big one, but always consider the liberal usage of three fabulous letters so professionally abused by the Queensland Rugby League.
Unfortunately, TBA will only get you the away games in the office tipping comp. And in any case, if you can?t find a credible loophole to exploit then you?ve got nothing to lose - as they say in Dresden, you can?t bomb rubble!
Tigers v Sea Eagles
A good win over the Dragons last start has had the Tigers buzzing at training all week, and why not? They dared to take on a superior outfit and play them the way they wanted. Prince was brilliant and let?s hope he keeps it up. I?m sure he put himself back in the minds of a few Queensland selectors.
The Sea Eagles were a different story finding out what it?s going to be like in September, not that I?m suggesting they?ll bomb out early, but that?s the sort of footy that will decide their fate. Fortress Brookvale was reduced to minimum security and the Bulldogs were on day release, dishing up tough loss.
This game will be won by the team who wants it more, and judging by last week?s enthusiasm the Tigers have them covered at Leichhardt this Friday night with the Manly set to struggle at night, away from home and missing several key players through injury and rep duty.
Bulldogs v Storm
This game has all the hallmarks of a classic encounter - a spurned fullback (Slater) looking to set the record straight, an in-form prop (O?Meley) coming back to his best, with both teams on the same points and desperately needing a win to get over the top of each other.
Sherwin is back in the starting line-up after having the coach?s boot print on his rump last week. He has been a bit down lately, but maybe his partner Anasta is attracting so much attention that we?ve forgotten about poor old Shifty. He has the chance to shine against a quality halfback and will need a good performance.
There?s a couple of old heads in the Storm pack, but they should be contained by O?Meley and Asotasi with the loss of Cameron Smith set to slow down Melbourne?s game and Orford is one halfback who plays at break-neck pace. I think the Doggies will get this one out in the wilderness of the Sydney Showground where parking won?t be a problem.
Cowboys v Warriors
Another crucial match-up here with the Warriors shock winners against premiership favourites the Broncos last week, and the Cowboys surrendering their lasso?s to a Jason Smith inspired Raiders outfit who reversed some very ugly form down in the arctic surrounds of Canberra.
The Cowboys have shuffled their line-up around a lot, with lock Travis Norton at five-eighth and hooker Aaron Payne at halfback with Josh Hannay back in the team. Their forwards are pretty much the same with Justin Smith sure to swap around with Norton throughout the game. The Warriors are unchanged with Byrne a possible late change off the bench and into the backline somewhere.
We?ve come to expect the world of the Cowboys at Townsville and whilst their team is bad on paper they really are suffering from indifferent form and miss their rep stars when they?re on duty. I?m going to have to go with the Warriors here after they played some great mistake-free footy and will surely test the Cowboys at every opportunity.
Knights v Roosters
The Knights finally surfaced last week to record their first victory of the year after what must seem like an eternity. One wonders if it will be a brief interlude though, as the Blues Origin squad has sapped Newcastle of Johns, Buderus and Simpson.
The Roosters have suffered incredible losses, with Minichiello, Crocker, Wing, Flannery and Fitzgibbon all donning the sky blue with Morley and Cross both suspended. It?s an incredible situation they find themselves in.
Winning at Marathon Stadium is never easy but this week it won?t exactly be hard. The bizarre thing about Newcastle is that Craig Smith finds himself captaining the team after joining earlier this year from the local Illawarra comp. It?s a real toss of the coin job here, but I think the Roosters will sneak home. They have more experience and their halves are relatively comfortable with one another. It could get very, very ugly though.
Raiders v Panthers
Last week the Raiders proved the popular theory that they simply can?t play without Jason Smith. The guy is an enigma and onlookers can see clearly that any game he takes part in is played at his pace. Well, everyone but the opposition that is.
The Panthers suffered the indignity of becoming the Knights first scalp for the season and you?d think the shame associated would generate enough anger to strike back hard. Or will they curl up into their shell and pretend it didn?t happen?
The Panthers are without playmaker Craig Gower, prop Ben Ross, Luke Rooney is in doubt and Luke Priddis may be called into the NSW squad at the last minute. With the Raiders disposing of North Queensland last week I think the home ground advantage and the Smith factor will once gain result in victory.
Broncos v Sharks
The Sharks are coming off the bye here and it?s proved to be a real bummer for teams this year. Cronulla had a win over Easts before they had the week off but as we?ve seen lately that?s not much form on the board.
The Broncos had a poor day by their standards against the Warriors last week and will want to make up for it. They have a few players watching from the stand with the rest of the Maroons but the feel of the team is still positive. Webcke and Berrigan will provide the thrust and direction with Seymour and McGuire getting a great opportunity to shine with the absence of Lockyer.
It?s hard for any team to travel up to Lang Park and come away with the points, and I don?t think the Sharkies can do it here even with Brisbane sporting a few holes in their armour. Best of luck to ?TBA? with his fitness session.
Eels v Rabbitohs
The Eels and Rabbitohs round out a great afternoon of footy and are the only game in Sydney on Sunday. Parra had a disappointing loss to the Roosters but the conditions played their part in the game. Morrison escaped the clutches of the judiciary but they lose Tahu and Hindmarsh to Origin making their task a little harder.
Sadly, Souths were blown off the park last weekend and looked every bit like the Bunnies of old. They took stupid options and lacked any real spark in the engine room. Without Ashley Harrison, who has finally broken through to the elite level, they are already behind before they even get on the park. Hopefully the return of Bryan Fletcher and Mick Moran will enable them to be competitive as they do occasionally show signs of life though.
But few good judges can go past the Eels on a Sunday afternoon at Parramatta Stadium and there?s a very good reason for it ? they?re going to win. Kudos to Denis Fitzgerald who has managed to grab fewer headlines for an overseas junket than Malcolm Noad did.
The Dragons have the bye this week and they?ll be licking their wounds from their mauling at the hands of the Tigers in round 16. They simply didn?t turn up on the day and will be keen to make amends against Parra in a week?s time. Barrett will be back for this one and the interesting purchase of Chris Sheppard mid-week will more than likely come into play.