Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Summary: The Wests Tigers are still chasing their first win as a merged entity and will be desperate to register it here at home against a Manly side that has made a mixed start to their 2013 campaign. The Sea Eagles had a good win first up against the Vulcans, who then franked that form by knocking off Newtown last weekend, however they put in a far less impressive display against Mounties last round. The Tigers have shown some signs that a win is just around the corner, however having conceded 80 points in their first two outings, it is not surprising that they are yet to break their maiden status. Big Ava Seumanufagai has been rewarded with some good early season form up front with an NRL debut this weekend, and as a result his spot in the run on side will be taken by Sean Spence. The Tigers may also be missing Sauaso Sue who has been named on an extended NRL bench, but are otherwise largely unchanged from the team that went down to Windsor by two points last week. Luke Williamson has kept the faith so to speak, naming an unchanged line up for the Sea Eagles despite their 30 point loss to Mounties last week. An entertaining affair is on the cards here and well worth the trip out to Leichhardt Oval.
Talking Point: Deee Fence – We would be shocked if both the Tigers and Sea Eagles had not spent some time hitting the tackling bags at training this week having conceded 44 and 40 points respectively last weekend. Clearly numbers like these won’t yield many wins for either side and it is unlikely that with such a heavy focus on defence this weekend, that we will see a repeat of last weekend’s efforts here.
Prediction: If the Tigers can arrest their defensive deficiencies from the first few rounds, they should have enough attack in them to claim the two points. Tigers by 10.
Summary: The Bulldogs bounced back from a disappointing loss first up at the hands of the Bears to register a professional victory against the Cutters at Leichhardt last weekend while Wentworthville overcame a sluggish start against Wyong to remain unbeaten through two rounds. Lachlan Burr was outstanding for the Bulldogs last week and will be a player to watch once again here while the likes of Romelo, Abou-Sleiman and Pumipi looked dangerous each and every time they touched the ball. For the third week in a row, Wentworthville will field a largely unchanged line up and this is a luxury that Brett Cook and the Magpies will look to take advantage of for as long as it lasts. In fact the only change to the Wenty team list is the loss of young tyro, Kenny Edwards, who has earned an NRL call up after some stellar early season form in the VB NSW Cup. These two sides played some classic matches in 2012 and much of the same can be expected here with the home side likely to start slight favourites. There will be three Junior Rep matches being played at Belmore on Saturday with the first kicking off at 10am, so why not head out nice and early and make a day of it.
Talking Point: Belmore Benny? – Rugby League loves a good rumour, and this may be just that, but our spies at Belmore are telling us that Ben Barba has spent some time running some drills with the VB NSW Cup side this week at training. Now this may well just be a part of the process of integrating back into an overall training regime, or perhaps, just maybe, Des is planning on giving Benny a little taste of footy at Belmore on Saturday to gauge his fitness and see how he has come back to the club prior to thrusting him into the spotlight against the Rabbitohs on Good Friday. I guess we will all find out come 3pm Saturday.
Prediction: Should be a slugfest. Tipping the home team in a close one. Dogs by 6.
Newtown Jets Vs North Sydney Bears
Henson Park, Saturday, March 23
Referee: Kasey Badger
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au or on the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Summary: The Jets and the Bears have both started the year with a win and loss however it is more than just the two points up for grabs this Saturday at Henson Park. Anyone that has anything to do with either of these foundation clubs will tell you it always means just a little bit more than the competition points to the players and the fans when the Jets and Bears clash. It’s not just honouring the memory of the great Frank Hyde (see talking point) but it is about more than 100 years of history, rivalry and tradition. While both clubs have a great deal of respect for one another off the park, once the whistle blows to signify the start of the match, all bets are off. The Jets will need to bounce back following a tough road trip to New Zealand while the Bears went down 16-8 at the hands of the Sharks. Matt King has been named in the centres for the Bears and they may also get the likes of Clark and Hunt back should they not be required in the NRL. O’Sullivan is back in for the Jets having missed the trip to Auckland last week while Jack Bosden has been named to make his first appearance since last year’s Grand Final. There are Junior Rep matches kicking off from midday at Henson Park with the Roosters taking on St George, so do yourself a favour and get down to the ground for what is always one of the great days of the year on the Rugby League calendar.
Talking Point: "It's long enough, it's high enough and it's straight between the posts" – Each and every season, the Jets and the Bears play for the ‘Frank Hyde Shield’ in honour of the man that played for both clubs back in the 30’s & 40’s. Hyde also played for the Tigers as well as lacing up the boots for New South Wales numerous times. Many that never saw him play will always remember him more as a wonderful commentator off the park more so than for his league exploits on it. Hyde forged a glorious career for himself in the media and will always be remembered for his iconic catch phrase "It's long enough, it's high enough and it's straight between the posts." Despite having passed back in 2007, Hyde’s legend will long live on, and we are tipping that he will be smiling down on the 8972 strong crowd at Henson Park come this Saturday.
Prediction: Another match that could go either way. Maybe the Bears in a classic. Bears by 1.
Summary: The top of the table Sharks face a tough trip out west to face a Mounties side that is coming off a comprehensive win against Manly last weekend. The Sharks have displayed an ability to be flashy but also to grind out a victory in the opening two rounds and they will need to be at their best here if they are to maintain their grip on top spot. Mounties look set to be without the services of Glen Buttriss and Sam Mataora here however the Raiders have named a fairly large squad this weekend, so Mounties may yet get some extras back come game day. The Sharks have named a strong side with the likes of Ben Hampton, Young Tonumaipea, Brett Finch all expected to come up from Melbourne while Maurice Blair may also make the trip if he doesn’t get a start at AAMI Park tonight. Much like last weekend, warm weather is expected in and around Sydney on Saturday, and both of these sides carry plenty of size up front. Look for this game to open up late in the second half with the likes of Townsend for the Sharks and Cronin for Mounties to cause plenty of headaches in the middle third of the park.
Talking Point: Cruising to the try line – It would appear that Blake Ferguson copped his demotion on the chin and turned up to Mounties last week in the right frame of mind. Not only did he score a double, but he also played a role in several others and from all reports displayed an excellent mind set. A similar display both on and off the park this weekend should almost see him ready for a recall to the NRL.
Prediction: Mounties will be tough to roll at home but the Sharks look to be in good touch early on in the season. Sharks by 4.
Summary: The Knights play host to a Vulcans side looking to make it back to back wins following an impressive victory against Newtown at Mt Smart Stadium last weekend. The Auckland Vulcans are one of the great mysteries of the VB NSW Cup. Having made the Grand Final and coming within a whisker of winning the competition in 2011, the Vulcans plummeted back to earth in 2012 in a season that saw them miss the Finals altogether. On their day, they are one of the competitions great entertainers, but when it is not their day... well, it’s not their day. Willie Swann will be looking for more consistency from the squad in 2013, and a part of that process will be registering more wins in Australia. In 2012, the Vulcans won 11 games total but only four of those were over here in Australia. It took 13 wins to make the top eight last year, so assuming the Vulcans can win seven or eight games at home, they will definitely need to find a few more wins on the road in 2013 if they are to force their way back into Finals contention. The Knights will be hoping that one of those away wins don’t come at their expense and will be fielding a strong side that in the hope that they can maintain their top four spot. Junior Rep fixtures kick off from 1.30pm so head out early for a smorgasbord of league in the Hunter.
Talking Point: Golden boot – Mantellato was one of the revelations of the VB NSW Cup in 2012 and one team that can attest to his prowess with not only the boot, but the ball in hand also, is this weekend’s opponents in the Vulcans. The Knights and Vulcans clashed twice in 2012 with the Knights running out winners on both occasions. In fact the Knights scored 54 points against the Vulcans during those two clashes and Mantellato personally accounted for 32 of those points (3 tries & 10 goals). Mantellato is yet to miss a kick against the Vulcans having slotted 9 from 9 conversions and also nailing his sole attempt at a penalty against them in 2012. Pressure’s on Josh!
Prediction: Tipping an upset here. The Knights are coming off a bye last week and an indifferent second the half the week before. Vulcans can definitely get the victory. Vulcans by 8.
Wyong Roos Vs Windsor Wolves
Morry Breen Oval, Sunday, March 24
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au or on the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Summary: Two rounds into their inaugural VB NSW Cup campaign, the Wyong Roos are still to register their maiden win however the signs have been there that it won’t take too much longer. They led Wenty at Ringrose Park for a large majority of the game last weekend and also easily won the second half against the Knights back in week one. Paul Stringer will be looking for a complete 80 minute performance though this weekend as a very dangerous Wolves side comes to town. The Wolves started their season with a heart racing 44-42 win over the Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium and with so many new players joining the club over the off season, you would anticipate that there will be a lot of improvement in the team over the coming weeks. Blake Austin moves into the six jersey here after racking up 24 points out in the centres last weekend while Cameron Ciraldo makes his first start of 2013 here. Arthur Brown continued his good early season try scoring form for Wyong with a double against Wenty, and he moves into the centres for this one while Junior Tia Kilifi has forced his way into the starting 13 with Todd Wilson unavailable for this one.
Talking Point: Philadelphia – The city of Philadelphia is otherwise known as the ‘city of brotherly love’, but come this Sunday, for a few hours at the very least, perhaps Kanwal can claim that mantle. In the Windsor side you have an all Eisenhuth centre pairing while in opposing camps we also have young Vaipuna Tia Kilifi and his older brother Junior Tia Kilifi. And apart from the brothers that are related by birth, there are also another couple of Wyong players such as Levi Pulu and Etu Uaisele who have spent time at Windsor in the past few seasons. Expect some fireworks when things get willing.
Prediction: The Roos came all so close to a win last week, but may have to wait at least one more week because this Windsor team is stacked with talent. Wolves by 14.
Illawarra Cutters have the BYE