Round 13 NRL preview

UNLUCKY for some?If you?re like me you?ll be hoping that the number 13 doesn?t translate to bad luck in tipping circles this week. In fact, I?m still searching for my first perfect round this year, but once again we are faced with a fairly difficult task. Round 12 saw some interesting shifts in the NRL landscape, with the Cowboys and Knights falling over, whilst Brisbane and Melbourne surged ahead. And if you ask me, I don?t think we?ve seen the best of the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles or the Dragons which is a scary thought given their current standings.I came away with an untidy 4 from 7 last week to take me to 51 out of a possible 83 (61%) but this still isn?t up to my usual standards. Everyone?s been saying this year is so hard to pick, so tell me punters, is it? Or is it that we are becoming less in-tune with the nuances of our game?Dragons v EelsFriday night commences in cracking fashion, with two clubs that have slowly developed a hatred for one another over the past few decades, taking the field in what?s sure to be a heated contest. Last year they played a couple of the best games of the season, with the first at Parra Stadium resulting in a brawl and the last at Kogarah, the scene of tomorrow night?s showdown, where both teams threw everything they had at one another.With Barrett out, and given the form he was in, the Dragons do lose some strike power. His kicking game and organisational abilities will be missed but let?s not forget the Dragons have won without him on many an occasion. Gasnier gets a premature shift to five-eighth as a result and the jury is still out as to whether he will make it in this position. I actually think he is the key tomorrow night, with Bailey to set a foundation in the forwards.The Eels are coming off a pressure-relieving win against the Roosters and this is one of those situations where form counts for nothing as both teams will lift when they play one another. Parra?s second half last week was dismal, but they did show a few promising signs early in the game. I don?t so much mind the look of their forwards right now and you can always count on Hindmarsh to play his heart out. But I?m going to stick with the Dragons because of the home ground advantage ? the Eels haven?t won at Kogarah since 1997. Storm v RoostersSuper Saturday kicks-off in the twilight of Olympic Park in our southern capital where the Roosters travel to take on the Storm. This is an interesting game for Origin selections and we?ve already been told that our mate Gene Miles will be down there to have a gander at the boys eligible for Queensland.Let?s start with the Roosters ? I shook my head in disbelief when they took the field last week. They had so many changes that it took them the first half to work out what everyone was doing before they could apply themselves in the second half. By that stage it was 22-0 and looking pretty dire. I thought they did well to post 20 points but they could have easily won if they had another five minutes. I see Soward is at fullback again? I?m really unhappy at this. No disrespect to the guy, but he?s got zero penetration from the back and will get run over in defence. Use him in the halves Ricky!As for the Storm, well they have an embarrassment of riches at fullback. The current QLD winger is holding down that position with a former Maroon custodian on the bench. They have attacking ability oozing from the pores of their skin and they will look to capitalise on this. Their forwards might do it a bit tough up against a streetwise Roosters pack but I think they have the goods to win here. Remember, Olympic Park is a small ground and the Storm will take advantage of their larger backs in King, Inglis and Hill close to the line against the Roosters. Melbourne to win.Bulldogs v KnightsBoth of these teams are last start losers, making this the only game where we encounter such a coincidence in round 13. It makes it hard to judge form particularly considering both sides got a fair touch up, the Knights more so than the Bulldogs.Newcastle won?t enjoy travelling down to Homebush and all we keep hearing is how Joey is feeling tired and can?t wait for the bye. I?m pretty sure this is a bad thing for team morale and very few captains out there would make such statements as it leaves you open to an onslaught. But hey, maybe Joey is luring the Bulldogs into a false sense of confidence. Methinks Folkesy will have their minds on the job however.I still don?t like the look of the Knights with Kurt Gidley at fullback and Todd Lowrie at five-eighth. It doesn?t give Johns too many options but their forwards haven?t lost anything and their bench is superior. The Doggies are a proud club and they won?t enjoy being beaten again, but they are fielding a very good line-up, particularly in the forwards. This is where the game will be won and I bet Mason, O?Meley and Asotasi have a few things to straighten out after being dominated last week. We still haven?t seen Sonny Bill hit top flight either.There would be lots of people out there tossing a coin over this one but I?m going to stick with the home side and tip the Bulldogs. It will be a tough game and Newcastle have the bye next week dangling out in front of them like a carrot, so the week off could prove to be extra motivation. Here?s a future prediction though ? if the Knights lose I wouldn?t want to be the Warriors in round 15!Raiders v RabbitohsOur last Saturday game comes to us from the Nation?s Capital where the Bunnies car-pool-it down to the cool surrounding of Canberra. One has to wonder if they?ll be bagging each other out on the way there and whether they?ll split to petrol costs.Last week I said, much to my detriment, that Canberra couldn?t win without Jason Smith and I was firmly placed in the naughty corner for a good few hours. But hey, they were facing off against the Cowboys at Dairy Farmers, so I had my reasons. Judging by the form they displayed up there the Raiders ought to romp it in against Souths in what potentially shapes as another drubbing for the Bunnies. To make matters worse, it will be really cold down there when they get out of the showers.I can?t see any reason to pick the Rabbitohs here and unless the entire 25-man Canberra squad is ruled out just prior to kick-off I won?t be. Even then I bet the Raiders could probably recruit 13 drunks at short notice from the bar who would hold their own. Peachey?s inclusion has to give them a spring in their step and overall they still have a reasonable squad at their disposal, so I?d expect a better performance this week. But can they win? No, I don?t think so. Raiders by a few, and the likely poor standard of the game may force Foxtel to issue a content warning before the game.Warriors v BroncosWe arrive in Auckland next as Sunday kicks-off in grand fashion between the Warriors and the Broncos. This game is the start of a ?Super Sunday? where all three games can be seen back-to-back on Fox and 9. This game promises to be a fairly open and attack-based affair.I actually think the Broncos are in a spot of bother here. Strangely, if there is one pack of forwards who can mix it with the Broncos on their day it is the Warriors. The only problem is it has to be their day. But this week they?re due for a good show and they could come out firing. With Wiki and Price leading the way the home side have a chance to get on top early, and if they do, the Warriors tend to stay in the game and remain focussed.For Brisbane, Civoniceva is going well but Webcke is a little dusty and may take some time to get going. Plus they?re missing Hodges in the centre?s which effectively halves their attacking potential. The bench is the key here with the Broncos possessing a stronger all-round squad and whilst I think New Zealand will give them a run for their money, the Broncos will grind out a victory. They?re not on top for nothing?Panthers v Sea EaglesManly head out west for their Sunday showdown with the Panthers in a game that will include a sub-plot or two for those Perry Mason fans out there.Firstly, like St George last week, I think the bye will have a positive effect on the Sea Eagles. The other big positive is the return of Ben Kennedy who is sure to add plenty of starch to the engine room. Manly field a strong line up with few, if any, weak links in their side. They have pace and strength out wide and will trouble the Panthers if given the opportunity.Penrith are doing things a bit tough at the moment. Gower had surgery 10 days ago and that?s never a good thing. Wait until the teams have been announced an hour prior to kick-off before you bet on this one. Even then, I?d take the Sea Eagles at anything over $2 as I think they are good value there. Penrith played well last week against the Storm but they look vulnerable and there has to be doubts over Gowie?s fitness.Orford?s challenge to his opposite will present the NSW selectors with food for thought as he is probably third in line for the gig. If Finch gets injured and Gower doesn?t look right, Matty could be their best option. I?m tipping the Sea Eagles to break a 12-year hoodoo, having not won at Penrith since round 8 in 1994.Tigers v CowboysThe final chapter in Round 13 is a tantalising prospect with reigning premiers the Wests Tigers taking on their Grand Final opponents the North Queensland Cowboys. There?s bad blood between these two sides stemming from last year and there?s every chance a bit of niggle will be present with the boys from up north taking the chocolates earlier in the season at home.The Cowboys are $2.40 outsiders which is a bit of a surprise but they did lose to the Raiders last week and have been below their best recently. But I certainly don?t think they?re travelling that bad and I?m going to slap a lazy $20 on them as my emotional hedge of the week. Hannay?s return will give them a more secure look in the backline and the forward pack plus bench in looking strong, although I would like to see Rockin? Rod Jensen in the number 17.Despite this, I?m sticking with the bookies favourite for the win. Wests are on the rise and they started to put it together last week against Souths, who may well have played them into form. They should be full of confidence and have the wood on the Cowboys at Telstra, winning two out of two against them there. With most of the team starting to take shape I think the Tigers will have plenty to play for at home in front of what should be a good crowd. I?m still not a fan of Lolesi at lock though.The Sharks have the bye in Round 13 after dispatching the Warriors at home. This was a good victory for them after a poor start to the year, and they now have two weeks to prepare for their trip to FNQ against a Cowboys outfit that will be missing their Origin players. Things are looking up for Cronulla.

Georgians Celebrate in Style

THE Georgian National Rugby League side, Tsameti Kartveli, celebrated their country?s Independence Day in style last Saturday as they downed the Netherlands 57-16 in front of 10,935 wildly enthusiastic fans at Vake Stadium [1], Tblisi. The match, which was broadcast live on Georgian national television, was the second step for each team on the road to the 2008 World Cup in Sydney.

The CSSC is coming

THE Cronulla Sutherland Supporters Club (CSSC) is pleased to announce that it will be launching its website this Sunday.

Carting it up with Stevo

CANBERRA and Penrith doing themselves proud

Club news ? Broncos, Titans, Sea Eagles

BRISBANE Broncos prop Shane Webcke has had to quit training early after suffering back spasms this morning. But the former Test and Origin forward is not considered in any doubt for Sunday's NRL clash with Warriors in Auckland.

Player movements ? Roosters

SYDNEY Roosters enforcer Adrian Morley is on the brink of walking out on the NRL after receiving only a one-year offer to extend his stay at the Bondi Junction club.

Origin news

PENRITH halfback Craig Gower will give his surgically-repaired knee its first real test later today when he runs for the first time since last week's Origin-eve mishap. Gower, who was ruled out the day before Origin one following a training injury, is desperate to play in Sunday's clash against the Manly, with the NSW side for Origin two to be selected on Monday.

Souths: Can we fix them?

THE South Sydney Rabbitohs have started the 2006 NRL Season with 11 straight losses and the club with the most Premierships in the history of the game looks odds on to collect their third Wooden Spoon (could be a 4th had it not been for the Bulldogs) since returning to the competition in 2002.

Toopi signs for Leeds

LEEDS have signed New Zealand Test centre Clinton Toopi on a three-year contract from next season.

Meyers to leave Bulls at end of season

BRADFORD Bulls have today announced the capture of Parramatta Eels Back Row Forward Glenn Morrison on a two year contract for the 2007 and 2008 Super League seasons. Morrison, who weighs 98 kgs and stands at 188 centimetres, has played 194 games in the NRL scoring 58 tries and kicking 20 goals in a career that has seen him represent Balmain Tigers, North Sydney and the North Queensland Cowboys before joining his present club at the start of the 2005 season. Speaking today Glenn Morrison said of the move:?I?m very excited to be coming over to Bradford and playing in the English Super League. It?s a great club; World Champions and you can?t get much better than that! My family are really looking forward to it as well and as far as I am concerned it just can?t come around quick enough.? Bulls Coach Steve McNamara is delighted with his first signing for the club. ?Glenn is a fantastic acquisition for the Bulls and we have fought off a lot of clubs to secure his signature. I think he will quickly establish himself as a real favourite with both the players and the supporters.? The Bulls have also announced that former Brisbane Broncos Back Row Forward Brad Meyers has asked to be released from the last year of his contract and will return home to Australia at the end of the season.Meyers, who joined the club at the start of the 2005 season, has decided to leave for what he describes as ?personal reasons.? Meyers said: ?I have some responsibilities back home that I have to start taking but I have really enjoyed my stay at Bradford. I am really glad I came over and it?s been a part of my life I?ll never forget. It has also given me back my love of football and I wish the club every success in the future. Commenting on Meyers? departure, Steve McNamara said: ?Brad has made a huge contribution to the club over the past eighteen months and we are all sad to see home go. He has his personal reasons for wishing to return to Australia and we fully understand them. He has been a great servant to the Bulls and he leaves with all our best wishes for the future.?

Who are these guys kidding?

LIKE most fans of the game, the circumstances surrounding the citing and eventual suspension of Trent Barrett has me confused and even a little disturbed.For once, it seems, I can also speak from first hand knowledge as I attended the game in question between the Dragons and Knights up at Marathon Stadium. And before we wade into the murky waters of the judiciary, I?d like to tip my hat to Brian Carney.Here?s a player who asks for nothing from the game but gives everything he has each week. The hit he copped from Barrett was pretty nasty and he didn?t get up whinging, or in some cases, stay down to milk a penalty. Instead of gesticulating with the referee he got on with the game. It?s comforting to know that the Good Lord still builds Rugby League players of his ilk.Now, onto the judiciary?where doth that mysterious beast lurk?There would be few fans, if any, that haven?t had a gripe with the judiciary system over the years. But of late it seems that the inconsistencies within the process have widened to such a gulf that rational and reasonable discussion and comparisons can no longer be drawn.Two weeks ago when Canterbury took on Cronulla at Telstra Stadium a fight broke out between Sonny Bill Williams and Phil Bailey. Both players were sin-binned and the match review committee suspended Bulldogs winger Matt Utai for a fortnight after he became the third man in and proceeded to throw punches in Bailey?s direction. A precedent was set for this penalty in 2004 when Brett Finch was also suspended for the same violation when playing for the Roosters.So, what does this have to do with anything I hear you ask?Four days later during State of Origin I, again at Telstra, Justin Hodges and Eric Grothe stood toe-to-toe before Grothe unleashed a couple a punches which found their mark. As the fight broke out Queensland forward Matthew Scott rushes in to aid his fellow cane toad, who at that stage was in desperate need of some assistance.Scott flayed off a few temple teasers in exactly the same circumstances as Utai, yet he was not the subject of a citing or suspension. In this case it was hard to miss ? there was a fight and many people became involved. Clearly this would have come to the attention of the match review committee.Are we to conclude that State of Origin matches are on a different plane than club games? Surely not.The original non-citing of Barrett at least goes some way to explaining the failings of the judiciary given the hit was very subtle in comparison to a fight which stopped the match.But I just can?t understand how the process of a match review can take place, without charges laid, then the match review itself can be reviewed based off ?new? footage that was either previously unavailable or simply disregarded by the match reviewer.If you?re buying the line that some ?junior Channel Nine employee? discovered the footage then you probably still believe in Santa Clause. To begin with the very suggestion that this person can set in motion a chain of events which results in Barrett?s citing is utterly ridiculous. The referees within the NRL make themselves about as available to the outside world as the Loch Ness Monster.There is something more sinister at work here but at the end of the day I believe justice was served. Barrett was punished according to his crime.But at what price? It would appear that we have taken the whole process out of the hands of an appointed official and given it to anyone with a copy of a game that picks up on something that the officials don?t. Apparently not! Our good mate Warrick Nicolson highlighted the aforementioned ?Scott Incident? to David Gallop, Greg McCallum and at least five media outlets including Channel 9 and the Daily Telegraph the morning after it happened.He received no response from the powers that be, shooting holes in the suggestion that any ?new? acts of foul play would be looked at seriously if there was a case to answer. Thankfully Rugby League Week had the sense to print it in this week?s letters but that hardly affords Matt Utai the same level of justice considering Scott is running around this week.The icing on the cake comes from Channel Nine director of sport Steve Crawley who has according to the Sydney Morning Herald phoned Dragons CEO Peter Doust on several occasions to apologise because he was ?uncomfortable with Nine policing rugby league?.I wonder if Doust?s side of that conversation was suitable only for the 9.30pm timeslot?As I sit here lamenting the course of events that have taken shape over the past few days I find myself asking the question ?How did we let things come to this??The NRL judiciary will try on anything they like these days. So what?s worse: the inconsistencies that are rife throughout our game, or the fact that many of us have accepted their inconsistencies as a part of our game?

Slater?s still unsure where he?ll play

AFTER serving a seven-match NRL suspension, Billy Slater wants to cement his place back in the in-form Melbourne Storm line up before pondering the chance of a recall to the Queensland Origin team.

Overnight news

NEWCASTLE second-rower Clint Newton says St George Illawarra skipper Trent Barrett got off lightly with a six-match suspension for his hit on Knights teammate Brian Carney.

Wolves too strong for Cas

WOLVES too strong for Cas

Madden comes out of Retirement Again

COURTESY of the Fraser Coast Chronicle By Richard Harvey

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