A few weeks ago, it appeared that the top 8 was almost set in stone. With some recent upsets, there is now a whole bunch of teams clustered in the middle of the table. In fact, only 5 points separate the 4th placed team and the 14th placed team. This should make the run home to the finals very exciting. Some teams that looked like they were out of contention weeks ago (namely the Warriors and Tigers) might still force their way into the top 8 if they continue to win. I should also commend the Gold Coast, Canterbury and South Sydney who are taking games to Darwin, Mackay and Perth respectively. Well done for these sides for taking games to places that don’t have regular top flight rugby league.
Last week, I picked 4 games correctly from a possible 7. The lock of the week only just got home but the upset of the week was again unsuccessful. It serves me right for not picking my own team. I make amends this round, hopefully not to my own detriment.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 13/16
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 3/13*
*: in rounds 2, 6 and 12 there were no upsets
CRONULLA SHARKS V WESTS TIGERS
Tip: Tigers (UPSET OF THE WEEK). This is the first time in a while that I have tipped my Tigers. If I had have maintained the faith over the past month, I would be up near the top of the tipping comps I am in. I think the Tigers will win as they will simply have too many points for the Sharks. Robbie Farah is the best player on the field and if plays like he did against Melbourne, then the Tigers should win. Cronulla have made some changes, which are mentioned below, that I absolutely agree with. They should be better than last week and will be tough to beat, but as mentioned above, I think the Tigers will score more points than the Sharks. In Cronulla’s backline, Michael Gordon is named to start at fullback for Matt Wright, Beau Ryan returns to replace Stapleton and Lewis will start in the centres for the demoted Pomeroy. Tupou moves from the bench to take Lewis’ place in the starting second row. Fifita is named to start at prop, while Ross is named on the bench despite the converse occurring last week. The additions to the 5-man bench are Bryce Gibbs and Stewart Mills. The Tigers have named an unchanged side from last week.
MELBOURNE STORM V BRISBANE BRONCOS
Tip: Storm. Melbourne will be looking for a win to solidify their place in the top 4, while Brisbane really needs a win if they are to challenge for the top 8. The Broncos really should have won last weekend. The Storm will be hoping for more pleasant conditions this week, so their quick backline can have a stronger impact on the game. Last week also showed that Melbourne will not win the competition if Cameron Smith is missing during the finals. Smith’s inclusion is the Storm’s only change to their starting side from last week, as Hinchcliffe moves from hooker to lock and Harris moves to the bench. Additions to Melbourne’s extended bench are Siosia Vave, Junior Moors and Ben Hampton, while Jason Ryles is off the bench due to injury. Brisbane is unchanged, aside from the naming of Jarrod Wallace as the 18th man.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS V SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Tip: Roosters (LOCK OF THE WEEK). I know that the Dragons are at home where they always seem to play better and that the Roosters are coming off a Monday night game, but I am very sure that the Roosters will win this game. With every week, the Roosters’ premiership credentials seem to grow. Last round, they won another tough encounter against Manly. The Dragons on the other hand, suffered a disappointing loss to Penrith last weekend. After showing some promising signs early in the season, they have only won 2 of their last 9 games. One of these was a 24 point loss to the Roosters on ANZAC Day. For the Dragons, Adam Quinlan replaces the suspended Dugan, de Belin moves from lock to the front row for the injured Hunt and Trent Merrin returns to start at lock. Two additions to the extended bench are Will Matthews and Atelea Vea. The only change for the Roosters is the inclusion of James Maloney, who returns to start at five-eight for Williams who moves to the second row. As a result, Cordner moves to lock while Nuuausala moves back to the 5-man bench.
GOLD COAST TITANS V PENRITH PANTHERS
Tip: Panthers. The Titans suffered a very disappointing loss last round in Newcastle. While the loss was a blow, the worst thing to come from the game was the loss of Jamal Idris for the season due to a broken leg. Penrith got back on track last round in a win against the Dragons. They are on the fringe of the top 8 and a win at the Gold Coast will see them climb in. The Titans have a few changes, with Jahrome Hughes replacing Zillman at fullback and Hymel Hunt and Luke O’Dwyer replacing Idris and Mead in the centres. Mead is named on one wing, with Don named on an extended bench. Also, Nate Myles returns to start in the front row, which moves Douglas to the bench. Penrith are unchanged from last round’s team.
CANBERRA RAIDERS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Tip: Raiders. The Raiders need to bounce back and in a hurry. It seems as though the Blake Ferguson suspension has taken a toll on the team. However, they are still the only side unbeaten at home so far this season and I think that they will appreciate the (rare) opportunity to play at home during the day. While the Cowboys have won their last two games on the back of Johnathan Thurston, they still haven’t been overly impressive in my eyes. It is no surprise that the turnaround in form also coincides with Ray Thompson’s move to hooker. He is their best option at dummy half. With a depleted outside back stock, Canberra has turned to Thompson to replace Croker in the centres with Edwards coming from the bench to take Thompson’s vacated starting second row position. The Raiders have 4 additions to the bench in Jarrad Kennedy, Shaun Berrigan, Jake Foster and Dimitri Pelo. The only changes for the Cowboys are on the bench, with Ricky Thorby and Jason Taumalolo added, while Ashton Sims is out due to suspension.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Tip: Bulldogs. Canterbury received a much needed bye last round. They were disappointing in a loss to the Roosters in their last game. They are still in the top 8 and need a win here to stay there. The Knights were very impressive last round. Yet, their opposition were quite poor so I’m not exactly sure of how much to take from that game. From the side that played in the last game, the Bulldogs welcome back origin players Josh Morris and Josh Reynolds, who replace Lafai and Romelo at centre and five eight respectively. Also, Martin Taupau is added to the 5-man bench. The only change for Newcastle is the naming of Korbin Sims as 18th man.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Tip: Souths. I’ve probably said this in multiple emails but why would anyone in their right mind tip against the Rabbits? They are by far the best team in the competition at the moment and look destined for their first minor premiership since 1989. I wonder who tipped them for the premiership at the start of the season… As for the Warriors, they have won their last 5 games which is a huge effort. However, I think they are very due for a loss and I’m quite sure that it will happen on Sunday. The changes for Souths include Andrew Everingham named to start on one wing, with Hunt named on the bench. Chris McQueen returns to start in the second row, while Lowe also moves to the bench. Starling is dropped off the bench, with George Burgess and Dylan Farrell added to the 7-man bench. The Warriors have named Ben Matulino to start at prop, while Matagi is named on an extended bench. They have added 3 players to the 7-man bench; Russell Packer, Ngani Laumape and Charlie Gubb.
MANLY SEA EAGLES V PARRAMATTA EELS
Tip: Manly. While I said who in their right mind would tip against Souths for the last game, I have a similar statement for this game. Who in their right mind would tip Parramatta? Manly really need a win to keep their place in the top 4 and to start to build some momentum going into the finals, as they have lost their last 3 games. The Eels are entrenched at the foot of the ladder and are a strong chance to stay there if current form is any indication. The big story from this game is the return of Jarryd Hayne as he looks to prove his fitness prior to Origin 3. The only change for Manly is the addition of Kieran Foran to start at five eight. Symonds moves to the bench, while Hiku is omitted which is a good thing for him as he may actually play some football this weekend instead of not getting a run on Monday night. As mentioned above, Hayne returns to start at fullback for Mullaney who is named as 18th man. The Eels have no other changes from the side that played two weeks ago.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
In the top of the table clash, Pearce’s Pride smashed P7Panthers 561-365. Joining them on top of the ladder are my Bandits who beat the Buzzing Hornets 601-433. In other games, the Crackalackers beat the Pit Dogs 405-393 and R.Lewis+Denzels’ beat the Funky Bunch 408-329. Next round’s games include:
- Pearce’s Pride v Harkonnen Pit Dogs
- R.Lewis+Denzel’s v P7Panthers
- The Buzzing Hornets v The Crackalackers
- Boggabri Bandits v The Funky Bunch