NRL Predictions – Round 20

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The 2013 NRL season is roaring towards the finals. The Round 20 games are previewed and predicted below, as well as more discussion regarding some issues in the game.

Video Referees

Before I get onto this week’s tips, there are a couple of issues I wanted to make a comment on. The first is the current use of the video referee. At the start of the year, it was decided that the on-field referees would make a decision which could only be overturned by the video referee if the decision was conclusively wrong. From some decisions this season, it appears that the interpretation of the word ‘conclusive’ is under debate. Last weekend, a try was taken off Parramatta winger Brayden Williame even though in my opinion, there wasn’t conclusive evidence that he was out before placing the ball down for a try. However, a try was not taken away from Dean Whare after he clearly had his hand over the sideline before scoring. These two decisions, in particular their inconsistency, gives me little faith in the ability of the video referees to get decisions right. I am worrying that another shocking decision, as seen in the Manly-North Queensland game last year, will happen in this year’s finals series.

More on Benji

The second issue regards Benji Marshall. Since my piece on Benji Marshall was written early last week, there have multiple articles and viewpoints on Benji leaving the NRL. Some have been pro-Benji (especially those seen in the Sydney Morning Herald) and others have been anti-Benji, in particular those comments made by Paul Kent. In my opinion, the biggest hypocrite in this whole saga is Marshall’s manager Martin Tauber. Two years ago, he was more than happy to see his client Tim Moltzen walk away from a handshake agreement but when the Tigers wouldn’t honour a handshake agreement (made by the previous CEO), Tauber was very critical of the Tigers. As a Tigers supporter, I hope Moltzen also leaves so that the club doesn’t have to deal with this hypocrite anymore. As for Benji, a lot of Tigers supporters (including myself) are forgiving of him because was a major contributor to the 2005 premiership. Tiger supporters had to wait 36 years and Magpie supporters had to wait 53 years for that elusive premiership. If he had left another club, I believe that the club’s supporters would have been far harsher on Benji than Tigers supporters are. It has also been mentioned how much the Tigers will lose financially by losing Benji. My point on this is that football teams are in the business of winning premierships. As mentioned in my article from last week, I think that the Tigers are more likely to win a premiership if Benji leaves. Also, the NRL will survive. The game has survived the losses of Sailor, Tuqiri, Rogers, Hunt and Folau. As Roy Masters has stated in the past, rugby league is the cockroach of Australian sports. You just can’t kill it.

Round 19 tipping results

Last week, I got 4 from 6 correct, which included the lock of the week. I was incorrect in picking my upset of the week, despite the great start the Tigers got last week. The only upset was the Dragons come from behind victory over Souths. I dare say very few people saw that one coming. I have also noticed over the past few weeks that the NRL website has comments with the team changes in their ‘Official Team Lists’ page. I will take full credit for that innovation.

Season tipping results

Lock of the week: 16/19

Upset of the week: 3/15*

*: in rounds 2, 6, 12 and 18 there were no upsets

North Queensland Cowboys v Brisbane Broncos

Tip: Broncos (Upset of the week). This is essentially an elimination game for the two Queensland clubs. I thought the Broncos were good against Cronulla in their last start while the Cowboys have been disappointing in their last two performances. I just think Brisbane will respond to the changes mentioned below. Both sides get their Origin stars back and both will be desperate for a much needed victory. It was announced this week that Cowboy Dallas Johnson will retire at the end of the season. He will be remembered as being a very tough player, with a high work rate and great tackling technique that could cut attackers in half. For the Cowboys, Brent Tate moves back into the centres for Winterstein, who moves onto the wing for Graham. Johnathan Thurston slots back into five-eight, which moves Morgan to halfback to replace the omitted Lui. Matt Scott and James Tamou are named to start at prop. As a result, Thorby moves to the extended bench and Hall moves to the second row for Taumalolo who also moves to the extended bench. Other changes are the inclusion of Cooper and Johnson to the starting back row, while Reithmuller is named on the bench and Lowe is omitted. Tariq Sims has been replaced by brother Ashton on the bench. The big changes for Brisbane are in the backline. Norman has been dropped and Wallace is starting from the bench, with Hoffman moving from the centres to his preferred position and Hunt moving from the bench to start at halfback. Justin Hodges takes the vacated centre position, while Glenn moves from the back row to the other centre position. This means that Oates is on one wing to replace Kahu who has been omitted. Ben Hannant, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett and Corey Parker all return to start in the Brisbane forward pack, with Stagg and Dodds moving back to the bench, while Hala and Anderson have been omitted.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Parramatta Eels

Tip: Bulldogs. Parramatta again showed some glimpses and they were competitive against Penrith, but are still not a very good football team. They still sorely miss Jarryd Hayne and I can’t see them winning a game until he returns. Canterbury on the other hand, bounced back to form in their last game against a depleted Melbourne team. The Dogs will look to build on that performance as they look to make a charge into the finals. Josh Morris returns from origin to replace Lafai in the centres for Canterbury. Also, Frank Pritchard returns to start in the second row, while Jackson moves back to the bench. Sam Kasiano also returns and is named on the bench, while Taupau has been left off the 5-man bench. Ken Sio replaces Williame on one wing for the Eels, while Mitchell Allgood is named to start on the bench in place of Pritchard.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Canberra Raiders

Tip: Raiders (Lock of the week). The Dragons showed a lot of heart and desire in their victory against South Sydney last round. However, the combination of a short turnaround, playing a team that they just can’t seem to beat and the fact that they looked like they won a premiership after the last win all point to me tipping for Canberra in this game. Yes, the Raiders have a woeful away record in 2013 but this game will simply mean more for them. Especially as this is the first time Josh Dugan will play against them. His partner in crime Blake Ferguson may also play in this game, despite not being named. The only player out for the Dragons is Cooper who may have played his last game in the NRL. Vidot moves from the bench to start in the centres for Cooper, while Jack Stockwell comes onto the bench. The Raiders are unchanged from last week’s win over Parramatta.

Gold Coast Titans v South Sydney Rabbitohs

Tip: Souths. Prior to last week’s defeat I would have been very confident in tipping Souths. However, the last game proved that South Sydney WILL NOT win the premiership if Greg Inglis is out of the team. I also don’t understand why Nathan Merritt hasn’t been moved to fullback. In the Titans’ last game against Manly, they were their own worst enemy. Discipline is an issue for the Titans and it could cost them in this game. I give the Titans a big chance of winning this game but I think Souths will just squeak home. For the Gold Coast, Brad Takairangi is named to replace Michales at centre, while Nate Myles and Greg Bird are named to return to start at prop and second row respectively. Taylor and Douglas are moved back to the 6-man bench as a result. Souths have named an unchanged line-up from last week’s loss.

New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm

Tip: Storm. This is another game that could go both ways. The Warriors were very impressive after surviving the initial Tigers attacking raid to win at a very emotional Leichhardt Oval. They have won 5 of their last 6 games and are on the fringe of the top 8. Meanwhile, Melbourne will be looking to build momentum before the finals. The big three have come through the Origin series unscathed and I think their class will be the difference in this game. The only change for the Warriors is on one wing, with Ngani Laumape replacing the injured Fisiiahi. Billy Slater returns for the Storm to start at fullback, while Hampton is on the extended bench. Cooper Cronk is named to start at halfback, which means that Finch moves to five eight, Blair moves to the centres and O’Neill moves to the wing for Fonua. Cameron Smith is back to hooker, with Hinchcliffe moving to lock for Moors who is out. Ryan Hoffman returns to start in the second row, with Harris moving back to the bench as a result. Tim Glasby is added to the extended bench, while Garbutt has been omitted.

Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers

Tip: Cronulla. This game is a clash of two sides that lost last round. The Sharks were very disappointing as they were handed an absolute flogging by the Roosters, while Penrith were also disappointing in their loss at home to Newcastle. I think Cronulla will win as they will bounce back from their loss the better and as they are at home. Penrith were very ordinary in attack against Newcastle. Their only attacking threats came from kicks. It has been a great effort by the Panthers to string together some wins over the last few months but I think that they may fade out of finals contention. Cronulla have named Ben Pomeroy to start in the centres for Mills, who has been named on an extended bench. The Sharks also welcome back Jeff Robson, who replaces Townsend at halfback, and Wade Graham who is named to start in the second row. This means that Tagataese moves back to the 6-man bench. Brown moves into the centres for Penrith to replace Naiqama. Sika Manu returns to take Brown’s place in the second row. Latimore replaces the suspended Masoe at starting prop, while Sam Anderson is added to the bench.

Newcastle Knights v Sydney Roosters

Tip: Roosters. The Knights have slowly climbed back into fifth and are building quite nicely. The addition of Craig Gower appears to be a master stroke for now. Roosters’ halves Pearce and Maloney bounced back from the disappointment of the origin loss to lead their side to a huge victory over Cronulla last round. I think the Roosters will win as they are the in-form team of the competition and as Newcastle prop Kade Snowden is out with suspension. One thing to consider is the Knights’ strong home record this season as they have won 6 from 8 games at Hunter Stadium. Fa’alogo moves into starting prop for Snowden, while Korbin Sims and Zane Tetevano are added to the Newcastle bench. The Roosters welcome back Sonny Bill Williams, who will start in the second row for Aubusson, who moves to the 5-man bench.

Wests Tigers v Manly Sea Eagles

Tip: Manly. The Benji Marshall Farewell Tour continues as Marshall plays his last game at Campbelltown. Unfortunately for Benji and the Tigers, I can’t see them overcoming the Sea Eagles. In the first 20 minutes of last week’s game, Wests looked like the side that made the top 4 in 2010 and 2011 but for the remaining 60 they looked like the side seen all too much in 2013. Manly were strong in their win over the Gold Coast. However, they did let the Titans back into the game as they did for other teams during last season. These lapses proved to be costly last season as the lack of sustained intensity cost them in the finals. Buchanan replaces the injured Woods at starting prop for the Tigers, with Shaun Spence moving onto the bench. The only changes for Manly are on the bench as George Rose and David Gower are added, while Skinner is out.

‘Beat the Boss’

Again, all of the top 3 teams won their matches this week, with my Bandits beating R.Lewis+Denzel’s 509-83, Pearce’s Pride defeating the Buzzing Hornets 516-338 and P7Panthers beating the Crackalackers 503-334. The Pit Dogs came up with their first win of the season, by beating the Funky Bunch 469-338. Next week’s games may sort out the final ladder positions, with only 2 weeks left in the regular season. These games are:

  • Pearce’s Pride v Boggabri Bandits
  • The Funky Bunch v Buzzing Hornets
  • The Crackalackers v R.Lewis+Denzel’s
  • P7Panthers v Harkonnen Pit Dogs
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