Following a strong tipping week in Round 20 (7/8), Rugby League writer Daniel Boss goes through his NRL Predictions for the week.
RIP Graham Murray
Before I start with this week’s article, I would like to pay tribute to Graham Murray. The former premiership and Origin coached left this world far too soon on Sunday night. He is one of the most underrated coaches of all time, having led Illawarra to their first finals appearance in 1992, the Roosters to their first grand final in two decades in 2000 and the Cowboys to their first finals appearance and grand final (in 2004 and 2005 respectively). Even though Murray never won an NRL premiership, he did win a Challenge Cup for Leeds in 1999. He deserved better throughout his career, as he was the only player or coach sacked for involvement with Super League and was removed as Roosters coach as a result of internal politics. He was a very popular figure in the game, as it seemed that no one could say a bad word about him. RIP Graham Murray, gone but not forgotten.
Scott Prince, please retire
Earlier in the week, Brisbane five eight Scott Prince was told that his future in first grade was very much in doubt after this season. I have a soft spot for Prince, as he was the premiership-winning captain for my Tigers in 2005. However, after seeing his form decline over the past few seasons, I think it is time for Prince to retire. His biggest strength in attack was his dummying and acceleration off the mark. During the last game against the Cowboys, he tried to do this but just physically couldn’t. In defence, he has become a serious liability. Prince has never been the strongest defender but is now being exploited too much. The Matt Bowen try last week exemplifies this. Sure, he still possesses a good kicking game and can direct a team around the field but he just isn’t the player he once was. He was won a premiership as a captain, won the Clive Churchill medal and played for his state and country. Scott Prince will go down in history as a great player of the game, but I think it’s time to call it quits. Lastly, thank you Scott for helping bring a Premiership to this long suffering Tigers supporter.
There have been a few comments in the media over the past week regarding the quality of play in the NRL at the moment. While some of these criticisms are warranted, I get the feeling that the standard will only improve in the next 6 weeks on the way to the finals. The Warriors-Melbourne game last round was a great game. It had great attack, great scramble defence, brilliant individual efforts and hard physical contact. It was a game that was played in the right spirit as two teams were just focused on trying to win the game and not looking for a fight. For those who are reading this and are not big rugby league fans, but only watch Origin and not the NRL, I have the following point to make. While Origin provides the rivalry and physical confrontation, the NRL finals series provides the better quality of rugby league. It is only one month until the finals series starts and I can’t wait for it!
Round 20 tipping results
Last week, I correctly tipped 7 out of 8 games, including both the lock and upset of the week. Anyone who followed my tips should have climbed most tipping comp ladders. I definitely did.
Season tipping results
Lock of the week: 17/20
Upset of the week: 4/16*
*: in rounds 2, 6, 12 and 18 there were no upsets
Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos
Tip: Knights. Last week, the Knights were valiant in defeat against the Roosters. With the game on the line in the second half, Newcastle really lifted and took the game to the Roosters. I really liked these signs and I think that they should be too strong for a Broncos team that came off a win against North Queensland. I still think the Broncos are very limited in attack and the strong Newcastle defence should be too much for them. Justin Hodges and a lack of depth up front are the only worries for the Knights this week. The only changes for the Knights are Fa’alogo moving into the starting prop position for the injured Mason and the additions of Adam Cuthbertson and Korbin Sims to the extended bench. Brisbane has lost Glenn to injury, with Stagg moving from the bench to start at centre. Nick Slyney is the addition to the Bronco bench.
Penrith Panthers v Sydney Roosters
Tip: Roosters (Lock of the week). Penrith have fallen further away from the top 8 following a very disappointing loss to Cronulla last round. Just like the previous game, they lacked a lot of creativity in attack and they couldn’t take advantage of early control of the game. The Roosters had everything but the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at them by Newcastle last week but were still too strong in the end. This team is destined for a top 4 (if not top 2) finish. The Roosters should be far too strong in this one. Ivan Cleary has not made many changes, with the only changes being the additions of Mose Masoe and Josh Mansour to a 5-man bench at the expense of Sam Anderson. The only changes for the Roosters are the move of Aubusson from the bench to start in the second row for the suspended Williams and the addition of Aidan Guerra to the bench.
New Zealand Warriors v Cronulla Sharks
Tip: Warriors. This should be a really good game, between two sides that were very impressive last round. As mentioned above, the Warriors played some good football to get over the Storm. Cronulla were far too strong for Penrith, with Todd Carney playing some of his best football. This is a very tough game to tip but I think the Warriors will be just too strong based on their home ground advantage. They have only lost one game at Mt Smart Stadium this season (to first placed Souths) and the Sharks’ away record is not great. I am looking forward to the battle between the fullbacks as Kevin Locke and Michael Gordon are both in great form at the moment. The Warriors have named an unchanged line-up from last round, while Cronulla only have one addition. It is a big inclusion as Paul Gallen returns to start at lock, which moves Heighington to the 5-man bench.
Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles
Tip: Manly. I didn’t select this tip as the lock of the week as I want to challenge myself by not picking the obvious. Manly should be far too strong in this one. Last week, Parramatta was just diabolical against Canterbury. They should be better this week but it will be nowhere near enough to beat Manly. The Sea Eagles were solid last week and will need to be better if they are to challenge for the premiership. They were pushed at times last week by a Tigers side that they are better than. Luke Kelly is out for the Eels this week, with Roberts moving from five eight to halfback and Api Pewhairangi starting at five eight. It is a very interesting decision to not bring back Chris Sandow. The only additions for Manly are James Hasson and Peta Hiku to an extended bench.
North Queensland Cowboys v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Tip: Souths. The big story going into this game is how the Cowboys will respond after the sacking of their coach Neil Henry. To say that the Cowboys have been disappointing in 2013 is a huge understatement. South Sydney showed last week that they don’t need Inglis to win games as the Burgess Brothers were just too powerful for the Gold Coast. I think Souths should win this game but it could be a danger game. The Cowboys do have a lot of talent in their team and anything can happen if they turn up ready to play. North Queensland have made quite a few changes. In the starting side, Kyle Feldt comes onto one wing for Kalifa Faifai Loa and Reithmuller moves from the bench to start at lock for Dallas Johnson, who has sadly played his last game in the NRL following an injury during last round’s game. On the bench, Mitchell and Thorby are out, while Scott Moore, Tariq Sims, Jason Taumalolo, Scott Bolton and Rory Kostjasyn all added to a 6-man bench. Despite making several late changes last week, the only changes to the Souths team named is the addition of Dave Tyrrell and Justin Hunt to an extended bench.
Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm
Tip: Storm. I’m giving the champion Melbourne stars one last chance here. I think they were quite good against the Warriors last round and I think they will be too strong for Canberra this weekend. The one factor going against the Storm is Canberra’s strong home record, as they are the only side in the NRL that is unbeaten at home. Last round, the Raiders only just beat the Dragons, yet they always seemed to be in control of that game. This game will be much tougher for Canberra to control. The Raiders have named the same side that played last week and have left out Blake Ferguson for the second straight week. He may be a late inclusion. Melbourne has also named an unchanged side from the team that played last week.
Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers
Tip: Tigers (Upset of the week). Last round, the Titans were pretty much smashed out of the game by South Sydney. Their season has just fallen away recently as they have lost their last four games. This is a must win for the Titans. The Tigers pushed the Sea Eagles at times but came up with too many mistakes, for which they were punished. Wests did show some positive signs in attack though and they do have Robbie Farah in the side. I like the Tigers as I think they have more points in them than the Gold Coast, who have quite a few injuries from last week. For the Gold Coast, Rankin is out, with Mead moving to fullback and Anthony Don starting on one wing. Kelly is out injured, with Sezer moving to halfback, Harrison moving from lock to five eight, Bird moving into lock from the second row and Ridge moving into the starting second row from the bench. Srama is also out with injury, so Falloon moves from the bench to start at hooker. Douglas moves from the bench to start at prop for the injured Bailey. The additions to the bench are Ryan James, Luke O’Dwyer and Sam Irwin. The Tigers have again named Sironen at halfback, despite playing in the forwards off the bench last week, and Anasta on the bench despite playing halfback, incredibly poorly I might add, for the full game last week. The only other change is the addition of Shaun Spence to the extended bench.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury Bulldogs
Tip: Bulldogs. Last week, the Dragons almost overcame the ‘hoodoo’ by going close to beating Canberra. They just didn’t have the attacking ability to match it with the Raiders. On the other hand, Canterbury thoroughly beat a woeful Parramatta. It is hard to get a gauge of how good the Dogs were, given how poor Parra were. I like the Dogs in this game, even though Ben Barba is out with injury. The Dragons have named the same 17 players that played against Canberra last round, while the Dogs only have a few changes. Barba is out, with Perrett moving from wing to fullback, Inu moving from centre to wing and Tim Lafai coming into the centres. Also, Tim Browne is added to the extended bench.
‘Beat the Boss’
The top 4 in the fantasy draft competition looks all but sorted. Pearce’s Pride beat my Bandits 563-496 last round. P7Panthers look to have second wrapped up after a 529-430 win over the Pit Dogs. In the other games, the Buzzing Hornets beat the Funky Bunch 359-268 and the Crackalackers beat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 454-351. This week’s games include:
- Pearce’s Pride v The Funky Bunch
- The Crackalackers v Boggabri Bandits
- P7Panthers v Buzzing Hornets
- Harkonnen Pit Dogs v R.Lewis+Denzel’s