NRL Predictions – Round 23

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Last round, rugby league writer Daniel Boss correctly picked 6 of the 8 NRL results. See what teams he predicts will win in round 23.

Monday is not on my mind

I think by now, the regular readers of this column will know that I am a rugby league tragic. I was brought up with this game and watching it every weekend has been part of my winter ritual for my entire life. Yet, at the moment I am struggling to be able to watch every game. I am in my mid-20s and single, which means that I like to involve myself in social occasions. This has a significant impact on my rugby league watching ability. With games on Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday and Sunday night, the only way I will be able to watch all of these games is if I do nothing for the whole weekend. I’m omitting Monday night games as I play touch, so I definitely can’t watch all of these games. And then there are the occasional Thursday night games…

Why am I just stating facts about my life? It’s because it relates to the following point. I am sick of Sunday and Monday night football. I believe the NRL had it right in the mid-2000s, where there was only one Friday night game and it was the ‘game of the week’ or it had a feel of importance. The two games played on a Friday night, especially when horrible games like the Parramatta-Wests Tigers game from last week, has diluted the Friday Night Football product as the importance of this game is no longer present. Going back to the social theme, fans could watch the first game over a few beverages and then still go out and socialise afterwards without missing any rugby league action.

Secondly, when it was dinner time on a Sunday night, you had your fill of rugby league for the week and it was back to school or work for the week before building up for another weekend. Aside from the one Friday night game, the rest were played on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Both of which are the best times to schedule matches as it is the most likely that fans will be free to attend the game. At the moment, the round just drags on. Also, this means that fixed scheduling is far less of an issue as fans who are travelling can know that they will not have to take time off work to watch a game. Take for example this round. I am a Tigers member and one of the games that I have a seat at is this game against the Roosters. As this is on Monday night and as I live in Canberra, there is no way I will be able to attend this game due to work commitments. I would love the chance to support the team and get a chance to watch SBW live, but unfortunately I can’t.

I understand that the TV companies make all of the decisions, given the money that they put into the game (of which some would say not enough). It doesn’t mean that I have to like it though.

Round 22 tipping results

Last week, I successfully tipped 6 games out of a possible 8. This included my lock of the week, Melbourne. However, my upset of the week, St George Illawarra, went down by 2 points to the Broncos.

Season tipping results

Lock of the week: 19/22

Upset of the week: 4/18*

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

Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels

Tip: Broncos. Brisbane has picked up 5 out of a possible 6 points over the past three rounds and should gain two more this round. They are making a last ditch run towards the top 8 but suffered a devastating blow as Hodges went down with another Achilles injury. The Eels finally broke their 10-game losing streak against the Tigers last week. The inclusion of Jarryd Hayne proved to be the difference but he is still far from his best. The Eels away record is a woeful 0-9 for the season. I think Brisbane will just have too much but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a close game. As mentioned above Hodges is out, with Stagg moving from the bench to start in the centres. Also Jordan Kahu returns to take one wing position in place of Drew. The Broncos have also added Nick Slyney, Scott Anderson and Jarrod Wallace to an extended bench. The only change for Parramatta is the addition of Brayden Wiliame and Daniel Harrison to the 6-man bench.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles

Tip: Souths (Upset of the week). I saw enough out of Souths last week to suggest that they were on the way back up. With the addition of star players Sutton and Inglis for this game, I expect the Rabbitohs to make a statement. That statement is that they have not peaked and will be at their best come finals time. Manly have quietly won their past 6 games to all but solidify a place in the top 4, yet all of these wins were against sides currently outside the top 8. This is a chance for the Sea Eagles to stake their premiership claims and prove doubters (like me) wrong. Greg Inglis returns to start at fullback for Souths, which means that Merritt moves back to one wing for Everingham. Keary drops back to the bench to make way for John Sutton. Luke Burgess returns to start at prop for suspended brother Sam. Lowe moves from the bench to start at lock for Tyrrell. The three additions to Souths’ 6-man bench are Jeff Lima, Jason Clark and Justin Hunt. The only change for Manly is the return of Justin Horo to the starting second row for the injured Watmough.

Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs

Tip: Raiders. Last week, the Raiders pushed the premiership leading Roosters. This round they are at home, where they have been very successful this season. The return of Blake Ferguson gave Canberra a spark, as he came up with some magnificent individual efforts during last week’s game. The Dogs, on the other hand, have really struggled since the loss of Ben Barba. They struggled to overcome the Dragons two weeks ago and lost a very winnable game against the Gold Coast last round. With more injuries to the Dogs, which are mentioned below, I expect the Raiders to get up. For Canberra, Edwards moves from the bench to start at lock for the injured Fensom. Jake Foster and Reece Robinson are added to the extended bench. Graham and Finucane move from the bench to start at prop and lock respectively for the injured Bulldogs Kasiano and Eastwood. Tim Browne, Martin Taupau and Lachlan Burr are added to Canterbury’s 5-man bench.

North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans

Tip: Cowboys. Since the sacking of their coach Neil Henry, the Cowboys are playing more care free rugby league. As a result, they are showing the form that most pundits (who had them finishing in the top 4 at the start of the season) were expecting all season. As a result, they should be too strong for a Titans team that has won their past 2 games. Given their injury toll, this is a great effort from the Gold Coast, especially last round’s effort against Canterbury. If the Titans were to win against the Cowboys, they would be a chance of making the top 8 in my opinion, given their tough run home. Both sides have named unchanged line-ups from last round.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks

Tip: Cronulla. In their past 4 games, the Dragons have been in the contest for all of them. Yet, they were only able to pick up one victory. With the loss of key players to injury, I am unable to see how the Dragons will come out on top in this local derby. Cronulla followed up a strong win against the Warriors by losing to Newcastle in the dying stages of the game. This almost happened the week before, which has put Cronulla’s ability to finish games under the microscope. If Cronulla are to make any noise in the finals, then they need to win this game convincingly. Especially as the Dragons’ home record this season is an uncharacteristically poor 2-7. Nightingale replaces the injured Dugan at fullback for the Dragons, with Charly Runciman taking the vacated wing position. Merrin is out injured, with de Belin coming from the bench to take the vacated starting lock position. The addition to the bench is Will Matthews. Beau Ryan returns on one wing for Cronulla, in place of Stapleton. Bukuya moves from the bench to take the injured Graham’s place in the starting second row, while Anthony Tupou and Ben Ross are added to the Sharks’ extended bench.

Newcastle Knights v Melbourne Storm

Tip: Storm. Newcastle showed a lot of heart and toughness in defeating Cronulla last round, despite having far less than 50% of possession. Kurt Gidley made a big difference to the team. The Knights will need him to be fit for the remainder of the season if they are to make an impact in the finals. However, heart and toughness will only go so far against Melbourne. Sure, the Knights pushed the Storm to the limit in their last clash in Round 14 but Melbourne is currently playing much better. If anyone is to take the premiership from the Storm, as the defending champs are not going to concede their premiership defence without a fight. Alex McKinnon returns for Newcastle on the bench for Cuthbertson, while Craig Gower is named the 18th man. The only change for Melbourne is the naming of Slade Griffin as the 18th man.

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers

Tip: Warriors. If the Warriors are to make the finals series, they must win this game. Since beating Melbourne in Round 20, they have lost two straight games against fellow top 8 contenders. As this game is at home where they have a better record in 2013 and against a side that is pretty much out of finals contention, they should be far too good. As for Penrith, their season can’t end soon enough as they have conceded over 30 points in each of their last four games. I can’t see a huge turnaround in form for Penrith; hence I am expecting a big win for the Warriors, who will be looking at avenging the 62-6 loss to Penrith in Round 10. The only change for the Warriors is the naming of Jerome Ropati as 18th man, while Penrith only have a couple of positional changes as Segeyaro moves back to the bench, Kingston is named to start at hooker and Simpkins moves from the bench to start at lock.

Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters

Tip: Roosters (Lock of the week, year, decade and century). As much as this pains me to say, there is no way that I can see the Tigers winning this game. They simply don’t have enough talent in their side to match the Roosters, nor do they have the form to do it either. The Roosters are marching towards the minor premiership and a strong victory in this game should help their cause in securing this. One note for this game is that this will be the first time that Benji Marshall (who somehow wasn’t dropped following last weekend’s video that made me sick to my stomach) and Sonny Bill Williams will be on the same field in a game since Round 7, 2007. There could be more of this in years to come, but definitely not in the NRL.  Lote Tuqiri returns for the Tigers from over a year out with injury to start on one wing for the injured Koroibete. The only other changes are on the bench, with Bodene Thompson, Masada Iosefa and Matt Bell added to an extended bench. The only change for the Roosters is the return of Sonny Bill Williams from suspension to start in the second row for the injured Cordner.

‘Beat the Boss’

There were quite a few upsets in the first week of finals as both teams that finished 1st and 2nd lost. My Bandits beat P7Panthers 559-457 and the Crackalackers beat Pearce’s Pride 512 to 479. In one elimination game, the Pit Dogs, who only won one game in the regular season, beat the Buzzing Hornets 396-371. In the other elimination game, the Funky Bunch beat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 570-438. All games from this week are elimination games. The Bandits and the Crackalackers both have the bye, while the two elimination games are:

  • Pearce’s Pride v Harkonnen Pit Dogs (winner plays Boggabri Bandits)
  • P7Panthers v The Funky Bunch (winner plays The Crackalackers)
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