With only 2 points separating teams in positions 7 to 13 on the NRL, the last couple of rounds will be hard fought as these 7 teams battle for the remaining two spots in the finals. Rugby league writer Daniel Boss runs his eye over the games in the upcoming round.
Solution to the second tier salary cap
Throughout the course of the 2013 season, the issue of the second tier salary cap has reared its ugly head. Young players such as Matt Moylan and Luke Brooks have been prevented from playing more first grade this season as a result of breaches to the second tier salary cap. For those who are unaware, the second tier salary cap is the limit that any club is allowed to spend on players for the first grade competition, who aren’t in the top 25 players paid. As I write, the NRL is looking into ways to solve this issue. I would like to propose the following solution.
Firstly, the amount of the top squad is too small. A squad of 25 players is simply not enough to cover for injury, suspension and poor form. I would like to see this increased to 30. Would this mean that the elite players may not earn as much? Definitely. It could also mean that the solid first grade players may not earn as much either. Yet, it is currently unfair for clubs to be so limited in selecting teams to play on a weekend.
The other issue I have with the current system is that the top squad is fixed. I would like to see a potential for replacement of players in the top squad. In the case that a young player develops strongly through the early part of a season in the lower grade, I would like to see the ability for a club to replace one of the players currently in the top 30 even if they aren’t earning as much money. The player that is replaced would not be eligible to play first grade. Of course, there is a potential for exploitation as teams may put better players in lower grades to earn the rewards of winning the lower grades. To fix this potential issue, the top 30 squad would be fixed from Round 16 onwards. This system would be better if there was an official second (or reserve) grade competition, but it’s only one step at a time here.
Wests v Balmain
It should be pretty obvious to those who have read all of my articles this year that I am a passionate Wests Tigers supporter. I was originally a Balmain Tigers supporter, but was fully supportive of the merger at it meant that a part of the club would still be alive. I’ve been waiting until more of the facts have come out before commenting. For those who aren’t familiar with the situation, the Balmain side of the merger are essentially broke. There are debts to pay but the Wests side of the merger won’t cover the debt without gaining a majority of the board. This isn’t an unreasonable demand. If Wests are to fund the merged club, then they should have the majority. The issue is that Balmain would like to see more independent board members in order to obtain more NRL funding and are refusing to provide Wests with the majority. This also isn’t an unreasonable thought. The joint venture has been in existence for almost 15 years and a split between the two factions still exists. Eventually, I believe that the ownership of my club will need to be independent of Wests and Balmain. It’s the price we paid for survival at the turn of last century.
There have been rumours that if Wests do take control of the club, they will remove the Tigers and go back to being the Wests Magpies. This is an utterly stupid thought as the club will risk losing a substantial proportion of supporters, either those who were former Balmain supporters or supporters who have only supported the joint venture in the past 15 years. I know they will lose this supporter if that happens.
Round 24 tipping results
For those who followed my tips last week, I am very, very sorry. It was a very bad week and in the tipping comps that I am in, I have now been eliminated. I was able to get the lock of the week correct but the upset of the week was not successful, thanks that the useless Knights.
Season tipping results
Lock of the week: 21/24
Upset of the week: 5/20*
*: in rounds 2, 6, 12 and 18 there were no upsets
Brisbane Broncos v Newcastle Knights
Tip: Broncos. I have absolutely no faith in either side at this point. The Knights are horribly inconsistent while the Broncos are just an average team. I like the Broncos in this game, simply because they are at home and I know what to expect from them. Surely the Knights will be up for this game though. If not, then the Knights should start an utter clean out of the club. If they play to their potential then they will win but I doubt that this will happen. Alex Glenn returns for the Broncos and will start in the centres, with Stagg moving back to the 5-man bench. The only change for Newcastle is at starting prop, with Willie Mason returning to replace the suspended Snowden.
Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Tip: Souths. Last week, Tigers supporters got a glimpse of their future star as halfback Luke Brooks was highly impressive on debut. Unfortunately, he will be unable to play for the last two games as the two sides the Tigers will play against are in contention for the top 8. As for Souths, they are back with a share of the premiership lead following a big win over the Bulldogs. They will be looking to cement this place with a big win over the Tigers and I think that they will get it. There are a few changes for the Tigers, with Anasta moving back to halfback for Brooks who cannot play. Marshall moves from the centres to five eight and Thompson comes off the bench to start in the centres. Shaun Spence and Matt Bell are added to the bench, while Brown is out as he also cannot play. For Souths, Sammy Boyle, ah I mean Burgess, returns from suspension to start at lock. This forces his brother Thomas to the 6-man bench. Jeff Lima and Matt King are also added to the bench, while Lowe is out.
New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders
Tip: Warriors (Lock of the week). I’m not taking either the Roosters or Souths for the lock of the week this round. Canberra is a rabble at the moment. Following the sacking of their coach Dave Furner, the Raiders were thoroughly beaten by Manly last weekend. I just can’t see them beating the Warriors in New Zealand. As for the Warriors, their season is somewhat back on track after a hard fought win against the Gold Coast. However, they aren’t playing overly well at the moment but should be too strong. The only addition for the Warriors is the naming of Ngani Laumape as the 18th man. Canberra has again named multiple changes to the side that played last round. Earl is out, with Tupou moving from centre to wing. Thompson moves from the second row to the centres, while Vaughan moves from the bench to the back row. Terry Campese returns to start at five eight, with Milford moving to halfback for McCrone who moves to hooker in place of Berrigan who is out. Jake Foster, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Matt McIlwrick are added to the bench, while Mataora is out.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers
Tip: Bulldogs. This should be a really good game of football. The Dogs were impressive last round in a losing effort to South Sydney while Penrith were too strong for Brisbane. With a win, Canterbury will clinch a home game for the elimination final in the first week of the finals. Penrith will have their finals hopes on the line in this game, so both teams have a lot to play for. I think Canterbury will just win as they have more potency in attack in my opinion. Pritchard is out, with Williams moving from the bench to start in the second row for him. Lachlan Burr is the addition to the Canterbury bench. Penrith has named an unchanged line-up.
Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm
Tip: Manly (Upset of the week). This isn’t such a big upset, given that this game pits the 4th placed side against the 3rd placed side. I think Manly will look to make a statement at home as they are yet to defeat any of the sides currently placed above them. In their first meeting, Manly kept the Storm to a draw in a great defensive effort. Also, Melbourne has not been overly impressive over the past few weeks, even though they did score 62 points last round. Manly have a couple of changes, with Brett Stewart named to return to start at fullback for Hiku. Buhrer moves from the bench to start in the second row for Watmough, who is out. Tom Symonds is the addition to the bench. The only addition for Melbourne is Tohu Harris, who has been named on an extended bench.
Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys
Tip: Sharks. Cronulla clinched a home game for the elimination final for the first week of the finals with an upset win over the Roosters last round. They just blew the Roosters off the field in the first half and were good enough to hold onto the win. The Cowboys have won their last 4 games but do not have a strong record away from home this season. The Sharks have been hard to beat at home this year and should be too strong for the Cowboys. There are a few positional changes for Cronulla, with Gallen moving from prop to lock, Bukuya moves from lock to the bench and Tagataese moves from the bench to prop. Bryce Gibbs is named as the 18th man. For the Cowboys, Kostjasyn moves from the bench to start at hooker for the injured Thompson. Jayden Hodges and Ashton Sims have been added to an extended bench.
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
Tip: Roosters. In my opinion, the loss to Cronulla last round will do the Roosters the world of good. A loss to quality opposition will provide the Roosters with both motivation and encouragement before the finals series. They should be far too strong for a Titans side that suffered a very disappointing loss last round to the Warriors. The Titans need a win to keep their season alive but I just can’t see it happening. The Roosters should be far too good. Anthony Minichiello makes a timely return to start at fullback for the Roosters. This means that Tuivasa-Sheck to one wing and Kenny-Dowall from the wing to the centres for Langi. For the Titans, Douglas moves from the bench to start at prop, with Myles moving from prop to lock for the injured Harrison. Greg Bird returns to replace Mark Minichiello in the second row. Luke Bailey returns to start on the bench, with Michaels out. One bench spot is left vacant for the Gold Coast as they are checking the availability of certain lower grade players.
Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons
Tip: Eels. Yep, this may be a real shock. I’m tipping a side that conceded 62 points last week. The Eels have played better when at home this season and may be motivated to get one more win this season. The Dragons will be disappointed with the loss to Wests last week and will look to bounce back against the Eels. The reason I’m tipping the Eels is the return of their star fullback Jarryd Hayne. I think he will provide enough spark in attack to get the Eels home. Hayne replaces Mullaney at fullback for the Eels. The only change for the Dragons is on the bench, with Josh Drinkwater replacing Garvey.
‘Beat the Boss’
The Boss has been beaten. In the preliminary final, Pearce’s Pride defeated my Bandits 516-408. In the other final, P7Panthers beat the Crackalackers 586-413. So, the Grand Final is:
- Pearce’s Pride v P7Panthers