NRL Predictions – Round 26

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With the top 8 in the NRL all but finalised, rugby league writer Daniel Boss provides his thoughts about the final 8 games of the 2013 regular season.

I hate South Sydney

At this time last year, I was sitting right on the back of the South Sydney bandwagon, hoping for a break to the 41-year premiership for the myrtle and cardinal. Yet, this year I find myself hoping that they don’t win the premiership. To me, they just aren’t a very likeable team. Some players in their forward pack (Lima and Sam Burgess) have used grubby tactics in recent weeks and they have Isaac Luke, who was very adept at using the disgusting ‘cannonball’ tackle. Further to this, whenever they win, they celebrate every win like they have won the Grand Final. I’m just not a fan of seeing players or teams celebrate excessively, so this really rubs me the wrong way. Another reason I’m not a big fan of Souths is that in my opinion, they have been getting the rub of the green with refereeing decisions. While watching the game against Manly in Round 23, I thought that the referees kept Souths in the game in the first half. At the time, I thought that Geoff Toovey should cop the fine and just give the refs a pasting in the post-match press conference. For those who don’t know, Toovey went absolutely ballistic.

Another reason I don’t like Souths is that they are now the glamour club. Through Russell Crowe’s part ownership of the club, they have attracted all sorts of big name players and celebrity supporters. As a fan of a team that has struggled on and off the field for the better part of the past couple of decades, I just don’t like teams with these attributes. Sure, I have a chip on my shoulder but that’s the way I am. Lastly, the biggest reason I don’t like South Sydney: Greg Inglis. As a big New South Wales fan, Inglis has caused me much pain over the past 8 years. Also, I hate the way he looks to milk a penalty (and usually gets it because he is who he is). I have a new nickname for Inglis: the Giant Tuna. The reasoning for this is that after he is tackled, he flops around like a fish that has just been caught from the ocean.

Anyway, this is just my opinion. I’m not trying to get anyone to hate a side. The finals are coming and for those who are supporting a side outside of the top 8, we need to find a bandwagon to jump onto. For me, of the top 4 sides I would rather see the Roosters win. Out of all of the sides in the top 8, I would like to see Cronulla win (if the Warriors don’t make it, which they won’t if I get all of the tips right this week).

Quick hits

There are a couple of issues that I would like to have a quick say on.

Sandor Earl

The first regards Sandor Earl’s admission to using and trafficking peptides. My stance on this is that he should not get a life ban. Once his suspension ends, he should be allowed to return to play in the NRL if he has the desire. In the late 1990s, a few players (including Robbie O’Davis and Adam MacDougall) were suspended for 18 months for taking steroids, which from my understanding are more effective than peptides.

The Sin Bin is back

The second issue is the return of the Sin Bin. On both Friday night games, the Sin Bin was used in each game for deliberate slowing down of the ruck. I applaud both decisions as this stance means that teams will no longer be able to just concede penalties to stop attacking play without further consequences. In my opinion, it is a professional foul to deliberately stop an attacking team when they have momentum. Further to this, I think that defence dominates the game too much at the moment and anything to further penalise defensive tactics that halt attacking momentum is a good thing.

Round 25 tipping results

Last week, I successfully tipped 5 correct in a week that saw many upsets. Fortunately for yours truly, two of these tips were the lock and upset of the week.

Season tipping results

If I successfully get the upset of the week for Round 26, I will finish with a success rate of over 30%. Sure, it’s not that great but it has improved over the latter part of the season. The lock of the week will finish with a success rate in the 80-90% range.

Lock of the week: 22/25

Upset of the week: 6/21*

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

Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury Bulldogs

Tip: Bulldogs. The Broncos will be looking to send out Scott Prince with a victory, so I expect them to play well for this game even though there is nothing on the line for them. Brisbane will need to improve if they are to beat a Canterbury side that was quite strong in the second half last week against Penrith. The Dogs have some off-field issues in regards to incidents involving Ben Barba at the start of the year. It appears that the Dogs have moved on from Barba, especially as he has signed with Brisbane for 2014 and beyond. For Brisbane, the only change is the naming of Scott Anderson as the 18th man. Canterbury has a big inclusion, as Sam Kasiano returns from injury to the side on an extended bench.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters

Tip: Souths. The Roosters are currently in the worst form that they have been in for the entire season. They could not have found a worse time to find this poor form. Yet, they still have a chance to clinch the minor premiership with a win. I just think Souths will be too strong and will win this game. I expect it to be a much closer game than the last meeting in Round 1, as I think the Roosters will be better as they were slightly guilty of looking towards this game last round. Jason Clark and Matt King are added to the 6-man bench for the Rabbitohs, while the Roosters will be without Tuivasa-Sheck as he is out with injury. As a result, Kenny-Dowall moves to the wing, Aubusson moves into the centres, Guerra will start in the second row and Tinirau Arona will take the vacated bench spot.

St George Illawarra Dragons v New Zealand Warriors

Tip: Warriors. Even though the game is in Australia, I think the Warriors will win convincingly. They have everything to play for, while the Dragons have nothing to play for but pride and to send Nathan Fien out a winner. It’s hard to see how Steve Price keeps his job for 2014, given the past two poor performances. However, they will have more talent at their disposal next season. As for the Warriors, their inconsistency may cost them a finals spot as they are reliant on the Titans and Cowboys both losing if they are to make the top 8. The Dragons are unchanged aside from the addition of Will Matthews on an extended bench. Dane Nielsen is named to return from injury to take his place in the centres. This means that Ropati is named to one wing and Laumape is named on a 6-man bench, alongside Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans

Tip: Storm. After looking like making a charge to the finals over the past month, the Storm received a big dose of reality as they were thoroughly beaten by Manly at Brookvale. This week they are up against a depleted, yet defiant Gold Coast Titans. The Storm should win as they will be looking to regain some lost momentum before the finals start next week. The Titans won’t give up without a fight, as they are still a chance of making the top 8. Melbourne has added Tim Glasby to the 5-man bench. They are otherwise unchanged. The Titans are also unchanged from 1 to 17 but have added Mark Ioane as the 18th man.

North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers

Tip: Cowboys (Lock of the week). North Queensland has won their last 5 games following the sacking of their coach Neil Henry. It is stunning to see the reversal of form, given that the current coach will not be there next season. Why weren’t the players playing so hard earlier in the season when his job was on the line? The Tigers put everything into last week’s game against Souths, as they looked to win Benji Marshall’s last game in front of his home crowd. As a Tigers supporter, I’m hoping that the Tigers can find a way to get home but I just can’t see it happening, especially with the Cowboys playing for a top 8 position. Scott is out for the Cowboys with Bolton named to replace him in the starting front row, while Ashton Sims is promoted to the bench. The only change for the Tigers is the addition of Suaso Sue to the 5-man bench.

Manly Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers

Tip: Manly. The Sea Eagles made a huge statement to the rest of the competition last round in their convincing victory over Melbourne. They will be happy to just pick up the two points in this game as is evidenced by the team changes mentioned below. Penrith’s top 8 chances ended last round following the loss to the Bulldogs. The Panthers surprised a few people this season by being in contention for as long as they have and they will certainly be no pushover in this game. Brett Stewart is out for the Sea Eagles, with Hiku moving to fullback and Symonds comes from the bench to start on the wing. Buhrer is also out, with David Gower returning to start in the second row. The addition to the bench is Jesse Sene-Lefao. Brad Tighe returns to start in the centres for Penrith, which forces Brown to start in the second row for Newton who is named on the bench. Grant is also out, with Plum moving into the starting prop position, while Jeremy Latimore is added to the 5-man bench.

Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels

Tip: Knights. It’s old boys’ day in Newcastle and the Knights have a great record when they play on this day. They showed some signs of life in the second half against Brisbane but were not overly impressive for the majority of the game. The Eels got a win last round, but it won’t help them avoid a second consecutive wooden spoon. They will fight hard in the last game of the season but should be outclassed in this game by a Knights side looking to build momentum for the finals series. For Newcastle, Gidley is out with a sickening foot injury, which means that Roberts moves from the bench to start at halfback. Jeremy Smith returns to start at lock, which means that McKinnon moves back to the bench. The only change for the Eels is the omission of Mullaney from the bench for Daniel Harrison.

Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks

Tip: Cronulla. The Raiders are officially a rabble. They capitulated in the second half against the Warriors. Recent articles suggest that the Raiders players would like a coach with strong discipline. Canberra supporters will be hoping for a coach that is able to strengthen the players’ mental strength. Last round, Cronulla struggled without Todd Carney. The Sharks need him playing well if they are to do anything in the finals series. I think they will be far too strong, which will be satisfying for Sharks players who were in the side that were knocked out of the semi-finals by the Raiders. There are multiple changes to Canberra’s line-up, with Milford moving from halfback to fullback, Robinson moving from fullback to wing, Sauiluma moving from wing to centre, Thompson moving from centre to the back row and Vaughan moving from the back row to the bench. Mitch Cornish makes his debut and will start at halfback, while Shaun Berrigan and Joe Picker replace Buttriss and Foster on the bench and McIlwrick is also omitted from the bench. Cronulla also have quite a few changes, as Carney is named to return to start of five eight for the injured Graham. Tupou moves from the bench to start in the second row for the injured Bukuya, while Heighington will start at lock for the suspended Gallen. The additions to the bench are Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Gibbs.

Upset of the week

I’ve gone soft this week in the tipping as I’ve tipped all of the favourites. As in other weeks where I’ve done this, I will select a team that is most likely to cause an upset. With that said, my Upset of the week is the Sydney Roosters. I think that they will be up for this game and could cause Souths some troubles. For tippers looking for some other upsets to pull back a lead, I also think that Brisbane and Penrith are a chance of causing upsets in their respective games.

‘Beat the Boss’

While the Boss (that being me) was knocked out of the NRL Dream Team Draft competition last week, the final was decided between fellow Blindside Sport writer Roman and regular reader Tavish. Roman’s side, Pearce’s Pride was victorious as they beat P7Panthers 590-556 in a closely contested final.

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