The NRL recently announced rule changes that would penalise time wasting at scrums and drop outs. To be perfectly honest, I’ve thought that the game would be better without scrums as teams no longer use the space created by scrums to attack. However, as the defence has less time to set now, then there might be more attacking play as a result. I am a supporter of this decision as this will mean that the ball is in play for a greater proportion of the game. My main criticism with rugby union is that the ball is out of play for a significant proportion of the game, so to see a rule that will increase the amount of action in rugby league shows that it once again cares about the opinion of the fan.
Another reason I support these rule changes is that it will increase the fatigue aspect of the game. As mentioned in previous articles, this could increase the impact that smaller, more skilful players will have on the game. It certainly won’t decrease the impact. Also for those who haven’t seen it yet, I have added two topics to the forum page. The two topics are the New South Wales and Queensland origin teams by position. I welcome any comments and opinions to these topics.
Last week wasn’t great for me in the tipping, as I only selected 4 games correctly. The draw on Monday night was a god send though, as it did prevent a potential perfect round for many tipsters. I did get the lock of the week (despite being sad over the Tigers inability to defend), but I was unsuccessful in the upset of the week as Canberra went down to Cronulla in a very impressive game.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 9/10
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 2/8*
*: in weeks 2 and 6 there were no upsets
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V BRISBANE BRONCOS
Tip: Broncos (UPSET OF THE WEEK). I am of the opinion that the Bulldogs’ three match winning streak prior to last week now doesn’t look that impressive. Two of those wins were up against the bottom two teams and the other was a game where the opposition (Cronulla) gave them the win. I really think the Broncos will be too strong here, despite their injuries. Ben Hunt was impressive last week at five eight and Corey Norman continues to shine at fullback. Tim Lafai again replaces the suspended Inu in the centres for the Dogs, while Martin Taupau and Tim Browne are named on a 6-man bench. Brisbane has again named Justin Hodges to start in the centres, in place of the injured Reed. Hodges will be looking for some game time prior to Origin I. Stagg is out injured and drops off the bench, with Scott Anderson, Dunamis Lui and Denan Kemp all added to an extended bench.
WESTS TIGERS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Tip: Cowboys. This is a very winnable game for the Tigers. It is a Leichhardt and the Cowboys (who struggle in Sydney) have not been in good form this season. Yet, I just can’t tip them at the moment. The first half against Souths was an absolute disgrace. Now, I’m not going to abandon the Tigers but I definitely don’t get as excited about their games as I used to. As for the Cowboys, they had enough possession to beat the Roosters last round but just couldn’t find their way across the try line more than once. I think this has more to do with the Roosters defence than the Cowboys attack though. Marshall moves from the bench to the starting side at five eight, with Fulton moving to the second row, Blair starting at prop and Sue moving to the bench. Braith Anasta returns to start at lock, which moves Pettybourne to the bench. Matt Utai and Shaun Spence have been added to the 7-man bench. The Cowboys are unchanged 1 through 17 but have added Ricky Thorby and Jason Taumalolo as the 18th and 19th men respectively.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS V PENRITH PANTHERS
Tip: Dragons (LOCK OF THE WEEK). Both sides recorded impressive victories last round and are looking like threatening the sides in the top 8. For the Dragons, new signing Josh Dugan was very impressive at fullback as he scored two tries in his return to the NRL. Penrith meanwhile only scored a measly 62 points against the Warriors. I just think the Panthers may get brought back to earth after last weekend as the Dragons are a very tough team to beat at home. Last week’s late withdrawals Matt Cooper and Mitch Rein have been named to start at centre and hooker respectively, with their replacements Prior and King named on an extended bench. Harrison has been named to start in the second row, replacing Frizell who is named on the bench, while Cook has not been named. The only change for Penrith is on the bench, with Ryan Simpkins replacing Anderson.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V MELBOURNE STORM
Tip: Roosters. Wow, this is a tough game to pick. Melbourne will be very desperate for a win as this is the last game prior to them losing the big three on Origin commitments. The Storm did show improvement in last round’s draw against Manly but they are still far from their best. The Roosters are currently just winning at the moment. Occasionally they are doing it with explosive attacking play and on the other occasions they are doing it with rock solid defence. I think they are playing much better than Melbourne right now and I think that they will win. Plus, the Roosters have two more days to rest than Melbourne, which could turn out to be very important. Both sides have named unchanged line-ups from 1 to 17, while Melbourne has named Slade Griffin as the 18th man.
MANLY SEA EAGLES V CANBERRA RAIDERS
Tip: Manly. Last round’s clash against Melbourne would have taken a lot out of Manly and if this game was in Canberra I would have taken the Raiders. However, the Brookie factor is too much to ignore in this game. Of any ground in the competition, Brookvale Oval has the longest grass in the league. This will slow down the slick Canberra outside backs, which is the Raiders’ greatest strength. One of these outside backs, Blake Ferguson, will be looking to have a huge game as he looks to impress New South Wales selectors prior to the naming of the team for Origin I next Monday night. As Brett Morris has not been named for the Dragons, one wing spot might have opened up for the Blues. Manly are unchanged from last round’s game, while the Raiders have a couple of changes. Shaun Berrigan is named at hooker with McIlwrick not named, while Sam Williams, Jarrad Kennedy and Jake Foster have all been added to an extended bench.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Tip: Knights. This is a very important game for Newcastle. They need to back up last week’s strong performance with another against a Warriors team that just finds ways to lose. Last week they found out that the easiest way to lose a game is to not turn up ready to play. They will surely be better than last week. Newcastle has only won one game away from home so far in 2013, so the Warriors are a chance in this game. The Warriors have multiple changes to the side that got flogged by Penrith last round. Kevin Locke and Dane Nielsen return to start at fullback and centre respectively, with Fisiiahi and Tuimavave both named on an extended bench. Ngani Laumape is also added to the 7-man bench. The only change for the Knights is the naming of Akuila Uate to the wing, while Naiqama has been named as the 18th man.
PARRAMATTA EELS V GOLD COAST TITANS
Tip: Eels. Firstly, I should congratulate Parramatta on taking a game to country New South Wales. This game will take place at Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium in Mudgee. Long before the grandstand was refurbished, this was a tough place to play against the home town Mudgee Dragons. The teams I played in were only successful once in Mudgee against the Dragons. As for the two teams playing there this weekend, both were disappointing in defeat. The Eels were outclassed by the NRL version of the Dragons, while the Titans were very ill-disciplined in their loss to Brisbane. This is a big game for the Titans, as they might need a win to stay in the top 8. Falling out of the top 8 at this point would be a huge blow for the Titans, who started the season in such strong fashion. Matt Ryan replaces Tanginoa as a starting back rower for the Eels and Brayden Wiliame has been named as the 18th man. For the Gold Coast, Srama moves from the bench to replace the injured Falloon at hooker and Anthony Don replaces Mead on one wing. The other omission is Taylor from the bench, with Mark Ioane, Sam Irwin and Luke O’Dwyer all named on a 5-man bench.
CRONULLA SHARKS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Tip: Souths. The Sharks were very impressive last weekend against the Raiders. It appears that the combinations of all the new players are starting to gel and Todd Carney is playing very well. Souths are still keeping on at the head of the ladder. They are the premiership favourites and rightfully so. I give the Sharks a big chance of victory here and it should be a good game with plenty of Origin hopefuls on show. Players looking to impress include Wade Graham, Michael Gordon, Nathan Merritt and Ben Te’o. The Sharks have a huge boost with NSW captain Paul Gallen returning for the Sharks. Gallen is named to start at lock, with Heighington named on an extended bench. Luke Lewis has also been named, with last week’s replacement Tagataese also named on the extended bench. The only change for Souths is the naming of Dave Tyrrell as the 18th man.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
All three sides at the top of the ladder all scored over 500 points and won their games as a result. Pearce’s Pride defeated the Pit Dogs 580-431, P7Panthers beat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 535-467 and my Bandits beat the Funky Bunch 508-369. In the other game, the Buzzing Hornets defeated the Crackalackers 453-400. Next week’s games are:
- Pearce’s Pride v R.Lewis+Denzel’s
- Buzzing Hornets v Harkonnen Pit Dogs
- Boggabri Bandits v P7Panthers
- The Funky Bunch v The Crackalackers