I have one final thought regarding Origin I. I dare say everyone has their own opinion on the big incident from game one and I shared mine last week. I just want to bring to attention an issue that I have with the game at the moment. Right now, players are continually getting slapped on the wrist for fairly serious incidents. I still remember Cameron Smith only getting two weeks for trying to rip Sam Thaiday’s head off in the 2008 finals series. Yet, his coach Craig Bellamy had the audacity to question the suspension. I thought he deserved at least 10 weeks for that.
However, it could also be argued that the lack of penalties for acts of foul play in the ruck are leading to the incidents which are bringing interest to the Origin games. I was watching the Sunday Footy Show and it showed about 4 or 5 grubby things that Myles did in the game before Gallen punched him. Last year, he took out NSW’s best attacking player Farah out of part of game 3 by leading with his big, fat head. Farah also missed a couple of games for the Tigers from this injury too. The referees refused to penalise him for these incidents, so Gallen had no choice (in my opinion) than to lay a couple on him. If the referees did penalise Myles, then I am almost certain that Gallen would not have punched Myles. However, it’s the biff that attracts viewers to the game, as I mentioned in my article last week. It’s an interesting situation for the league here. What I do know is that players are fed up with it. On Saturday night, Ben Creagh took offence to Beau Scott (ie. he moonwalked in) to an act of foul play in the ruck and as a result, the Dragons got the penalty when they otherwise wouldn’t have. More league games will come to blows in the future (not just Origin), but whether this is a good or bad thing is something that the league has to decide.
Last week, I got 4 from 7 correct. A solid week, considering that there were a few upsets. I was successful in picking the lock of the week, but was not in the upset of the week. This serves me right for not selecting my team and by not going against Newcastle. Boy, were they ugly!
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 11/13
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 2/10*
*: in rounds 2, 6 and 12 there were no upsets
Before I start with this week’s tips, I am going to make a big call. This big call is that the teams currently in the top 8 (Souths, Melbourne, Roosters, Manly, Gold Coast, Cronulla, Canterbury and Canberra) will be the teams that will finish in the top 8 after 26 rounds. I’ll analyse this big call at the end of the season.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Tip: Cowboys (UPSET OF THE WEEK). This game shouldn’t reach any great heights, but I think the Cowboys will win this one. I simply think that they will have too many points in them. Both sides weren’t overly impressive last round. The Dragons got home on the back of Josh Dugan, while the Cowboys stayed with the Bulldogs for a good while before conceding a couple of late tries. All eyes are on Johnathan Thurston to see how he performs in his only game prior to Origin II. The only change for the Dragons is in the second row, with Frizzell replacing Harrison and Leeson Ah Mau taking Frizzell’s place on the bench. For the Cowboys, Faifai Loa is replaced on the wing by Ashley Graham and Thurston returns to replace Morgan at five eight. Rory Kostjasyn is added to the 5-man bench.
MANLY SEA EAGLES V CANTERBURY BULLDOGS
Tip: Manly. I really flipped flopped about who to pick in this game. It will be a close one, but I think the home ground advantage will be enough for Manly to come away with the win. They really need a win to solidify their place in the top 4. The Dogs have been building over the past month and a half, but they have yet to defeat a team with the defensive capability of a team like Manly. The game will show just how far back the Dogs are. It is also a huge game for Ben Barba and Daly Cherry-Evans as both will be pushing for a bench spot for Queensland in Origin II. Manly has named an unchanged line-up to last week’s team, while Canterbury has named two changes. Williams is named to start in the second row, moving Jackson to the bench. Tim Browne is named on an extended bench.
CANBERRA RAIDERS V PENRITH PANTHERS
Tip: Raiders. In Round 1, Penrith gave the Raiders a flogging but I am not expecting a similar result this weekend. The Raiders have moved back into the top 8, while Penrith suffered a very disappointing loss last week against the Tigers in a game that they should have won. This game is important for both sides as the winner will be back in the top 8 after this round. Penrith will still be without fullback Matt Moylan, which is an absolute shame. I won’t mention any more, as people with more informed perspectives have already come out and slammed this decision. The Raiders are unchanged from last round’s win over Brisbane, while Penrith have a few changes. Mansour is named to start in the centres, which forces Brown to start in the second row. This means that Matt Robinson will start from the bench, joining Ryan Simpkins who was added as the 18th man.
CRONULLA SHARKS V PARRAMATTA EELS
Tip: Cronulla. The Sharks were very disappointing last round in their loss in Melbourne, while the Eels put a horror week behind them in a committed effort against the Roosters. However, the loss of Hayne will be too much for the Eels to overcome at Shark Park. It is a big game for Michael Gordon, who will look to improve on last week’s performance if he is to state his claims for the potentially vacated fullback spot for New South Wales. For Cronulla, Fifita and Lewis are named to start at prop and second row respectively, with Tagataese and Bukuya named on a 6-man bench. Paul Gallen returns to start at lock, with Heighington named on the bench. The addition to the bench is Tyrone Peachey. Joseph Paulo is named to start at five eight, with Luke Kelly omitted. Reni Maitua returns to take Paulo’s place in the second row. The only other change is Ben Roberts starting from the bench, with Hayne out with injury.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V GOLD COAST TITANS
Tip: Souths. Both sides had the bye last weekend, so each team should be relatively fresh. I think Souths will simply be too classy in this one, especially as they are at full strength. Souths are the premiership front-runners and will be looking to stay there with a win, while the Titans will look to further solidify their place in the top 8. It should be a really good game. Greg Bird is the odd man out in each starting forward pack, as both teams have a combined 4 Queensland origin forwards and 1 New South Wales forward (Bird) in their starting packs. Both teams welcome back their origin players, so there are a few changes. For Souths, Greg Inglis returns to start at fullback, with Merritt moving back onto one wing and Goodwin moving from the wing to centre to replace Champion. Chris McQueen, Ben Te’o and Sam Burgess all return to start in the back row, with Lowe, Lima and Peats all on a 7-man bench. The only other change is on the bench, with Clark out and Justin Hunt in. For the Gold Coast, Nate Myles returns to start at prop, which moves Douglas to the bench. Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison also return to start in the back row, with Taylor and James starting on the bench. The omissions from the bench are Ioane, Dowling and Gray, while Ben Ridge is named as the 18th man.
MELBOURNE STORM V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Tip: Storm (LOCK OF THE WEEK). Melbourne has shown over their past two games that they are back to their best. They are the defending premiers and the other contenders for the title will know that they have to go through the champs to win it in 2013. As for the Knights, a promising start to the season has proven to be nothing but a mirage as they have faded out of the top 8. They did sign Craig Gower last week but he has not been named for this game. Melbourne has named an unchanged team from last week’s impressive win over Cronulla. The only change for Newcastle is the addition of Neville Costigan as the 18th man. It will be interesting to see if the Knights players reward Wayne Bennett’s show of faith.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Tip: Roosters. The Warriors have put together three straight wins and have climbed out of the cellar as a result. Last week’s win over Manly showed that they can mix it with some of the better teams in the competition. However, the Roosters are in far better form than Manly at the moment and the game is also in Sydney. The Warriors have a poor away record this year, so I’m expecting a comfortable victory for the Roosters. This is also because I expect the Roosters to play better than they did last week against the Eels. The Roosters have named an unchanged line-up, while the Warriors have a couple of significant inclusions. Kevin Locke is names at fullback, which moves Fisiiahi to one wing and Laumape to a 7-man bench. Russell Packer is named to return to start at prop, which moves Matagi to the bench. The other addition to the side is Charlie Gubb, who is also named on the extended bench.
BRISBANE BRONCOS V WESTS TIGERS
Tip: Broncos (unfortunately). The Tigers have shown plenty of heart in their past two games to pick up victories. However, these came against a woeful Cowboys team and a Penrith side that put the cue in the rack after 30 minutes. The Broncos showed some good signs last round against Canberra but a finals absence is looking likely for only the 5th time (not including 5th-placed playoffs from the late 1980s) in their history. I think the Broncos will win as they are at home and Justin Hodges is playing for Brisbane. Yet, it will be a close game and the Tigers are a good chance to win it. I have tipped against the Tigers over the past two weeks, yet they won. Hopefully this trend continues. Go you Tigers! The only addition for the Broncos is David Hala who has been named the 18th man. Blake Ayshford makes a timely return for the Tigers, as his addition moves Reddy to one wing to replace the injured Koroibete.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
There are now three teams tied on top of the fantasy league ladder, following my Bandits’ big win over Pearce’s Pride 569-509. P7Panthers joined these two teams following a 531-313 win over the Pit Dogs. In other games, the Buzzing Hornets beat the Funky Bunch 385-239 and the Crackalackers beat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 563-384. Round 14 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