NRL Week 4 Predictions

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Before I comment on the tips for this week, I just want to comment on the debate regarding the ban of the shoulder charge

MY VIEW ON THE SHOULDER CHARGE

Late last year when the shoulder charge was banned in the NRL, I was initially very critical. At that time, I was very concerned about the ever-increasing lack of momentum swings in the game. I felt that the shoulder charge was one way that momentum could swing a game of rugby league. I thought that the game would become more structured and predictable as a result of the ban. However, after seeing the first few rounds this year, in particular Ashley Harrison’s concussion last Saturday, I am convinced that rugby league does not need the shoulder charge.

As a result of the ban, players are tackling lower and I am enjoying seeing more good tackles. Quite a few have been strong tackles around the ball, which has led to swings in momentum of some games. That has allayed my fears about the lack of momentum swings in matches. In addition to this, the (somewhat) quicker play-the-ball has opened up the game more, allowing more instinctive and impromptu attack. Some teams with more structured attack, like Brisbane and the Dragons, are struggling as a result.

I have been surprised over the outcry over this ban following what happened to Harrison on Saturday night. What was even more surprising was the argument that if it was a regular tackle, then he would have still been knocked out. Yes, it was the head clash that did the damage, but the head would have been lower and the force would have been lower which would have reduced the ‘whiplash’ effect and the heads probably would not have clashed as a result. The doctors are saying that the ban of the shoulder charge if a good thing. I’m not going to argue with them. Well, not again.

For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the first three weeks of the 2013 NRL season. I haven’t missed the shoulder charge at all. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

Last week, I got 6 from 8 tips right. The only tips I got wrong were the lock and upset of the week. I definitely underestimated the Titans and certainly overestimated the woeful Broncos.

LOCK OF THE WEEK: 2/3

UPSET OF THE WEEK: 0/2*

*: In round 2, no favourite lost

MANLY SEA EAGLES V WESTS TIGERS

Tip: Manly. Even just typing up that tip hurts. For those who don’t know, I can’t stand the Sea Eagles. Yet, I still think they win this weekend. Manly will be hurting following the loss to the Gold Coast and I think they will bounce back with a vengeance. The Tigers have been better over the past couple of games, but they have still showed some vulnerability in defence at times. I think Manly will capitalise on these lapses. As a Tigers supporter, I am looking for an improved performance. Victory would be very sweet though. The only change for Manly is on the bench, with Jesse Sene-Lefao replacing the suspended Richie Fa’aoso. The Tigers have suffered a big blow with Marika Koroibete being ruled out. Matt Utai takes his place on the wing. Masada Iosefa is the 18th man for Wests.

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Tip: Bulldogs (UPSET OF THE WEEK). Obviously the big story around this game is the return of Ben Barba. Let’s just hope that playing rugby league can help out Barba with his issues rather than hinder him. I expect this to give the Dogs a huge lift and I think they will win this one. The Dogs showed a great deal of improvement last week in Melbourne as well. As for Souths, they were somewhat disappointing against Cronulla in Round 2 and were even worse against Penrith last week. This followed the dropping of Roy Asotasi, so I’m not quite sure if the players are getting Michael Maguire’s message. I just don’t like the look of my pre-season premiership picks at the moment, even though they are unbeaten. For the Dogs, Barba replaces Druly Low at fullback. Frank Pritchard and Tim Lafai are added to the 6-man bench. For Souths, Crocker is named to start at lock with Ben Lowe named on the bench. Asotasi, Justin Hunt and Jason Clark are added to a 7-man bench.

BRISBANE BRONCOS V MELBOURNE STORM

Tip: Storm (LOCK OF THE WEEK). It is official. The Broncos are dreadful. The fact that they had 60% of possession, including 40-something tackles in the Roosters’ 20 metre territory and come up with a duck egg is disgraceful. What stuns me is how nonchalant coach Griffin is. The fact that he was more concerned with the team’s good defence is ignorant in my opinion. Mr Griffin, YOUR TEAM COULD NOT SCORE A F***ING POINT WITH 60% POSSESSION. Get it through your head. At the moment, I think this is by far the worst Queensland club in the NRL. As for Melbourne, they just keep on truckin’. The Broncos’ most creative attacking player (a centre no less) Justin Hodges has been named, with David Stagg moving to the bench. Nick Slyney is the 18th man for Brisbane and Mitchell Dodds has not been named. For the Storm, 1-17 are unchanged with Siosaia Vave as 18th man.

CRONULLA SHARKS V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

Tip: Sharks. There’s nothing like a good old fashioned local derby. This one should be tough, hard game. Just don’t expect too many points from the Dragons. Cronulla have the far better team and should win comfortably. Unlike some other teams in the NRL, the Dragons have tried their hearts out every week. Unfortunately, as I mentioned last week, they stick to an attacking structure that doesn’t suit their team anymore. As for Cronulla, their attack was starting to click into gear. I just hope that this team isn’t affected greatly by the ASADA investigation as I would like to see what this team can accomplish this year. An interesting winger match up from this game is the battle between Morris and Beau Ryan. Morris will need an absolute blinder if the Dragons are any chance. For the Sharks, Isaac De Gois joins an extended bench. The Dragons have Jack Stockwell and Chase Stanley added to a 6-man bench.

PENRITH PANTHERS V GOLD COAST TITANS

Tip: Titans. The Panthers showed a lot of heart last week. They may not have the strongest roster on paper but they will be tough to beat this year. The Titans could not have been more impressive last week. The big question for them in 2013 was the halfback position and Albert Kelly has stepped up. One concern for both teams is how they have recovered following hot matches last week. For the Titans, it has been back to back games in very hot weather. This is another Sunday afternoon match, so it could be hot again. I’m really looking forward to the forward battle (no pun intended) in this game. These are two of the biggest packs in the comp and I can’t wait to see who can come out on top. For Penrith, Cameron Ciraldo moves into lock, with Nathan Smith dropping to the bench. Matt Robinson also joins a 6-man bench. For the Gold Coast, Luke O’Dwyer and Steve Michaels join an extended bench.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V CANBERRA RAIDERS

Tip: Knights. The Knights returned to form with an emphatic win over the Cowboys on Monday night. If they play like that for most weeks, they will be tough to beat. Of course, that is a big if. As for Canberra, they got a much needed win last week. This should improve the confidence of the team. The Raiders have the talent to win this game, but they’re not quite there yet. An interesting story in this game is Joel Edwards’ return to Newcastle. Joel shouldn’t expect a warm reception from the Newcastle faithful after turning down an offer from the Knights to join Canberra at the end of last year. For Newcastle, Danny Buderus moves into the starting line-up for Neville Costigan. Beau Scott is out with Robbie Rochow starting in the second row. Timana Tahu returns from injury to take a place on the bench. For the Raiders, Matt McIlwrick joins a 5-man bench.

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS

Tip: Cowboys. Wow. Both sides were very ordinary last week and both need a win desperately. Both teams on paper look quite impressive. As for my tip, well, I just can’t simply tip the Warriors at this point. Even though some people were impressed by the Cowboys in round 1, I was not. I thought it was a really scrappy game and they haven’t won since. I think a trip across the Tasman is just what the doctor ordered for the Cowboys. As for the Warriors, who knows what they will dish up? A potentially exciting match-up is in the halves as Johnathan Thurston goes up against Shaun Johnson. Glen Fisiiahi returns to take his place on the wing with Bill Tupou dropped to an extended bench. Sam Rapira returns to start at prop for the Warriors with brother Steve out of the side. For the Cowboys, Blake Leary joins a 5-man bench.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS V PARRAMATTA EELS

Tip: Roosters. This is a very intriguing game. I would not be surprised at all if the Eels get up here. They showed some good signs in attack last week and if they can reduce their mental errors, then they will win their fair share of games this year. Hopefully last week was a learning experience (especially for the Hayne Plane) for Parra. As for the Roosters, it’s hard to tell how well they are going. They did win with only 40% of the ball last week, but the Broncos were dreadful as mentioned above. Even though Sonny Bill Williams is showing some really good signs, James Maloney was the difference last week. People from Orange are built tough. I would know. Luke O’Donnell drops off the bench for the Roosters with Aidan Guerra and young gun Kane Evans joining an extended bench. For Parra, Ken Sio replaces Cheyse Blair on the wing. Matt Ryan is out, with Ben Smith moving to second row and Joseph Paulo coming into lock. Luke Kelly returns to start at five eight, with Ben Roberts moving to the bench.

‘BEAT THE BOSS’

There is only one team left unbeaten in my Dream Team draft competition and it is the mighty Bandits! They beat Marky Marc’s Funky Bunch 528-431. Pearce’s Pride annihilated the Pit Dogs 571-289, to move into second place. Other games saw P7Panthers defeat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 509-464 in a tough encounter and the Cracklackers beat the Buzzing Hornets 397-325. Round 4 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
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