With four rounds of the competition under the belt, Thursday night football has come and gone. For tipsters and fantasy owners, this gives an extra day to finalise selections for the weekend. It also gives article writers like me an extra day to publish articles. I’m sure my avid readers (which probably only comprises of friends who are probably looking to see me slip up) are happy about this news. Surely an extra day will help me make fewer mistakes. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen.
Last week, I was a bit down on form as I only tipped 5 from 8. I got the lock of the week up but I didn’t get the upset correct. Obviously, I didn’t learn my lesson from round 1.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 3/4
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 0/3*
*: in round 2, no favourite lost
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V MANLY SEA EAGLES
Tip: Bulldogs. I’m giving the Doggies one last chance here. They have gone close against competition front-runners Melbourne and Souths. The Dogs need a win and I think they will just sneak home against Manly. It still should be a tight, low scoring game and I won’t be surprised if it goes the other way. There are some good positional match-ups in this game, with Josh Morris up against Jamie Lyon and in the battle of the toughest five-eighths in the NRL, Josh Reynolds lines up against Kieran Foran. Tony Williams plays against his former club for the first time as well. The Dogs will be looking for him to have a big game. For Canterbury, Tim Lafai replaces the suspended Krisnan Inu in the centres and Tim Browne joins a 5-man bench. For Manly, Richie Fa’aoso returns from suspension to replace David Gower on the bench and Jamie Buhrer moves to the bench, with Tom Symonds named to start at lock.
GOLD COAST TITANS V BRISBANE BRONCOS
Tip: Broncos (UPSET OF THE WEEK). The Titans were a bit sloppy in their win, while the Broncos found some attacking spark to almost shock Melbourne. No rants to Anthony Griffin this week, but Broncos fans will be wanting more of the same this week. I think it will come too. As in the first game, Brisbane will be more desperate to win. Hopefully the Titans get a decent crowd for this game, which will reverse the trend of the past couple of seasons. This game should be a good one. For the Gold Coast, Takairangi and Harrison are named in the starting side, with Michaels and O’Dwyer named on an extended bench. For the Broncos, Justin Hodges is named to start in the centres, with Kahu named on a 7-man bench. Sam Thaiday is out due to suspension, despite being named to start at prop. David Stagg is out injured with Hala, Nick Slyney and Jarrod Wallace also named on the extended bench.
PARRAMATTA EELS V CRONULLA SHARKS
Tip: Sharks. Well, both teams were very disappointing last week. Parra were absolutely flogged by the Roosters and the Sharks were out-enthused by the Dragons in the local derby. I just can’t tip the Eels after last week’s performance and I can’t see Cronulla putting in two poor performances in a row. Even without Todd Carney. The Sharks should be too strong in the forwards to drop this game. Parra have named an unchanged line-up, so all 17 should be looking to redeem themselves this week. As mentioned above, Carney is out for the Sharks with Chad Townsend replacing him at number 6. Johnathan Wright moves into the centres for Matt Wright, with Nathan ‘The Stapler’ Stapleton starting on the wing. Bukuya and Stewart Mills also join a 6-man bench.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS V PENRITH PANTHERS
Tip: Cowboys. If the Dogs are on their last chance with me, then certainly the Cowboys are as well. They are the NRL’s biggest disappointment so far in 2013 and they really need a win here. It seems that they have struggled with the departures of Aaron Payne and James Segeyaro, as the combinations from dummy-half just aren’t there yet. Penrith were solid against the Gold Coast but couldn’t take advantage of opportunities. They do get a chance to show Thurston what he is missing out on. It’s a big game for Cowboy props Scott and Tamou, who are on notice by Australian selectors to keep their position in the test team. The Cowboys have named an unchanged line-up. Penrith have a chance of halfback with Blake Austin replacing Luke Walsh. Tim Grant is named on the bench and Nigel Plum is named to start in the front row. Also, Clint Newton replaces Nathan Smith on the interchange bench.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Tip: Knights. The Dragons finally read my articles!! Well, I’ll claim it as the Dragons got their maiden win of the 2013 season by playing to their strengths, which is up the middle with their forward pack. I did not see them use one awkward-looking sweeping backline movement, which was good to see. The Knights were not spectacular but did enough to beat Canberra. Although, I do think that Alex McKinnon should not be played in the centres. Akuila Uate needs to have a centre inside him who will give him the ball in space. There were too many times when McKinnon held onto the ball with Uate threatening. This game will be pretty tight, although this is a game that the Knights should win. For the Dragons, Cameron King is out with Ah Mau, Vidot and de Belin named on a 6-man bench. Newcastle is unchanged, with the exception of Timana Tahu, who has been named 18th man.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Tip: Souths. Why do I tip against Souths? They are looking very strong after the first four rounds. The win over Canterbury last round was very impressive. As for the Warriors, they notched their first win of the season against the Cowboys. Unfortunately for them, facing the Rabbits is a substantially more difficult proposition. Even though it is played across the ditch, I think Souths should win comfortably. A key match-up in this game is at halfback with young guns Shaun Johnson and Adam Reynolds going head to head. Both players are influential for their respective teams and both need to play well for their team to win. The Warriors are unchanged 1 to 17, with Fisiiahi, Vatuvei and Sebastine Ikahihifo named on a 7-man bench. For the Rabbitohs, Sam Burgess is named to start at lock with Asotasi and Tyrrell named to start in the front row. Lima is named on the bench, alongside inclusions Crocker, Hunt and Clark in the typical South Sydney 7-man bench.
CANBERRA RAIDERS V SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Tip: Roosters. The Chooks were very impressive last round against Parramatta. I simply can’t go past them, especially against the last-placed Raiders. That is despite the game being in Canberra, which is already cold. Why do I live here? Last week, the Raiders put up a good fight against Newcastle but were simply outclassed in the second half. They are getting back to their best form and seem to be a happier team after the departure of Josh Dugan. I don’t think it will happen this week. As for the Roosters, they are the real deal in 2013. Again, I know it’s only four rounds in but they have a lot of improvement ahead of them, which is a scary thought. For Canberra, Jack Wighton replaces Ferguson in the centres and Edrick Lee comes onto the wing. Matt McIlwrick replaces Berrigan on the bench and Anthony Milford is the 18th man. For the Roosters, Cordner replaces Nuuausala at lock, Mitch Aubusson moves from the bench to start in the second row. O’Donnell and Guerra are the two additions to the 5-man bench.
MELBOURNE STORM V WESTS TIGERS
Tip: Storm (LOCK OF THE WEEK). Yep, my Tigers are not very good. They’re not bad but they are a fair way off the teams at the top of the ladder at the moment. Unfortunately, I can’t see how they will beat Melbourne in Melbourne. Call me disloyal if you like; however I just think that I’m being realistic. Melbourne was scratchy against Brisbane last week, however their big players (especially Slater) stepped up when it mattered and they got home in the end. This game will feature Cameron Smith against Robbie Farah at hooker for the first time in 2013. Both will look to gain an advantage prior to their highly likely clashes in Origin this year. For Melbourne, Griffin and Moors are 18th and 19th men respectively. As for the Tigers, Anasta moves into halfback for Jacob Miller and Bodene Thompson is named to start in the back row. Also, Ava Seumanufagai (the best surname in rugby league) is named to start on the bench in place of Iosefa.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
Well, it had to happen eventually. The Boss has been beaten. The Bandits lost to P7Panthers 530-510. The tightest game of the weekend was The Funky Bunch’s win over The Crackalackers 519-515. Pearce’s Pride, who now sit atop of the fantasy ladder, defeated R.Lewis+Denzel’s 579-534. The Buzzing Hornets broke their duck by defeating the Pit Dogs 432-240. Round 5 games are:
- Pearce’s Pride v Buzzing Hornets
- Boggabri Bandits v R.Lewis+Denzel’s
- The Funky Bunch v Harkonnen Pit Dogs
- The Crackclackers v P7Panthers