If there was any doubt that the NRL was one of the most even sporting competitions in the world, then Round 5 would have crushed it. Four of the eight games this week were upsets and I’m very happy that my upset of the week was one of them. Overall, I only tipped 4 from 8 but it could have been much worse. The Bulldogs, Sharks, Knights and Roosters all let me down. My lock of the week was successful, however at the conclusion of Monday night’s game it was the last thing from my mind. I guess that my lock of the week was helped by the fact that referees are too afraid to penalise the almighty big three. It’s not just the Tigers who have complained this year, Johnathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday have also publicly complained about the referees inability to penalise the Storm. Also, it was quite hypocritical of Bellamy to complain about the Tigers slowing down the play-the-ball. That would be like Beau Ryan complaining about football players spending too much time on TV.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 4/5
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 1/4*
*: in round 2, no favourite lost
BRISBANE BRONCOS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Tip: Broncos. Anyway, back to being objective. Brisbane was very impressive in their win over the Gold Coast while the Cowboys convincingly beat a very woeful Penrith outfit. I think that the Broncos are in better form at the moment and I think they will win. Over the past couple of weeks, Brisbane has found some spark in attack and Prince is starting to combine well with his new teammates. As for the Cowboys, it starts and ends with Johnathan Thurston. He has the potential to again carry the Cowboys to victory. For Brisbane, Sam Thaiday returns from suspension in the front row while Dunamis Lui is out. Robert Lui is out for North Queensland with injury after making a return from a 1-year suspension last week. Michael Morgan takes Lui’s place at halfback. Tariq Sims is named to start in the back row, while Gavin Cooper is named on the bench. Inclusions that join Cooper on the 7-man bench are Thompson, Ashton Sims, Greenshields and Riethmuller. Anthony Mitchell is out.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V CANTERBURY BULLDOGS
Tip: Roosters. I gave the Dogs one last chance last week. I will need to see some improvement before I tip them again. Last week the Roosters switched off in the second half in the loss in Canberra. I could continue with analysis of both sides, but in reality this game is about one player. That player is wearing number 12 and playing for the Roosters. The focus will completely be on Sonny Bill Williams and the abuse he will be showered with by the Canterbury faithful. For the Roosters, Daniel Tupou is named to start on the wing while last week’s replacement Oldfield is named on the extended bench. The only other change is the addition of Aidan Guerra to the 6-man bench. Greg Eastwood is again named to start at lock despite being a late withdrawal last week. Alaalatoa is out of the team, while David Klemmer is named on a 5-man bench.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V PENRITH PANTHERS
Tip: Knights. Simply, the Knights should be too good here. Last week showed that Penrith are still in the midst of a rebuilding phase. While Penrith are strong in the juniors, including their table topping SG Ball team (thank me later for the plug, Matty), their first grade team are struggling. As for the Knights, they were a little unlucky last week. I felt that if they had have hit the lead against the Dragons then they would have won the game. Danny Buderus is named on the bench for Newcastle, while Korbin Sims has not been named. Although this could change as reports say that Buderus is still struggling with back spasms. Despite last week’s poor performance, Penrith are unchanged. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers players reward the coach for his show of faith.
CANBERRA RAIDERS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Tip: Raiders. The Raiders pulled a bunny out of the hat last week against the Roosters, while the Warriors almost beat the Bunnies. Do you see the little play on words there? I hope you all did. Both teams have improved a great deal over the past couple of weeks and this game should be a good one. I just think the Raiders will be too good, especially as they are at home. If not, then at least they will know how the new NRL finals system works after my mother had to correct CEO Don Furner last Saturday following the Penrith-Canberra SG Ball game. The big news for Canberra is the potential return of Terry Campese, who is named as the 18th man. For the Warriors, Packer is named to start while Matulino is named on the bench. Godinet and Ben Henry are named on an extended bench, while Ikahihifo has not been named.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V MELBOURNE STORM
Tip: Souths. Well, this is the game that the NRL so desperately wanted. At least, that’s what I’ll believe following the one-sided officiating last Monday night. In all seriousness, Melbourne did stay with the Tigers for the majority of the game before outlasting them in the last 20 minutes. Souths pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Wait, I’ve already used that line. Anyway, they got out of jail against the Warriors in New Zealand last weekend. In the big games against the Roosters and Canterbury that Souths have played in this year, they have gone to another level. I expect the same this weekend. Melbourne has been due for a loss for a while and last week’s tough game would have taken a big toll on them. Crocker, Hunt and Clark are again added to the typical Souths 7-man bench that has been named. Melbourne also only has 3 additions to a 7-man bench, with Setu, Griffin and Brett Finch named on the extended bench.
MANLY SEA EAGLES V CRONULLA SHARKS
Tip: Manly (LOCK OF THE WEEK). I would love to see the Sharkies get up here, but I just can’t see it happen here. With the ASADA drug investigation hanging over their heads, the Sharks are playing with a great burden at the moment. Even Manly feel sorry for Cronulla at the moment, so you know it must be pretty big. The Sea Eagles are not playing the best football right now, but they are still winning. Poor opposition over the past couple of weeks has helped their cause. Manly have named an unchanged line-up and Cronulla have named an unchanged starting line-up. On their bench, Chris Heighington is not named while Tagataese and Taufua are named on a 5-man bench.
WESTS TIGERS V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Tip: Tigers (UPSET OF THE WEEK). I don’t even know if this is an objective tip but I really want my Tigers to get up this week as I will be cheering them on from the Churchill Stand on Sunday. Yes, I still have nightmares over the 2010 Preliminary Final. It cost me two cases of beer, no wonder it still gives me nightmares. After last week’s huge effort against Melbourne, it will go one of two ways for the Tigers. It will either motivate them as they know that they can compete with the NRL’s best or it will have taken too much of a toll. As for the Dragons, they have won 2 straight games and are playing some good footy. In particular, halves Fien and Soward were very good against Newcastle last week. If they can produce similar efforts on Sunday, it could be a long day for the Tigers. The only change to the team the Tigers have named is Fulton being named in the second row despite missing last week with Akauola omitted. However, Benji Marshall is out with a toe injury and back rower Thompson will miss the game due to suspension, even though both players have been named to start. So, the team that takes the field will differ from this team named. As for the Dragons, Nightingale moves from the wing to fullback to replace the injured Gerard Beale. Vidot takes Nightingale’s vacated wing position. On the bench, Henderson and Damien Cook are named on a 5-man bench, with Josh Drinkwater not named.
GOLD COAST TITANS V PARRAMATTA EELS
Tip: Titans. The Titans were somewhat disappointing last week in their loss to the Broncos, while Parramatta were gutsy in their emotional win over Cronulla. I think the Titans will be too good, even if Albert Kelly is not able to play. In my opinion, they are a better team across the field. With representative season just around the corner, Jarryd Hayne will be looking to impress. Even if he produces some of his best form, I still don’t think it will be enough. For the Gold Coast, Beau Henry is named to start at five-eight and Steve Michaels is named to start in the centres, with Takairangi out. As mentioned above Albert Kelly is named to start at halfback, but is in some doubt with a leg injury. Other omissions for the Titans are Srama, Ridge and Dave Taylor, with Beau Falloon starting at hooker and Luke O’Dwyer starting in the second row. The two new faces on the bench are Mark Minichiello and Anthony Don. Parramatta has named an unchanged line-up.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
There are currently 4 teams with 4 wins and 1 loss over the first 5 rounds. All 4 teams won on the weekend. Pearce’s Pride defeated the Buzzing Hornets 562-491, my Bandits beat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 479-448, The Funky Bunch beat the Pit Dogs 447-281 and P7Panthers beat The Crackalackers 558-521. Round 6 games are:
- Pearce’s Pride v Boggabri Bandits
- The Funky Bunch v Buzzing Hornets
- The Crackalackers v R.Lewis+Denzel’s
- P7Panthers v Harkonnen Pit Dogs