Prior to previewing this weekend’s games, there is one aspect of the game that I want to comment on. Anyone who knows me and has spoken to be about the parts of the game that I would change, knows that I think that there are too many interchanges in rugby league today. I personally believe that there isn’t enough of an endurance factor in rugby league at the moment. As a result, most teams play a very conservative and structured style of football. This is because it is more beneficial to have big players who won’t concede tries and line breaks than to have smaller players who are better attacking players, as there is less chance for these players to have an impact on the game as defences are more rested and have a greater ability to stop attacking play.
The argument to this is that fewer interchanges will increase the likelihood of injury. I’m not a doctor (I would like a doctor’s opinion on this), but I tend to disagree with this argument. With increased fatigue, the impact of the collisions will be lower throughout a game which lowers the risk of injury. Also, players will be more fatigued and less likely to employ wrestling tactics in the tackle as they are too fatigued and will be more focused on just making the tackle. These reduced wrestling tactics will reduce the likelihood of pectoral muscle injuries.
Most importantly, the increased fatigue of the defence will create more opportunities for attacking play. More attacking play would be a more exciting game and in the very competitive sporting environment in Australia at the moment, rugby league needs to do all it can to be as exciting as it can be. Ideally, I would like to see 4 reserves on a bench (once a player is off, they cannot return) but I know this is wishful thinking. I know that interchange will never go away, but I would have 6 interchanges for 3 bench players and one reserve. This way, there is both an increased fatigue factor and a reduced impact if a player leaves a game due to injury. Anyway, those are my thoughts and any feedback would be welcome.
Last week, I correctly tipped 6 of the 8 games. As the Roosters easily accounted for Penrith, I was successful in the lock of the week. However, as the Titans did not win but both Canberra and Cronulla won, I was unsuccessful in selecting the upset of the week.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 7/8
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 2/6*
*: in weeks 2 and 6 there were no upsets
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Tip: Souths (LOCK OF THE WEEK). Last week, the Bunnies blew the Broncos away in a 15-minute period early in the second half, while the Cowboys struggled to beat Parramatta. I think Souths will be way too strong in this game. The Rabbits are a very strong team and the Cowboys do struggle in Sydney. In fact, I thought the Cowboys did take a few steps backward over the last week. They will be looking at showing some improvement on Friday night. Souths have named an unchanged line-up with Jeff Lima and Justin Hunt named on an extended bench. For the Cowboys, Gavin Cooper is named to start in the back row, while Glenn Hall is named on the bench. Aside from this, the Cowboys’ team in unchanged, with Scott Bolton and Scott Moore additions to a 6-man bench.
WESTS TIGERS V CRONULLA SHARKS
Tip: Sharks. It’s the Boss Bowl! This game has been very one-sided over the past decade, with Cronulla only having been able to better the Tigers twice over the past decade. I just thought I’d mention that as it makes me happy. Yet, I think the Sharks will be too good in this one. I’ll be going to this game and I just want to see something from the Tigers. It appears that they will be battling for the spoon in 2013. As for Cronulla, they scored a much needed and tough (albeit controversial) victory over Newcastle, despite losing Gallen in the opening minutes of the game. The Tigers have named the same 17 that played last week but there are some positional changes. Tim Simona starts in the centres and Bodene Thompson starts from the bench. Suaso Sue is named to start at prop, with Jack Buchanan also starting on the bench. Also, Eddy Pettybourne is named to start at lock with Sean Spence moving to the bench. The only omission to the Sharks team is that of Gallen to injury, with Heighington starting at lock in his place. Jayson Bukuya and Mark Taufua have been named on a 5-man bench.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V CANTERBURY BULLDOGS
Tip: Bulldogs. The Warriors finally got over the line last week, but it wasn’t without a scare or two and the Dogs showed their best form of the year against the hapless Tigers. Both sides are sitting outside the top 8 and another win would be very beneficial as they look to climb into that top 8. James Graham’s inclusion last week made Canterbury a more dangerous attacking side, while Sam Kasiano is still a few weeks away from his best. I think these inclusions will be enough for the Dogs to get up here. The Warriors have a couple of players out which doesn’t help their cause. These omissions are Kevin Locke and Jerome Ropati, with Glen Fisiiahi named to start at fullback and Konrad Hurrell returns to first grade to start in the centres. Carlos Tuimavave is named as the 18th man. The Dogs have named an unchanged line-up, with Taupau and Browne added to an extended bench.
PARRAMATTA EELS V BRISBANE BRONCOS
Tip: Broncos. While Parra showed plenty of fight against the Cowboys, they just couldn’t quite get the win. Facing the Broncos will be a tougher test for the Eels and I can’t see them winning this game. The Eels are another team that will be fighting it out for the wooden spoon in 2013. In my mind, the Broncos are a side that will probably finish in the lower half of the top 8, but are unable to beat any of the really good teams. However, they do win games that they are ‘meant to’ and they should win this game as many people will predict. The Eels have named an unchanged line-up, with Api Pewhairangi named as the 18th man. For Brisbane, Justin Hodges returns to start in the centres, with Kahu moving to the wing and Maranta out. Josh McGuire and David Stagg are named on an extended bench.
CANBERRA RAIDERS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Tip: Raiders. I really have no idea on who to tip in this game. If the Raiders play like they did against Melbourne, then they will certainly win. I just don’t know how they will back up after last week. As for Newcastle, I don’t know where they stand at this point. This could be a statement game for them. When I watch the Knights play, I get the feeling that they are playing well within themselves. It’s a very awkward feeling as they are capable of much more but just are almost too scared to show it. They will need to show it if they are to contend for this year’s premiership. For the Raiders, Matt McIlwrick replaces Buttriss at hooker, while David Shillington and Shaun Berrigan are named on an extended bench. Dane Tilse is also out. Kurt Gidley is named to start at five-eight for the injured Mullen, with Travis Waddell named to start at hooker for Newcastle. Matt Hilder and Neville Costigan have been added to a 5-man bench.
GOLD COAST TITANS V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Tip: Titans. In Round 8, the Gold Coast almost came from nowhere to beat the Warriors, while the Dragons had enough chances to beat Manly but just couldn’t capitalise on them. Both teams have key injury concerns, with Albert Kelly and Brett Morris in doubt for their respective teams even though both have been named to play. A key match-up in this game will be the battle of the five eighths, Sezer and Soward. In fact, their goal kicking will probably decide this game and at the moment, Sezer is a more reliable goal kicker. The Titans have wingers Kevin Gordon and David Mead back in place of Anthony Don and Steve Michaels. The only other addition is Ben Ridge to a 5-man bench. The only change for the Dragons is the return of Matt Cooper in the centres, who replaces Green.
PENRITH PANTHERS V MELBOURNE STORM
Tip: Storm. Penrith tried hard last week and stayed with the Roosters for a while but they just didn’t have the talent to keep it up. I can’t see them being able to beat Melbourne, especially after the Storm lost to the Raiders last weekend. They will be eager to make amends and reassert their dominance over a team that is likely to finish near the foot of the ladder. If Melbourne plays anywhere near their best, they should win quite convincingly. As for the Panthers, better things are in store in the years to come. For Penrith, Isaac John replaces Tom Humble at five-eight and Sam Anderson is added to a 5-man bench. Melbourne has named the same team as last week, with the additions of Slade Griffin, Lagi Setu and Kenneath Bromwich to an extended bench.
MANLY SEA EAGLES V SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Tip: Roosters. Manly have started to show some signs of weakness over the past couple of weeks and they will need to be better than they have been to overcome the impressive Roosters, even though the game is at Brookie. Brett Stewart is in doubt for the Sea Eagles after leaving the last game due to injury. The Roosters were probably a little bit below their best last weekend, but were still good enough to get over Penrith. Aside from the Round 1 clash against Souths, the Roosters have yet to play too many sides in the top 8. This game will show where the Roosters are at. Steve Matai returns from suspension for Manly, with Tom Symonds moving from the centres to the bench. Jamie Buhrer is added to the 5-man bench, while Sene-Lefao is omitted. Sam Moa is out for the Roosters, with Martin Kennedy named to start in his place at prop and Frank-Paul Nuuausala added to the bench.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Again, I have gone for no upsets in my tips. My tipping nature is very much like the main style of play seen in the NRL at the moment: conservative. I did initially think that the Roosters were the outsiders but they have moved in to favouritism. With that said, my UPSET OF THE WEEK is the Newcastle Knights. As mentioned above, I have no idea who to tip in that game. I’m solely going for the Raiders as I think that they will be near their best. However, I’m not overly confident about that thought.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
The top 3 teams all recorded victories in Round 8. My Bandits unimpressively overcame the Pit Dogs 426-300, Pearce’s Pride defeated the Crackalackers 599-488 and P7Panthers beat the Funky Bunch 555-418. There was an upset this round in a very highly contested game, as the Buzzing Hornets beat R.Lewis+Denzel’s 592-508. The schedule for Round 9 is:
- Pearce’s Pride v P7Panthers
- Harkonnen Pit Dogs v The Crackalackers
- R.Lewis+Denzel’s v The Funky Bunch
- Buzzing Hornets v Boggabri Bandits