Origin 2 is still a week away and there have already been a few events that have caused significant interest. The first is the ruling by the ARLC that any player that throws a punch during a game will be sin binned. I mentioned in a previous article that the league had a decision to make. The decision that they made was to try to clean up the game, in order to attract more families to allow their children to play the game. However, it has taken away an aspect of the game (more specifically Origin) that is highly popular. It will be interesting to see how this will affect the ratings. Personally, I don’t watch rugby league (including Origin) to see fights, so I am still looking forward to the game. I just hope that the referees penalise foul play, especially in the ruck, as they do in the NRL. If they don’t, then players will get frustrated and fights will occur, despite the punishment. Anyone who thinks that this won’t happen does not know the game enough or is very ignorant.
Another issue has been the suspensions of NSW players Tamou and Ferguson for various offences. These do the ‘dumb rugby league player’ stereotype a lot of favours. How both people could give up so much by doing such dumb things absolutely astonishes me. I know that people their age, or my age for that matter, like to go out and have some fun. However, how people (allegedly in Ferguson’s case) can do the actions that they did is beyond me, especially with the valuable contracts and opportunities that they both have. I am aware that in most workplaces, employees are not sanctioned until being found guilty. However, the NSWRL and NRL are in no place to wait about this as public image is very important. They have to suspend both players. One last comment about the events of Sunday night is this: Who on earth let Dugan and Ferguson go out drinking in the first place?
Finally, I can actually talk about the sides and it feels good to do this. New South Wales have three changes, with Josh Dugan replacing Hayne at fullback, Nathan Merritt replacing Ferguson on one wing and Aaron Woods replacing Tamou at prop. In my opinion, Hayne is the biggest loss of the three. He was dynamic in game one and will be missed. Dugan has proved himself at this level before but does go a bit quiet when games get tough. He will need to step up in these times if NSW are to clinch the series in game 2. Merritt and Ferguson are completely different types of wingers. While the Blues miss out on having a strong kick returner and someone very good under the high ball, they now get a great finisher and probably a better positional player, especially in defence. Tamou has been disappointing all season, so I see this as a blessing in disguise for the Blues. Woods has been outstanding this season, playing for the otherwise woeful Tigers. He has size, speed and works his tail off in defence.
As for Queensland, they have named two changes. Shillington and Harrison are out, while Daly Cherry-Evans and Josh Papalii are named on the bench. Both Shillington and Harrison are both out of form at the moment, especially Shillington who can’t crack the starting line-up for his club Canberra. I do like the selection of Papalii, who will provide some much needed impact from the bench to the Queensland side. However, the selection of Cherry-Evans does surprise me. While his form has been outstanding for Manly, I don’t understand where they will play him unless there is an injury. It is a conservative selection, much like the Blues’ selection of Josh Reynolds. One noticeable aspect of the Queensland team is the lack of size. They obviously believe that mobility is the key to victory in Origin. It will be interesting to see if this is indeed the case.
Last week in the tipping, I got 6 from 8 correct despite a few upsets. I successfully picked the upset of lock of the week in Round 14, thanks to the Cowboys and Storm respectively.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 12/14
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 3/11*
*: in rounds 2, 6 and 12 there were no upsets
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Tip: Bulldogs. This is the clash that Bulldogs supporters have had circled since the draw came out late last year. For those who have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, this is SBW’s return to Belmore, well almost. It’s his first game against the Bulldogs at their home ground. Why this game is on during the Origin period bewilders me. While the Roosters are higher on the ladder, their form in the past few weeks has been sketchy at best. To make things worse, they lose their halves and strike centre for this important game. The Dogs on the other hand, are in the best form of the season as they have won their past 4 games. Canterbury has the same side as the team that beat Manly last week, with the exception of NSW origin players Morris and Reynolds. In their place at centre and five-eight respectively are Tim Lafai and Joel Romelo, while Martin Taupau is added to the 5-man bench. For the Roosters, Guerra moves from the bench to start in the centres for Jennings and Mortimer moves into halfback for Pearce. Aubusson moves from the second row to five-eight for Maloney, while Cordner moves into the second row and Nuuausala is named to start at lock. The additions to the bench for the Roosters are Nafe Seluini, Dylan Napa and Isaac Liu.
WESTS TIGERS V CANBERRA RAIDERS
Tip: Raiders (LOCK OF THE WEEK). The Tigers were not very good against the Broncos last round and now they have lost Woods, who has been carrying the forward pack this season. As for the Raiders, their win over Penrith last round has been marred by the incident involving Blake Ferguson. I still see the Raiders being far too good here, as they will simply have too many points for the Tigers. One note here is that Terry Campese is continuing to improve with each game he plays. In the corresponding game last year, he almost single-handedly destroyed the Tigers. There are a couple of changes for the Tigers. Buchanan takes Woods’ starting spot at prop, while Sue is named to start at lock for Anasta. Shaun Spence and Bodene Thompson are the additions on the bench. The Raiders have lost Ferguson to suspension, with Wighton moving to centre and Sami Sauiluma coming onto one wing. Edwards replaces Papalii to start in the second row, while Jarrad Kennedy is the addition on the bench.
PARRAMATTA EELS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Tip: Souths. If players were not missing as a result of Origin selection, then this game would be a no-brainer. However, Souths are missing a significant number of players but I think they will win as they still have their halfback, five-eight and hooker. Parramatta does play better at home and were good for one half in their last game. They will go into believing that they have every chance to win this one, but I don’t think that they will have enough points in them. The Eels have Allgood promoted to the starting team at prop for Moimoi and Jacob Loko is added to the extended bench. Souths have a substantial number of changes, with Justin Hunt and Dylan Farrell replacing Inglis and Merritt in the backline respectively. Ben Lowe and Nathan Peats are named to start in the second row for Queensland players McQueen and Te’o. On the bench, the suspended George Burgess is out, with twin brother Tom and Shaune Corrigan added to the 5-man bench.
GOLD COAST TITANS V MELBOURNE STORM
Tip: Titans. This is another game that is ruined by the fact that it is played while the Origin players are missing. The Gold Coast came close to defeating the table topping Rabbits in an entertaining game in Cairns last week. I forgot to commend Souths for taking a game to the country last weekend, so I give my kudos to them here. As for Melbourne, they are without the big three. They have good players who will cover at halfback, hooker and fullback but it just won’t be the same. It will be interesting to see the style of play Melbourne employs given that they really have nothing to lose in this game. For the Titans, Douglas moves from the bench to start in the front row for Myles, while Mark Minichiello returns to start in the second row for Bird. The additions to the bench are Mark Ioane and Luke O’Dwyer. In the Melbourne line-up, Widdop moves from five-eight to fullback for Slater, while Ben Hampton is named to start at five-eight. Slade Griffin returns to start at hooker for Smith, while Harris is named to start in the second row for Hoffman. Mahe Fonua is named to take the vacated bench spot.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Once again, I believe that all the favourites will win. However, as Souths are quite depleted, my UPSET OF THE WEEK is the Parramatta Eels. As mentioned above, they showed some glimpses last week against Cronulla and are desperate to get off the bottom of the ladder as they look to avoid back-to-back wooden spoons.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
Again, all three teams at the top of the ladder won, with my Bandits defeating rivals the Crackalackers 552-444, Pearce’s Pride beating the Funky Bunch 499-488 in a close game and P7Panthers defeating the Buzzing Hornets 577-537 in the game of the round. In the battle of the bottom two sides, R.Lewis+Denzels beat the Pit Dogs 496-404. Round 15 games include:
- Pearce’s Pride v The Crackalackers
- P7Panthers v The Funky Bunch
- Harkonnen Pit Dogs v Boggabri Bandits
- R.Lewis+Denzel’s v Buzzing Hornets