Apparently the Knights vs Dragons (Which makes complete sense), to coincide with our favourite TV series returning in a few weeks, has now been deemed Game Of Thrones round!
If this means that various key players are going to be randomly killed off at various points in the game, I may just have to tune in!
Sydney vs Brisbane @ The SCG, 8:05pm AEDT
Cooper Cronk is back this week, not that the Chookies have needed him for the past fortnight, as they’ve still had enough class to win on the road against the Sea Eagles and Eels.
It’s not all good though, as Cronk’s return is offset by the loss of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and the Roosters also suffered the tragic loss of a good Friend…. co-captain Jake Friend, due to a shoulder injury.
No Friend means Victor Radley is into the halves, and the one-time ‘Mega Mullet’, Lindsay Collins, is back on the Easts bench after missing out on last year’s Grand Final win.
Collins is described by his coach Trent Robinson as being an “Easy lover”, and that he can feel it “coming” in the air tonight… oh Lord.
As for the Broncos, following that brutal loss to the Dragons in the final seconds, ironically thanks to Corey Norman, centre James Roberts is now sidelined due to his troublesome achilles, throwing his NSW Origin hopes down the toilet, while boom forward Tevita Pangai Jr has been in the news with an apparent multi-million dollar from ironically, the Roosters, which he used to play an April Fools joke on Broncos CEO Paul White, telling him he was signing a 5-year contract and causing White to break down in tears.
I’m sitting here wondering if Ashton Kutcher later appeared, and told White he’d been Punk’d.
Brisbane won both matchups against the Roosters last season, and amazingly enough, this will be their first ever game on the SCG after 31 seasons!
Somewhat amazing to think that a Queensland club has never played on the former home of rugby league, and the last time a non-Sydney team played on the ground was the 1987 Grand Final (The last at the SCG), when Canberra played Manly.
New Zealand vs Gold Coast @ Mt Smart Stadium, 8:00pm NZDT
The Warriors got absolutely steamrolled by the Sea Eagles in Christchurch, being outscored by the two-man team of Tommy Turbo and Daly-Cherry-Evans, falling to 1-2 as life without Shaun Johnson looks to have now set in…. and it only took 3 games.
The Warriors’ defence is the most alarming thing about their last 2 games; 34 points conceded against the Tigers, and then 46 against Manly.
They’ve been the cheese and the opposition have been the tiny knives you get on the platter.
Contrary to my pick that the Titans would hand a ‘we forfeit’ note to the referee against Souths last week, the Gold Coasters actually put up a fight, although they continued to shoot themselves in the foot, if the injuries weren’t bad enough, they lost the penalty count 9-1 (Leading to the penalty goals that sealed the win for the Rabbits).
On the bright side, their defence isn’t the Warriors, conceding only 69 points compared to the Kiwi’s league-worst 86.
Hopefully coach Garth Brennan packs last week’s second half performance on the flight across the ditch, where the Titans haven’t won since 2015.
What a riveting game, no wonder the League put it at the 6pm Eastern slot.
Penrith vs Wests Tigers @ Panthers Stadium
The first annual Cleary Bowl, named in honour of former Tigers coach Ivan Cleary, who is now apparently leading the Panthers to one of their customary slow starts to the season.
Both teams had their pants pulled down last week, to say the very least.
The Panthers made the trip west to Bathurst, where their performance was on par with crashing out on lap of the Bathurst 1000 as they lost 32-2 to the Storm (Less said the better for Penrith), while the Tigers went into Round 3 on top of the ladder!… and then lost to the winless Bulldogs at home 22-8.
Benji is now out with injury, which means Michael McGuire can finally whip out his Josh Reynolds from the NSW Cup and throw him in the halves alongside Old Man Farah.
What has to be alarming for Ivan The Terrible is that the Panthers starting numbers 1-7 haven’t scored a try AT ALL through the opening three rounds.
Having said that, with the way Wests played on Sunday, plus the Panthers winning the past 4 in this matchup, they’re a hot chance of ending that drought.
Manly vs Souths @ Lottoland, 3pm AEDT
Tommy Turbo was back at last for the Sea Eagles in Christchurch, and based on his tag team with DCE in the Caning of the Kiwis 46-12, it appears Manly could be just a simple case of;
Team without star fullback= Bad
Team with star fullback= Good
That 46 points was just under double of what Manly had scored in Rounds 1 & 2 (24)… Maybe I was wrong to brand a team with a few Origin players in the spine a rabble.
And I mentioned last week that DCE scored a hat-trick in Christchurch. Turns out he didn’t, only bagging a lousy double, though I think the most plausible reason I thought he did was the 22 points he scored.. just smuggle an extra try in there.
Staying with the positive theme, the Bennett Bunny Bus is now 3-0 after their win against the Titans, and for once they didn’t have to put in a big 2nd half burst to put away their opponent, setting up a 24-8 lead just after the half, before having to defend for their lives as the makeshift Gold Coast lineup made a stirring fightback.
Not sure what’s happening with Greg Inglis- One week he’s a drink driver, the next week he’s overweight, the next week his body’s breaking down, the next he’s apparently lost the will to play, and now apparently despite being named in the Rabbits backline, he might not make the trip to the Northern Beaches after eating a “Dodgy Chinese meal.”
“Dodgy Chinese”… Isn’t that Clive Palmer’s campaign slogan?
North Queensland vs Canberra @ 1300SMILES Stadium, 4:30pm AEST
Last week’s 42-16 thumping to Cronulla showed that Bob Katter’s claim of crocodiles tearing North Queenslanders apart every three months was somewhat unfounded… Based on last weekend, Sharks appear to be a greater threat, considering they tore apart 13 North Queenslanders in Townsville.
In fact, that beatdown was so bad, it caused even the most die hard of Cows fans, including Mr Craig Tatnell, to have a snooze during the game.
Dreaming back to a simpler time when JT was leading the way and the Cowboys won the 2015 Grand Final.
As for the Raiders, they don’t look flash, but they get the job done, as evidenced in their win over the Knights last weekend 17-10, reversing a trend of high scoring games against the Knights going back years and years.
In the meeting against the Cowboys in Round 8 of last season, the Raiders ended a losing streak in the tropics that stretched back to Round 12, 2006 (Some 9 straight defeats) by winning 18-8, and then doubled up by smacking the struggling Cowboys 38-12, scoring 4 tries in the final 20 minutes.
With Jason Taumalolo gone and the Cowboys feeling every bit of his absence, it appears the only thing stopping the Raiders from winning could be the humidity, which, if I’ve done my geography, is slightly more intense than it is in our nation’s capital.
Parramatta vs Cronulla @ ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm AEDT
This is the Eels’ last home game prior to the opening of Bankwest Stadium in just over a fortnight.
Last week, the Eels held pace with the Rosters until the last 20 minutes, but in the end the class of the defending premiers told the difference, who scored 3 late tries to overturn a 18-14 Eels lead to win 32-18.
Blake Ferguson’s try-scoring crusade continued as he yearns to regain a Blues Origin jumper, while the teenage sensation Dylan Brown won’t play as a precaution over back bruising.
As for the Sharks, well as I mentioned before, they proved that crocodiles aren’t the greatest threat to the people of North Queensland in their 42-16 ball tearing, in what was Paul Gallen’s club record 330th game, although Gallo didn’t make it to half-time, and Matt Moylan went down with a hamstring problem in the 2nd half.
This does mean that young Bronson Xerri will make his first-grade debut, and to say it meant something to him would be putting it mildly.
On top of all that kerfuffle, the Sharks have won their last 5 against the Eels, including that epic comeback in Round 9 last season, where they scored 3 tries in the final 10 minutes to win 22-20, proving once again that the people of Parramatta keep being dealt a bad hand by fate.
Melbourne vs Canterbury @ AAMI Park, 4:05pm AEST
Of the current teams in the NRL, only the Doggies have an all-time winning record against the Storm, leading the head-to-head 21-18, and they’ll go in with their tails up after beating Wests to break the duck in 2019.. although they did lose Kieran Foran for 3 months.
It’s somewhat ironic, or perhaps even fitting, that Cameron Smith could potentially break Hazem El-Masri’s points record against the Bulldogs.
Smithy currently sits on 2410 points, just 8 off El-Magic’s career total of 2418, so either the Storm will put on a rout as per usual, or Smithy can just give himself a few penalties in front of the sticks to knock off the record by half-time.
This situation feels somewhat similar to when Andrew Johns broke Jason Taylor’s points record back in Round 18 2006 against Parramatta, when Taylor was coaching the Eels.
Of course, the Knights lost that game 46-12, and Joey, being somewhat pissed off about the Knights’ performance, was in the sheds before the Eels could give him the game ball, and Taylor could shake his hand on his historic night.
This sort of utterly lopsided game on paper seems to be the sort of game that ends up being respectable for the supposedly weaker team, especially since the Doggies have won on their last 3 visits to AAMI Park, although you would think the Storm win again.
Newcastle vs St George Illawarra @ McDonald Jones Stadium, 6:10pm AEST
A Six O’Clock Slobberknocker to end Round 4, as both teams play off for the Alex McKinnon Cup, honouring the inspiring work of a man who played for both teams, and continues to do great things in the rugby league community, even after his serious career ending injury in 2014 that left him a quadraplegic.
The Knights have lost their last two games by under 7 points each time, and Nathan Brown has finally decided to give up on the Pearce-Ponga halves experiment following a lethargic performance in attack against Canberra, moving Kalyn Ponga to his favoured role at fullback, and promoting Mason Lino to the 6.
The Dragons had two bad losses to start 2019, and then went up to Lang Park and pulled off an epic 25-24 win against the Broncos, decided by Corey Norman’s drop goal as the full-time siren sounded, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how daring they were in attack, running the hosts ragged all night with consistent line breaks.
The downside to the epic win was Gareth Widdop’s serious shoulder injury, which could be the last time we see the English star play in the NRL, although the news after his shoulder reconstruction has been positive.
Widdop’s injury means that Matt Dufty will now be the starting fullback for the foreseeable future.
If Knights games in 2019 are any indicator, this one will be low scoring and close. And in keeping with the Game of Thrones theme, there should be plenty of bloodshed and possible nudity.
Another weekend where I pretend to know what’s going in league… remember to wind your clocks back on Sunday.