NRL

JT’s Useless Previews: The NRL, Round 6 (Easter)

When you look at this egg from afar, it resembles Peter Sterling’s head.

$10 for a 300g footy- What a piss up

Ah Easter, the time of the year when Reggie Rabbit takes time out from being the beloved mascot of Souths and gives chocolate eggs to all the good children of the world, and Bulldogs fans!

And this year is extra special, because on the fourth day, a new Stadium will rise again! Amazing!

THURSDAY

Cronulla vs Penrith @ Shark Park, 7:50pm AEST

The Sharks were alright for 70 minutes against the Chooks, and it was only the 10 minute period before & after the half that resembled this:

Which destroyed their chances of victory.

0-30 by the 50th minute, and only a few late tries covered up the bloody remains left by Chief Brody Keary.

As for the Panthers, their Premiership chances, much like their nickname, are looking like an urban legend occasionally sighted by Blue Mountains locals, following another somewhat embarrassing defeat on the Gold Coast to hand the Titans their first win of the season.

In my opinion, James Maloney should be nicknamed ‘The Turnstile’, on account of his 28 missed tackles this season (Worst in the league), James Fisher-Harris has one more surname but one less missed tackle, while the Panthers are also the worst in the league as a team, with 201 missed tackles, and they’ve also racked up a league worst 71 errors.

If the Panthers are as undisciplined as a bunch of 13-year-old students with laptops, then the Sharks should also get thrown in there too, with 68 errors (3rd worst) and a league-worst 40 penalties conceded.

The Sharks may not have anything resembling an experienced forward pack, but they haven’t lost to the Mountain Men in some 7 years, so that has to count for something.

GOOD FRIDAY

Canterbury vs Souths @ ANZ Stadium, 4:00pm AEST

The fixture that got me through quite a few boring Good Fridays prior to 2017.

The Doggies went from running the Storm close in Melbourne, to getting a worming from Ben Hunt and the Dragons to the tune of 40-4, in what was their worst performance of the year, which is a big statement, considering their previous worst was Round 2, and prior to that, Round 1.

The Rabbits ventured up to the Sunshine Coast last Saturday and dug deep and gave 110% to win a beauty against the Warriors 28-24, thanks almost entirely to Cody Walker’s bag of 4 tries, including the game winner in the 78th minute.

Impressive stuff, especially when you remember they were 24-12 down with half an hour to play.

And then the biggest bit of news came through on Monday morning:


Ultimately, injuries have finished off the Big Goanna, but fortunately for the team, the front office is hard at work exploiting some sort of loophole to wipe out the $1.5 million he’s due to earn until 2020.

In what seems a common sense decision, Big Sammy Burgess has been chosen as the man to lead the Rabbits for the rest of the season, starting… now.

Oddly enough, the Bulldogs haven’t ‘won’ a 2nd half in any of their 5 games this year, and with Bennett’s Bunny Bus rampaging through the streets of Sydney like the bus from the film Speed, that record will probably keep rolling along.

THE GRAND FINAL REMATCH

Melbourne vs Sydney @ AAMI Park, 7:55pm AEST

Two jilted lovers enjoying some asphyxiation (Photo: Craig Golding/AAP)

Without a doubt the biggest game of the season to date, and supposedly set to be the best rematch since 2004, when the Roosters and Panthers met in Round 4 sitting 1st and 2nd on the ladder- The Panthers won 22-6.

Much like the Chooks in 2004, the Storm, having lost the Grand Final, go in unbeaten, having survived two tough tests against the Doggies and the Cowboys up north, while the defending premiers the Roosters go in on a four-game winning streak, having put away the Broncos and the Sharks with a brutal burst of dominance.

And then of course, you’ve got the under card- Cooper Cronk, assuming he isn’t struck down by a sudden case of ‘bad hamstringitis’, will play in Melbourne for the first time since he left the Storm after 2017 to move to Sydney alongside Tara Rushton, and apparently isn’t getting on well with his former friend Cameron Smith since said departure.

But to be fair, if you had a choice between living with Tara or working with Smithy, I’d give that fight to Mrs Cronk in a 30 second knockout.

As an added bonus, both teams go in ranked #1 (Roosters) and #2 (Storm) in points scored, which means it’ll be a brutal defensive battle in the coaches boxes between two sharp defensive minds in Bellamy and Robinson.

If the Storm win, they’ll stay stop, and if the Roosters win, they’ll probably stay 2nd after the Raiders send the Broncos to the 8th layer of hell on Sunday and leap them on points differential.

SATURDAY

New Zealand vs North Queensland @ Mt Smart, 7:35pm NZST (5:35)

The Warriors played well enough to win last Saturday on a historic trip to the Sunshine Coast, leading Souths 24-12 in the 2nd half, but it was ultimately Cody Walker’s 4 tries that denied the Kiwis a victory.

The Cowboys couldn’t keep it going in the 2nd half in their 18-12 loss to the Storm, after the Cows led at the half 8-nil, the Melbournians predictably came back, while the final minutes were soured by Josh McGuire’s suspicious looking scrape of Cam Munster’s eyes (Which he got away with), and the broken leg/ankle for Nene Macdonald, who was left to writhe in agony on the field for a minute before the referees allowed play to stop.

The league did take action on that- neither Grant Atkins or Gavin Badger will be officiating a game this weekend.

In a timely return, Scott Bolton is back for the Cowboys after his 5 game ban for an assault conviction, and he says he’s rip roaring to go and is the “fittest he’s ever been”.

The Warriors’ 2 wins have been against teams sitting 14th and 16th, and they’re a good chance to complete the Bottom Three set in Auckland against the fairly depleted Cows.

St George Illawarra vs Manly @ WIN Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

After both starting 0-2, the Dragons & Sea Eagles are both on 3 game winningstreaks and inside the Top 8, despite both losing key players in the process- The Red V lost Gareth Widdop with a bad shoulder injury at Lang Park, and Tommy Turbo only played 2 games for Manly before his hamstring went off again in their win against Souths.

The Dragons team selection once again took a turn to the courts, with Jack De Belin failing to reach a verdict on the NRL’s no-fault stand down policy in time for the naming of the teams.

This time last year Daly Cherry-Evans was a Queensland Origin exile, and now thanks to the departure of several Maroons stalwarts, he’s in line to take the vacant captaincy from Greg Inglis.

It’s funny how things work out- an in-form DCE now lines up against fellow in-form Queenslander Ben Hunt!

Addin Fonua-Blake won’t be available for the Sea Eagles after copping a 2 game ban for a high shot on Mitchell Pearce, followed by carrying on like a pork chop to the Newcastle faithful, who booed him off the field when he trudged off to the sin bin.

A tad high. (Still: Channel Nine/Fox League)

The Dragons have won 3 straight over the Sea Eagles, and I don’t like to speak Illawarra, but the last time the visitors won in Wollongong was 2003.

All I can say is, the winner will be on a 4 game winning streak.

SUNDAY

Gold Coast vs Newcastle @ Cbus ‘Shuper’ Stadium, 2:00pm AEST

The Commonwealth Games last year may have been big, but the Tits’ first win of the season was so big that it was celebrated with a massive piss up by the people of the Goldie- Or as they call it, any day ending in a ‘Y’.

It really does speak volumes about how disappointing the Knights’ season has been, that they went into the season with such high hopes for improvement, yet after 5 rounds, they’re level on wins with the Titans.

Then again, so are the Broncos.

The heat is coming on coach Nathan Brown, after the Knights had their worst defensive performance of the season against the Sea Eagles at home, conceding 26 points, which doesn’t sound like much when you think about it- But it was their 4th consecutive loss.

The onus is probably on the Tits to prove the win against the Panthers wasn’t a fluke, and ‘conceivably’, a stone cold Knights team should be easier on paper.

Yep, really not much else I could say here.

Canberra vs Brisbane @ GIO Stadium, 4:05pm AEST

The Green Machine is firing on all 13 cylinders this season, with the Raiders having their best start to a season since 2005, which ended with them finishing 14th.

In particular it’s been the Raiders’ mobile Pommy quartet who have smashed the way clear- John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead, providing the people of Canberra the entertainment The Beatles never gave in person.

Last week they suffocated the Eels with some punishing defence, which led to a rare 19-nil shutout win, and sent them flying up to 3rd on the ladder behind the Roosters and Storm, and with a win against the Broncos, they could conceivably move to 2nd if the Chooks lose.

Meanwhile for the Broncos, it must be hard knowing you’ve replaced the Lions as the biggest laughing stock in Brisbane town, and it showed as they blew an 8-nil lead to Wests to lose in the final minute to Michael Chee-Kam running through their defence almost untouched to score the winning try.

Some may say that Darius Boyd is the true ‘Turnstile’ of the NRL, although I think ‘The Statue’ is a better nickname for Darius, since turnstiles actually make contact with people before they pass through them, unlike statues.

The captain is a perfect reflection of his team.

Payne Haas is now in the starting lineup for the first time, as Matt Lodge deals with a throat problem, and I just wanted to add that because Payne Haas has a ripping name.

Oddly enough, despite looking at first glance like the Green Machine will send the Bronx to the 8th layer of hell (Where Israel Folau will be sending all of us), Brisbane have won their past 3 games in our nation’s capital, spread out over the last 5 seasons.

But as the Industry Super Fund tells us, past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

EASTER MONDAY

Parramatta vs Wests @ BANKWEST STADIUM, 4:00pm AEST

If you build it, they will come.

The weird line that Kevin Costner still hears in his head after filming Field of Dreams, but it’s also appropriate for the moment that Eels fans and the NSW Government have waited for since 2016- The GRAND OPENING of Western Sydney Stadium, which for some reason, is sponsored by a Western Australian bank.

Or as I once called it, the West Bank Stadium, in an apparent ill-fated sponsorship with the Israelis.

A sold out crowd of 30,000 is forecast between a battle of one-and-a-half prides of the Western Suburbs- The Eels coming off their shutout loss to Canberra which left Blake Ferguson slightly more disfigured than usual, and the Tigers winning that crazy battle against the Broncos at Lang Park, which has led to Michael Maguire making no adjustments to the starting 13.

One of those occasions where the stadium is bigger than the game.

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