Another massive weekend of league ahead, as the entire country awaits the grudge match of the century between a former employee and the evil place of business they worked for.
That’s right, Des Hasler gets the chance to rip one on the Bulldogs.
Souths vs Brisbane @ ANZ Stadium, 7:50pm AEST
THE BATTLE OF BENNETT
The most anticipated matchup in 2019 since Jack De Belin took on Todd Greenberg in the Federal Court carpark a few weeks ago, the spotlights will be fixated on Wayne Bennett as he takes on the Broncos for the first time since the ugly divorce last Spring, which was apparently sealed with a voice mail from Paul White that still hasn’t been returned by Wayne.
White could’ve made it much easier by sending him the two word text, “Ur sacked”.
While on the flip side, Anthony Seibold takes on the team he coached for a whole season… doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
There could be scenes resembling Game of Thrones come Thursday Night- Sam Burgess charging at a wall of horses for a hit up, the bodies piling up ten deep in the tackles, and then the Broncos deploy their giant to cause some Payne.
Imagine the scenes when all looks lost for the Bunnies in the final 5 minutes, only for Russ to come out dressed in his Maximus costume from Gladiator, stab Corey Oates to force a knock-on, grab the ball and run 80 metres to score the match winning try.
That event is still more believable than the Broncos’ premiership hopes.
North Queensland vs Gold Coast @ 1300Smiles Stadium, 6pm AEST
If ever a matchup was befitting of the 6pm on Fox timeslot, it was probably the Cowboys-Titans, both struggling for air down in the cellar.
The Cows got slaughtered by the Dogs in the 2nd half ANZ Abbatoir, while the Titans let a 14-nil lead fade away against Wests in Tamworth to be splattered to the tune of 30-14.
In this edition of the Queensland Civil War, the Cows have won the last seven meetings, including JT’s 322nd and final game in Round 25 last season, in which the North Queenslanders rallied to score a thrilling 30-26 victory, despite both teams playing for nothing more than pride.
That game was on the Gold Coast, this one is in Townsville, and all I can say is, the team who scores more points will be a huge chance of winning.
Cronula vs Melbourne @ Shark Park, 7:55pm AEST
The ‘Salary Cap Rorters’ Cup headlines the undercard for this weekend, and both the Sharks & Storm will be playing off for this fantastic piece of headwear.
It was formerly known as the ‘Noddy Kimmorley Cup’, named after the 1999 Storm premiership hero, but was changed by me due to increasingly poor financial management from both clubs.
Thanks to another spate of injuries, including Shaun Johnson pinging his hamstring, the Sharks are relying on their Baby Sharks (Doo doo doo doo doo) just to survive for 80 minutes without getting snared by a drum lines, while the Storm have spent the last two games looking like a passing shower instead of an actual storm, on the right and wrong side of one point margins against the Chooks and Warriors.
It does seem fitting that the Storm can be the team to hand Paul Gallen career loss number 167, giving him the outright record for the most losses by a player in First Grade history.
Paul Gallen, History Maker.
A fantastic phrase that can be used as praise and an insult all in one.
Canberra vs Penrith @ McDonalds Park, Wagga, 3pm AEST
The NRL love taking the game out to the country folk, and this weekend the Raiders and ‘Panfers’ headline the inaugural First Grade game in Wagga Wagga- The town so nice, they named it twice!
Considering that the game is at McDonalds Park, I’m expecting the likes Ronald McDonald, The Hamburglar, Grimace and Birdie to be in attendance, or possibly playing for the Panthers.
A 3.3% chance of finding a seat… I like those odds!
The Raiders were on top at half time against the Sea Eagles at Brooky, but even as the hosts lost DCE early in the 2nd half, they were still able to dig deep and hand the Raiders somewhat of an upset loss 24-20, the most points conceded by the #1 Green Machine defence this season.
Ricky Stuart has decided to hand Jordy Rapana the day off thanks to his sore ribs, and into the lineup comes Bailey Simonsson, whose Scandinavian sounding name makes him a perfect fit for a team with a Viking for a mascot.
Meanwhile, Penrith fired Gus Gould out of a cannon and into the sun, but it didn’t make a lick of difference against Souths on Friday night, as the black cats had a million sets inside the Bunnies half for just three tries, which cost them dearly as the visitors had enough quality to use their limited possession to win 22-18.
On another note, well done to Raider Joey Leilua, who is set to play his 200th NRL game!
Manly vs Canterbury @ Brookvale/Lottoland, 5:30pm AEST
The last time Des Hasler had anything to do with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, he was in court trying to get the rest of his contract payed out after being sacked in 2017- The Dogs were able to split the points and pay him seven figures in an out of court settlement.
I don’t think this game will be settled out of court, more likely on a field of grass, especially with the Dogs coming in off a rare win which lifted them from 16th to 16th, and Manly losing DCE in that epic win over the Raiders, which means Kane Elgey will come in and play the halves with Lachie ‘Barry’ Croker.
On the subject of return bouts, Kieran Foran was a key part of Manly’s 2011 premiership and has been named in the reserves just two months after he ankle was bent at a 270-degree angle, and Dylan Napa could also join the list of amazing ankle injury comebacks, and his determination shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
Sydney vs Wests Tigers @ The SCG, 7:35pm AEST
The last time the Roosters played the Tigers at the SCG was back in Round 18, 1987- And surprisingly enough, that finished as a 12-all draw.
A touch has happened since then- Easts are still Easts without being called Easts, and Balmain had an arranged marriage with Western Suburbs.
Both teams come in on the back of a pair of good victories, they’re both cemented in the Top 8, and they both regain star players in the halves- Luke Keary for the Chooks, and the old master Benji Marshall for Wests.
As is the theme of the round, this game will feature a grudge match between a former employee and his old employer.
Of course, I’m speaking about Ryan Matterson, who finally gets to face the Roosters just seven months after he left Bondi with a premiership ring on his finger, and he’s coming in hot, after that Man of the Match effort in Tamworth against the Titans.
And James Tedesco is also playing his former team, but nobody really cares about that.
New Zealand vs Newcastle @ Mt Smart Stadium, 4pm NZST (2pm)
It’s crazy to think that a team could lose by a point and still be one of the performances of the round, but that was the Warriors on ANZAC Night against the Storm.
On the road without Dally M Medalist and captain Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, plus David Fusitu’a and Blake Green, the Kiwis put in a huge defensive effort to lead 12-10 with five minutes to play, only for the Storm to slot through a penalty and a drop goal to win by a point.
All three big names should be returning on Sunday, to face a Knights team that overcame a month of outs to jump the electric Eels 20-0 in the opening 30 minutes in Newcastle, and thanks to Kailyn Ponga putting in his best effort of the year (160 metres and a try), they won 28-14 to throw a bucket of frozen water on Nathan Brown’s hotseat.
Flying to New Zealand is a daunting prospect for our rugby union teams, and it’s also proved the same for the Knights, who have lost 9 of their past 10 games in Auckland (Round 20, 2012 the exception) dating back to 2005.
Will be decided by fewer than 10 points.
Parramatta vs St George Illawarra @ Bankwest Stadium, 4pm AEST
As Johnny Tapp said on the Wired World Of Sports in 1987 while trying to choose Race 5 at Rosehill, this is harder to pick than a broken nose.
The Eels return to their brand new stomping ground after that forgettable belting up in the Hunter, and if one game is the basis for the remainder of the season, then the blue & gold are a 37 point better team at Bankwest.
The biggest problem with Parra is that they seem to be more concerned about expiring contracts than playing football, as only a club as self-immolating as the Eels can be- Mitch Moses, Clint Gutherson and coach Brad Arthur are all without deals for 2020, and it’s a distraction that will get more annoying with a few bad losses.
Meanwhile, the Red V were bent over a barrel and begging for mercy at half-time on ANZAC Day against the Roosters, but to their credit, they embraced the ANZAC spirit and fought back in the 2nd half to peg the margin back to 14-10, but a late try saw the Chooks win 20-10 and snap the Dragons’ four game winning run.
With Daly Cherry-Evans down and out until the Origin selection period, Ben Hunt has a huge free kick in his quest to return to the Maroons fold, and another big effort from the halfback will prick the ears of Kev Walters.
If this were a movie, it would have huge potential to be a sleeper hit.