Just one last note on Origin, did anyone notice Ben Hunt rip off Boyd Cordner’s left boot and fire it into the crowd?
And Boyd still decided to put in a kick.
Anyway, as we hit the halfway mark, it really is a week for amazing comebacks- Tommy Turbo, Jimmy The Jet, Chris Lawrence returns from his ‘car crash’ facial injuries, and after 1014 days, Drew Hutchison will play an NRL game!
Souths vs Newcastle @ ANZ Stadium, 6pm AEST
Ah yes, it’s time now for the “Why They Hell Can’t Dane Gagai Play Like That At Club Level” Cup, named after the question that the Knights asked themselves for many years, and something Souths have asked yet again following another Dane Double for the Maroons.
Looking back in hindsight, the NRL would probably prefer this game to be the 7:55 prime time game, plus being the first cab off the rank after Origin has really hit hard in the player ‘quality’ department.
Without all their big names thanks to Origin, Souths were rolled 26-14 by Parramatta last Friday, a loss which also saw them give up top spot on the ladder to the Storm on Points Differential, thanks to the Storm’s bye.
Cody Walker will miss for Souths, since he hasn’t been seen since Freddy dragged him on Wednesday night, and in addition, Adam Reynolds fractured his back against the Eels, and is “Out indefinitely” according to Wayne, leaving Souths to play yet another week without their two gun halves.
On the flip side, Jimmy the Jet has been cleared for landing to make his debut in the Red & Green… and black.
Meanwhile up the highway, the Knights adopted a Scorched Earth mentality after Easter, and my goodness, what a difference it’s made, as they’ve won five consecutive games by double digit margins and rocketed into 4th spot, with Mitchell Pearce being named Man of the Match in every game, rocketing him to the top of the Dally M voting.
In those five wins, the Novocastrians have ended 5+ year long losing streaks to the Dogs and Roosters, and now they’re confronted with another very long losing streak- Their last win against Souths was back in the final round of 2011, a 40-24 win to get them into the finals.
Just to prove how long ago that was, Akuila Uate scored 4 tries that night, and it was the last home game for Knights stalwart Adam ‘Mad Dog’ MacDougall.
In the time since, Adam has managed to create The MAN Shake and flog it to every corner of the country, with the help of Merv Hughes and Paul Roos.
In some consolation for the Knights, Pearce has been named, despite hurting his groin during the win against the Chooks (Meaning he effectively hasn’t missed a game), and he’ll have to pull off another blinder again, given that Kalyn Ponga and David Klemmer are both having the night off thanks to Origin duties.
Simply put, this could be the most interesting Friday 6pm game in a while.
Wests Tigers vs Canberra @ Bankwest Stadium, 7:55pm AEST
Wests come flying in off the bye, and their big boost this week is the return of club stalwart Chris Lawrence, whose career almost ended in February when he suffered brutal facial injuries in a training drill in New Zealand.
The last time anyone saw facial injuries that bad, Bob Hawke copped a bouncer from Gary O’Neill in 1984.
Tigers skipper Moses Mbye came off the bench on Wednesday night, and finally achieved his dream of representing Queensland, something that left him in tears of happiness after the game, especially since the Maroons got the job done.
The reason behind that public show became more clear, when Michael McGuire pulled the rug out at team selection and dropped Mbye to the bench.
That’ll teach you to feel happy, Moses.
On the flip side, the depleted Raiders managed to end their three game losing streak in a 12-10 win against the lowly Bulldogs, inspired by John Bateman returning and scoring a really freaky kick & chase try in the 1st Half.
After that, it was a pretty mixed night for the Raiders Origin reps- Josh Papalii ended up on the winning side, while Nick Cotric hurt his knee, and Jack Wighton came off the bench to throw a beautiful short pass to Dane Gagai that put the Maroons in front.
Slick Rick Stuart says he’ll play Cotric regardless, and in an added bonus, Jordy Rapana looks set to make his return from a knee injury.
Like I’ve said before, those Mormon healing powers are no joke- I’m dead certain they helped Bateman make his inspiring comeback last weekend from a busted eye socket.
The last time Wests visited Bankwest, they lost 51-6.
It might be a tad closer tonight.
New Zealand vs Melbourne @ Mt Smart Stadium, 5:00pm NZST
Both teams come in off the bye, in a rematch of the ANZAC Day showdown that saw the Storm half-arse a 13-12 win against an incredibly shorthanded Warriors team.
Of course, the big difference for the Storm since they played the Bulldogs a fortnight ago is that thanks to the Bunnies being brought undone last Friday, they once again find themselves in a familiar place- Top spot on the ladder.
The Warriors will come in the fresher, considering the Storm may feel the Origin pinch, although having said that, Craig Bellamy has stated the only player out of Felise Kaufusi, Cameron Munster, Will Chambers and Josh Addo-Carr who may not back up in Auckland is Chambers, due to being 31 and at risk of suffering from Rigor mortis.
Still, the Storm have got a rested Cam Smith, they haven’t lost in Auckland since 2013, and the last time I checked, they still make most teams wet the bed at the sight of purple.
Cronulla vs Parramatta @ Shark Park, 5:30pm AEST
Another ripping edition of the Johnny Mannah Cup awaits us, as both teams are largely unaffected by Origin I, with Josh Morris set to put his feet up and watch the game with ScoMo after scoring a try for the Blues on Wednesday night.
The Sharks will be eager to win back ‘Johnny’, after losing it to the Eels back in Round 4, 24-12, their first loss to the Blue & Golds since 2014.
I can’t help but think that the bye came at a bad time for the Sharks, considering they’d just gained a huge momentum boost by knocking off the Dragons in the ‘Gong to end Round 11.
Still, in what could be a rather nice boost, Shaun Johnson is set to return from a hamstring, and for the first time since his knee injury in last year’s finals series, Wade Graham will make his 2019 debut, and probably end the Sharkies run of outs on the injury front.
The Eels did manage to end their losing run last weekend by beating a Souths team that had to call in Russell Crowe to play in the halves, and if Captain Happiness Gus Gould is anything to go by, the Eels are still floating down the creek in 2019, despite sitting in 8th spot.
The Eels have won just once as the away team this season- And that was against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium in Round 2, which technically wasn’t even an away game.
If Graham & Johnson both play, then it’s looking like that run will continue.
North Queensland vs Manly @ 1300SMILES Stadium, 7:35pm AEST
A chance for the Cowboys to win again and get back into the Top Eight, and a chance for the Sea Eagles to get the taste of cigarette smoke out of their mouths after losing to the Titans and Panthers.
With Jordy Kahu injured, Michael Morgan should be able to slot straight to full-back for the hosts, leaving Jake Clifford to partner John Asiata, while Josh McGuire will join Morgan in backing up from Origin.
The Cows got the job done 6-4 against the Titans last week.
We’ll leave it at that.
After a successful debut as Maroons captain, Daly Cherry-Evans has been named in the No.19 for his first Sea Eagles game in some 6 weeks, but even better than getting the skipper back is the return of TOMMY TURBO Trbojevic, in what looks to be the Sea Eagles’ best team on paper all season.
DCE, the Trjboevic Brothers, Api Koroisau, Moses Suli, and Dylan Walker all finally playing on the same field, a fact that should have Des at half-mast.
Imagine the reaction DCE will get when he runs out on Saturday night- It could be the first time a Manly player is applauded… by the opposition fans.
Brisbane vs Gold Coast @ Suncorp Stadium, 2pm AEST
If a Broncos game at Lang Park isn’t on during some form of a prime time slot, does it really exist?
I’m amazed this game is still going ahead, considering most of Queensland will still be laughing at New South Wales.
At this stage, all five Broncos that played on Wednesday are in the line-up, plus the return of Andrew McCullough from a knee injury, while the Titans have named Jai Arrow for his club return, after playing for the Maroons.
The Broncos reeled off a hat-trick of wins prior to their bye, while the Titans proved they have next to no consistency in attack- They can run the Sea Eagles off the park one week and score 36 points, and then the next they can play a short-handed Cowboys team and score four measly points.
After another tough outing in which he missed a game tying shot at goal, Ash Taylor has decided to take time away from league, and it’s yet another blow to a Titans team with as much attacking creativity as me.
Funnily enough, the last time they played at Suncorp back in Round 4 last year, the Titans won 26-14 with Philip Sami scoring a hat-trick.
The Broncs did respond of course, by winning 34-0 in Round 17.
In all likelihood, it’s going to be a similar scoreline on Sunday.
Penrith vs Sydney @ Panthers Stadium, 4:05pm AEST
The Tim Grant Saga has taken its final turn- After he suffered a bad tear of his pectoral muscle against the Sea Eagles which ruled him out for the season, he’s decided to terminate his own contract, and probably end his playing career after 196 NRL games, and 2 appearances for the Blues in 2012.
It’s a selfless act, and they’ll miss him in the Mountains, considering he scored the try that sparked that comeback against the Eels back in Round 11, a run form that carried through against the Sea Eagles.
The only problem is, their next opponents are a tad scarier than a middling Manly team-A pack of wounded and angry Cocks.
After back-to-back losses before the bye, Easts have learned the full effect of Luke Keary’s latest concussion- He’s out for at least six weeks.
In addition to losing their Churchill Medalist, Latrell Mitchell won’t be seen, after his interesting night at Lang Park, with the apparent reason from Freddy being that he has to “Find motivation”.
I believe Kevin Bloody Wilson wrote a song regarding Latrell’s performance a few nights ago… It’s best if I leave you to figure out which one.
Anyway, thanks to this spate of missing players, Trent Robinson has called up the near forgotten Drew Hutchison to play his first NRL game since playing for St George in Round 25, 2016- In all, 1,046 days between First Grade appearances.
Hutchy has been on a wild ride- He was in-line to replace Benji Marshall in the Dragons halves, but tore his ACL in the 2017 pre-season, which led to the Dragons signing Ben Hunt, and left Hutchy playing in England, ultimately coming back to Australia at the end of last year, and earning a contract with the Chooks.
And now here he is, playing in the halves for the defending premiers alongside Cooper Cronk.
A journey on par with Forrest Gump.
Canterbury vs St George Illawarra @ ANZ Stadium, 4pm AEST
Sometimes I like to forget that the Doggies & Dragons play on the Queen’s Birthday.
It’s only been five years of forgettable match-ups.
This is the ultimate tipsters nightmare- The Berries are the proverbial pile of faeces sitting in last, but based on five consecutive losses, Saints are pretty much ‘untippable’.
Which means that the Dogs are in the box seat to win.
Riveting. Really, really, riveting.