NRL

JT’s ‘Previews’: The NRL, Round 15

The jilted lovers reunite  (Photo: Craig Golding/AAP)

The club rounds return for the End of Financial year player clearance weekend, which also features Leg II of the Grand Final rematch!

THURSDAY

Wests Tigers vs Souths @ Bankwest Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

Apparently the Wests hierarchy were left completely unaware that Moses Mbye was 15 minutes from meeting his maker after suffering anaphylaxis from an allergic reaction in the Maroons hotel.

The first time the club found out was when Moses called Michael McGuire later that night… who was in camp with the Kiwis.

Despite all of that, the biggest inclusion at Wests this Round is the return of CEO Justin Pascoe from a 6-month ban, for not declaring an ambassador role to Robbie Farah.

In celebration, fellow board member Barry O’Farrell has given him an undeclared bottle of wine as a welcome back gift.

After losing three games on the bounce, Souths have finally regained most of their front line talent from injuries and various rep commitments, with Damo Cook, Cam Murray and Dane Gagai set to back up from Origin, the Burgess brothers are both set to go, Braidon Burns returns after 3 months out with a bad hamstring tear, and probably most importantly for the Rabbits’ spine, Adam Reynolds is back… from his bad back.

And in the EOFY spirit, Wayne has carried on the Rabbits’ revenge pillaging of the Broncos- First came the signing of James Roberts, and now the Bunnies have signed Jaydn Su’a effective immediately.

I imagine Darius is just sleeping beside his phone up there at Red Hill, waiting for the phone to ring, and the name “Dad” to appear on the screen.

It won’t happen, but a Rabbits win tonight probably will.

FRIDAY

St George-Illawarra vs North Queensland @ WIN Stadium, 6pm AEST

Now I don’t like to speak Illawarra, but the Steelers sold off their shares in the joint venture to WIN in 2018, which really does beg the question as to why they’re still bothering to name the team St George-Illawarra.

May as well rename them the St George-WIN Dragons.

Not too many changes from the Red V- Tim Lafai is back in the starting 13 from injury, Jeremy Latimore replaces Jai Field on the pine, and the Origin quartet of Frizell, Hunt, Tariq Sims and Vaughan are all due to back up.

It all comes after Jack De Belin’s High Court appeal hearing was pushed back to mid-August, as he tries to return to footy, before getting a clearance to Long Bay.

Up in Katter Country, Paul Green is swinging the changes after back-to-back losses, with Michael Morgan flicked back into the halves, and replaced at fullback by new signing from the stormy south, Scott Drinkwater.

You know what they say- Scott Drinkwater, but he also EatFood.

Jordan Kahu moves into the centres, while Coen Hess is gone with a leg injury, Kurt Baptise tore his ACL, and Josh McGuire’s grubby ways have finally caught up to him, with the NRL’s heir apparent to Michael ‘The Grub’ Ennis finally being rubbed out by the judiciary, for a cheap shot on James Maloney with a mere 45 seconds to go in Origin II.

And I thought Eddie was the more unlikeable McGuire.

Easts vs Melbourne @ The Adelaide Oval, 7:25pm ACST (7:55pm)

A fantastic boost to the annual game in Adelaide, being the second Grand Final rematch, and potentially the last time the jilted lovers Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith appear on the field together, unless of course, the Roosters and Storm face off in the finals, which at this rate, they probably will.

The Chooks have signed up the heir to Cooper for 2020/21- Kyle Flanagan from the Sharks.

Of course, the boot of Larell Mitchell played a big part in last year’s game in Adelaide, when he missed a penalty goal from dead in front (The Sotrm ultimately won 9-8), and then back on Good Friday, he struck the winning drop goal right off the meat of the bat to give the Chooks the win.

I would say Latrell is due to back up from Origin duty, but of course we all know that story, although Jim Tedesco & Boyd Cordner are both named to back up from Sunday’s win for the Blues, while Brett Morris has been named in the reserves, having apparently finally overcome the knee injury he suffered on the Brookvale minefield back in Round 2.

You know how long ago that was?

Winx was still three weeks from retirement.

The Storm, like the boring, destructive machine they are, have named an unchanged 17, with every rep player set to back up, although in some other team news, Cooper Johns, son of Matty, is now in the Storm’s 30-player NRL squad.

Just don’t send him on a bonding trip to New Zealand.

The past two clashes between the Chooks and Storm in Adelaide have both been decided by a field goal, Round 6 was decided by a field goal…

What I’m saying is, the people of Adelaide are guaranteed a win, since either Sydney or Melbourne will lose.

SATURDAY

Gold Coast vs Manly @ Cbus Super Stadium, 3pm AEST

Let me tell you, being on deck to see Tommy Turbo run in that hat-trick at Optus last Sunday in the driving rain was something that could be best compared to David Foster Wallace writing Roger Federer as Religious Experience in 2006.

It made me forget that Jake Turbo actually ended up being named as man of the match.

On the flip side, DCE had to captain the rabble that Tommy demolished, but in good news for this particular maroon coloured team, he’s all set to go.

Meanwhile, the Titans are still without Jai Arrow with his ankle injury, Shannon Boyd has migranes, and Ash Taylor is still on leave, handing starts in the forward pack to Will Matthews and Jai Whitbread, and meaning Jarrod Wallace has to back-up from Origin and lead this forward pack.

But of course, a mere month ago, the Titans once again went to Brookvale, and pulled out a 26 point run to rout the Sea Eagles for the second year running, thanks to Dale Copley’s hat-trick.

Does this mean I’m not going to learn anything and pick the Sea Eagles?

Yes.

Newcastle vs Brisbane @ McDonald Jones Stadum, 5:35pm AEST

Nathan Brown is making the bold call of playing Kalyn Ponga and Tim Glasby, despite the physical battering they copped from New South Wales, while Mitchell Pearce is apparently on the front row in the race to replace Nathan Cleary, and in a shotgun to the arm, David Klemmer’s broken wrist has healed against prognostications of doom, and he’s been named in the reserves.

Did he convert to Mormonism while we weren’t looking?

Meanwhile… well, who the hell knows what’s going on at Red Hill.

Not even Anthony Seibold knows what the hell’s going on at Red Hill, based on their 38-10 belting from the Eels.

Andrew McCullough is back as the starting hooker in place of Jake Turpin, Richie Kennar replaces Jamayne Isaako (Dropped yet again), and Joe Ofahengue is back from injury, starting from the bench.

Last year the Knights finally got within 10 points of the Broncos, and ultimately won 15-10, although the game is best remembered for the sledging duel between ‘Wayne’ and Browny, centered around the charred corpse that Wayne turned the Knights into prior to leaving in 2014.

“The reality is when Wayne came to town, if he thought with his big head rather than his little head, I wouldn’t have had to rebuild the joint.”

Nathan “Ice For That Burn” Brown

Bloody hell, that was a zinger.

Parramatta vs Canberra @ TIO Stadium, Darwin, 7:05pm ACST (7:35pm)

Blake Ferguson, Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton are really racking up the Frequent Flyers this month; Perth for Origin last weekend, then back to New South Wales, and now to Darwin.

In a big boost, the Eels have finally regained Dylan Brown in the No.6 jersey to partner Mitch Moses, Brad Takairangi replaces the injured Michael Jennings, and in a player move, the Eels signed Waqa Blake from the Panthers effective immediately.

For the Green Machine, Seb Kris returns to first grade in place of the injured Nick Cotric, and in a bigger boost, Josh Hodgson is set to come back from his broken thumb and play the role of hooker, which are barely seen in Canberra at this time of year.

One thing for the Eels will have to change from their Round 5 loss to the Raiders in Canberra- Score a point.

SUNDAY

New Zealand vs Penrith @ Mt Smart Stadium, 4pm NZST (2pm)

Much like Russell Crowe, the Warriors are having more success once they leave Aotearoa.

The Kiwis have only won twice in New Zealand this year, compared to winning their last three games in Australia- One of which was the Panthers’ last defeat, back in Round 10.

Steve Kearney has rung the changes, with Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone and Leivaha Pulu coming onto the bench, and Jazz Tevaga named as the starting lock in place of Tohu Harris, who has an injured foot from the win against the Titans.

Although it didn’t look like a foot to me, it looked closer to eight or nine inches.

While James Maloney performed very well for NSW in Origin II, the obvious headache for the Panthers came when Nathan Cleary suffered his nasty ankle injury, robbing him of what was probably a guaranteed start in Origin III, with the way Freddie has been operating.

It seems like more of a blow for the Mountain Men than the Blues, since Cleary and Maloney were a huge part in this 4 game winning streak giving the Panthers a flicker of hope in 2019.

His spot will be filled by Jarome Luai.

Off-field, Ivan The Not-So-Terrible continues the Post-Gus clean-out, sending Waqa Blake to the Eels, and it appears the effort to get Tyrone Peachey back to the club by June 30 will fall short.

Canterbury vs Cronulla @ ANZ Stadium, 4:05pm AEST

So the big news in the time since the Berries were last belted on the 16th of June is that the club is weighing up launching a ‘Buddy Franklin to the Swans’ offer for Latrell Mitchell, to the tune of $11 million over 10 years.

But I’d counter that by asking, why sign Latrell, when you could sign a (Not Quite) pair of Twin Turbos from the Sea Eagles for the same amount?

In other team news, Jack Cogger will return to partner Kieran Foran in the halves, and Dylan ‘Big Papi’ Napa has been named, despite his wrist-complicated appearance for Queensland… if it could be called an appearance.

As for the Sharks, they’re still there or thereabouts in 7th, as they come back some 17 days after that fateful night against the Raiders in Canberra, coming back from 20-nil down to tie the scores at 20, before Jarrod Croker harpooned them them with a penalty and an intercept.

Aaron Woods has been named in the squad for the first time in a long time, while Wade Graham will start on the back of his Origin cameo, which would’ve been a big relief for the Sharkies, not only for getting through the game, but moving into the halves following Cleary’s injury and looking like a jet.

Andrew Fifita will still be missing for another fortnight, following his crusher tackle suspension, and he’s somewhat fortunate that he got one out before the NRL rightfully cracked down on crushers, because he’d have been sent off and rubbed out for the bare minimum 5 games.

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