NRL

JT’s ‘Previews’: The NRL, Round 17

398 games ago.

So as we struggle to recover from Queensland getting Mark Coyne’d by James Tedesco, the attention firmly turns to a pair of milestones for two majestic magicians of the game.

Benji Marshall has finally reached 300 games, although Cameron Smith might just have him covered, BECAUSE HE’S REACHED THE MAGICAL 400 CLUB!

As one of the many tributes, the Fox Sports lab put together a huge list of all of his career stats in 399 games… there’s like, plenty of numbers man.

FRIDAY

Penrith (10th) vs Gold Coast (15th) @ Panthers Stadium, 6pm AEST

In some good news for the Mountain Men and Ivan The Not-So Terrible, James Maloney stopped playing after the hour mark of Origin III when he assumed the Blues were home at 20-8 up, so he’s perfectly fine to back-up for tonight’s game.

Plus, with Nathan Cleary sitting this one out, who the hell’s going to kick the game winning field at the end for the Panthers?

In some further good news, Jed Cartwright, son of Panthers champion John Cartwright, is all set to make his First Grade debut, ironically against the team John coached for so many years.

Meanwhile, if life wasn’t tough enough for the Titans, the team now apparently have to hold out for long enough for Kevin Walters to become their coach in 2020.

The only flicker of hope that exists for them tonight, is that 30-24 win against the Panthers back in Round 5.

Unfortunately for the ol’ Tits, they really are in trouble.

Newcastle (6th) vs Canterbury (16th) @ McDonald Jones Stadium, 7:55pm AEST

Mitchell Pearce didn’t catch a train back to Newcastle, nor did he drive, nor catch a plane.

He ascended into the heavens after firing that cut-out pass to Tommy Turbo on the final play, and the Knights will only run out with 12 starters on Friday night, until only seconds before kick-off, Mitch will simply float back down to the middle of the Newcastle ISC.

And boy will the Novocastrians need him out there, because they’re still critically shorthanded without an injured Kalyn Ponga, although there is still a chance that all four Origin reps are going to back-up (Pearce, Klemmer, Saifiti and Glasby).

As it stands, the Knights are sitting on a pivot- They’re only a game off the Raiders in 4th, and yet they’re only a game clear (Plus a huge chunk of PD) of Wests in 9th.

But it does makes you think- If a shorthanded Knights team can ALMOST beat this year’s Warriors, that should mean they’ll be able to beat up this Bulldogs team.

But nothing makes sense anymore, so the Dogs are simply heading up to the Hunter to cause as much damage and destruction as possible.

SATURDAY

South Sydney (3rd) vs Manly (5th) @ ANZ Stadium, 3pm AEST

So it’s fair to say that Souths had a fair impact on Origin III.

Damien Cook scored a solo try, Cameron Murray came off the bench for some big runs, Dane Gagai did his impression of Michael Collins during the Moon Landing, and Ethan Lowe was thrown into the coliseum as Matt Gillett’s last minute replacement on Tuesday morning

Lowe beat Dane Gagai in a kicking duel that afternoon, started the game in the #18, and then he absolutely stunned everyone by appearing as a competent Origin player- 4/4 off the boot (Not having kicked a goal in a year), and he provided the harmless charge-down that led to Josh Papalii’s try, and Lowe’s conversion to tie the scores.

But now he’s back at Souths, so like Gagai, he’ll go back to having next to no impact.

Sam Burgess was due to make his comeback from a shoulder clean-up, but he’s now had an infection and won’t be appearing, so Jaydn Su’a will be in the starting pack.

Manly of course had the Turbo Brothers doing their thing, and DCE nearly led the Maroons over the line to a miracle win, and he fed through Josh Papalii’s tying try.

But that doesn’t matter, because ‘Chez’ didn’t attempt a nigh-on impossible field goal with 50 seconds to go, which probably would’ve missed and given the Blues a 7-tackle set to end the game.

There’s a chance DCE and ‘Jurbo’ will back-up and Tommy given a rest, which is probably based more on history, given he had a massive hammy pull against the Rabbits back in Round 4, which put him out for a good three months.

Plus, I doubt Des would want to jeopardise Tommy’s perfect 6/6 record in 2019.

Brisbane vs New Zealand @ Suncorp Stadium, 5:30pm AEST

This Broncos team should be re-named the Brisbane Bibles.

Because they’re so hard to read.

22-12 down against the Sharks with 20 minutes to go in a game that looked to be going to script, and then in a rare show of courage, and Tevita Pangai Jnr destroying all in his path, they dug deep and pulled off a 24-22 win, which has kept the dream of sneaking into 8th spot alive.

It appears that their Origin trio are all set to go around, which means we’re going to get the exciting wing duo of (Xavier) Coates and (Corey) Oates, which appears to be akin to John Oates forming a musical duo with his exact double, instead of Daryl Hall.

The Warriors had a huge chance to bag another win after the Knights had their entire team picked for Origin duty, and they were very nearly screwed out of it by Vince McMahon the Bunker and some strange refereeing, but Sam Lisone found himself at the right place at the right time after Blake Greene’s chaos grubber, and scored the winner with 5 minutes left.

That said, with how hard this match-up is looking, it could also be called ‘Bible’.

Melbourne vs Cronulla @ Cam Smith Central, 7:35pm AEST

Smithy’s 400th could’ve been against a select number of teams; Manly, for that volatile rivalry that still isn’t dead, the Broncos, obviously because of the Queensland connection, but ultimately, the Sharks do seem a fitting choice, given that just like the Storm, they rorted the cap to win a premiership.

I do find it amazing that the NRL hasn’t had a 400 game player until now, although if you throw in Representative appearances, players like Lockyer, Cronk and Fittler clear the bar easily.

Anyway, the Storm’s Origin stars wouldn’t want to miss playing in a HISTORIC game like this, although Craig Bellamy will have the final say on that decision, and plus it’s the Storm, and they’ll simply pray to Satan and find their replacements.

Meanwhile, if losing three consecutive games after scoring more tries wasn’t hard enough, Wade Graham is out for a month with a hamstring tug, and Matt Moylan has been ruled out with the same injury, so if the Sharks weren’t screwed before, they are now.

SUNDAY

Sydney vs North Queensland @ Central Coast Stadium, 2pm AEST

Back to Gosford we go, and after three months and 111 years, the Roosters apparently now have a Friend again.

Jake Friend is back from injury, which is convenient, as his co-captain in crime Boyd Cordner gets a weekend off after captaining the Blues to another Origin series win, and Jimmy Tedesco also gets a weekend off, since he’s been at half-mast since his Wednesday night heroics, and has to go and see the doctor.

Other than that, it’s just about the best team the Chooks can put out there right now, with Keary and Cronk once again on top of proceedings in the halves, and the defending premiers are back into home final position.

Unfortunately for the Cows, Michael Morgan really can’t take a trick.

First, Tariq Sims concusses him and gets suspended for Origin, then when Origin comes around, he gets knocked unconscious again by a stray elbow, ironically, by his own Cowboys teammate in Josh McGuire.

*Shakes head*…. that grub just hates life itself.

With the Cowboys historically giving the Chooks the shits, plus the Chooks’ poor record at Gosford (5-9), this one will probably end up being close again.

Wests Tigers vs Parramatta @ Bankwest Stadium, 4:05pm AEST

After many injuries and a stint with the Auckland Blues, Benji Marshall has FINALLY reached 300 games, which is a perfect time to whip out his no-look pass to Pat Richards in the 2005 Grand Final, although I’ll be Captain Contrarian and nominate this run & no-look beauty to Pat Richards in the same year at Shark Park.

The man is one of the great entertainers we’ve ever seen- Bravo Benji.

Meantime, the Fruit Pickers come off the bye with their season still well and truly alive in 7th (With the odd question mark around), and Blake Ferguson set to back-up after his mercy dash down the sideline in the dying seconds to set up James Tedesco.

Of course, the last time both teams met was Easter Monday and the opening of Bankwest Stadium… Which ended in a slightly lopsided 51-4 win to the Eels, which also provided us with a new instance of a ‘scorigami’ in rugby league- (A score occurring for the first time).

With Wests’ form improving somewhat since then, it should be a tad closer than 47 points.

St George Illawarra vs Canberra @ WIN Stadium, 6:10pm AEST

Out of absolutely nowhere, a 6:10 game shows up in the middle of July.

It’s rarer than a Broncos game at Lang Park being played on a Saturday.

Corey Norman made his Origin debut, and all up he performed pretty well, providing the Maroons with a decent kicking game all night, putting in the grubber that Felise Kaufusi pounced on, and then of course, he ended the game by nearly sticking a blinding cover tackle on Blake ferguson, only to miss him completely, and watch helplessly as history played out.

It’s still unknown if try-scorer Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizell or Ben Hunt will back-up (You’d assume so), although Tariq Sims is straight back into the team after his ban expired, and James Graham is named in the No.21 after missing the previous two months with a broken leg, and it is worth remembering that he was on course 400 club games before Smithy (Including his Super League appearances), but alas, assuming he does run out on Sunday night, it’ll be game 398.

As for the Raiders, it’s fairly quiet there in 4th spot, although Sticky Ricky has confirmed that Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton will both back-up from Origin, obviously having the longest break of any players since Wednesday.

If the Raiders lose this, they’re a huge chance of slipping out of a Top 4 spot they’ve held for pretty much the whole season.



UPDATE: The closest Mitchell Pearce will get to the Origin Shield.

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