JT’s ‘Previews’: The NRL, Round 18

Well, this week is a celebration of people going where they haven’t gone before.
Photo: Scott Davis/NRL Photos


Brisbane (13th) vs Canterbury (15th) @ Suncorp Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

Big Change: Oates for Coates

Graeme Hughes fighting Buzz on Controversy Corner about the quality of the Broncos-Warriors game was almost as entertaining as the game itself, especially since Buzz was in the unusual position of arguing the game was exciting.

If you take out the six missed field goals, the Mouth from New South probably has a point, just like the Broncos, after the 18-all draw following Golden Point.

The Broncs are now 3 points off 8th place, and if they were playing UNO, they’d still have a draw four ready to play on some poor bastard, with four more games at Suncorp, although one of those is against the Storm, which is basically a write-off.

The Doggies are going a ways to make sure they avoid the wooden spoon, after upsetting the Sharks and the Knights to leap up to 15th, as their sole mission in 2019 has become to travel up and down the Eastern seaboard and destroy as many teams’ finals chances as they can.

Of course, the big highlight of a game between two bottom four teams probably won’t be coming from any players, but from the referees, namely in the form of established touch judge Belinda Sharpe stepping up and becoming the first woman to referee an NRL game.

At last, our law upholders have finally got a reason to make things about themselves.


New Zealand (12th) vs Cronulla (7-9) @ The Cake Tin, Wellington, 8pm NZST

For the first time since 2016, the 13-player version of the oval ball game visits Westpac Stadium, where the Warriors used to get routinely beaten by the Doggies back in the 2000s.

The Warriors perform better in Australia than they do in New Zealand, and they very nearly managed to pluck out another win in the game I’ve already mentioned, but alas they didn’t win, but they didn’t lose a game they led 16-6 at the half.

Meanwhile there’s trouble in the Shire, and not of the racial variety, because the Sharks are in the gun sights of the NRL coast guard, having lost four consecutive games to fall out of the Top 8, and they’re facing an injury crisis so bad, that I wouldn’t be shocked if John Morris came out of retirement to play in the halves in place of Shaun Johnson.

At the age of 39, he’s still younger than Cameron Smith.

Johnson’s injury is a real disappointment, because I’m sure there would’ve been thousands of people turn up at the Cake Tin just to boo the former Warrior, and if questioned, they could disguise it at venom aimed towards the ICC after the World Cup Final.

Although chances are they’ll be booing after the game, probably after the Warriors performance if recent history is anything to go by- The Kiwis have lost 4 straight against the Sharkies.

Penrith (8th) vs St George Illawarra (14th) @ Panthers Stadium, 7:55pm AEST

2 months ago, the Panthers were playing footy that was as attractive as a skunk’s arse, but now here we are, 2 months and several dozen Jimmy Maloney drop goals later, and they’re back in the Top 8.

I think the moral of the Panthers season is that we’ve learned that there’s hope for anyone in any walk of life, even for Westies.

Meanwhile, it’s desperation time in St George, as ‘Mother Mary’ thinks the Dragons are still a chance of playing finals in 2019, but in this alternate time of trouble, Mother Mary’s prayers sure as hell aren’t getting answered by Paul McCartney.

Nathan Cleary returns to the halves for the Panthers, while Ben Hunt has been given a rest, but at long last, James Graham is finally set to play game 398, after being named to return last week before Paul McGregor said no.

He’s also said he’ll refer to Belinda Sharpe in future as ‘Sir’, but what relevance that has to a game Belinda won’t even referee is completely unknown, but that’s how crazy James Graham is.


Sydney (4th) vs Newcastle (7th) @ The SCG, 3pm AEST

Tedesco’s back, Cordner’s back, Ponga’s back, and for some reason, the SCG has been given a very rare game in the Saturday 3pm timeslot.

The Chooks had a win at the tribunal last night (They still don’t get two points for this one), with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves cleared of a 2-game ban for dangerous contact on Josh McGuire… apparently it took 10 minutes for the judiciary to clear him, after the “It was Josh McGuire” defence won them all over.

All it means is that he’s free to get placed on report again this Saturday, probably for a late hit on Ponga, but at least for this weekend, the Chooks just about have their best team on the park for the first time since March.

The Knights are also an entirely different team on paper to the one that got run over by the Doggies, thanks entirely to the return of the Legend from Port Headland wearing the No.1.

The Knights thumped the Chooks in front of a rowdy Novocastrian crowd two months ago, BUT, while the Roosters have continued that run of average form, the Knights have slipped back to the pivot at 8-8, with the only parachute stopping them from falling being the PD they built up during their winning streak.

Here’s another weird fact- This is the first time the Knights have played a game on the SCG.

Canberra (3rd) vs Wests Tigers (11th) @ GIO Stadium, 5:30pm AEST

So here we have it, what technically is the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Grand Final, voted the best decider of all time by a 2018 Men of League function.

If Roy and HG are to be believed, then Laurie Daley should have been awarded the Clive Churchill Medal that day, mainly for his performance in front of Bob Hawke in the sheds.

Steve Jackson had played 5 First Grade games prior to that game, and yet his first career try was the one that skinned Balmain in Extra Time.

Back to the present, and the modern day Raiders have a good chance of replicating the deeds of Mal, Loz, Clyde, Walters x2, The Brick With Eyes and Sticky Ricky, although they will obviously have to win without Nick Cotric for the next 3 games thanks to his dangerous tackle that got him sent off, although apparently Sticky Ricky thought it wasn’t worthy of a dismissal, a phrase uttered while wearing green-tinted glasses.

Yeah, it was a perfectly not dangerous tackle at all Ricky.

Cotric has been replaced by Michael Oldfield, who is the only well-known Oldfield to not have a relationship with Pauline Hanson.

The Tiges decided to react to losing 30-18 to the Eels by flicking Robert Jennings to Reserve Grade, with Paul ‘The Russian’ Momirovski now on the wing.

The Raiders whacked Wests 28-0 at Bankwest just over a month ago, so what on Earth is the margin going to be in our nation’s capital… 29 points?

North Queensland (10th) vs Souths (2nd) @ 1300SMILES Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

The Cowboys are now the best of the Queensland teams after that thrilling win the Central Coast, which based on this season, is like being the fastest man in the one-legged 100 metres final.

Jake Clifford went a long way to ensuring Michael Morgan is bordering on forgotten by the time he comes back from concussion, scoring a try and kicking the game winning drop goal, which should be enough to get a statue next to JT at the new stadium next year.

Souths finally won a game (By a mere point against Manly) after an eternity of losing, and WAYNE has rediscovered his confidence to drive the Bunny Bus, and originally it looked like he’d kept Slammin’ Sam Burgess out of the team just because he could, but the actual reason appears to be that Sam had to have a drip connected to his heart, to deal with an infection after his shoulder surgery, which has now put him out indefinitely.

Apparently, there is a simple solution to solving this medical dilemma:


Gold Coast (16th) vs Melbourne (1st) @ Cbus Super Stadium, 2pm AEST

The names have come flying in to coach the Titans after Garth Brennan’s dismissal; Kevvy Walters, Craig Fitzgibbon, Bill Shorten, Shane & Ben Walker, Anthony Griffin, and St Helens coach Justin Holbrook.

Geoff Toovey also put his hand up for the job on Controversy Corner, mainly so he doesn’t have to work with Buzz anymore.

In the meantime, Craig Hodges and Luke Burt will get first crack at dragging the Titans out of the cellar, and based on this week, they’re not getting out of there anytime soon.

The Storm have a three game break on top of the ladder, so the old Bellyache decided this was the week to give his Origin stars a rest (Christian Welch was suspended, and to also give them the chance to scout out a few apartments in Surfers Paradise, because like most people who work in Victoria, they’ll probably end up in Queensland after they retire.

Although just looking at that Storm team sheet, ‘Origin star’ is a term that apparently doesn’t apply to Dale Finucane.

Here’s Craig Bellamy after realising that mistake:

Manly (5th) vs Parramatta (6th) @ Brookvale Oval, 4:05pm AEST

In a huge game on the Channels of Nine that will probably determine if either team is half a chance at nabbing a home final, I’m declaring this one for the Sea Eagles four days in advance, for absolutely no reason other than the fact that Tommy Turbo is back in the Sea Eagles line-up.

A 7-0 record in 2019 can’t go pear-shaped this deep into a season, especially against a half-decent team like the Eels, can it?

Categories: NRL

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