NRL

JT’s Meaningless Preview: The NRL, Round 22

GIF by /u/TTetron

I think I’ve got the perfect piece of music to accompany Felise Kaufusi…

Anyway, my fluke of a time inside the Top 1000 on the FootyTips NRL tipping lasted as long as the Sharks’ premiership credentials- One week.

What a big week it’s been, with the Telly digging up a Manly player getting loose from Mad Monday of last year, and of course, the NRL Hall of Fame dinner is on tonight, with Ruben Wiki, Stacey Jones, Danny Buderus and Craig Young all being inducted, and the first Contributors have been named; JJ Giltinan, ‘Chippy’ Frilingos, and the voice of the game, Ray Warren.

Personally, I would’ve inducted Reg Reagan in both categories.


Thursday

Manly (5th) vs Wests Tigers (10th) @ Brookvale, 7:50pm AEST

Dessie’s ‘Dogs were bound to slip up at some point on this wild winning run, but few expected that slip up to occur in New Zealand, and to the point that they went scoreless until the 69th minute.

Sure, it would’ve been understandable losing in a couple of weeks to the Raiders in Canberra or to the Storm or Eels, but to a Warriors team that hadn’t won at home since April was right out of left field.

They didn’t get out unscathed either- Brad Parker managed to hurt his meniscus tapping the ball in the 1st Half, Curtis Sironen had the classic case of the hammy pull, and DCE had a slight ankle complaint.

The Tigers were utterly devastated by the Doggies on Saturday night- They managed to lose 18-16 after being up 8-nil at the half, Moses Mbye hurt his hip flexor, and capping off proceedings, Robbie Farah fractured his tibia after being twisted in a tackle, and the balance of probabilities suggests he won’t play again.

In the span of two hours, their season went from “Hey, we can finally make the finals!” to “Ah shit, here we go again.”

It means that just like the good old days, it’s up to Benji to pull a few flick passes out of his arse, and if Wests manage to pull this off against all modern scientific analysis, it’d have to be their best win since the 05 Grand Final.

Friday

Gold Coast (16th) vs Parramatta (6th) @ Cbus Super Stadium, 6pm AEST

After a tumultuous week following another hard-fought win, the Eels would probably prefer it in future that the only white line Shaun Lane encountered was the try line.

Almost a full 12 months on, and we’ve only just learned about the 2nd best performance of last year’s Mad Monday, behind the collective belter the Bulldogs put in at the Harbour View Hotel.

Still, we can’t let a simple matter of white powder on Mad Monday distract us from the fact that the Eels are a mortal lock to play finals for only the second time this decade, and they’re still half a hope of an unlikely Top 4 finish, but first, they’ll have to focus on the team sitting in front of them, even if they happen to be the wooden spooners in waiting.

The Titans are desperately sending their messages to the good lord above to end this latest hodgepodge of a season, but unfortunately, they’re sending those messages via Australia Post, so it’s no wonder that they haven’t been answered.

They did score 28 points on Saturday in a very free-flowing performance, the only problem was the Dragons happily cut up their defence into a paper mache and scored 40 of their own to win.

Michael Gordon returns via the bench for the last month of his playing career, and the Eels regain Kane Evans into the starting pack.

As he had to do for the visit to Kogarah and the game against the Knights, Brad the Bald has to get the Eels up to break yet another hoodoo- They’ve lost their last 3 visits to Robina, although this is their first visit to the Gold Coast since 2014.

Brisbane (8th) vs Penrith (7th) @ Suncorp Stadium, 7:55pm AEST

The two teams leading the peloton of plodders battling for the final spots in the Top 8 face off, and this one promises to deliver something straight out of the eighth layer of skill level hell.

Starting with the Broncos, and the standard of that game last Thursday was so utterly terrible, that there were times I wanted Josh McGuire to gouge my eyes out.

BUT, in spite of everything, the Broncos got the job done, and they’ve regained their tenuous grip on 8th spot, still sitting a mere loss away from earning another sermon from Crash Craddock about how Queensland rugby league is flailing around.

The Panthers had their season on a knife’s edge prior to last Friday, and they looked set to sink further into the crap against Cronulla, only for Nathan Cleary to step up without Jimmy Maloney and smack the cocky Sharkies back to The Shire, with some help from the debutant Matt Burton and his Maloney-esque kicking game.

In fact, that Panthers team had 7 rookies in the 17, which is something of a testament to what Ivan ‘The Not So Terrible’ has had to pull off this season just to keep The Riff competitive.

Unsurprisingly, there’s only one change for either team, and it happens to be Maloney coming straight back in for Burton.

With the way this fight for the Top 8 has panned out, it would make complete sense if Darius Boyd randomly outperformed both Maloney and Cleary and led the Broncs to a win.

Saturday

Newcastle (12th) vs North Queensland (13th) @ McDonald Jones Stadium, 3pm AEST

It’s only fitting that the weekly graveyard time slot sees the two corpses of finals contenders going toe to toe.

In another weird case of fixturing, the last time the Knights and Cowboys played in Newcastle was all the way back in 2015, which the Boys won 26-24, the start of this current five-game win streak they hold over the Novocastrians.

And I think we’ll leave it at that.

Melbourne (1st) vs Canberra (3rd) @ AAMI Park, 5:35pm AEST

For the second weekend in a row, we’ve got Top 4 battle to try and keep the round afloat, and it sees the team who have ‘exploited’ the rules for 20 years, versus the team that have exploited the strip rule, and turned it into an art form.

The Storm lost several players before the game against the Rabbits (Who are all set to come back this weekend), still managed to get off to a superb start, then had Harlem Globetrotter in waiting Felise ‘Meadowlark Lemon’ Kaufusi sin-binned, and yet they still swept aside the Rabbits with a click of the fingers from both the Camerons.

Next cab off the rank is the Green Machine, who haven’t won in Melbourne since 2013, when they won 24-20, which the Storm responded to a few months later with a 68-4 win in Canberra.

That’s like having a brick thrown through your window, and responding by dropping a hydrogen bomb.

On the flip side, the Raiders were right in the game against the Roosters after leading 12-6 in the 1st Half, but in what seems to be a reoccurring theme, they ultimately lost narrowly to a top team without being disgraced.

If you look at the stats, the Raiders’ record against the teams in 7th to 16th is an outstanding 12-1, but against the Top 6, it’s a pretty grim 1-6, although, the only loss beyond a converted try in that lot was against the Storm in Round 2, 22-10.

A welcome boost for the Raiders is that Joey Leilua is finally set to play his 200th game, and in the process, reuniting the fabled beast that is ‘Leipana’ to tackle this multi-headed monstrosity that stand on the brink of another JJ Giltinan Shield.

The Storm have only lost twice at home this year, and both times were via a field goal in Golden Point.

For the Green Machine, it’s the latest season-defining game.

For the Storm, it’s Saturday.

Souths (4th) vs Canterbury (15th) @ ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

The Bunnies’ season, much like Adam Reynolds’ back, is on the verge of giving up, after they were reasonably competitive against the Storm, before suffering the same fate as 16 other teams in 2019.

Campbell Graham may have scored a hat-trick, but even after the Rabbits had a man advantage and came back to tie the scores in the 2nd Half the Storm just hit them straight back, and continued their monkey grip over WAYNE, no matter which team he’s coaching.

But this week, the Rabbits will be receiving plenty of motivational support, with Slammin’ Sam Burgess making his 4th comeback this year (Just behind John Farnham on 27), and their heart and soul, John Sutton, announced this year would be his last, after a Rabbits record 329 games (so far) and captaining that 2014 premiership.

I’ll never forget reading about John’s legendary performance in the 1970 Grand Final, when he broke his jaw and still led the Rabbits to victory.

As well as that, they’ve regained Braidon Burns and Jaydn Su’A.

As for the Bullies, I’d like to say congratulations Dean Pay, I think you may very well have destroyed the Tigers’ season.

In fact, given what happened to Robbie Farah, you may very well have destroyed them as a club.

Despite being in the Bottom 2 for pretty much the whole season, the Dogs are still giving 110% every week, which is a big plus, and once again, they’ve named the exact same 17, as they continue their quest to annoy as many finals contenders as they can.

Penrith one week, Wests the next, and now Souths are right on the bubble.

Sunday

Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club (2nd) vs New Zealand (11th) @ The SCG, 2pm AEST

The Chooks have now firmly clenched their spurs to 2nd spot on the ladder, following their successful visit to Hoth on Super Sunday in front of a hostile Raiders crowd, recording their first win in Canberra since 2010, and on top of that, they’re half a chance at regaining Boyd Cordner, who has been named in the Reserves.

Putting aside that really frustrating and disappointing case of online racial abuse, Latrell Mitchell still has a huge chance of claiming the historic double of being the leading tryscorer and leading pointscorer, which has only been achieved once in 85 years- Mal Meninga in 1990.

He’s leading the point-scorers by 45 to Jarrod Croker (221 to 176) and he’s sitting on 15 tries, just one behind Ken Maumolo and Maika Sivo in the try-scorers race.

Of course, Maumolo will be on the opposite side of the field on Sunday.

The Warriors have firmly plonked themselves in the ‘Schizophrenic’ category for 2019, and looking at that team sheet, it’s pretty mind boggling- they’ve got a very half-decent team, headlined by RTS, but then they get on the field, and they play like they can’t access the internet… because they struggle to put two ‘Ws’ together.

Last week, they caught Manly on the hop and made the Silvertails pay full price, in a truly mind numbing performance fans for Warriors fans, who were left wondering where this kind of performance had been hiding since March.

Despite the win, the Warriors recorded 44 missed tackles and conceded 13 penalties against the Silvertails, and against the Roosters, numbers like those are akin to giving a shotgun to Dick Cheney and asking him not to mistake you for wildlife.

Another interesting factor is that Warriors have never played on the SCG, and from what I’ve seen this year, the teams who have never played on the ground have had rather harrowing experiences- The Broncos got creamed in Round 4, the Knights got creamed in Round 19, and the Titans… well that was a war crime that will go unpunished by The Hague.

I foresee another wild afternoon ahead for Robbo and his Cocks.

Cronulla (9th) vs St George Illawarra (14th) @ Shark Park, 4:05pm AEST

The Dragons may have the Shire geographically surrounded like Wellington’s army at Waterloo, but in recent years, they’ve been a grain of sand compared to the beach their red-headed step brothers have enjoyed, consistently reaching the finals, in spite of the NRL’s consistent efforts in exposing their rather unethical management.

The Sharks had everything in place pre-game against Penrith, and then they didn’t even show up in the 1st Half, as Nathan Cleary dealt with them like he was Chief Brody at the end of Jaws, although a late revival saw the game look like a semi-respectable 26-20 loss.

Andrew Fifita is a big loss, although coming straight back in is Matt Moylan, and I’d expect ScoMo will be in the crowd with whichever foreign dignitary he’s got round for a barbeque at Kirribilli this weekend.

The Dragons celebrated James Graham’s 400th official First Grade game across both hemispheres, and sure they were only playing the Titans, but they still cranked up the volume to 12 and blasted out a win.

If Saints can’t get up for a game that should effectively serve as their Grand Final, then I hold grave fears that Mary McGregor could be drowned in Lake Illawarra by Bruce Gordon.

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