NRL

JT’s Meaningless NRL Preview: 2019 Preliminary Finals

Old Man Cooper vs Old Man Cam- FOR THE LAST TIME
(Photo: Craig Golding/AAP)

After 6 gruelling, poxy Channel 9 riddled, public nudity scandal-free months of rugby league, we’ve reached the Preliminary Finals, headlined by the first-ever Prelim Final in Canberra, and the final battle between the two jilted lovers of rugby league, grumpy old bastard Cameron Smith, and grumpy old bastard Cooper Cronk.

Did you know they were teammates once?

I didn’t know that.


Friday


Canberra vs Souths @ GIO Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

That onion to sausage ratio is horribly out of whack.
(Twitter: Neil Breen)

Everything’s coming up green in our nation’s capital.

Personal cannabis has been legalised, it’s a sell out for Friday night, and the streets are filled with green bread, green sausages, and green eggs and ham, which I do not like, Sam-I-Am.

They don’t even go this overboard when Summernats are in town.

30 years ago, the Raiders played Souths in a Prelim and won 32-16 on the way to that fabled Premiership, while Tuesday marked 30 years to the day of the 1989 Grand Final, and today marks 25 years since the 1994 Grand Final, and on Friday, the Green Machine face their most daunting opponent in those 25 years.

Expectation.

Expectation that they’re favoured to win and make a first Grand Final in a quarter-century, and it’s been so long that the Raiders probably think it’s still held at the SFS.

As for team news, the Green Machine are pretty much unchanged, as Joey Leilua has had his eyeball replaced after that pyrotechnics incident in Melbourne, although Sticky is contemplating moving freshly-minted Mal Meninga Medalist Josh Papalii to the bench as an impact player, while the hundreds of Poms in the Raiders line-up will be well acquainted with WAYNE, given his duties as England coach.

Throw in the Burgess brothers on the opposite side, and it really is the Battle of Britain… of Canberra.

Despite a wild win against the Silvertails, Souths are apparently on their last legs, and the problem hasn’t been helped by WAYNE ordering the playing group to make their own way to Canberra 2 days in advance, instead of getting a lift on the Bunny Bus.

Due to cost of living pressures and repeated NRL fines, some of them can’t even afford a pushbike, let alone a car.

As for team selection, the only worry appears to be the condition of Jimmy the Jet, who looks like he’ll be grounded due to a thumb injury, which has led to a massive backline shuffle, with Campbell Graham moving to the left, and Dane Gagai has been shifted to wandering around aimlessly on the right edge.

The coaching duel is especially interesting, when you look at Ricky’s head to head record against WAYNE.

7 wins and 19 losses since his first gig with the Roosters in 2002, including the 16-12 loss to the Rabbits back in Round 10, which wasn’t the only shock in Canberra on Election Night.

Still, short-priced favourites, their opponents on the ropes, a sold out record crowd belting out Viking claps, and all of the ACT supporting them.

This would be the biggest Raidering to ever happen to the Raiders if they lost.

For the record, I think they’ll find a way… to win.


Saturday


Easts vs Melbourne @ The SCG, 7:50pm AEST

Cronk vs Smith is the skin that forms this Elle MacPherson of a Prelim Final, with the skeleton the Grand Final sudden death rematch factor, and the sweat glands are the fact that this is the first time the Storm have played at the SCG.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the only Storm player who has played on the SCG is Old Man Cam, having done so way back in 2008 in the Centenary Test for Australia.

In an effort to avoid the slaughter that the Roosters have inflicted on the other first-timers in 2019, the Stormers have taken advantage of Collingwood shitting the bed against GWS, and have stolen the Olympic Park Oval at the Holden Centre to acclimatise to the SCG’s dimensions, and to learn from the Pies about losing a close Prelim to a Sydney team.

From the Sydney Morning Herald 24/9/19

Bahahahahaha, sacred training ground.

Roy, Collingwood left their ‘sacred’ training ground back in 2004 because even Satan himself feared setting foot in the decrepit hellhole that is Victoria Park…. which isn’t even in Collingwood.

The Storm rediscovered themselves last Saturday against the Eels, and once again, Bellyache has picked Curtis Scott to start over Will Chambers, who will be spared from being used as a speed bump by Latrell.

That selection seems to be a good indicator William has had his papers stamped, so he’ll probably end up where most Melbournians end up when they’re finished in the frozen south- Queensland.

The Roosters have freshened up with the week off, but the big question is how will they go without Jared Warea-Hargreaves, who was finally suspended for his latest brain fart, a trip against Souths.

I saw it mentioned (Probably by Gus) that without JWH since 2018, the Roosters’ win rate supposedly drops to 44% (Over the last 2 years) from 9 games, which doesn’t factor in variables like other key players that were missing from those games, such as Luke Keary.

But of course, the only percentage that will matter for the Chooks on Saturday night is how much effort they give, which could vary between 0 and 110%, and speaking of other key players, Jake Friend has been named in the Reserves for what could be his first game in 2 months, and only his 6th appearance in an injury-riddled 2019 for Easts’ co-captain.

I’m tossing myself around like a load of dirty washing trying to pick who wins, so I’ve come up with a few notes.

Since 2017, the team that has lost the annual game in Adelaide has won the Premiership.

2017- The Roosters beat the Storm 25-24, the Storm win the Premiership.

2018- The Storm beat the Roosters 9-8, the Roosters win the Premiership.

And this year, the Storm won 14-12.

On the flip side, the curse of the defending premier has yet to be killed for the last 25 years, and 5 of the last 6 Roosters-Storm games have been decided by fewer than 3 points due to Monsieurs Bellyache and Robbo cancelling each other out, with the outlier being the 15 point win to the Chooks in that Grand Final.

All I know is, the football gods require a sacrifice, and it could very well be Cooper Cronk’s career.

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