Some enthralling storylines that won’t get mentioned again as we head in to Round 4:
James Hooper continuing his enthralling fascination with John Bateman, which resembles my fascination for the death of Sir Billy Snedden
And to cap it off, we get the most spectacularly terrible Queen’s Birthday in living memory.
I am psyched.
Brisbane vs Eastern Suburbs at Suncorp Stadium, 7:50pm AEST
In what would probably have marked the 20th anniversary celebration of Brisbane’s 2000 Premiership win over the Chooks, the current Broncos take on the 2x defending premiers.
Random fact – That was the last afternoon Grand Final.
Minus a number of key players, the Broncos were beaten like a peaceful protester by Parramatta in the 2nd Half last Thursday night, with a horrible completion rate and the sheer weight of Eels possession forming a brutal gasoline & match combination.
In the wash-up, Kotoni Staggs got the night off from the judiciary for a high shot, and skipper Alex Glenn is out with lacerations to his calf, leaving it up to Matt Lodge and the assorted forward pack weirdos to treat the Roosters like a New York apartment.
In other team news, Jesse Arthars replaces Staggs, Ethan Bullemor starts in place of Glenn, and hooker Jake Turpin is also out with a leg injury, meaning Corey Paix will make his First Grade debut, and another new face on the team sheet is Tongan international Fanitesi Niu, simply known as ‘Tesi’, named on the bench.
In all, the Broncos 17 on paper are the very definition of Baby Broncos, struggling to combine for 900 games experience, let alone 1000.
As for the 2-time champs, the Red White & Bluesters racked up the 2 points against the old enemy after leading wire to wire, and they got another boost when Victor Radley beat a dangerous throw charge at the judiciary, wiping out his 1 game suspension.
Victor by name, victor by result.
Thus, the Chooks have an unchanged 17 for the trip to Brisvegas, with Mitch Aubusson not on the travelling 19 despite returning to training after a private matter.
The Roosters’ recent history in Brisbane is a great brain teaser – They haven’t beaten the Red Hill bogans at The Graveyard since 2014 (The Broncs have won the past 6), but they do have a recent win in Brisbane, having knocked off the Raiders in last year’s Magic Round, which was a sign of things to come between the teams.
So with the evidence in front of me, I’ll take the Roosters to break the run, but as always, don’t take the Broncs lightly.
Penrith vs Once Were Auckland Warriors at Campbelltown, 6pm AEST
Australia’s favourite team take on the Panthers out in Campbelltown, in a game that could end the universe out of mind numbing frustration.
The Warriors not turning the ball over with incredible discipline, and the Panthers not doing enough with it.
All things considered, the Panthers should’ve finished off Newcastle last weekend, but, despite being up against a team compromised of child soldiers and David Klemmer, they didn’t.
Although in fairness, they didn’t lose either.
Mitchell Pearce gone after 5 minutes, a 14-0 lead just before the half, 5 cracks at a winning field goal from Matt Burton, and all they got was a measly point.
Given that Burton hit at least 4 of those kicks pretty well, seeing them all miss in one horrible way after the other felt like something that Tim Burton would conjure up.
Still, they are in the Top 4, and the only team change for the Riffs is Liam Martin replacing Billy Burns on the bench, as they wait another week to bring back the only player on their roster who can hit a field goal.
Meanwhile, the Road Warriors proved the benefits of shedding the burden of family, making the people of Tamworth extremely proud with a shutout win over the Red V at Gosford, built on a typically boring conservative game plan of defence and cutting out errors, which proved so successful that they shattered the modern record by completing their first 44 sets of the game, before Jack Murchie ruined the quest for perfection, possibly due to laughing so hard at how inept the Dragons are.
Out of that historically efficient 17, Peta Hiku hurt his ribs and Agnatius Paasi was suspended, and they’ve been replaced Karl Lawton in the centre, while loan signing Poasa Faamausili (From the Roosters) makes his debut from the bench, alongside his one-time Roosters teammate Josh Curran.
On paper, the Warriors have an utterly average team, but after last week, you can’t write them off.
But, I’ve proven time and again that I don’t learn from mistakes, so give me the Panthers.
Melbourne vs South Sydney at AAMI Park, 5:55pm AEST
The cardboard cutouts that line AAMI Park were stunned to the point of silence last week, as the Storm were left flat-footed and outsmarted by the Raiders yet again, giving us all clear proof that with one ref and a simple rule change, Melbourne have promptly fallen off a cliff and are only 1 rung above St George-Illawarra.
In the wake of the defeat, Craig Bellamy called the performance “Embarrassing” and sacrificed Cam Munster to the sun god Ra, and Peter Stirling opined that it was “Undeniable” that Cameron Smith isn’t the premier No.9 in the game, given how mortal the skipper looked compared to Josh Hodgson.
This just in – Bloke who has been playing since the troops were going over the top in Fromelles has probably lost a step.
Still, the only forced change to the starting side is Christian Welch coming on to start in place of the suspended Nelson Asofa-Solomona, and Ryley Jacks goes on to the pine.
Meanwhile, Souths look as enjoyable as an underdone steak.
James Roberts is still regaining his fitness and misses again, Latrell Mitchell is still trying to figure out the way of the fullback (With not much to show for it), the forwards didn’t do much against the Roosters pack, and despite the new ruck rules being suited to a player like Damien Cook, the Rabbits couldn’t light a fire under their own backsides in attack, a situation that might change when Cody Walker returns next week.
Another experiment conducted by WAYNE has involved playing Cam Murray in a dual role on the edge and in the middle, although the dissenting voices are now suggesting that the master coach should face reality and play the 2019 Lock Of The Year in a position where he can do the most damage.
Which would be lock.
The round peg in a round hole.
The Rabbits have never won in Melbourne (0-15 all time), and to be honest, given what Craig Bellamy has probably inflicted on his players this week, I don’t see that changing.
Parramatta vs Manly at Bankwest Stadium, 5:35pm AEST
The War of 1947 reignites again on Saturday evening, and after the performances of both teams last week, it should’ve been the kind of game lumped in prime time on a weekday.
In an aforementioned game, the Eels sent another demand to be taken seriously in Brisbane, wearing the Broncos down to the bone in a commanding 34-6 performance, increasing their points differential out to +74 after only 3 games, on the back of conceding a mere 14 points in that time.
It does help when you play two of the worst attacking teams, but still, they’re top of the ladder, and right in contention for Grand Final heartbreak.
Hooker Reed Mahoney also proved he was super human at Lang Park – He broke his foot in Round 2, yet didn’t miss a beat and played 74 minutes, picking up Dally M vote to boot.
A Maroon in waiting, it seems.
The Silvertails came out of hibernation at full blast on Sunday, putting the Bulldogs back on the leash in a one-sided 32-6 romp, as Tommy Turbo released his pent up excitement with 2 tries and 3 assists, and with better goalkicking, it could’ve been 38-6 or 40-6.
Clearly Reuben Garrick had a cheeky tenner on the Under 39.5.
Having shot themelves up into the Top 8, further good news at Brookvale came when Moses Suli elected to re-sign with the Silvertails instead of taking a better offer from St George, a testament to Des Hasler and the Manly coaching staff for getting the best out of him.
Neither Brad Arthur or Hasler have made a change to the 17s, and there’s gun matchups across the park – Clint Gutherson vs Tommy Turbo in the clash of the No.1s, Maika Sivo vs Jorge Taufua, Moses/Brown vs Walker/DCE in the halves….
I could list more but I’m saving my words.
Bugger it, I reckon the Silvertails can pull this off.
North Queensland vs Cronulla at North Queensland Stadium, 7:35pm AEST
The Sort-Of Holmescoming
After some 18 months of waiting, the Sharks finally get a crack at Valentine Holmes for the first time since he abruptly left the Shire at the end of 2018 to give the NFL a go, in which Val succeeded in becoming a less-memorable Jarryd Hayne in his time with the Jets’ practice squad.
Surely the lesson we learned from that stint in America is that the only Australians with a hope of playing in the American game are punters.
Just when this match looked like there was a clear advantage the way of the Cowboys, Jason Taumalolo was ruled out of the game with bone bruising, a hammer blow to the locals, and to 99% of fantasy players.
With JT gone, I really could not care about this.
And it’s on a Saturday evening.
Canberra vs Newcastle at Campbelltown, 4pm AEST
Fresh off looting & pillaging 2 points from the frozen south in a stunning Saturday night FIFO raid on AAMI Park, the group of green nomads from Canberra play their first game at their shiny new home, and the Knights make another appearance in Campbell after last week’s 14-14 win, where they showed more balls than Lance Armstrong after losing just about every key player not in their forward pack.
The Green Machine maintained the rage with the performance of the weekend on Saturday evening, keeping them alongside Parramatta as the only 3-0, an important distinction, given they’re playing another unbeaten team.
Bailey Simonsson returns on the wing, replacing Jordan Rapana, who goes back to the bench after scoring on his return from Japan.
For the Novocastrians, Connor Watson is an obvious out after that ankle injury, Mitchell Pearce will start after last week’s terrible-looking knockout just 4 minutes in, Kalyn Ponga returns from suspension at fullback, putting Tex Hoy on the bench, while Andrew McCullough starts at hooker for his Knights debut, Herman Ese’ese starts at lock, and last week’s debutnt Chris Randall was punted to the reserves.
Based on last week, I’ll stick with the Raiders in a close one, although if Pearce gets knocked out again, watch out for Bradman Best, who will be a good chance of scoring 452.
Or a double.
Gold Coast vs Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium, 6:30pm AEST
The Titans went to Townsville with no expectations, and they didn’t let anyone down, getting clobbered by their crocodile-fearing cousins to the North, giving further creedence to the theory that the Gold Coast truly is Australian sport’s equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, Waterloo and Vietnam put together.
Technically speaking, the Tits are still on the road this week, although this time around they can stuff those fan mannequins from Round 2 in the boot of the van for the drive up the Pacific Motorway and give them seats on the halfway line next to the cardboard cut-outs.
From the carnage of last week, the big inclusion is Tyrone Roberts back playing at fullback, and Erin Clark, who definitely isn’t Erin Molan, starts at hooker.
If the Titans do lose again, they’ll bring up the one year anniversary of their last win, which came against the Broncos on June 9 last year, coincidentally, at Suncorp.
The Tigers leave New South Wales for the first time in 2020 on the back of a 2nd Half domination of the Sharks, breaking their losing streak against the Shire residents which spanned 4 1/2 years and 6 attempts.
Madge hasn’t changed the starting 17 from that success, which was highlighted by Adam Doueihi getting the job done in the No.1 after a year of ankle problems, and the arrival of hooker Harry Grant paid immediate dividends when he started and scored inside 5 minutes.
It’s got the makings of a decent spine – Doueihi in the back, Benji & Luke Brooks in the halves, and Grant in the No.9.
That also means Josh Reynolds is on the outer again, which comes as certain talking heads want to see him back at Belmore, where he’d almost certainly start for the Bulldogs and fix a few of their problems.
I shall pick the Tigers, and actually tip them this time.
Queen’s Birthday Monday
Canterbury vs St George-Illawarra Reserves at Bankwest Stadium, 4:05pm AEST
If you want Kennedy assassination levels of forensic analysis on why the Dragons stink, then have a read of this by Jason Oliver.
Now for our feature presentation.
Ladies & gentlemen, strap yourselves in and brace for….
CRIPPLE FIGHT 2020.
If it wasn’t funny enough watching the Dragons get shut out by a bunch of vagarant Kiwis, Fox Sports revealed that a rag tag team of reserves & development team, featuring Jack de Belin in the halves, knocked off the First Graders during training the week prior to the game.
Just wait until the SG Ball team get their hands on them.
That result could be comedy unseen in Australian sport since Kerry O’Keefe’s rendition of the Frog in a Bank joke.
With the flame throwers warming up at Kogarah after yet another failure, Mary McGregor’s seat is boiling to the point of mild pain, and some of the suggestions from the Fourth Estate have included everything from dropping Ben Hunt to the pine and renaming him Bench Hunt, to bringing back the fabled GST Banner and giving the team a laugh to break the ice.
Instead, the boys club have moved Corey Norman to fullback, with Adam Clune, de Belin’s halves partner for the Dragons reserves in that heroic win, moving up to partner Hunt in his Firt Grade debut, and Josh Kerr replaces Korbin Sims.
Clearly Paul Vaughan was bitter about that training defeat, and broke Clune’s nose in a training hit on Tuesday.
One last note about the Dragons – They ran for 2,116 metres last Saturday, their best performance since 2009… And yet, it amounted to stuff all.
Meanwhile, the Dogs did absolutely nothing unexpected against the Silvertails, getting into the Manly 20 and knocking on 4 times, which is all part of the painful rollercoaster that is supporting these Bulldogs, who are so flaccid in attack that they couldn’t spell ‘try’ if you gave them the T and the R.
Although, that’s mainly because Western Sydney is gripped by education problems.
The big positive for the Dogs is that Kieran Foran is fit enough to play for the first time in 2020, and Dean Pay put him straight into the halves to partner Lachie Lewis, discarding Jack Cogger from the 17 like a used cigarette.
Cogger didn’t even make the reserves.
In all, this could very well be the last game for one of/both coaches – Pay, who was handed a shit sandwich by the Doggies front office, who have used him as a human shield from their failings, versus McGregor, who helped create one over the last 6 years, despite having the ingredients for a chicken BLT.
You can’t help but feel the Dragons have more to gain by losing, so on that note, I’ll pick the Berries.