The corporate boxes are back in action this weekend, and with Step 1 of crowd returns ‘complete’, Gladys’ No.2 in NSW, Nationals leader John Bariarlo, has produced an idea that sounds like it came straight from the brain of my mutual acquaintance Crazy Craig.
In the wake of the protests, he believes the NRL should be allowed to let up to 40,000 fans into ANZ Stadium for Round 6, and in order to avoid long queues at kiosks and keep fans out of crowded lines, bring back the glory days of BYO.
That’s the most unrealistic goal yet – 40,000 fans rocking up to the Olympic Stadium.
10,000 is a better goal.
Manly vs Brisbane at Central Coast Stadium, 7:50pm AEST
Do I seriously have to talk about this?
After what happened last week?
Have the Broncos not suffered enough?
Even WAYNE joined in the pile-on, which was bordering on the pot calling the kettle black.
In amidst the carnage, Matt Lodge held an unofficial honesty session with the press on Sunday, after the playing group were in no mood to talk to anyone on Thursday evening, and Lodge also asked Gordy Tallis if he could come back to his old club and guide the players.
Given the Raging Bull spent most of Thursday evening giving the club an earful, he responded with a mild no.
So, in a bid to get a response from his uninspired team, Anthony Seibold has rung the Justin Holbrook-style mass changes to the 17.
Corey Oates moves to the back row with Xavier Coates on the wing, Kotoni Staggs returns in place of Jesse Arthars, Matt Lodge and Joe Ofahengaue join the starting pack, and Ben Te’o will make his NRL/Broncos return from the bench.
I say bravo to Ben – Him willingly signing with the Broncos is the bravest thing I’ve seen since George Costanza marched into shallow water and pulled a golf ball out of a whale.
This is the Broncos’ first visit to Gosford since Round 21 of 2015, when they were pummeled 44-14 by a Manly team who ultimately got Geoff Toovey the arse when they missed the finals, while 2 months later, the Broncs went seconds from winning the premiership.
A rookie Tommy Turbo scored a double that day… He could very well do it again.
Meanwhile, Manly were on the back foot for 50 minutes against the Eels, and it was two tries either side of the half that killed them on the scoreboard, even as they ran all over the top of a tired Eels team in the last 20.
Oh, and this happened at the end.
Des has probably played that on a loop at training for the last 5 days to let the hate flow through his players.
As for team changes, the Grim Reaper, aka Jorge Taufua, and Curtis Sironen will both be watching with the cardboard cut outs due to injury concerns, while Jack Gosiewski moves up to the interchange and Corey Waddell goes into the second row, with Brendan Elliot elevated from the reserves to replace Taufua on the wing.
Yeah, I’ll tip the Silvertails.
Once Were Warriors vs North Queensland at Central Coast Stadium, 6pm AEST
This game is enthralling on paper, in the same way that a snail racing a sloth is enthralling.
After missing last week and reigniting the Paul Green hot seat discussion, Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess are playing, so I’ll pick the Cowboys.
Parramatta vs Penrith at Bankwest Stadium, 7:40pm AEST
A tough road trip for the Panthers, having to travel from Campbelltown to Parramatta.
In this day and age with Sydney traffic, that usually takes 2 days.
On paper, this should the best Western Derby in years – A 4-0 Eels team who have pronounced themselves as the 2020 gold standard a mere 4 games in to the season, versus an unbeaten Riffs team who have been sensational, and have a fresh Nathan Cleary ready to play for the first time in 10 weeks, for well-known reasons that are mostly his own doing.
If last week’s clash with Manly was tough for Parra (And let’s face it, they probably should’ve lost), this is simply week two of the three week ball-chafing they copped from the NRL.
Fittingly, they’ve got the Roosters next week to complete the unholy trinity of toughness.
Still, the Blue & Golds are 4-0 for the first time since Peter Sterling still had follicles on his head (1989), and ahead of their quest to go 5-0 for the first time since the cherished year of 1986, Nathan Brown returns at lock from his 2-game suspension that went for 3 months, bumping Marata Niukore to the bench, with Ray Stone joining him on the pine, which bumps Brad Takairangi and Oregon Kaufusi to the reserves.
After the thrilling draw in Round 3, the Panthers had a chance to beat up on a bunch of homeless Kiwis last Friday, and with a vastly superior team, they did just that, getting a shutout win to boot.
On another note – It’s also skipper James Tamou’s 250th First Grade game.
As expected, Cleary will partner Jarome Luai in the halves, and Matt Burton, who showed some very good signs for his future (Probably at another club) in the past fortnight, goes to the bench.
To some disappointment, Mitch Kenny was also demoted back to the reserves.
Oh my god, they dumped Kenny!
Last year, the teams split the Derbys 1 apiece – The Eels won in Penrith in Round 1, then it was the Panthers, after losing 6 games in a row and falling to last, who handed the Eels their first loss at Bankwest Stadium in Round 11.
I think this is another coin flip job, and Siri said it landed on heads, so that means I tipped Parramatta, but make no mistake, the Panthers will be breathing down their necks.
South Sydney vs Gold Coast at Bankwest Stadium, 3pm AEST
So it’s Souths against the Gold Coast.
A team of rank amateurs… against Souths.
Winless since mid-March, in a run that brings back bad memories of the Post-Readmission years, Souths have finally regained James Roberts and Cody Walker, and you’d expect Walker to provide a real kick in attack, which was noticeably missing through the first fortnight back.
I doubt either of them could’ve changed the result last week in Melbourne, mainly because their teammates would’ve lost the ball before they’d even considered passing the ball.
Roberts & Walker replace Braidon Burns and Troy Dargan (Both banished to the reserves), while Patrick Mago and Bayley Sironen replace Mark Nicholls and Keaon Koloamatangi on the interchange,
Meanwhile, in a performance few saw coming, the Titans showed the kind of heart and effort that made Broncos fans envious, producing the most inspiring performance since the Jamaican bobsled team went to Calgary in 1988, twice coming back from double-digit deficits to knock off the Wests Tigers on the bell, vindicating Justin Holbrook’s mass changes, in their first win in 364 days.
They went to Suncorp Stadium a laughing stock.
They left as equals.
Still on the subject of Roberts who might return, Tyrone Roberts might finally play after his ankle problems, having been named in the reserves, leaving the possibility for a late inclusion.
That said, the Titans 17 is otherwise unchanged.
After last week’s jubilation, the Tits might experience the opposite result of a win on Saturday, as I tip the Rabbits to break their losing run.
Newcastle vs Melbourne at Central Coast Stadium, 5:30pm AEST
The undefeated defensive masters, against the Storm.
From the heroic draw that was as good as a win against Penrith, the Knights got Kalyn Ponga back in the No.1 against the Green Machine, and the Prince of Port Headland showed the Raiders defence what an Origin full-back looks like, scoring a try, running for about 4km on his own, and unleashing Bradman Best for another double.
Supercoach Adam O’Brien has named an unchanged 17, but the doubt lingers on Kurt Mann lining up, with Phoenix Crossland or Lachie Fitzgibbon on standby.
Phoenix, Tex, Bradman – The Knights have absolutely cornered the market on unique player names.
In the opposite No.1 for the visitors is Ryan ‘The Pap’ Papenhuyzen, who opened the scoring last week, and in many ways, also delivered an eye-catching performance.
Mainly in defence, with that wicked volleyball spike from 5m over the sideline.
After getting locked in to an ugly bareknuckle brawl for 65 minutes, it really took some Cam Munster genius for the Storm to break clear of Souths, and despite the 22-8 win, it was another Storm performance that made people think this isn’t quite the same Storm team who could annihilate a fairytale village with a click of Cam Smith’s fingers.
Jahrome Hughes is definitely a loss with his broken hand, but, it is the Storm, and history suggests that Bellamy is playing possum, and they’re adapting to the new landscape.
Ryley Jacks has been named to replace Hughes, but even that might change, with the possibility that Nico Hynes could come up from the reserves, or even Old Man Cam could switch in to the halves, leaving Brandon Smith to play at hooker, where he has outperformed his brother from another mother.
Bugger it – My brazen personality says the Knights.
Wests Tigers vs Canberra at Campbelltown Stadium, 7:35pm AEST
In what is a home game for both teams, the Raiders get a shot at Joey Leilua after he abruptly left Canberra during the pre season, and both Michael Maguire and Ricky Stuart get a shot at their own teams after disappointing losseslast Sunday.
Madge finally said what literally everyone was thinking after Wests managed to make the Gold Coast Titans feel good about themselves.
“I’m sick and tired of the ups and downs of the performances. We need to change that.”
“That’s what this club has been, I didn’t want to say that, but it’s the truth. and the truth is we need to fix how we do things when we are performing.”
Just to show how serious Madge is about wanting to fix this rollercoaster, he took a big axe to the selection table and swung it like David Foster on a block of wood.
Robert Jennings, Oliver Clark and Thomas Mikaele are all GONE, while Luke Garner had a convenient excuse of being injured, but the biggest shock of all…
HE DROPPED BENJI MARSHALL.
Madge didn’t just shoot Bambi, he wore his goddamn fur for a coat.
Still, it gets even funnier.
Realising he was on the outer, Benji tried taking the team down with him by kissing Channel 7 reporter Michelle Bishop at training, getting himself sent home while Bishop underwent a (Negative) COVID test, and giving the Tigers a suspended fine for breaching biosecurity measures.
It was sealed with a kiss.
In a similar manner to Madge, Sticky Ricky was pissed after the Raiders showed signs of complacency against the Knights after the high of winning in Mlbourne, although he hasn’t gone anywhere near as nuclear on the team sheet.
In fact, it’s an unchanged 17 from last Sunday, with the only concern being five-eighth Jack Wighton, who finished with a HIA after getting smashed by the Knights after kicks all afternoon, which did lead to Sticky’s outburst that Wighton was being routinely targeted by teams with late hits.
It’s the old Untouchables scenario – He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.
The Raiders beat Wests twice last year, and I’ll take them to win this one ‘at home’.
Canterbury vs Eastern Suburbs at Bankwest Stadium, 4:05pm AEST
At various points in their recent history, the Dogs and Roosters have re-branded themselves as ‘Sydney’ for marketing purposes, despite only representing a relatively minor portion of Sydney.
And, you have to remember, they both did pretty well with it.
The Sydney Bulldogs, as they were known for all of 1995 as the Super League War exploded, won the last Winfield Cup from 6th place, and the Roosters are now in their 20th year as the SYDNEY Roosters (Important difference from Sydney City), and they’re up to 4 premierships and 8 Grand Finals.
After being exposed to a deadly handshake from Terry Lamb at training last week, the Dogs proved they had suffered no ill-effects on the Queen’s Birthday, winning the Spoon Bowl against the Dragons and dragging themselves from dead last to 12th.
Not only did Kieran Foran’s return make the Dogs attack look semi-functional (Against a dispirited crap heap nonetheless) they held the Red V tryless as well, which would’ve had Dean Pay at half mast.
As for the high flying Chooks, the question they’ve already answered is – How do you improve a team that won by 59 points?
Answer – You bring back James Tedesco.
Yes, I’ll pick the Roosters.
St George-Illawarra vs Cronulla at Campbelltown, 6:30pm AEST
All eyes were on the Dragons board as to what could happen on the coaching front, and they responded on Tuesday…
PAUL MCGREGOR IS STILL IN CHARGE.
THE SHOW GOES ON!
But, that horror movie masquerading as a game against the Doggies on Monday begs yet another question.
If the Dragons can’t score a bloody try against two of the worst teams going around, how on earth can they score a try against their arch-rivals, who are at worst, slightly below average?
The Sharks had looked threatening for a number of weeks, and they finally realised that 1 + 1 = 2 in Townsville, taking advantage of a Cowboys team without their heavy hitter to win 26-16, having absolutely dominated down the right edge, with ‘Cristiano’ Ronaldo Mulitalo scoring a double, however, he won’t be featuring on Sunday evening due to a knee issue.
On the positive side, halfback Chad Townsend and Andrew Fifita are set to return from injury, which shifts Matt Moylan to fullback, Mawene Hiroti replaces Ronaldo on the wing, while Toby Rudolf goes back to the interchange, and Siosifa Talakai + Will Kennedy are back to the reserves.
Oh my god, they dropped Kennedy!
You – Hang on, I’ve already done the South Park Joke.
As for the inevitable changes to the Red V, Euan Aitken is the lucky bastard who replaces the injured Brayden Wiliame at centre, Tyrell Fuimaono replaces the injured Tariq Sims in the second row, and Matt Dufty is back on the interchange, having impressed in his dual performance as water boy & ball boy on Monday.
This has all the hallmarks of being a truly awful affair, and if the Dragons genuinely cannot find anything after the last 2 weeks, they might as well write a blank cheque, hand it to Mary, tell him to fill it in before he gets to the bank, and then burn his contract.
If you hadn’t guessed it, I’ll pick the Sharks.