NRL

Meaningless NRL Preview: Round 6, 2020

TURNS OUT I CAN’T SPELL INFRINGEMENTS

Mark Hughes and those warm beanies are back for another year

“I’ll always advocate that a punch in the nose never hurt anyone” – Noel Kelly

Two months ago it looked like we may not see it, but the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round is back for another year, and it may be a bit quieter this season, but, even a pandemic can’t stop the good work of Newcastle hero Mark Hughes, with his good mate and former captain Paul ‘The Chief’ Harrogan in tow.

It’d be a nice touch if all the cardboard cutouts are wearing a beanie this weekend.

Another major bit of news is that crowds are allowed back in Queensland, which means 2,000 people can go to Suncorp this Saturday and witness the only local team in action North of the Tweed this weekend…

And one for the grubs – Top player agent Isaac Moses, agent for the likes of Cam Smith, John Bateman, Anthony Siebold + a majority of the Broncos, and previously James Tedesco, had his accreditation revoked by the NRL for telling former Eels skipper Tim Mannah to lie to the NRL Integrity & Compliance Unit, during a 2017 investigation about third-party deals during the Eels’ salary cap breaches.

Given some of the shit Moses has pulled over the years – Playing a huge part in the Storm Salary Cap breaches (Which he was banned for), the Eels salary cap breaches (Which has done him in here), and effectively extorting Mitch Moses, Tedesco and Aaron Woods out of Wests Tigers, all I can say is…

“I’m… I’m sorry about that.”

Of course, the important note to make (As stated by the NRL) is that Moses will still be able to operate if he lodges an appeal to the independent Appeals Committee, and is granted a leave to appeal.


Thursday


Newcastle vs Brisbane at Central Coast Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

The ‘Coached By Wayne Bennett Who Left Us In A Massive Hole’ Cup.

Given Mark Hughes’ history with the Knights, highlighted by playing in both premiership wins, this would’ve been the centre piece of the Beanies for Brain Cancer Round, and I for one, would’ve loved to have seen Kalyn Ponga playing in a beanie instead of his helmet, just for a laugh.

Sure, it probably wouldn’t be a laugh if he ended up getting concussed, especially after signing a $4.4m mega deal with the Novocastrians, ending the wet dream of playing for the All Blacks at the 2023 World Cup.

The formerly unbeaten Knights were blown away by the Storm’s opening half pressure, going 18-0 down just before the half, and a daring 2nd Half comeback didn’t quite work out, helped in part by Ponga somehow not realising he had a 2 player overlap to his right at 18-2 down.

In fairness, Bradman Best did score minutes later, and either way, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference to the result.

Lachie Fitzgibbon returns from injury to the starting 13, putting Aidan Guerra back on the bench and dropping Brodie Jones, and the other facet is that former Bronco Andrew McCullough faces off against the team he spent half his life with – Up until a month ago.

What a funny journey that was… the Broncos had Jake Turpin and McCullough, then they let McCullough go because he realised he had been surpassed by Turpin, then Turpin broke his leg at training, and then they signed Isaac Luke after he walked out on the Dragons.

From one slightly past his prime hooker to another – Time truly is a flat circle.

After letting the 18-0 lead slip in Gosford last week against Manly, Kotoni Staggs became the latest Bronco to suffer an injury at training, pulling his hamstring and putting him on ice for the next month, although, the big plus is that skipper Alex Glenn is finally ready to play after his gruesome leg wound, and Tevita Pangai Jnr is back at last, after his Round 1 suspension for a late hit on Justin O’Neill put him on the sidelines for 4 games, which ended up being 3 months, which is probably going to be the length of his next suspension if he crosses the line again.

Last week definitely showed the Broncos have a light at the end of the tunnel, but for Know, I’ll take the Novocastrians in a close one, which would give them three wins in a row in


Friday


South Sydney vs Once Were Warriors at Bankwest Stadium, 6pm AEST

After last week’s performances from both teams, this actually looks like a decent contest, as one of these teams will string together a rare case of back-to-back wins.

Aside from things finally clicking last Saturday, Souths were back in the news when they officially defeated Rugby Australia to the signature of 16-year-old physical freak Joseph Suaalii to a $1.7m 3-year deal, which can’t be activated until he turns 17 on August 1, and under NRL rules, he can’t debut until he turns 18.

To don my Captain Obvious cape, it’s a record deal for a kid that can’t even drink or play the pokies, but the wraps on him are like few juniors we’ve ever seen, having represented New South Wales in ‘leeg’, Union, basketball, and Australian Rules.

With Joseph’s signing and Josh Addo-Carr eyeing up a return to Souths, I think Dane Gagai could be in line for a ‘medical retirement’ to magically free up cap space.

On the team front, WAYNE still has James Roberts waiting in the reserves, but decided now isn’t the time to light the fuse on Jimmy the Jet, which is mainly due to fitness concerns – On that note, it’s an unchanged 17 from the Titans win.

Meanwhile, the Once Were Auckland Warriors produced their highest score since Round 1 of last year, in yet another wild performance against the rhinestone Cowboys, rattling on 7 tries, including a hat-trick to Kodi Nikorima, which ended up being the second-best hat-trick of the Round after James Tedesco stepped on to Bankwest on Monday.

They’ve also named an unchanged 17, although there is a distinct possibility that first choice back David Fusitu’a could play at last, after staying in Auckland for personal reasons when the team went to Tamworth, completing quarantine, and getting himself back to fitness.

The Warriors are the old Forrest Gump box of chocolates – You never know what you’re gonna get.

Considering this isn’t in Gosford, I will take the Rabbits.

Penriff vs Melbourne at Campbelltown, 7:55pm AEST

If losing last week’s grudge match with Parramatta after leading 10-0 with 20 minutes remaing wasn’t tough enough for The Riff, now they have have to face their deepest darkest fear.

Quick hint – It’s wearing purple (With a shade of white), and it’ll be on the other side of the field on Friday evening.

The Storm are back playing at their familiar fearsome level, evidenced by their manhandling of the upstart Knights within 20 minutes at Gosford, and the main reason they got back there, according to Jim Henson’s workshop, aka NRL 360, is because Craig Bellamy found a way to get Cameron Smith back playing in his preferred position.

Of pocket referee.

Cameron has demonstrated many times through his distinguished career that the force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.

And people hate him for it (And for a host of other reasons), but all I can say is keep going Smithy, and give everyone the finger after you get a penalty just to rub it in.

On the team front, Dylan Edwards returns from injury at fullback, demoting Caleb Aekins to the reserves, Liam Martin replaces the injured Kurt Capewell (Gone for 10 weeks with a knee injury) in the back row and Billy Burns slots in to the interchange.

The Storm haven’t changed their 17, although Jahrome Hughes was back in record time from hand surgery, making the extended bench, but remains unlikely to play.

It’s probably not surprising to some people, but the Storm have won 18 of the last 20 games against Penrith (26-8 all-time) dating back to 2006, although one of those 2 wins for the Panthers was in Melbourne at the end of 2018, which cost the Storm a hat-trick of minor premierships after the Roosters boiled the lowly Eels the next day.

The Storm got their revenge in Bathurst last year, and I think the end result will be the exact same here.


Saturday


Gold Coast vs St George-Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium, 3pm AEST

If you wanted to get a new fan interested in the game of rugba leeg, probably don’t show them this game.

The only piece of news ahead of the Titans return to the happy hunting ground of Lang Park, and the Dragons bid to go back-to-back, is that James Graham (Who is named to start for Saints on Saturday) is officially in discussions to return home to England and the Super League ASAP, with the likely destination of his old stomping ground of St Helens, who have a starting spot free after Luke Thompson was signed by Canterbury.

It’s been coming – The only impact I’ve seen from Graham this year is on NRL 360 every Tuesday.

Still, it’s another chapter in the Kogarah exodus – Tyson Frizell is off to Newcastle, Isaac Luke left without saying goodbye, and Jason Saab and Tristan Sailor are digging their way out via tunnels Tom, Dick and Harry.

Anyway, I couldn’t care less.

Probably St George.

Wests Tigers vs North Queensland at Campbelltown, 5:30pm AEST

It’s been 15 years since the Tigers took on the Cowboys in that memorable 2005 Grand Final, and I can’t not play THAT Benji Marshall flick pass, complemented by Pat Richards face palming Rod Jensen into oblivion.

That Tigers team was bloody brilliant to watch.

In the decade and a half since, there’s only been 1 Tigers-Cowboys game without a player from that decider, thanks mainly to Benji, Robbie Farah and Johnathan Thurston…. plus Pat Richards after he made that comeback.

The outlier was Round 25 of 2017, when Marshall was still at St George, Farah had walked over to Souths after the NSW Cup dropping by Jason Taylor in 2016, and Thurston buggered his shoulder in Origin II and missed the Cowboys’ Grand Final run.

Saturday could very well become the second game, with Marshall still stuck on the reserves list, as Mad Madge tries to stamp his authority on Concord to get a rise out of his players by ringing the changes – Last week it was Benji, now it’s Chris Lawerence.

In fairness, he did get a solid defensive performance in response for at least a half against the Raiders…

Then Russell Packer happened.

Additional team changes include Robert Jennings returning to the wing for Tommy Talau, Luke Garner replaces Lawrence in the second row, and Matt Eisenhuth and Sam McIntyre go on to the bench, replacing Alex Seyfarth and Packer, who was rubbed out for 2 games.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ spine was already a mess with their injuries, and with Valentine Holmes busting his ankle last weekend and the Warriors running in try after try on the last tackle, their current spine could best described as Christopher Reeve, and it appears stem cell research won’t be able to turn things around for the Cowboys, either.

In addition to Holmes, Jordan McLean was finished with a calf injury and Tom Gilbert was suspended, which all means rookie Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow starts at fullback, ‘Billy’ Connelly Lemuelu goes straight on to the wing, Francis Molo starts at prop, and Ben Hampton, Corey Jensen (No relation to Rod) and Peter Hola join the interchange.

In the desperation stakes, I’ve probably got to take Wests to win it for Noel Kelly.

Sydney Roosters vs Parramatta at Bankwest Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

This is it.

On a sheet of paper, it’s the game of the restarted season, especially for the Eels, who will put their credibility as a premiership fancy on the line against the two-time defending premiers.

For the Roosters, it’s probably just Saturday, but I’m just talking crap as per usual, because Trent Robinson probably knows his players better than me.

On another note that probably perked a bit of interest at the Eels, Tuesday was Peter Sterling’s 60th birthday!

Why not reminisce about Sterlo’s numerous deeds on the playing field with this touching VHS tribute after he retired, complete with comments from Supercoach Jack Gibson, and Bette Midler ringing out in the background.

That said, with the way the Eels have been challenged in their 2 most recent outings, they’ll probably have to rub Sterlo’s head for good luck, because the Tricolours have come back from the lockdown like a hurricane that can’t be stopped by a nuclear warhead.

It’s probably a good thing that the NRL didn’t listen to Uncle Nick Politis and reset the competition, because holy moly, the Chooks would be ahead by a half-century on points differential, but thanks to that 2 game handicap, they’re in 6th.

In the 3 games since the restart, albeit against teams who aren’t exactly the positive kind of ‘hot shit’ right now, the champs have won by a combined 129-18, rattling on 95 unanswered points across those 3 games, as they take to the new 6 again rules like a duck to water.

Having been shot out of a cannon, Dally M Medalist James Tedesco scored a double against Souths to go with his 314 metres, then got a precautionary night off against Brisbane, then returned with a casual hat-trick and 194 metres against the Bulldogs, just to remind everyone who really is the Number One of all the No.1s in the game.

Plus, thanks to their fetish for scoring, Kyle Flanagan has rocketed up to lead the point scorers table with 62 points, and the bloke in 2nd will be on the other side of the field – Mitch Moses is on 47.

Despite getting a reduced break after the Bulldogs game was moved with that COVID scare, the Chooks did manage to give the forwards a bit of rest, and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves didn’t even play, and he’ll be back nice and fresh for Saturday to do battle with the cement heads in the Eels forward pack.

In short, pretty much only this Roosters team could make an unbeaten Eels team, with the best defensive record in the game, and the 2nd best attack, start as an underdog.

Still, it should be argued that the Eels have taken on tougher opposition than the Chooks since the restart (A common link being them both pouring acid on the Broncos), and they’ve passed every test thus far.

Last week, the Panthers were all over their attack for an hour in the Derby, and yet, the moment Waqa Blake rejected Stephen Crichton into oblivion down the right edge, they went berserk and won the game in the span of about 6 minutes, maintaining their best start to a season since 1986.

As Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United teams can attest, good teams find ways to win when they’re playing like a busted arse.

Big tick to Brad Arthur on that front.

And, if extra rest means anything, the Eels have the clear edge, with 2 extra days, which could prove key in the final 20 minutes.

From the derby win, the negative was that prop Kane Evans was suspended for a chicken wing on Liam Martin, and Oregon Kaufusi serves as a straight swap on the bench.

Until I get a better reading on the Blue & Golds, I’ll have to take the time-honoured route of Easts To Win on exposed form.


Sunday


Canberra vs Manly at Campbelltown, 4pm AEST

Both games between the Raiders and Silvertails last year were hard fought contests, as master coaches Des and Sticky played tactical chess against each other, and ultimately, Manly managed to ‘do the double’ during the regular season on the eventual Grand Finalists, sitting alongside the Roosters in achieving that feat.

Another one for the coincidences pile – Both games were decided by 4 points.

Aside from return to the winners list against Wests last weekend, the big win for the Raiders off the field was receiving approval from the ACT Government to play home games in Canberra from the start of July, specifically the Round 8 game against St George-Illawarra.

On paper, they’d probably win that game if it was played in Birdsville… or Marble Bar.

The other funny part about that win against the Tigers – With Ricky Stuart winning in his 400th game as coach, his official record has been restored to a balance of 199 wins and 199 losses + 2 draws.

And the Raiders returned to 2nd place, which I didn’t actually realise until it the time came to write this sentence.

As was the cornerstone to their Grand Final run, defence has been superb, holding their opposition to 6 points or fewer for the 4th time in 5 outings – Of course, the outlier was the loss to the Knights.

From Saturday evening’s 17, Corey Horsburgh returns straight into the forward pack in place of Dunamis Lui, and Hudson Young replaces Bailey Simonsson on the bench, in what will be Young’s first game since he was rubbed out for 8 games for eye gouging in Round 25 of last season, after he’d been rubbed out for 5 games for a ‘similar offence’ earlier in 2019.

Huddo has been frothing at the mouth to return for bordering on 10 months, so Des, buy some goggles for your troops.

Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles pulled off the great escape in Gosford against the rejuvenated Broncos, going from 18-0 down to escaping with a 20-18 win, off the back of a stable diet of penalty goals to Reuben Garrick and questionable calls their way.

One of the storylines since that game was that Daly Cherry-Evans was SLAMMED by Sam Thaiday for his diving theatrics, which cost Brisbane a crucial 1st Half try when Corey Oates ran into the Manly captain, who went down like he’d been shot by a rooftop sniper, a performance apparently good enough for DCE’s former Maroons teammate to hand him an Academy Award.

It’s not quite a Dally M, but he’ll probably take it.

Anyway, it’s yet another tough game for the Silvertails, who will have played the Storm, Roosters, Parra and the Raiders in their opening 6 games, and they’ll have to pull off this one without Martin Taupau and Moses Suli, who have one functioning thumb and 7 functioning fingers, respectively.

Still, you can’t ignore them, and if Kalyn Ponga had a field day with the Raiders defence, then another gun fullback in Tommy Turbo is just as capable as turning on a big game.

I do believe though, that the Green Machine will find a way to churn out a win.

Cronulla vs Canterbury at Bankwest Stadium, 6:30pm AEST

This should be a great game.

At getting people to flick over and watch Big Brother.

The Dogs are a team with limited ability who usually get outclassed (As they were within 60 seconds on Monday night), but they have plenty of heart and commitment, while the Sharks just seem to be a case of the fish rotting from the head.

The performance against the Dragons was just nothing short of woeful, especially in a big game against their arch rivals, and John Morris, who was handed a shovel and forced to dig up the moment he got the head coaching job, is already being subject to rumours of Eddie Jones making an audacious leap into rugba leeg and taking his job.

Well, it couldn’t go any worse than Alan Jones popping up randomly replacing Warren Ryan at Balmain in the early 1990s.

On the team front for the Sharkies, Jack Williams returns to the starting side at lock with Toby Rudolf to come off the interchange, while Siosifa Talakai and Royce Hunt go on to the bench, replacing Connor Tracey and Scott Sorensen.

Connor of course, is the brother of Scott, Virgil, Gordon, Alan and John.

Former Bulldog Bryson Goodwin and Nene Macdonald were both signed off the refuse pile during the week, although it appears neither of them will play.

As for the Bulldogs, they were up against the best-drilled defensive team in the comp, and they were soundly beaten, although based on some patches of play they had during the evening, I would make the claim that they’d have scored at least 2 or 3 more tries against approximately 12 other teams.

Reimis Smith replaces the injured Nick Meaney in the centres, with Jake Averillo going to the wing, big prop Renouf To’omaga gets a start, Sauaso Sue goes to the bench, and joining him is Kerrod Holland, who replaces Morgan Harper.

Anyway, I’ll take the Dogs in an upset because I have no confidence in Cronulla, and despite potting this game, you just know I’ll end up watching it.

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