We’re now just on a month into the season restart, and it’s only one more week until all the clubs can play at the home grounds they used to call home until 3 months ago.
That is everyone except the Storm and Warriors.
On that note, all I can say to Todd Payten as he takes over the Warriors – God have mercy on your soul, because no Kiwi in history, even Sir Edmund Hillary, Bruce McLaren or Richie McCaw could save this bunch of Kiwis.
Penrith vs South Sydney at Kogarah, 7:50pm AEST
In a rare move for any sporting body, the NRL actually listened to the concerns of its participants, and moved this game from Campbelltown to Jubilee, owing to the Campbelltown playing surface being as safe an Afghan highway after a punishing schedule.
They beg and plead to Pistol Pete V’Landys, and he listens to the whims of the masses.
Both the Panthers and Bunnies featured on Friday night in Round 6, and shock horror, both of them won.
I say shock horror in a genuine sense towards the Panthers, who defeated the Storm for the third time in a mere 21 attempts, and it appears Ivan Cleary has figured out a winning gameplan:
Works every time, until it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, Souths have been given a pick-me-up of a fortnight to get their season restarted, easily defeating a pair of Bottom 4 candidates in the Titans and Warriors, as WAYNE starts to get a settled team revolving around Latrell Mitchell at fullback – All he needed was Cody Walker to not go full Bruce Lee on the residents of Casino, and to accept the reality that playing Cameron Murray in the middle is the old square peg in a square hole.
Thus, the Rabbits are making progress, they’re back in the 8, and it goes without saying that playing an in-form Penrith is a different kettle of fish to the Titans.
On the team sheet, Ivan The Not So Terrible hasn’t changed the Panthers 17 that defeated the Storm, and another positive for Souths is that they couldn’t possibly delay relaunching Jimmy The Jet any longer, so James Roberts will return to footy on the bench.
This is another one of those genuine 50-50 contest, but I’m thinking that based on the quality of opponents played, the Panthers will just about win.
Formerly Based In Melbourne vs Once Were Warriors at Kogarah, 6pm AEST
The ultimate battle of NRL vagrants, as the Storm were abruptly driven from their home by the outbreak of bubonic plague in the Mexican capital, fleeing into New South Wales up through Wodonga with the Albury council throwing bricks at their bus, and setting up camp in Olympic Park.
Hopefully they aren’t staying at the Opal Tower, or as it’s known to tourists, the Leaning Tower Of Opal.
Given they are a Queensland team who play slightly south of the Queensland border in Melbourne, the supposed plan for the Storm is to eventually stay in the Sunshine State and play games at Lang Park, although it’s apparently all down to the Queensland government giving them an exemption on the 14 day quarantine.
If Annastacia and her comrades are true blue Banana Benders, they’ll let Smithy and the boys stay.
Meanwhile, the Warriors managed to grab the headlines, exclusively for performing one of the coldest sackings in modern history on Steve Kearney, purely based on timing – It also couldn’t be a coincidence that they did it after his agent Isaac Moses was banned.
This was a small snippet of Cameron George’s reasoning behind plunging the knife:
“In any normal year we would be in round 16 or 17 right now.”
“This season has been delayed but the 2021 season still starts in March next year.
“Pre-season training will start in November and we are recruiting and planning for next year now. Even though we are only up to round seven, next season is getting closer and we just can’t afford to sit idle on a number of things.”
“We never wanted to wait until the end of the season and look back. We still need to plan, we still need to recruit, we still need to understand what we are doing, how we are doing it, what we are planning for and all sorts of things for next year that I can’t neglect.”
If George had waited until the season ended, there would absolutely be less shock/outrage about sacking a fairly ordinary coach, because the timing element of the Warriors being homeless would’ve been mostly forgotten.
So, with a dispirited playing group, Todd Payten takes over, and the potential successors have come flying in – Nathan Brown, Shaun Wane, Craig Fitzgibbon, Anthony Griffin and Geoff Toovey.
If Tooves doesn’t get it, he’ll be calling for an investigation.
The Storm for me, with no points for originality.
Sydney Roosters vs St George-Illawarra at Bankwest Stadium, 7:55pm AEST
On paper, this isn’t really a fair contest.
The fully fit and firing Roosters are the in-form unit of the competition, after ending the Eels’ unbeaten start of 2020, and the frightening part about their current situation is that James Tedesco, Dally M winner and the best No.1 in the galaxy by several laps of Randwick, can get spectacularly concussed and potentially sit this game out, and yet, Trent Robinson can just plug a still evergreen Brett Morris into the No.1 and the Chooks can play like they’ve missed nothing.
Just think, the Dragons once had both the Morris twins, and they let Josh go because he was stuck in the centres pecking order behind Matt Coper and Mark Gasnier.
Even Canterbury managed to reunite the boys…. Steve Morris, being a Saints legend, would’ve ripped his moustache off in disgust.
Still, it appears Teddy is an outside to chance to play, a mere 6 days after it looked like Maika Sivo had booked him in for a visit to a mortician instead of a doctor.
As for Easts’ next potential victims, the Red V have experienced the strange situation of managing to win 2 games, a perfect tonic to forget that Paul McGregor almost got flicked after the Queen’s Birthday, although in the midst of everything, James Graham has willingly given up a free slot on NRL 360 to go home to England and see out in his days on Merseyside at St Helens.
Fancy that – Liverpool get within a win of a first English top-flight title in 30 years, and the Scousers suddenly want to go home.
It also took Jordan Peirera getting suspended for Mary to finally give a game to the bordering on anxious Jason Saab, the cousin of Jordan Volvo, who had already tried to get himself a release from the Dragons simply because he wasn’t getting any First Grade playing time.
Now it’s only Tristan Sailor stuck on the outside.
Well Saab, here’s your chance to drive down the right edge with your 199cm frame and 0-100 km/h acceleration in a conservative 20 seconds.
Surprise surprise, the Roosters for me.
North Queensland vs Newcastle at North Queensland Stadium, 3pm AEST
Another gripping edition of the Ponga Plate, as the Cowboys wonder how they ever had Kalyn Ponga in the first place, rather than why did they let him go.
Ponga has the potential to overtake Scott Prince as the ex-Cowboy to do the most damage to his former club… Although for that to happen, the Cowboys would have to make another Grand Final.
It’ll be a welcome relief for the Cowboys to play at home in front of something resembling living breathing fans, after their recent foray into New South Wales proved as memorable as their first 8 years in the NRL, getting blasted by a Warriors team about to sack their own coach, losing Val Holmes in the process, then going 34-0 behind to Wests in the 1st Half in something resembling a horror movie, right there on my TV.
The frightening part for the Cowboys is that they’re yet to play any of the current Top 8 teams, a run that comes to an end on Saturday.
Right now, they’re only 2-4.
If they don’t randomly starting giving 110% and actually win a few more games, Paul Green could be left bleeding red after the knives come out.
Another thing that I’ve neglected to mention is who the Cowboys put at full-back in place of Holmes, because he is a sensation.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow – THE HAMMER.
What a name & nickname combination, everytime he gets the ball it’s STOP. HAMMER TIME.
Meanwhile, the Knights keep marching under Adam O’Brien, racking up what turned into a regulation 2 points against the Broncos to bump them up to 2nd and now half a game from the Eels, but from that successful team, they’ll be without young Don Bradman Best, who made the fatal mistake of visiting his parents, a breach of the league’s coronavirus protocols.
Imagine the conversation many years down the track about your greatest indiscretion.
“What did you get suspended for?”
“Busted Darren Lockyer’s voice box.”
“Shoulder charged a kicker.”
“High shot on Cameron Smith.”
“Bit Billy Slater in a fight.”
“Visited my parents.”
Even with Bradman back in the pavillion, I will select the Novocastrians to achieve a rare win in Townsville..
Brisbane vs Gold Coast at Suncorp Stadium, 3:30pm AEST
Who would have thought that in a Broncos vs Titans match, the only team with a win since the restart is the Titans.
And whoever wins could very well be the best team in Queensland by default.
That’s how low the metaphorical bar is ahead of this SEQ Derby.
Anyway, we all know that the Broncos are fairly crap right now, and in amidst upheaval about David Fifita’s contract and Anthony Milford offering nothing but disappointment, everyone’s favourite actor playing a News Corp journo Paul Kent claimed Anthony Seibold had lost the locker room after the Manly game, when Seibs apparently asked the players to tell him if he’s not the right man for the job, and “All but two players sat looking at their shoes.”
More likely they were doing it because they were bloody knackered and dejected after they’d lost after leading 18-0.
Seibold was asked about Kenty’s claims, and responded with a few words that could describe a good chunk of Kenty’s articles.
““I’m from Rocky, so I have a good sense of humour, but that is a fabrication.”
And, the Courier Mail have presented the amazing fix to a team riddled with massive contracts:
GIVE LUKE KEARY A $10 MILLION CONTRACT.
Yes, because a bloke 1 concussion away from being medically retired is going to turn things around and also improve their hellish salary cap situation.
In the latest selection shake-up, Tesi Niu was given the No.1 and a 1 year contract, punting Jamayne Isaako to the bench alongside Jamil Hopoate and Rhys Kennedy, Tom Dearden FINALLY gets a crack at First Grade, and I can’t help but think that Seibold is one game away from starting Tevita Pangai in the centres and putting Darius Boyd in the front row.
Apparently the Titans also exist, but their plight, unlike the Broncs, doesn’t sell papers.
Justin Holbrook has also whipped out another massive round of team changes – Corey Thompson is thankfully okay after almost having his jaw broken to go with a concussion, Dale Copley replaces Young Tonumaipea at centre, Mitch Rein replaces Erin Clark at hooker, Sam Lisone and Keegan Hipgrave are named to start in the forward pack, Jaimin Jolliffe is benched, Jarrod Wallace comes in to the 17, and much like Bryce Cartwright, the Titans decided they don’t need a prick, so Cartwright has gone to the reserves.
The Broncos have a great chance to not only win, but to actually score in the 2nd Half, but honestly, if the Titans won, you wouldn’t be shocked in the slighest.
Still, for the first time in 3 months, I will tip Brisbane.
Parramatta vs Canberra at Bankwest Stadium, 7:35pm AEST
The Eels-Raiders clash in Darwin last year was notable for the Raiders bringing back the time-honoured Canberra Faders and losing from 16-0 up after 30 minutes, but it was most memorable for Brad Arthur clearly struggling with the Top End climate, and going through enough water bottles to produce a toilet trip that lasted longer than Lord Of The Rings.
A year on, and we’ve got another round and another Saturday night with the Eels involved in the game of the week, and if they can match it with the red hot two-time defending premiers, they should be able to take it up to a runner-up still enjoying the smell of their own arse from a win 3 weeks ago.
In the wake of being overrun late by the Cocks of the Eastern Suburbs, the ladder leaders will be without dynamic forward Nathan Brown, suspended yet again in 2020, and I hope Nathan’s nonna gave him another verbal whipping, because he’s an Origin quality forward who keeps missing games through his own stupidity.
If Brad Arthur won’t tell Nathan to rein in the aggression, Nonna will.
Meanwhile, Ricky Stuart should be commended again, because the Raiders have just about killed off the Canberra Faders moniker.
Because you can’t fade if you never lead in the first place.
Last week against Manly made it a hat-trick of performances to forget in a hurry, having a chance to chip away at a wounded Silvertails team in the 2nd Half….
And all they came up with was one lousy try.
Great way to bring up Sticky’s 200th defeat as a coach, instead of his 200th win.
Still, rather than change the line-up from that defeat, the former premiership coach decided instead for a mass roasting, primarily aimed at Curtis Scott, who still hasn’t made his mark in Canberra… in fact, he made more of a mark against the cops in Moore Park back in January.
In the meantime, off the field, the Raiders are still doing what their ancestors did best.
I’m genuinely interested in this one, especially with the Raiders seemingly needing a performance on a par with their Melbourne win to defeating the Eels, which they haven’t looked like reaching in the 3 games since.
So at home, I will stick my neck out and pick the Eels.
Manly vs Cronulla at Central Coast Stadium, 4pm AEST
It’s great to see that in the time of a pandemic, the NRL is able to bring clashes like the Battle of the Beaches out to places in Australia who struggle to have sand or a shoreline.
Of course, the Northern Beaches vs The Shire is a great contest as always, and if you know your history, Manly have turned bashing Cronulla into an art form.
In 92 meetings (If you don’t include the Northern Eagles), the Silvertails’ record is 66-2-24, including a couple of memorable brutal Grand Finals in the 1970s, and last year’s Elimination Final, which ended Paul Gallen’s career.
If Sunday’s game was at Brooky, I’d pencil the Sea Eagles in here and now, but it obviously isn’t, although the Sea Eagles’ record in Gosford is a rather daunting 15-3, including 2 wins from 2 this year.
But, obviously, Des Hasler is back having to whip up a team sheet from the depths of his mind, having seen Tommy Turbo suffer another hamstring explosion which will see him gone until late August, and Dylan Walker is gone with a foot injury.
With them both gone, Brendan Elliott will play in the No.1, Lachie Croker will play in the halves with Daly Cherry-Evans, and if there is a positive, Jorge ‘The Grim Reaper’ Taufua returns on the wing, alongside Martin Taupau in front row, and Cade Cust joins the interchange for his first game in 2020, almost certainly to relieve Croker.
Thanks to Sione Katoa’s hat-trick, the Sharks managed to get a bit of the heat off John Morris with a 20-18 win against Canterbury, in a game that told us absolutely nothing, considering where the Dogs are at on the ladder.
Although, I’d be a fool not to mention Bryson Goodwin’s glorious return to the Shire, managing to play his first NRL game since 2017 after being signed mid-week, and in his first game for the Sharks since 2008, he scored what turned out to be the game-sealing try.
Goodwin by name, Good Win by nature.
From that team, there’s no personnel changes, with Andrew Fifita going into the starting 13 pushing Braden Hamlin-Uele to the bench.
The Sea Eagles have won 17 of the last 19 games against the Sharks, and seriously, if the Sharkies can’t win this game with the quality that Manly have out, they’ll have to get on the phone to George Freeman to give themselves a sniff.
And to be honest, I don’t think they will.
Canterbury vs Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium, 6:30pm AEST
It’s the 500th game for the merged Wests Tigers, and another week where the Doggies dominate the coveted 6:30 Sunday timeslot.
If that wasn’t an indicator that things aren’t looking too good at Belmore, Dean Pay apparently narrowly avoided the arse at a board meeting this morning, following a narrow 20-18 loss to the Sharks, in which they were stiff to lose, but another loss is another loss.
As I have said on here before, the Dogs gave Pay a shit sandwich from the get go thanks to those back ended contracts from the end of Des Hasler’s tenure, and to try and pin their failings on him is very bloody rich.
With all the talk about Pay’s future and an apparent push to get Craig Bellamy or WAYNE Bennett for 2021, the playing group are still determined to repay the faith that Pay has put in them, and that’s the least they could do.
From the Sharks defeat, Christian Crichton was suspended for an off the ball shoulder charge on Matt Moylan, and he should use his time off to learn from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak about how to properly destroy human life within the laws of the game.
Seriously, even Moylan, who DWZ nearly killed with one of the hits of the season, appreciated how good the Kiwi’s technique is.
Somehow Moylan wasn’t on the Sharks’ injury report as Matt Moylan (Boomed).
Nick Meaney is also a chance to play after his hip problem, having been named on the reserves, and Aiden Tolman’s quarantine ends on Sunday, which also technically means he can play if the Dogs withdraw someone.
Opposite to the Dogs, and a month into the restarted season, Wests have taken Maxine Nightingale’s advice, and got themselves right back to where they started from.
If they hadn’t faded out in the 2nd Half from that Cowboys win from 34-nil up, they’d have been in the 8 on points differential.
I think Michael Maguire needed to whip out a boa constrictor to really send a message to the players.
The major focus from the win was the injuries – Robert Jennings is replaced on the wing by Tommy Zalau, Oliver Clark replaces Zane Musgrove at prop, and Matt Eisenhuth starts at lock in place of Alex Twal, with Elijah Taylor joining the bench.
Last year the Dogs did the double on the Tigers, which is noteworthy because if the Tigers had won at least one of those games, they’d have made the finals.
The Round 21 game in particular killed them, as the Berries won 18-16 after trailing 8-0 at the half, Robbie Farah was injured, and Paul Momirovski, who did score a double, kicked only 2/5 in front of the sticks, including missing a conversion in the last minute that could’ve sent the game to golden point.
Although it is the Tigers in Golden Point, so they’d probably have lost when Lachie Lewis kicked a monster drop goal.
Anyway, considering the Dogs have won the last 3 against the Tigers, I’m stupid enough to try and tip the Dogs again.