NRL

Meaningless NRL Preview: Round 9, 2020

A major historical anniversary for the Australian rugba leeg – Wednesday, July 8th, marked 40 years since the inaugural ‘State Of Origin’ game at Lang Park.

The story I always enjoy was that the NSWRL supposedly only let the game go ahead because New South Wales won the first 2 games under the ‘State of residency’ rules, obviously expecting that the Queenslanders from “Joh’s Bananaland” would get whipped again, with the obvious difference being that the game on July 8 had players represented based their place of birth or where they started playing.

Anyway, now armed with the likes of Rocket Rod Reddy, John Lang, and Arthur Beetson as captain, combined with Mal Meninga and Wally Lewis, the Maroons won 20-10, and Big Artie sealed the new concept for all of time by planting one on teammate Mick Cronin’s chin.

I think interstate punch-ups are coming back in vogue with all this bickering about border closures.


Thursday


North Queensland vs Sydney Roosters at North Queensland Stadium, 7:55pm AEST

I can’t believe the Cowboys have enough players to even field a team for this one, given their entire right edge defence was flattened into the newly-laid Bankwest Stadium turf by Maika Sivo and his Blue & Gold friends.

Apparently the authorities were successful in shoveling them back to Townsville to play the Chooks.

One thing has become abundantly clear with the Cowboys – There is absolutely no middle ground.

They’ll either win well, or they’ll lose horribly.

32-20 in Round 7 against the Knights….. followed 42-4 a mere 6 days later against the Eels.

If they can give up 20 points in a defeat, then the Roosters are probably going to put up a score possibly north of that numerical figure.

Despite some conjecture, Valentine Holmes doesn’t have a gangrene ankle, and will play on the wing, after swapping positions with Hamison ‘The Hammer’ Tabuai-Fidow, who finds himself opposing James Tedesco.

Start rubbing the rosary beads, Hammer.

Meanwhile, the Roosters came out on the wrong side of the epic contest against the Storm in Brisbane, their first defeat since the resumption, and to rub a lemon into the wound, they were counting up the corpses after the game, as Trent Robinson has to deal with a sudden influx of key injuries.

Radley and Verills were already gone, now they’ve lost Daniel Tupou to a long term ankle SYNDESMOSIS injury, and Boyd Cordner probably can’t remember last Thursday, thanks a concussion that will have him sit this week out.

If there is a positive, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Nat Butcher and Lindsay Collins all completed the captain’s run after failing to finish last week’s game, as good an indication that they will all play.

Lachie Lam also gets a rare promotion from the reserves for his first game of 2020, and Ryan Hall is a straight replacement for Tupou, so on that note, expect the Roosters to go straight to the Morris brothers if they need a try.

Last year’s clash brought us one of those random major upsets, as the mediocre Cowboys managed to defeat the Roosters in Gosford, as Jake Clifford kicked the winning field goal, and Cooper Cronk missed a shot from dead in front.

He was promptly retired.

That said, a year on, this game isn’t in the Central Coast, which always seems to be Easts’ answer to Waterloo, I’ll take Easts to win on the toughest COVID road trip.


Friday


Gold Coast vs Once Were Warriors at Cbus Super Stadium, 6pm AEST

One of those harder to pick than a broken nose kind of contests on Friday evening, as the two teams that myself and a majority of punters assumed would be joining the Bulldogs in the amazing race for the wooden spoon.

The Titans ‘didn’t quite’ back up the Broncos performance against a superior Sharks team, and while the 1st Half was good, the 2nd Half was a bigger train crash than the one in The Fugitive.

12-10 after the opening 40…. it finished 40-10.

Giving 7 figures a year to David Fifita will not solve that problem.

From that game, Mitch Rein is out with an ankle injury, and Justin Holbrook has gone troppo at the selection table, because Corey Thompson returns to fullback, with young Treymain Spry to debut on the wing, Beau Fermor goes to the centres, sending both Tyrones in Peachey and Roberts out of the 13 and off to the bench and reserves, Erin Clark plays at hooker with Rein gone, and Sam Stone is called up in the back row.

Erin Clark… he’s certainly the only Erin in NRL circles to actually have a positive reputation.

Despite every conceivable disadvantage, and seemingly having to ward off a player mutiny every hour, the Warriors keep on keeping on, and despite a couple of beltings and a sacking, they’ve won a damn good 3 out of 6 games (All the wins being at Gosford), which would be a better record than half the league since the restart.

Obviously the Broncos are slowly disintegrating, but the Warriors did superbly well to pick themselves up and get Todd Payton his maiden win as a coach, considering they could’ve gone back to Terrigal after trailing 10-0, but they provided us with another triumph of the human spirit.

Ken Maumalo was immense with 290m and a pair of tries, and if the Warriors want to get another big performance out of Blake Green, they should just tell him they’ve had a change of heart and that they want him to stay on for 2021…. before getting him pissed off on game day by changing their minds again.

On top of it, two big names return – Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is back at the No.1, Jazz Tevaga returns from injury on the pine, and Chanel Harris-Tavita starts at five-eighth for the concussed Kodi Nikorima .

The history of meetings between the teams is a funny one – The Warriors won the first 2 games in 2007, then the Titans won the next 6, including a final, but ever since 2011, the Warriors have won 16 of 18 games.

I might just stick the neck out and pick the Warriors to actually win away from Gosford, which will absolutely not backfire on me,

South Sydney vs Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium, 7:55pm AEST

The Madg

Who’d have thought in a game where 9th plays 8th, it’d be Wests in 8th place.

Souths may be lurking in the shadows in 9th, but at the moment, they’re not even remotely looking like a Top 4/Premiership chance, despite winning easily on Sunday evening.

Against the Bulldogs.

The key word being Bulldogs – The only two teams you’d have doubts about knocking them off are the Broncos and Dragons.

Braidon Burns is gone for the year after a pretty awful dislocated kneecap, they’re still error prone, and the Rabbitohs forward pack post-Burgess is still an open festering wound that can’t be fixed with a band-aid.

As for the Tigers, I think last Saturday was definitive proof they’ve cornered the market on the NRL’s leading brain farters.

Russell Packer returned a few weeks ago against the Raiders,and got himself suspended immediately with a Pet Sounds quality brain fart…

Then with 2 minutes remaining and the Panthers absolutely safe, Joey Leilua conjured up the Sgt Pepper’s of brain farts, and his award was widespread acclaim, and a 4 week suspension.

“Do you do much around the house?”

“Well I’m good with a coathanger”

Apparently it had something to do with seeing his brother Luciano get concussed in a genuine accident, which is quite funny to think of now, because it turned out he was fine, and he’ll probably play Friday.

Another effect of the Leilua suspenion – With Wests in need of another player with some apparent ‘X-factor’, Madge has gone straight to the old wizard Benji Marshall, ending his 5 week reserves exile.

Marshall will play off the bench as a Mr Fix-It utility, supporting the Josh Reynolds-Luke Brooks combination, while Harry Grant will get to see what a State of Origin hooker looks like, when he takes on Damien Cook.

Bugger it, Souths might have the superior backline, but the Tigers have the meatheads in the forward pack, so I’ll go for Wests.



Saturday


Cronulla vs Penrith at Kogarah Oval, 3pm AEST

Here’s another side effect of the lockdown – I completely forgot that the Sharks were playing home games at Kogarah/Jubilee while they redeveloped Shark Park and the Leagues Club.

In the meantime, the boys in the black white & blue are back into the Top 8 (Believe it or not) thanks to a hat-trick of victories, as the halves combination of Shaun Johnson & Chad Townsend have suddenly realised that much like actual sharks, the best way to survive is by always moving forward…. and chucking out a bucketload of assists.

Sure, a crippled Silvertails team isn’t much chop, and neither are the Titans, but 40 points in consecutive games is 40 points in consecutive games.

They probably won’t put that many on this Panthers team, who are absolutely in 2nd place, no matter how many times I double check.

6 wins and a draw from 8 games – It’s probably because they’ve got a brick wall for a defence.

So after the win against the Tigers, they’re still only a point away from the Eels, and Ivan has been dishing out the kisses to those who would give him shit.

Both teams lost starting backs to injuries – Matt Moylan’s hamstring exploded again, causing John Morris to reinstate Ronaldo on the wing, and Panther Brian To’o was yet another player to suffer an ankle SYNDESMOSIS injury, but with the way both teams are going, they can cover them off.

It will be an effort though, but I think the Panthers are too good to ignore.

Brisbane vs Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium, 5:30pm AEST

LADIES AND GENTS, STRAPS YOURSELVES IN FOR…

SPOONBOWL 2020

The Bucking Broncos vs The Boring Berries.

Brisbane is used to Spoonbowls… although more recently they’ve involved the Lions.

Hopefully Pistol Pete V’Landys can really throw a bit of clout behind the game and get Michael Buffer to warm up the crowd via a video hook-up:

It’ll probably cost more than what the Titans offered David Fifita, but the NRL will make it back in ad revenue.

On that note, where better to start this week’s Broncos than the Fifita rollercoaster.

So from what I’ve gathered, David, who had been offered $700,000 a year by the Broncos, was set to walk to the Titans on Tuesday evening and attempt to negotiate some kind of 1-year ‘loan’ worth $1.1m after cutting his manager, so he could then play at Robina for a year, and go back to Red Hill and sign an even bigger deal for the future.

In short, David was leaving, staying, and leaving and staying, all at the same time.

Then someone obviously laced his coffee with adrenaline on Wednesday morning, because he then decided to ‘stay’ at Red Hill, just an hour after it was reported by News Corp that he was gone.

Then in Round 2 at the negotiation table, Mal Meninga returned and shuffled the deck of cards, offering young David a record $1.25m a year… FOR 5 YEARS.

So he’s effectively gone to the TAB and put a $400,000 futures bet on himself tearing the league a new one in 2021, with a potential dividend of about $6.25m before the ATO come calling, which would give him poison odds of about 15/1 to succeed.

Also, effectively signing a player on loan for $1.1m is one of the stupidest business decision a club could ever make – Then again, the Titans did sign Jarryd Hayne for $1.2m a year, and promptly watched Hayne white ant Neil Henry, before also releasing Hayne 3 months later.

As for the on-field Broncos, well, Anthony Seibold has realised he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t…. so Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford are still in the starting 13, and they loaded the bench with forwards.

Justin Hodges suggested Boyd should play full-back…. obviously Hodgo, like a lot of ex-Broncos, is drunk on nostalgia.

Such is the state of the Broncos, that a Bulldogs team, complimented by a growing mountain of debt and a club board about to send knives flying the way of the Chairman, will probably fancy themselves a chance.

From the latest hammering at the hands of Souths, there was another major injury blow, with Adam Elliott gone for the year with a dislocated shoulder, joining Will Hopoate on the sidelines, but this is the finally the time and the place for English recruit Luke ‘The Fluke’ Thompson to make his club debut in the No.13, having crossed from St Helens last month.

As I’ve said for what feels like the last fortnight, if the Broncos cannot win this, they truly are, completely, and utterly, hopeless.

I just hope both teams deliver us some comedic gold.

Canberra vs Sunshine Coast Storm at GIO Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

The Raiders have handled the Storm like a dominatrix in their last 3 meetings, but they were all in Melbourne, and this is in Canberra, and in a case of black is white, neither team seems capable of beating the other at their own ground.

Who the heck knows where the Green Machine stand – They lost back to back games, then they were on course to hammer the Dragons, before abruptly not bothering to play the final half hour and only scoring an unconvincing 22-16 win, and now they’ve hardly got anyone left in the forward pack besides Josh Papalii and Hudson ‘The Optometrist’ Young.

Sia Solia’s face is now more metal than bone, and Emre Guler’s ankle was obviously taken for a ride, because he’s gone for 10 weeks.

Still, this presents an opportunity for the 365th Raider to make his debut – Kai O’Donnell will fly off the bench in the No.15.

That will be headache for any team – 4 starting forwards out versus a Storm pack who were so brutal last week they left 3 Roosters with concussions – Only 2 of them recovered.

Speaking of the Sunny Coast Storm, few teams could’ve conjured up an all-time classic performance as superb as theirs on Thursday night to fight back and defeat the gold standard that is this Roosters team, especially without Cam Munster…

Still, you do have to wonder how much energy that took out of them, given they had to sustain an effort that good for 85 minutes.

There’s always a comedown after a massive high… Willie Nelson would confirm that statement.

Suliasi Vunivalu is the only out, with Suliasi Vunivalu, who is replaced by Marion Seve

With the 4 recent COVID cases in the ACT, the Viking Clap will stay at a reduced capacity of 1,500, with restrictions obviously not able to be lifted to that 25% capacity figure.

I would not be shocked in the slightest if the Storm turn up absolutely knackered, especially having to travel from Caloundra to Canberra, but after last week, we learned once again that you can’t ignore a champion team.

The Storm also have the chance to bring up another milestone for Cameron Smith – He’s a win away from playing in 300 wins….. 99% of players don’t even play that many games to begin with.


Sunday


Newcastle vs Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium, 4pm AEST

After 4 months away, the Novocastrians are finally back playing at the old Marathon Stadium, and in a massive boost for the folk of the Hunter, the Knights have got a team worthy of their wild energy.

An estimated 8,000 people will be allowed into the joint under the current rules, but Knights fans who can’t get tickets will probably die trying to smuggle themselves in to see their biggest game against the ladder-leading Eels since the 2001 Grand Final.

While this is the Knights’ first game in Newcastle since Round 1, oddly enough, this is the first day game the Eels have played all season, and it’s their first game away from Bankwest since the season restart at Lang Park.

The Knights more than had the breaks fall their way against the Sea Eagles at Brooky, and despite not scoring in the 2nd Half, they were able to cling on and win, thanks to bradman Best effectively dealing with Moses suli in a totally 100% legal play that was ticked off by the Bunker.

Edrick Lee broke his arm and will miss 3 weeks, giving Tex Hoy another start, Sione Mata’utia is out with a concussion, and Connor Watson might make an appearance, named in the reserves after missing 5 weeks with an ankle injury.

Apparently it wasn’t SYNDESMOSIS.

After weeks of facing a Murderer’s Row of opponents, the Eels are still leading the pack, and in a change of pace, they were given a live kill in the form of the Cowboys, and enjoying what would be termed in racing as a “Massive drop in class”, the Blue & Golds absolutely creamed them 42-4, as Maika Sivo once again terrorised a right edge defence for fun, running in 4 tries.

Somehow, once again, Blake Ferguson couldn’t join in the fun, making it 8 games without a try.

Start dropping those strides Blake, because your nudie run is only 4 months away.

Strengthening a winning team, Nathan Brown is back from his latest suspension to play at lock, Cabramatta junior Stefano Utoikamanu debuts off the bench, and forward David Gower, after a wild journey through time, will make his 100th appearance for Parramatta.

An impressive achievement, to go with the 117 Test matches he played for England.

Huge game – I like the Eels.

St George-Illawarra vs Manly at Kogarah Oval, 6:30pm AEST

If the Dragons can’t win this, with the slight emotion of returning to Kogarah, and the outs Manly have, and after at least showing a bit of fight at the end of the Raiders game, Paul McGregor might as well get on JobSeeker on Monday Morning.

As for the Sea Eagles… well, we all know what happened after the Newcastle game, which has dumped them out of the Top 8, and yes, they were more than hard done by…. again.

On that note, their defence was pretty good, when you consider they held a Top 4 team in the Knights scoreless in the 2nd Half, but without Tommy Turbo to provide the batteries to their attack, they simply couldn’t find the winning try.

Or a a shot to tie the game after the siren from The Bunker.

So of course, Addin Fonua-Blake is gone for 2 games for those comments towards Grant Atkins, which pissed off everyone from Peter V’Landys to disabled care workers and the disabled community, given the contents of his multiple sprays.

But, in another mild twist, world-famous proctologist John Hopoate ‘hoppa’d’ on Instagram and voiced his support for Fonua-Blake, and in a classic Hoppa moment, he declared he would’ve called the referee the exact same thing.

Ah, Hoppa, he’s always got his finger on the pulse.

He will crack the shits with Erin Molan apparently mocking the names of Pacific Islander players, but supporting someone suspended for abusing a ref seems in line with Hoppa, given he did argue with the referee about plunging his career-ending elbow into Keith Galloway’s skull.

So with Trbojevic, Dylan Walker and Fonua-Blake gone, I’m probably inclined to say the Saints… But they’ve tripped over their own feet in easier situations than this.

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