NRL

Meaningless NRL Preview: Round 11, 2020

THE SECOND HALF* BEGINS.

*of the season


Thursday


Parramatta (2nd) vs Wests Tigers (7th) at Bankwest Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

After getting brought undone by Manly, the Eels find themselves in the unfamiliar depths of 2nd on the ladder, and at a rainy Leichhardt, the Tigers became the latest team to commit a war crime against the Broncos.

48-0….. by the hour mark, all I could think of was this:

It was so brutal that the Tigers faithful were applauding Harry Grant as he strolled down the sideline for a well-earned rest.

Another 2020 moment – The old hardcore Balmain fans applauding a Melbourne Storm player.

Ahead of what looks like being a good contest between the two Westies, all the fourth estate seem to be talking about is the circumstances behind Ryan Matterson leaving Wests for Parra at the end of last year.

If the Sydney Morning Herald is to be believed (And the Eels have said bullshit), Matto had a Festivus Airing of Grievances with the Tigers, with his final parting words before leaving 1 year into a 3-year contract being “YOU’LL NEVER WIN A GRAND FINAL – I WANT OUT.”

He says Wests will never win a Grand Final, yet goes and signs for Parramatta, a club who last won a premiership when East Germany existed.

Start rubbing the rosary beads Ryan, because the Tigers forwards probably want to rearrange your face.

Anyway, Mitch Moses is back to try and save the Eels from their mini-slump against a Tigers team full of confidence, and I think I will tip the Blue & Golds with no confidence.


Friday


North Queensland (12th) vs Manly (10th) at North Queensland Stadium, 6pm AEST

ANOTHER COACH BITES THE DUST.

Paul Green apparently saw the writing on the wall after he played a still-injured Valentine Holmes against the Roosters, realised what was going to happen and initially didn’t want to coach the Penrith game, but he felt obligated to see it out, then let the fireworks kick off on Monday.

Thus, after 6 years, the longest-tenured and only Premiership-winning Cowboys head coach says sayonara, and given their woeful record since the 2017 Grand Final, it’s not that surprising.

In to fill his shoes in the interim is Josh Hannay, who, like Green, played for the Cowboys and the Sharks at club level, and represented Queensland.

All I remember of Hannay was him hooking that conversion in the final minutes of the 2005 Grand Final…. He fell of favour barely a year later.

Funnily enough, Hannay didn’t feel the need to change the line-up from a team who at least gave Penritth a decent run.

The Sea Eagles finally experienced a return to the winners list on Saturday, by joining Easts as the only teams to bring down Parramatta, then they got the shitty news that Tommy Turbo had suffered a setback with his hamstring recovery, but Des Hasler replied and said there hadn’t been a setback, and that Tommy was still 5-6 weeks away, due to the Silvertails taking the more conservative approach.

In a positive, Addin Fonua-Blake will return from his ban for abusing referee Grant Atkins, although another problem was that his anti-vax status put him in direct conflict with the Queensland Government’s ‘No Jab No Play’ policy, potentially ruling him out of a third game, although he was allowed to enter the state on Tuesday, without anyone knowing if he actually took his flu shot or not.

I suppose the phrase “You can’t play without a prick” had two meanings in this scenario.

The Cowboys are going to get the new coach bounce, and the Sea Eagles finally have a bit of confidence, although they aren’t at Brooky this time….

Bugger it, I’ll go the Cows on the new coach bounce.


Brisbane (14th) vs Sunny Coast Storm (3rd) at Suncorp Stadium, 7:55pm AEST

Iiiiiit’s trivia time!

Who is the only team to defeat the Melbourne Storm at Lang Park in the last decade?

Is it A) Brisbane, B) Sydney, C) Gold Coast, D) Brisbane.

…..

…..

…..

If you answered C) Gold Coast, congratulations, you’ve won an inflation to your sense of self-satisfaction!

Yep, the bloody Titans did it back in Round 10 of 2017, in a 38-36 epic…. Even then the Storm equalled the record for the highest losing score.

That really is frightening to think about – The Storm are better at Lang Park than they are at AAMI Park…

22 visits for 18 wins and 4 defeats.

Let me put this simply – Yes, I will probably tip the Storm, and yes, I will probably check to see if they put a cricket score on the Broncos.

Random note: The NRL accidentally listed John Hopoate on the bench instead of his son Jamil.

They can’t quite put the finger in who was to blame for that one.


Saturday


Once Were Warriors (13th) vs Sydney Roosters (5th) at Central Coast Stadium, 3pm AEST

In a round where the Storm can sit at $1.08 to win, here come the Roosters at Winx odds of $1.05, which seems massively short given their recent wobbles, but at the same time, they’re playing a Warriors team who will be lucky to even fill their reserves from next week, after David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa all fly home.

Given the game doesn’t look enticing on paper, even with the two most recent Dally M Medalists (Teddy vs Roger Tuivasa-Sheck) facing off, another facet is the news from the Northern Hemisphere that the Toronto Wolfpack won’t return to the Super League restart, sparking debate around one Kiwi with 3 names.

WHERE WILL SONNY BILL WILLIAMS GO…. for 5 games.

Will he become the greatest Kiwi hero since Sunline and join the Warriors in their time of need….

Or…

Will he get wined and dined by Uncle Nick and return to Easts.

Yes, probably that.

LOOKS LIKE ROOSTERS SALARY CAP JOKES ARE BACK ON THE MENU!

Still, you do have to remember that SBW is 35 and obviously not quite , and the other issue is that the Chooks have already filled out their ‘top-30’ squad of players, an issue already solved by letting Asu Kepaoa join Wests, but there’s probably going to be a massive entanglement of red tape with SBW’s contract with the Wolfpack still being valid.

Surely in the interests of fairness, Pistol Pete V’Landys can use some his dodgy contacts in the racing industry to steer the deal towards the Warriors.

The only thing I could see keeping this game close is the fact that the Roosters seem to absolutely hate playing in Gosford, even though it’s one of the flattest tracks for scoring.


Cronulla (9th) vs St George-Illawarra (11th) at Kogarah, 5:30pm AEST

A Sharks-Dragons game at Kogarah…. but the Sharks are the home team!

The old rivals go into the game in good form – The Red V have won 4 of their last 6 to escape immediate wooden spoon danger, and the Sharks have won 5 of their last 7, only sitting outside the Top 8 on the percentage tiebreaker behind Souths (118.39 vs Cronulla’s 114.28).

Last week the Shire denizens kept up their flat track status by going from having 56 put on them by Penrith to putting 46 on the Warriors, and as for the Red V, during their brilliant throng in the ‘Gong against the struggling Bulldogs, the Dragons played something like this:

22-10 down and about to hideously lose to the Berries again, only to win 28-22 thanks to the Bulldogs being the Bulldogs and firing a cutout pass onto Marcelo Montoya’s knee.

There’s something so wonderfully humorous about that.

While the Sharks love bashing up on Bottom 8 teams, you have to remember that the Dragons got their season back on the straight and narrow in Round 4 by whipping the Sharks in Campbelltown, and honestly I’ve got no idea who to pick, considering the Sharks won very well and the Dragons were totally uninspiring in victory last week, but I think there could very well be a healthy spread of points on offer with the way the Sharks defend at times.

Call me a fence-sitter, because I’m sitting on the fence.

Final Note: Both teams will be having a minutes silence for Dragons junior Stevenson Upulasi, who played for the club’s Jersey Flegg team, and previously played for Cronulla’s Harold Matthews Cup team from 2017 to 2018, but sadly died on Monday in a car accident.

Canberra (6th) vs South Sydney (8th) at GIO Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

For the third time in as many weeks, the Raiders play a team they met in last year’s finals series, with the Rabbits coming to town in a rematch of the Preliminary Final, albeit with about 1/10th of the crowd from that Friday night classic.

Also for the third week running, the Raiders are giving a debut to a junior, this time Harley Smith-Shields, who sounds like a motorcycle crossed with a generic Pom, which would’ve made him perfect for a Raiders team.

If only he was a Geordie…. could have called himself Harley South-Shields.

After Sticky pulled his team up from the pit of despair for their best win of 2020, and probably the best of any team this year against the Roosters at the SCG, the Raiders suddenly have a flicker of hope for 2020 in the face of so many injuries, and they threw up the big surprise on Tuesday – John Bateman was named in the reserves, the closest he’s come to playing since last year’s Grand Final, as he looks ready to rumble Michael Buffer style after shoulder surgeries.

In team news, Nick Cotric announced he’ll go to Canterbury from 2021, which coincides with the Dogs releasing a pissed off Corey Harawira-Naera, who could realistically sign with the Raiders (Where he apparently wants to go) between now and Tuesday, and play in Round 12 when his suspension ends, giving some much-needed depth in the forward pack.

Meantime, Souths simply left it too late against the Knights, and to use the old cliche, you simply can’t play 20 minutes out of the 80 against a Top 8 team, but the way they finished the game was a positive, although they’ve lost even more fire power with James Roberts and Ethan Lowe both gone for the rest of the year.

Combine that with the likes of Latrell Mitchell suspended for another week, Souths are almost as bare-boned as I joke about the Raiders being.

Not that it changed my original tip, which was always going to be the Green Machine at home in a close contest.


Sunday


Newcastle (4th) vs Canterbury (16th) at McDonald Jones Stadium, 2pm AEST

The Knights reclaimed their spot in the Top 4 on Saturday evening with Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best (Yes he is) bouncing back to lead the Novocastrians to a tough win over the Rabbits, and fair dinkum, Adam O’Brien’s steel-clad troops are never going to get a better chance than Sunday to stay there for another week.

Case in point, they’re unchanged from last Saturday, and with the Dogs knowing nothing but defending, they’ll have to bar up for another defensive fistfight like the Parra game was.

With Dean Pay freed from the Kennel, Steve Georgallis took over, but same old story, the Dogs were their own worst enemy in The ‘Gong with that blown 22-10 lead to lose on the last play to St George-Illawarra.

Funnily enough, that was also the second time they’d scored exactly 22 points against the Dragons, which is still their biggest score for the year.

Off-field has been where the fun is at for the Berries – Trent Barrett was officially confirmed as the Head Coach from 2021 until at least 2023, which somehow looks even less promising than his final season at Manly, the club finally made a key signing with the aforementioned Cotric deal, and Corey Harawira-Naeara was released as requested after being reinstated to the game, while Jayden Okunbor wanted to stay at the club to try and undo the damage he did to everyone’s public image for the Port Macquarie love shack.

I noticed in their press release that the Berries mentioned Okunbor “Has pledged to offer his time to be involved in a full re-integration into the Bulldogs Community program.”

Obviously school visits will be off-limits.

Anyway, I think the Knights will be good enough to bank another 2 points.

Gold Coast (15th) vs Penrith (1st) at Cbus Super Stadium, 4pm AEST

Dylan Edwards and Api Korisau may be missing for Penrith but I just can’t convince even my fickle brain to tip the Titans, especially with the Panthers’ top notch ability to win ugly.


Ladder

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