You know what, aside from the wooden spoon, I reckon the Doggies are a good chance of winning another coveted major award..
Try Of The Year.
St George-Illawarra (11th) vs Eastern Suburbs Roosters (4th) at WIN Stadium, 7:50pm AEST
While they did meet back in June, considering it was St George’s turn to host this year’s ANZAC Day Clash, this will ‘officially’ be the 2020 ANZAC Game, with the compromise date being set for August 6 for one specific reason:
It’s the 105th Anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine.
It’s also been 9 years since the Dragons and Roosters played in Wollongong, but nobody cares about that.
Starting with the Red V, and after managing to once again leak points like stigmata victims leak blood in the defeat to Souths, not only did Paul McGregor brutally drop Corey Norman, the Dragons are supposedly going a step further and trying to send him to England, plotting to bring back former skipper Gareth Widdop in a player swap with Warrington.
200 years ago, the British sent people they didn’t want to Australia, now we’re sending people we don’t want to England.
The Tricolours are winning, but they’re in an injury hole the size of Broken Hill, and they’ll once again be without everyone short of Luke Keary, Joey Manu and James Tedesco, and in a major shock, halfback Kyle Flanagan was dropped for form reasons, and not because his dad is a Dragons assistant.
What a shock move from Trent Robinson… surely you’d pick Flanno just for his goalkicking, especially with no Reserve Grade to fall back on this season.
On a more positive note, the ever-popular Ballina bogan Mitch Aubusson, fresh off scoring his first try of 2020, joins Anthony Minichello and Luke Ricketson as the only Roosters to play 300 games, and not many people know that Aubo’s contract actually ran out in 2015.
Robbo and Uncle Nick just love him so much, they didn’t have the heart to tell him he couldn’t pull on the jersey anymore.
The Dragons could seriously win this, but I have my doubts, especially against the mob they’re up against.
Manly (9th) vs Once Were Warriors (12th) at Brookvale, 6pm AEST
On to boring old asbestos-riddled Brookvale for the early Friday clash between the 2011 Grand Final teams, and the Silvertails get another game at the now razed Fortress, following last week’s harsh reality check from Penrith, which had the alarm bells blaring in Des Hasler’s head.
Apparently one injury crisis wasn’t enough for Manly, as Dylan Walker managed to suffer a foot injury in his first game back from a broken ankle, and Brad ‘Hank Scorpio’ Parker will sit the game out with a serious concussion, which is a viable cover for his latest attempt to threaten world peace.
Curtis Sironen also didn’t finish Saturday evening, but it looks like he’s made the quickest recovery from an ACL tear in history, because he is named in the starting 13.
Meantime, you couldn’t give enough expletive-filled superlatives to describe the Warriors on Friday night, as they came from behind to pull the rug out from underneath the Tigers at the SCG, their first win away from Gosford this season.
And there was no better way to get slapped sober from that high, than Todd Payten declaring he wasn’t going to coach the Warriors in 2021 for family reasons.
The other bit of news was the departure of Blake Green, who was already on the way out of the Warriors after 2020, only to escape 2 months early by signing for Newcastle ahead of the transfer deadline, which will be his 9th club in a 13 season career.
Judging on recent form, the Warriors are going to go very close to winning this, but SURELY, Manly aren’t as maddeningly inconsistent as Wests…. Especially at Brookvale.
South Sydney (8th) vs Brisbane (15th) at ANZ Stadium, 7:55pm AEST
Assuming WAYNE finally decides he’s had enough of coaching after 2020, this might go down in history as the final ever edition of……
THE BATTLE OF BENNETT.
It’s been a thoroughly captivating 2 years of shit-flinging between Skeletor and the Broncos, who presently look like a babbling bumbling band of baboons for divorcing him for Anthony Seibold, who has gone from a lovely cushy job coaching a finals-ready team at Redfern in 2018, to being 7 games away from lining up a Queensland Cup gig in 2021.
Last Thursday night may very well be a season-defining moment for the Bunnies – Down 16-0 after 20 minutes, Adam Reynolds done for the night, and wouldn’t you know it, Walker, Johnston and Mitchell all stepped up to turn it around before the half and ensure it was Glory Glory to South Sydney.
I reckon the Rabbits finally figured out how to get this team with Latrell at fullback to play well – Just go balls to the wall and play free-flowing footy….. Especially against a team like St George who couldn’t tackle a greased-up pig.
Of course, the Rabbits have the distinction of being one of 3 teams to lose to the Broncos in 2020, going down 22-18 at Lang Park in Round 2, right as spectators were banned from games and we had to hit Control-Alt-Delete on reality.
After playing well but still managing to blow a golden chance to win against Cronula, the latest wild piece of news from Red Hill is that Kotoni Staggs was the target of a revenge porn plot, which the Broncos media team didn’t tip toe around, despite posting an article titled “Staggs Vows To Bring Passion Every Week” barely an hour before the news surfaced of him passionately enjoying the taste of human toes.
As far as hilarious timing goes, it can’t beat that story about Bronson Xerri working on becoming the fastest player in the NRL, hours before he was suspended for doping.
While the underperforming Anthony Milford is sidelined by a hamstring injury, finally back for his long-awaited return to the game is David Fifita, with the added bonus of Matt Lodge to provide some damage up the middle.
I think I’ll take the Bunnies to win the Battle, but the War Of Redfern vs Red Hill is far from done.
Sunny Coast Storm (2nd) vs Canterbury (16th) at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 3pm AEST
For the first time since Round 4 of 2014, Cameron Smith will miss a Storm game because of injury (AC Joint), and funnily enough, the last time he missed a game through injury, the Storm played the Bulldogs.
As they say, time is a flat circle.
If that wasn’t enough, Marion Seve is out, and Craig Bellamy’s two-legged Concorde in Ryan Papenhuyzen obviously suffered a hydraulic failure after his 95m try against the Knights, because he’s been rested.
So Jesse Bromwich will get the chance to captain the Storm, Nicho Hynes plays at fullback, and Brandon Smith will at least make sure the Storm have a Smith starting at Hooker.
In addition, Sunshine Coast Stadium will have about 1,000 people trimmed off the attendance capacity, after last week’s flagrant breaches of social distancing.
Meantime, the Doggies smuggle themselves into Queensland on the back of giving the Eels an almighty scare, and they could very well have done the unthinkable and beaten their arch-rivals, if either Chris Sutton or Josh Jackson had bothered to ask the referee if that obstruction on Mitchell Moses (Which cost Marcelo Montoya a try) was really an obstruction.
Oddly enough, since Steve Georgalis became the caretaker in Round 10, the Dogs could very well have won their last 3 games – They were well clear of the Dragons (But absolutely shat the bed), they actually got the job done in Newcastle, and last Sunday they had the Eels begging for mercy in the 2nd Half.
But, it’s the classic case of “If your Aunty had balls”, and the Dogs are still last for good reason – HOWEVER, they are more competitive.
Even with the most-capped player in human history on the sidelines, the Storm in Queensland should never be passed up.
Newcastle (7th) vs Wests Tigers (10th) at McDonald Jones Stadium, 5:30pm AEST
I’d love to see a competition between history’s greatest axe-wielders.
Gimli from Lord Of The Rings, Paul Bunyan, Australia’s own David Foster…
And Michael Maguire.
This week, Luke Garner and Oliver Clark felt the full brunt of 18 inches of selection table steel, while Alex Twal and Harry Grant are injured, but Luke Brooks is a starter again, and so are Russell Packer and Joey Leilua after their suspensions.
The Tigers have lost 4 of their last 5, and fair to say if Madge can’t light a fire under the arses of his senior players with these selection messages, then we’re going to be seeing something resembling the Number 9 next to Wests’ ladder position come October.
Another great servant of the merged Tigers in Chris Lawrence plays his 250th game, a year after his career looked in serious danger after getting his face caved in during a training camp in New Zealand – Bravo Chris.
As for the hosts, despite a much improved effort in defeat on the Sunny Coast, Adam O’Brien has more selection headaches, especially as the best young centre in the game in Bradman Best goes down with an ankle injury, which will possibly rule him out for the remainder of the season, which is like sticking a knife through the heart of the Knights’ finals hopes, which already 2 knives in there after the Watson & McCulloch injuries.
Still, fresh signing Blake Green goes straight into the halves to try and get something going with a flailing Mitchell Pearce, and as we all expected, Kurt Mann is matched up against Moses Mbye….
Only they’re both playing at hooker.
They may be maddeningly inconsistent, bit I give Wests a huge shot in this one.
Penrith (1st) vs Canberra (5th) at Panthers Stadium, 7:35pm AEST
It’s time for the 30th Anniversary of the 1990 Grand Final, oddly enough at Penrith’s home ground, considering they narrowly lost what was their maiden First Grade decider, while the Raiders went back-to-back, and Sticky won the Clive Churchill Medal.
We’d be better off celebrating the 29th anniversary of the 1991 Grand Final.
Just as they did last year, the Panthers go into a contest at home against the Raiders on the back of a 7-game winning streak, just a win away from equalling their club record of 8 wins from 2003.
That didn’t end well for anyone associated with the Cleary family, but this time around, the Panthers look a different prospect for the Green Machine.
The Raiders are doing enough to win, to the extent that they’ve pulled off 3 wins in a row by no fewer than 6 points, and the Panthers were doing the same damn thing, until they rocketed to life again at Brookvale and put 7 tries passed the Sea Eagles.
It’s convenient that Viliame Kikau and John Bateman are both back playing in time for this game, considering what happened when they met in Round 8 last year, as Bateman fractured his eye socket trying to bring down big Billy.
It is reaching the point in history where the Panthers are about to get brought back to earth with a defeat, but I have my doubts that Ricky Stuart’s vaunted siege mentality will hold up here, considering the Panthers haven’t had a dodgy refereeing decision go their way against the Raiders in recent history.
Not that I can remember.
Gold Coast (14th) vs North Queensland (13th) at Cbus Super Stadium, 2pm AEST
TIME FOR ANOTHER ALL-QUEENSLAND CRIPPLE FIGHT
Anyway, with captain Michael Morgan back and the Cowboys absolutely owning the Titans of late… I think the Cowboys can retain their crown of Least Crap Team in Queensland.
Cronulla (6th) vs Parramatta (3rd) at Kogarah, 4pm AEST
I’m genuinely interested to see how this one will end up, because the Sharks, even with several injuries, are up and about with a superb attacking game, but 2020 shows they have a very sketchy record against the Top 5 teams, (Look no further than what the Panthers did to them), while the Eels are winning and in the Top 4, but they’re what you could call, ‘ Just Going’.
The loss to Manly, being good but not spectacular against Wests Tigers, and they almost suffered the most disappointing defeat of any team this year against the Berries, going from 18-0 up, to barely getting the points with an 18-16 win, going scoreless in the 2nd Half against the team currently in the cellar.
They got lazy, they knew it, and Brad Arthur was not happy, Jan.
The Eels have opted to give Ryan Matterson another week to recover from concussion, and there’s a couple of big ins for the Sharks – Josh Dugan is fit for his 200th game, Matt Moylan is back in the halves, ready to suffer another hamstring strain, and Jesse Ramien is back in the centres.
Still, I don’t quite trust the Sharks against top teams just yet, so until I get definitive proof, give me the Eels.