Meaningless NRL Preview: Round 15, 2020

Fancy that – You tip 6/8 and think you’re going well, and it turns out everyone and their dog tipped approximately a 7.

Anyway friends, I’d like to make a comment about something that Peter Badel wrote in the Courier Mail yesterday about Anthony Seibold and his European cyber-security experts, in which he made a blatant attempt to stereotype people like yours truly:

“After five minutes talking to Seibold’s lawyer, you realise the power of cyber-security experts and the remarkable forensic analysis they can perform to expose some unemployed 35-year-old tapping away on Twitter in his mum and dad’s granny flat.”

I find your statement incorrect Badel – I’m not 35 years old and I don’t reside in a granny flat.

Parramatta (3rd) vs Sunshine Coast Storm (2nd) at Bankwest Stadium, Thursday 7:50pm AEST

From what I’ve seen of the Eels in the past month, there’s nearly no way on the Lord’s Green Earth that I could tip them with confidence against a unit like the Storm, even as Craig Bellamy’s team picks up injuries at the same rate they pick up wins.

Even as they thumped the Roosters, the casualties at the SCG got so bad that Bellyache described the scene on the sidelines as being “Like a MASH unit” – The result of the six-again rule change, no pre-season and no bye weeks.

Gee, if it was a MASH unit, the Storm were probably belting out Suicide Is Painless in the sheds after the win.

And it’s worth noting that comment was uttered before Dale Finucane popped his calf at training, ruling him out for 6 weeks, and stand-in captain Jesse Bromwich failed to have his suspension overturned at the judiciary, adding to the leadership void without Cameron Smith and Munster.

So with Vunivalu, Finucane, and Jesse Bromwich gone, and Jahrome Hughes out with groin soreness, it’s been left to Kenny Bromwich to take over as captain from his brother, which means it’s time for a First Grade debut for Cooper Johns, nephew of Andrew, and the son of that other Johns brother.

Given the family’s history of big performances against the Eels in big games, we can expect Cooper to take Mitch Moses to the cleaners.

Meantime, the Eels were only just trucking along for the best part of two months, and their recent struggles to score points were exposed by a mediocre Dragons team overdosed on emotion while trying to pull the finger out for Mary’s farewell game, dropping them the equivalent of 2 games adrift of the Storm in the race for 2nd with the points differential between the teams.

The funny part was in that raging sea of disappointment on Friday night, Clint Gutherson set a new NRL record for the most running metres in a game with 369, which is significant, because Roger Tuivasa-Sheck set the record of 368m last year in a game that went to Golden Point, which makes Gutho’s effort look even better.

Last year the Storm and the Eels met twice, during the Magic Round and the Semi Finals.

The Storm won both games by a combined 96-10, first putting 64 points on Parra in Brisbane, followed by a 32-0 shutout in that Final, best remembered for Cameron Smith slapping Reed Mahoney in the face and getting sin-binned.

Obviously Cameron had viewed The Slap before the game, and thought he was at a barbecue.

Penrith (1st) vs Cronulla (7th) at Panthers Stadium, Friday 6pm AEST

Given the Tryfest that occurred when the Panthers and Sharks played each other just last month, the folk that run the Post Office Hotel in Forbes are probably thanking Satan that Charlie Staines is out injured for Penrith, because their special of a free beer for every try Charlie scored on debut went spectacularly well on that Saturday afternoon, after he ran in 4 tries and had the locals cutting their gums sucking the taps dry.

In one of the worst cases of amnesia ever seen, the Panthers have forgotten how to lose, most recently knocking off the Warriors in the pissing rain at Gosford to move on to a club record 9 wins a row, with the ugly side being the ‘alleged’ racial abuse that Brent Naden was subjected to by a pack of absolute knobends in the 1st Half.

Another reminder of how dumb the human race can be – Allegedly racially abusing someone when crowds are so limited that you’ll be spotted and heard almost instantly.

As for their opponents, the Sharks have now reeled off 7 wins from their last 10 games to move 4 points clear inside the Top 8, after overpowering the Titans in a game that was neck and neck a 12-all, until Kevin Proctor gave Shaun Johnson the infamous forearm hickey, and with the numerical advantage, the Sharks reeled off 3 converted tries in 10 minutes, and eventually won 30-18.

Still, it could be a bit worrying that it took a sending off to overcome a Titans team that finished the game with 1 fit player on the pine.

Considering it’s the Sharks against a Top 8 team, and given they still haven’t knocked off anyone above them in 2020, give me the Mountain Men to move on up to 10 wins in a row.

Brisbane (15th) vs St George-Illawarra (11th) at Suncorp Stadium, Friday 7:55pm AEST

After the success of Lego Masters, Channel 9 are going even further outside the box in a bid to win the ratings battle…

On Friday Night, they’ll be live broadcasting a train wreck.

Let’s go through the things that have befallen the Broncos ever since Saturday night:

They actually lead 8-6 at half time in Canberra, only for the guts to fall out the backside and lose 36-8 after giving up 5 converted tries in 20 minutes.

Payne Haas gets suspended, finally giving him the rest that Brisbane’s coaching staff won’t.

Tom Flegler requires a shoulder reconstruction and won’t play until 2021, which means commentators will struggle to talk about Brisbane’s “Promising forward pack.”

Co-captain Brodie Croft gets dropped again for Anthony Milford, a serious worry because he got dropped for Anthony Milford.

Anthony Seibold told The Telly that the NRL’s Welfare Department hadn’t checked up on him in his 14-day isolation, with the League instead calling Broncos wellbeing boss Adam Walsh, which technically means they did, just not directly.

The club was fined $75,000 for the Saturday lunch at the Everton Park Hotel on August 1, and the 10 players were fined a collective $65,000.

And of course, none of these events include Seibold and his legal team getting some ex-SAS soldiers to solider through Facebook and Twitter to decipher just who started those troubling rumours about his apparent lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

Apparently they’ve narrowed the culprit down to a “Prominent name with links to current coaches and ex-players” who had recently gone dark on social media, which rules me out of the running.

Meantime, the Paul McGregor era (Or error) at St George-Illawarra ended on a mini-high with the upset win against Parramatta, and they’ve promptly gone from one bald coach who used to play for the club to another, as 2010 Premiership-winner Dean Young gets a baptism of fire.

I’ve probably already mentioned this, but after Friday, Dean will join his dad Craig in playing and coaching the Dragons, although the obvious difference is that Craig did it for St George, while Dean will do it for St Merge.

This seems like the perfect game for Young to begin his brief head coaching tenure, especially with the Dragons having won their last 3 games against the Broncs, although we should remember that it is the Dragons.

Gold Coast (13th) vs Canberra (4th) at Cbus Super Stadium, Saturday 3pm AEST

If only Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton were young enough to keep producing At The Movies.

They could’ve had Kevin Proctor on as a guest to discuss his favourite film:

Reality Bites has a running time of 99 minutes, and when you consider Proctor’s hearing started 90 minutes late, before lasting a further 2 hours and 20 minutes, you could’ve comfortably sat through 2 sittings of Winona Ryder passing up Ben Stiller for Ethan Hawke, while reading that Shaun Johnson dropped several f-bombs in the witnesses chair.

Eventually, Ben Creagh and his friends at the judiciary settled on giving the Titans captain 4 games for biting, coming to the conclusion that “Yeah, you bit him, but it wasn’t James Graham.”

As expected, the Proctor sending off at 12-12 with 24 minutes remaining led directly to the Titans’ aforementioned downfall against Cronulla, conceding 3 tries in the next 7 minutes, going down swinging in a 30-18 defeat, despite being shorthanded.

Meantime, the Raiders were 8-6 down at the half against the Broncos, but nobody remembers that, because they scored 5 converted tries in the space of approximately 20 minutes to blow the score out to 36-8, pulling them to level on points with the Roosters in 4th place, suggesting that they might be getting back playing like the 2019 Raiders, after some 2 months of chundering off the side as they negotiated a rough sea of injuries.

Of course, the teams played back in Round 1, which was Justin Holbrook’s first impression as Titans coach, and the Raiders did the damage in the 1st Half with 3 tries to none, before the Titans showed a 20 minute burst of competitiveness that they later managed to display over 80 minutes, but the Green Machine still won 24-6.

Chances are they’ll probably win again, albeit by a smaller margin.

Wests Tigers (9th) vs Sydney Roosters (4th) at Leichhardt Oval, Saturday 5:35pm AWST

James Tedesco returns to Leichhardt, but hehehe, the Tigers are back up to 9th.

The other big piece of news for Wests – Chris Lawrence, a week after playing his 250th game, has decided he’ll call it a day after 2020, after a distinguished career highlighted by setting Wests Tigers tryscoring record and representing Australia, all while overcoming some fairly gruesome injuries, including dislocating his hip in 2011, and suffering car crash-esque facial injuries during the 2019 pre-season.

Great effort just to get another 8 seasons in after his hip injury, which really robbed him of the speed that made him such a quality player.

Last Sunday, Wests did everything but lose to the Bulldogs, blowing a 22-6 lead to fall behind 28-22 with 10 minutes remaining, only to regain the momentum when Jack Cogger needlessly attempted a field goal with an age remaining, giving the Tigers a 7-tackle set that Joey Leilua scored from and Moses Mbye surprisingly converted to tie the scores, before they fooled everyone by going to Luke Brooks instead of Benji Marshall to have a crack at the game-winning field goal 2 minutes from time, which Luke never looked like missing, which would’ve had Madge thumping the desk with a degree of vindication.

Surely the bigger shock of that game was Mbye actually landing that tough conversion – it never looked like going over… until it did.

Meantime, just when the Roosters’ injuries couldn’t get any worse, down goes Mitch Aubusson with a broken wrist, one game short of joining Anthony Minichello on 302 games for the Tricolours, and in the same game, talisman Luke Keary was pronounced dead due to internal bleeding – which was hastily revised to broken ribs, and his halves partner Lachlan Lam suffered ankle SYNDESMOSIS.

With 3/4 of a First Grade team sidelined, it’s pushed the total salary cap hit of their injuries past $4,000,000, although with the Roosters salary cap, there could be just as much in undisclosed payments.

The loss of Keary is huge for the Roosters teetering Threepeat chances, simply because in a team full of fantastic players, he is the brain of the Easts attack, which was very evident in the middle of last year when they struggled as the Clive Churchill Medalist dealt with concussion.

So in effect, the Roosters without Keary are headless Chooks – Which is what would happen if Foghorn Leghorn met Colonel Sanders.

I say, I say.

With Lam also suffering a serious injury, it’s time for yet another totally new halves combination, with Drew Hutchison into the starting team once again, and Kyle Flanagan gets another crack, although how he goes without Keary remains to be seen.

On top of that, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is back, as is Brett Morris, and a young fella by the name of Freddy Lussick will debut off the bench, hoping to continue the great legacy of Freddies wearing the Tricolours.

Of course, I refer to the late Fred Tottey, who holds the record of scoring in 15 consecutive First Grade games.

If Wests lose, I doubt they could even finish 9th, so as per usual, I’ll take Roosters, in what is Trent Robinson’s 200th game as an NRL coach, and what a rather successful double century it’s been for Robbo.

South Sydney (8th) vs Manly (10th) at ANZ Stadium, Saturday 7:35pm AEST

Where would Souths be without Adam Reynolds….

Well, they’d still be 8th, but the big difference is they’d be a mere 2 points ahead of Wests and Manly instead of 4, thanks to Reynolds’ heroics with the boot in the last 2 minutes in Townsville.

The skipper started the scoring in a game that featured 11 tries, and he finished it as well.

So with WAYNE due back from his 2-week COVID-protocol standing down, in which he gave instructions to Jason Demetriou via telegram, the Bunnies have won 3 games in a row against the competition’s worst of the worst, but the more important part is that they’ve gotten through with minimal injuries.

Fantastic work by the supercoach Demetriou, who has left things perfectly in place for his successor.

Meantime, Manly keep on trying in the face of severe adversity, which is a credit to Des and his ability to get his chargers to play for him, but for the second weekend running, the dear old Silvertails were knocked off by fewer than 4 points, and Sunday’s close 26-24 defeat in Newcastle was marred by ill-discipline in an 11-4 count the Knights way, which some would claim was moreso Ashley Klein showing humanity’s natural disdain towards the Northern Beaches mob.

Brendan Elliot is also the latest Manly fullback to suffer a gruesome injury, tearing his ACL, while front-rower Joel Thompson suffered a split tongue, making it look like he’d enjoyed one too many strawberry clouds, but apparently injuries above the neck don’t count, and he’s playing this weekend.

So with that in mind, Jorge Taufua earns a recall, after being dropped for what can I only assume was some defensive frailties, and Marty Taupau is out of the concussion protocol and back into the forward pack.

This is also the first meeting between the Rabbits and Sea Eagles since last year’s Semi Final (Funny that, both rematches are this weekend), in which the Rabbits avoided a straight sets exit with a late rally to win 34-26, which was helped by Jake Trbojevic being binned with 13 minutes remaining for taking out Dane Gagai in back play.

The Rabbits in a close one.

Canterbury (16th) vs Once Were Warriors (12th) at ANZ Stadium, Sunday 2pm AEST

Could this be the moment the Bulldogs plunge the Broncos into last place?

Based on their last couple of weeks under Steve Georgalis, they’ve got their paws on the till ready for a win, the only problem is they seem to enjoy shooting themselves in the feet at every opportunity late in games.

From the see-sawing Tigers game that saw them lose by a late field goal after recovering from 22-6 down, Will Hopoate is finally back from injury, which punts Marcelo Montoya from the team altogether, while Dylan Napa is suspended, and Jake Averillo returns from injury on the interchange, most likely to never attempt a shot at goal again this season.

The Warriors have given some genuine heavyweights a real contest in the last couple of weeks – Last week it was ladder-leaders Penrith in a 12-18 defeat, which was the sporting equivalent of Don Chipp’s slogan of ‘Keeping the bastards honest’, but the overwhelming theme of 2020 seems to be that the Kiwis do their best work when they’re rank outsiders, whereas this week they’re a lukewarm favourite.

While advisor Brett Finch was removed from the Warriors bubble for getting involved in a podcast recording, it seemed the NRL weren’t done showing a complete lack of respect for the Warriors, with some news on Tuesday apparently detailing that the Kiwis would have to end their naming rights sponsorship with Vodafone, a partnership which has lasted since the late 1990s, due to the NRL enacting a clause in their exclusive title sponsor contract with Telstra preventing any competition.

Fortunately, someone in Telstra’s PR department realised that having an additional 4.9 million people hating their guts, joining the 25 million people that already despise them over here, wasn’t a good way to do business, and they put out a message of support later that afternoon.

Dear lord, it would’ve been the pettiest sponsorship clash since the Powers-sponsored Broncos were run out of Lang Park in the ’90s because of the QRL’s sponsorship with Castlemaine.

Harder to pick than a broken nose this one…. On recent form, I’ll pick the Warriors.

Newcastle (6th) vs North Queensland (14th) at McDonald Jones Stadium, Sunday 4pm AEST

Another gripping edition of…


From NRL Imagery

Can the Cowboys retain the Cup that they unexpectedly won back in Round 7, and give themselves their first win under Josh Hannay…

Or will it be the Knights who get revenge, after they went up to Townsville wearing their ‘tradie’ uniforms, and like every good blue collar worker, they proceeded to absolutely bludge their wa through the afternoon.

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