NRL

Meaningless NRL Preview: Round 16, 2020

By any chance, was Justin Hodges training Jeff Horn?

Taking a look at this week’s games, and good golly Miss Molly, there are at least 4 pieces of totally uninspiring television between now and Sunday evening.


Thursday


Parramatta (3rd) vs South Sydney (7th) at Bankwest Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

The team who shut out but could barely score against a crippled Storm team, playing the team who put up 56 points on a crippled Manly team.

Despite having a full squad to pick from, a rare luxury in this year of injury lists resembling episodes of E.R, the Eels have ironically fallen away in attack, while their defence has been the stingiest in the business, which has led to a month of footy that could put a glass eye to sleep.

They may be creating more question marks than questions answered, but at least they’re winning.

Now on a 4 game winning run, Souths go in to their latest litmus test (Minus Alex Johnston), having produced their best attacking performance in this Latrell at fullback experiment by a street, and their best scoring performance since the Seibold year of 2018, which was capped off by Adam Reynolds reminding everyone that he’s probably the best goalkicker since the heady days of Hazem El-Masri.

Of course, while this Souths team have beaten 4 flailing opponents, their record against the current Top 8 teams is still very ordinary, having only knocked off the Sharks way back in Round 1, which feels like comparing BC to AD considering what happened After Round 2.

The Bunnies are firmly in the Sharks club of beating up weak teams and getting beaten up by the big boys, so until I see evidence to the contrary, which could very well come tonight, I have to take the Eels at the Fortress.

AT THE MOMENT, I AM SEEING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, BECAUSE SOUTHS ARE 10-0 UP.


Friday


St George-Illawarra (10th) vs Gold Coast (13th) at Kogarah Oval, 6pm AEST

Another riveting edition of the ‘Rat’s Arse Cup’ to fill the Friday 6pm game.

The Dragons started life under Dean Young with a rather entertaining and close win against the Broncos, making it 2 wins in a row by a combined 6 points, as the search gets underway to see which former Dragon will succeed Mary, although a left-field and totally sensible option is Anthony Griffin, whose soul has floated through the coaching netherworld since Gus Gould axed him from Penrith in late 2018.

Of course, Paul Vaughan was suspended for 2 games as part of the crusher crackdown, a slight improvement on his last 2 game suspension, which was illegally enjoying breakfast at a cafe.

Despite their recent positive performances, the Titans were well-beaten by a much better Raiders team up at Robina, although I thought it was a solid bit of shade from the club towards their older brothers up the Highway to re-sign Justin Holbrook until 2024, on the same day the Broncos parted company with Anthony Seibold.

Who’d have thought after the opening 2 rounds of 2020, that the Titans would be giving the Broncos a thumping in the Stability Stakes…

Which is definitely not being run at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

The Titans haven’t recorded a win in Sydney since they knocked off Manly in Round 11 of last season, and to be honest, I have to think the attack of the Dragons at home is a good prospect.

Sydney Roosters (4th) vs Brisbane Broncos (15th) at the SCG, 7:50pm AEST

“Just not for Brisbane”

Yes Broncos fans, you should probably take that off the fridge now, or use it for fish & chip wrapping.

It was highly enjoyable for everyone outside of Queensland, but the Anthony Seibold ‘error’ at Red Hill has reached its 7-figure finale, and at the end of the day, the simple fact is that Seibs just wasn’t cut out to coach this Broncos team, and his record will show that.

That said, I thought it was very rich seeing Paul White mention the ‘bordering on hysterical’ levels of media scrutiny that put a burden on Seibold’s family, considering the main drivers of that scrutiny ARE THE MAJORITY OWNERS OF THE CLUB.

The head coach may be gone, but cutting out a so-called cancer (An actual quote from the No.1 private shareholder) isn’t going to change the heart of the problem.

Red Hill is riddled with cancerous personalities who only look out for their own arses and won’t hold themselves accountable.

The suits in the front office who hired him, the senior players cracking the sads, old boys – Until someone goes in there with a Bowie Knife and cuts them all out and the culture improves, the club can stick to metaphorically playing off their own goal line.

Kevin Walters or Paul Green will probably end up experiencing the same damn thing if they get the gig for 2021.

So as for what remains of the on-field Broncos, Peter Gentle was already the caretaker coach as Seibs dealt with his family matters, and it could be saying something about the attitude of the playing group, but last week they finally put in a good effort for 80 minutes against the Dragons, with the obvious problem being that they lost narrowly.

In the meantime, the Roosters turned things around in grand style out at Leichhardt by pummeling Wests into submission (As is tradition), and the good/bad news is that the troops are coming back, with skipper Boyd Cordner and Daniel Tupou straight back into the 13, and Sonny Bill Williams is like a cannon ball in the barrel, just waiting for Robbo to light the fuse, which will apparently happen in Canberra next week.

The other major piece of news – Mitch Aubusson will officially retire after 2020, achieving the epic modern-era feat of being a one-club player his entire career, and assuming he recovers from his wrist injury in time for the finals, he’ll equal Anthony Minichello on an Easts record 302 games.

Lastly, back in Round 4, everyone remembers the Roosters handed the Broncos the hiding of a lifetime with a 59-0 win at Lang Park, the worst defeat in Broncos history, and looking back, it was the Roosters at their fearsome best, just before all the injuries started kicking in.

Fortunately for the Broncs, it probably won’t end up being 59-0, but I still feel the competition points will be heading to Bondi.


Saturday


Once Were Warriors (12th) vs Newcastle (6th) at Scully Park, Tamworth, 3pm AEST

At last, the Tamworth Warriors get to play a game in their adopted quarantine home town.

Of course, what many of us don’t know is that the people of Tamworth named the ground Scully Park as a nod to X-Files protagonist Dana Scully, as they were such fans of Gillian Anderson and the show.

It’s appropriate, because some residents of the town are regularly mistaken for extraterrestrials.

After that comeback win against the Doggies on Sunday, the Warriors have actually hit some decent form – They’ve now won 3 of their last 4 games to jump up to 12th, and that only defeat was by a converted try to a Panthers team who haven’t lost in bordering on 3 months.

It’s good reward for the consistent decent performances they’ve put in under Todd Payten, always punching above their weight division.

Now firmly entrenched in the Top 8 with 3 consecutive wins, the Knights managed to produce one of the worst shutouts the league has ever seen against the Cowboys, although in the process they lost Blake Green, who tore his ACL just a week short of playing his former team.

First they were losing all of their No.9s, now they’ve lost their No.6, which is an upside down No.9.

Ironically, it’ll be another former Warrior in Mason Lino who replaces Green.

Straying back to the topic of shutouts, the Knights also put one on the Warriors back in Round 1, in what was the dream start to life under Adam O’Brien, as the Warriors first received the news that they effectively couldn’t go back to New Zealand.

Once again, as Gary Harley would say, the favourite is the favourite for a reason, and I’ll take the Knights.

Cronulla (8th) vs North Queensland (14th) at Kogarah Oval, 5:30pm AEST

The Sharks against a Bottom 8 team?

Count me in.

The league’s leading try-maker in Shaun Johnson sat out last weekend, and definitely showed in the Sharks attacking out in Penrith, as they only managed a pair of tries, which couldn’t mask up their usual weak defence, as the Panthers took them out behind the woodshed for the second time in 6 weeks.

Anyway, SJ is back, so I’d feel confident the Sharks will be back swimming along the wings of Kogarah.

Meantime, the Cowboys miserable run continued as they were kept scoreless in the Hunter, marking the end of an 8 year, 221 game try-scoring streak, the longest by any team in First Grade History.

Josh Hannay – Ending records that Paul Green set.

With the way the Sharks defend, they’ll be morals to score a try on Saturday evening, especially with Val Holmes back, but the problem is, with every try they score, the Sharks are a good chance of scoring 2.

Penrith (1st) vs Wests Tigers (9th) at Panthers Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

Who could forget the last time the Panthers and Tigers met in the War Of Ivan Cleary.

First of all, the Panthers won, and Ivan blew the kiss of death to an irate Tigers fan:

And Joey Leilua decided to plant a high shot on Dylan Edwards, because his brain compelled him to.

That game was just one of the 10 consecutive games the Panthers have now won, moving them a crucial 3 points clear ahead of Melbourne and Parra with 5 games remaining, and the main stat behind the Panthers ball-tearing run through the league is one of the more remarkable defensive records of the 21st Century:

They haven’t conceded a single point in the opening 20 minutes of their last 14 games (A record since advanced stats began), and they’ve scored the opening try in all of those games.

And the one time they conceded the opening try, they still won, and even when they’ve been behind, they’ve come back and won on all bar one occasion.

Although, the question remains how they’ll go without two deadset guns in Viliame Kikau and Api Korisau, because the Panthers attack really has suffered without Big Billy on the field.

As for the team Ivan left via text message, the Tigers’ finals chances were just about put to sleep by the Roosters, who creamed them in two devastating periods of both halves, and with the Murderers Row of opponents they have coming up to end 2020, they’ll struggle to even finish 9th, as they’re all but certain to make it 9 consecutive years missing the finals.

Panthers + Foot Of The Mountains = Win.


Sunday


North of Melbourne Storm (2nd) vs Manly (11th) at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 4pm AEST

Another edition of one of modern rugby league’s fiercest rivalries, and aren’t the people of Kawana Waters in for a treat watching both forward packs leave each other with broken jaws.

As Craig Bellamy deals with so many injuries that Marcus Bai ‘probably’ almost had to come out of retirement, the Storm were shut out for the first time in 6 years by the Eels, evening up the race for 2nd place, and in the background, Cameron Smith’s uncertain future will apparently be decided next Tuesday, where he’ll probably announce he’s found the secret to eternal life.

Apparently it comes with becoming an Immortal.

When asked about re-signing the NRL’s answer to Ben Kenobi, plus his brother from another mother Brandon Smith + Harry Grant, the Storm’s chairman Matt Tripp has said:

“I will fight hard to get creative, as we have always been able to do in any business that I’ve been involved in.”

The Storm getting creative to keep players – Where have I heard that before…

Unfortunately, Brandon, known as ‘The Cheese’, will be gone for a while with a broken jaw, but the good news is the old guard are back in droves, as Cameron Smith returns, Cam Munster’s knee is apparently fine, and also back are Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich and Marion Seve.

Safe to say, the Storm aren’t getting shut out on Sunday.

Meantime, the Sea Eagles season is a write-off, with the latest miserable chapter being the 56 points Souths put on them on Saturday night, although they’ve apparently struck a diamond in a sea of injury-riddled crap, as Albert Hopoate, another one of John Hopoate’s sane offspring, was recalled from his Warriors loan and put straight on the bench, such is the extent of the Sea Eagles injuries.

Of course, Hoppa Snr cracked the shits at his former club about the fact that Albert had originally been snubbed for the No.1 jersey when Tommy Turbo had been injured, but clearly nobody listens to Hoppa on social media unless he’s saying something batshit stupid.

Which is every single thing he seems to post.

Anyway, this statement isn’t batshit stupid – The Storm will get the 2 points.

Canberra Milk Kids (5th) vs Canterbury (16th) at GIO Stadium, 6:30pm AEST

Oh hello, apparently those fabled 6:30 Sunday Evening games are back in vogue.

The Green Machine are fighting for 4th spot against the Chooks, and in some apparent piece of hilarity, the Raiders asked the ACT Government if they could let an extra 1,500 fans into Bruce Stadium for next weekend’s home game…

Just to boo Sonny Bill Williams.

Pfft, allowing more fans in just to boo a Kiwi with Samoan ancestry.

I thought they confined all the xenophobes in Canberra to Parliament House.

Meantime, the Dogs did absolutely nothing of note in the 2nd Half after starting so promisingly against the Warriors, and they had heads turning when they announced Trent Barrett’s latest major signing for 2021….

Blake Green, 3 days off an ACL tear.

People may laugh at them, but I say good on the Bulldogs – They’ve pretty much ensured a bloke an income as he recovers from being injured in a workplace accident.

I also wonder if they’ve been instructed not to injure Nick Cotric, considering he’s also heading to Belmore next year.

While they’re coming in, Steve Georgalis was absolutely merciless at the selection table, dropping Reimis Smith, Jack Cogger, Tim Lafai, Jake Averillo, Luke Thompson and Sauaso Sue in response to losing from 14-6 up.

Dunno what difference it’ll make, because these Raiders are taking the Doggies for a Sunday evening walk.

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