So in between the announcements about State of Origin (Even Beelzebub won’t save the Maroons), 50% crowd capacities for the Finals and culling ex-players from The Bunker, I had a look and noticed that the penultimate round is the annual Women In League Round, where we forget some of the things NRL players have committed against womankind and celebrate the contribution of women to the game of rugba leeg, with some 500,000 women currently involved in the game in some form, from Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page setting up the round itself, to Belinda Sharpe on the touchline.
There wouldn’t be a game of rugba leeg without the ladies…. and that’s a fact.
Anyway, it seems like we haven’t even heard a damn thing about the NRLW… even though it’s supposed to start in 3 weeks.
South Sydney (6th) vs Canterbury (16th) at ANZ Stadium, Thursday 7:50pm AEST
6 years ago this was a Grand Final matchup, now it’s the Bulldogs trying like buggery to haul themselves off an inevitable wooden spoon, while the Rabbits have to win to keep the home final alive.
Here’s a nursery rhyme for tonight:
Heads, Shoulders, Knees and ‘Tohs.
North Queensland (14th) vs Penrith (1st) at North Queensland Stadium, 6pm AEST
Well, it’s the last game of North Queensland Stadium’s inaugural season, and it’s a big one for the Cowboys, because the great Gavin Cooper will play his last game in front of the Townsville faithful before he leaves for greener pastures, having played 245 games over 2 stints with the Cows, in amidst the other 76 games he played for the Panthers and Titans.
2015 Premiership player, captain of the 2017 Grand Final team, a First Grade record of 9 consecutive games scoring a try as a forward – Another great Cowboys stalwart departs.
Meantime, the Panthers streak is up to the unlucky 13 wins in a row, leaving them just 1 win away from their first J.J. Giltinan Shield since 2003, and to be honest, I still have absolutely no idea if the Panthers have peaked or not, considering they’re hardly being challenged (Don’t go on about the Eels being 4th), and won’t be challenged until Week 1 of the finals, considering they’re only playing the Cowboys and the Bulldogs to end the season.
What a Saturday afternoon that could be – Andrew Abdo could walk out and deliver the Giltinan Shield to James Tamou and Ivan Cleary, and after that, he could run into the Bulldogs rooms and throw a wooden spoon at Josh Jackson and Steve Georgalis.
Anyway, the Cowboys did look improved against the Storm, but even I’m not dumb enough to pick against the Panthers, as they push on towards 14 wins in a row.
Parramatta (4th) vs Brisbane Broncos (15th) at Bankwest Stadium, Friday 7:55pm AEST
A year after the greatest Finals destruction ever seen, the Broncos return to the scene of the massacre in an even worse position than a team who had prepared for a final with a late night pokies session.
Remember when the Eels and Broncos met to kickoff the resumed season, and Fox League were so excited that they apparently had a massive share of the world’s sporting audience tuning in to what was an apparently competitive contest between two unbeaten teams.
Yeah, remember when the Broncos were unbeaten?
It was a simpler time.
Anyway, the Blue & Golds won 34-6 that Thursday night in May, and it’s been nothing but a slow downhill descent for all three of the Eels, Broncos and the NRL’s ratings.
In fact, the Eels haven’t even scored 34 points in their last 3 games, and it’s become so dire that Brad Arthur has been forced to defend his team’s extremely concerning drop in form, joining his players in doing nothing but defending.
Meantime, the Broncos are just sitting around waiting for the season to mercifully meet it’s maker, and the latest miserable twist was that Tuesday afternoon went from:
Brodie Croft will return and play at five-eighth
Brodie Croft has been concussed at training.
Give them strength, because there’s a good chance the Eels might light a fire under their own arses and score 20 points on Friday.
Manly (10th) vs Gold Coast (12th) at Brookvale, Saturday 3pm AEST
State Of Origin has returned to the news cycle, and there’s going to be an important development for New South Wales at Brooky on Saturday afternoon, because Tommy Turbo is named in the Reserves alongside his brother Ben, and could very well play his first game since June 21, with such precious little game time between now and the start of November.
Just watch the Sea Eagles instantly start looking like a finals team again if Tom does play.
The other note about the Sea Eagles is that Addin Fonua-Blake wants out of Brooky with 2 years left on his contract, with the Sea Eagles only allowing him to talk to the Queensland clubs and the Warriors, where he’d be closer to his relatives.
I don’t think the Broncos would want him…. they’re a Fonua-Blake signing away from their forward pack qualifying as a penal colony.
Meantime, the Titans made history by sweeping the Broncos for the first time, and in yet another sign the future is looking competent under Justin Holbrook, the club were able to get Kevin Proctor back for 2021 (Although he will have to play with a muzzle), and they officially announced Bryce Cartwright’s departure, probably to a NSW Cup club like Canterbury.
On that note, I believe we can expect vaccination rates at Robina to go skyrocketing from October.
Interesting note – If the Titans win, it will mark the first time they’ve achieved 4 consecutive wins since Rounds 3-6 of 2014, equaling the second-longest winning streak in the club’s history.
They’ve also won 4 of their last 5 at Brookvale… I wouldn’t count them out in this one.
Sunshine Coast Storm (2nd) vs Wests Tigers (9th) at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 5:30pm AEST
The Harry Grant Cup
Seeing how one-time Dally M leader Grant goes against his Sith master in Cameron Smith looks like being the only piece of interest to what will probably be a fairly lopsided game, although I’d also nominate the fact that Josh Addo-Carr looks a good chance of signing with Wests next season, so there’s no better way to add a couple of zeroes to that 2021 salary than by abusing Joey Leilua’s corner and running in 4 tries.
Grant may be a contracted Storm player, but that won’t stop the Storm’s forward pack from attempting to split him in half, thus ensuring Cameron Smith never gets replaced.
Grant also joked that he’ll probably retire before Smithy does…. and to be honest, that statement would be funnier if it wasn’t half a chance of being correct.
Anyway, Storm + Queensland + Bellamy utterly furious after shithosue end to last week’s game = Win.
Sydney Roosters (3rd) vs Cronulla (8th) at the SCG, 7:35pm AEST
A historic moment in Eastern Suburbs history, as Sonny Bill Williams plays his 47th game for the Tricolours, and Mitch Aubusson brings up game 303, passing Anthony Minichello for the most appearances in the 112 year history of the Tricolours, and Aubo being Aubo, he’ll just stand there in the centres and produce yet another no nonsense performance.
Based on running up another cricket score at the SCG, the Chooks are apparently so well poised in their quest for the 3peat that they can rest James Tedesco and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, and apparently lose absolutely nothing against a Sharks team with more holes in defence than an old bucket.
They look nothing short of ordinary, but credit to them, the Sharks will appear in the finals for the eighth time in nine seasons, and here’s one for the history buffs, this is their first appearance at the SCG since Round 3 of 1987, when ET and friends knocked off St George 22-14.
The SCG obviously holds plenty of happy memories in Cronulla’s history, given they were shafted out of several Grand Finals by Manly in the 1970s.
It’s the Sharks against a Top 8 team, so until I get evidence they can actually defeat a Top 8 team, it’s Easts To Win.
Canberra (5th) vs Once Were Warriors (11th) at GIO Stadium, Sunday 2pm AEST
So the Green Machine keep going from strength to strength at the right time of the season, and this good run gets even better with Josh Papalii signing on to spend the rest of his days in the frozen hellhole known as our capital, instead of potentially returning to his native Queensland and living life alternating between massive thunderstorms and sunshine.
Papa already was sitting alongside Sam Backo, Glenn Lazarus, Quentin Pongia and Luke Davico as one of the greatest front rowers in Raiders history, and I wouldn’t rule him out as being the best of that lot.
Sia Soliola also looks ready to play competitive footy, after he suffered some 7 facial fractures in a fairly grusome collision against the Dragons back at the start of July, and obviously being unable to eat solids while he was recovering, Sia had to discover what foods are apparently acceptable to stick in a blender.
“I actually tried to blend KFC.”
“It was all soft foods so everything had to be blended. I actually had the idea to blend KFC, pizza, a Big Mac or pretty much anything.”
At least he didn’t drink that blended iPhone.
Meantime, it took until Round 18, but the Warriors season is over from a finals standpoint, and it was a serious achievement and a testament to Todd Payten and his entire playing group that it took until early September to officially end their season, given they hadn’t been home since they hung Christ on nails, and had to deal with the extra emotional toll of their coach getting unceremoniously knifed.
The 2020 Warriors were like the Rasputin of football teams…. you couldn’t be sure they were dead until they were actually dead.
Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if they did a Max Merritt and started slipping away, because the Green Machine are just going to keep turning up, and they’re gonna keep winning, because Sticky won’t give them another option with 4th spot still not out reach.
Newcastle (7th) vs St George-Illawarra (13th) at McDonald Jones Stadium, Sunday 4pm AEST
The Knights are getting set for their first finals series in 7 years, and they’re also getting ready for the biggest annual game of their season – Old Boys Day.
Is it just me, or does David Klemmer look like an illegitimate brother of George W. Bush?
Conversely, the Dragons are having issues with Old Boys leaving the club, as interim coach Dean Young confirmed his departure before Anthony Griffin arrives in 2021.
It’s probably the best thing for Deano, because outside of Cody Ramsey scoring a 1st Half double on debut, he’d have been pulling the few remaining strands of hair from his noggin watching the Dragons get impaled through the stomach by a dominant Raiders team in The Gong.
I’d think the Knights will be putting in another big one in front of the Hunter faithful, considering the occasion, and the fact that they’re a massive chance of sneaking a home final, if they win their final 2 games, and the Rabbitohs drop 1 of their last 2, which could very well happen considering they’re playing Easts in Round 20.