WOULDN’T YOU BELIEVE IT – CAMERON SMITH ACTUALLY RETIRED.
Well, that was a Cameron Smith way to retire.
Win another Premiership, leave Melbourne, move up to Queensland and pull a Harold Holt for 5 months to leave multiple clubs hanging as to what his plans were for 2021, have Paul Kent and James Hooper furiously writing articles demanding to know why he hasn’t said anything, then the day before the season begins, he suddenly comes out of nowhere to help Billy Slater unveil a statue that looked nothing like him out the front of AAMI Park, and to announce that yes, he is retiring, and the 2020 Grand Final was the perfect send-off.
It was also a good move, because him playing off after that chairing off following the Prelim Final win would’ve looked damn stupid in hindsight.
Honestly, I always thought Cameron Smith would play until the day he died at the age of 137….
Then he’d keep playing after he turned into a poltergeist just so he could reach the unreachable 2500 game milestone.
Melbourne Storm vs South Sydney at AAMI Park, 8:05pm AEDT
In a perfect way to celebrate the 2020 premeirship, the Storm are playing their first game in front of their living breathing fanbase since the 2019 Semi Final, and I think the Storm have another big thing in their favour – They quite literally have never lost in Round 1 during Craig Bellamy’s tenure.
Seriously, the last time they lost in Round 1 was back in 2001 against Canterbury, and the only time they haven’t won in Round 1 in the last 20 years was in 2004, when they had the bye, thanks to the old 15-team competition.
The other thing in the Storm’s favour is that Souths seem to go down to the southern capital with the same mentality Vitas Gerulaitis had when he played Jimmy Connors.
Case in point – Vitas lost 16 matches in a row to Connors, and in 23 years, Souths have lost all 16 times they’ve played the Storm in Melbourne.
Of course, Vitas did win on the 17th attempt, after which he claimed that “Nobody defeats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row” – Bennett’s Bunnies have got talent flowing out of their backsides, but unless they decide to change their name to the South Sydney Gerulaitis, they might indeed prove that someone can defeat the South Sydney Rabbitohs 17 times in a row.
Newcastle vs Canterbury at McDonald Jones Stadium, 6pm AEDT
Don’t ask me why, but this seems like another stupid game that the Berries can somehow win and win ugly, which they’ve done the last 6 times they’ve played the Knights in Newcastle.
The Knights don’t have Ponga, and the Dogs have the Trent Barrett new coach bounce, which is similar to a dead cat bounce in the financial lingo, but obviously doesn’t sound as interesting – There will be an upset this week, and this might just be it.
Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium, 7:05pm AEST
With the backing of the Broncos old boys, Kevin Walters (With the COACH WHISPERER in tow) has been thrust into the electric chair that is the Broncos’ head coaching position, and that chair has carried a nasty smell since the Red Hill hierarchy fried Anthony Seibold without wetting the sponge, don’t you worry about that.
By default I’ll have to pick the Eels here, as Kevvy will clearly need a bit of time to get the Broncs back on the straight and narrow, and the Eels have retained most of the boring team that fell away in the back half of 2020 and exited the finals in straight sets.
New Zealand Warriors vs Gold Coast Titans at Central Coast Stadium, 3pm AEDT
So it’s another NRL season where these loveable rag-tag band of New Zealand citizens have to spend an indefinite amount of time in Australia, away from their families back home, and you might think 2 seasons in Australia away from loved ones is a long time, but Russell Crowe has pulled it off since 1985, and minus a few thrown telephones, he seems to be going alright.
Nevertheless, this year the Warriors have replaced the motivational master Todd Payten with professional rebuilder Nathan Brown, and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will have one last season as captain before he goes to have a crack at making the All Blacks side for France 2023, and on the back of finishing 2020 with 5 wins on the trot and a head full of momentum, the Gold Coast Titans have apparently formed some kind of super team with these big name signings like David Fifita, Herman Ese’ese and Storm premiership player Tino Fa’asuamaleaui to join Justin Holbrook’s aspiring young squad.
What a load of trash that is – No sporting team that bases themselves on the Gold Coast can be considered a super team.
That said, they probably can win this game.
Sydney Roosters vs Manly Sea Eagles at the SCG, 5:30pm AEDT
In light of Cooper Cronk practicing the equivalent of rugby league polygamy by working for the Storm and Roosters, you know what I’d like to see him called?
Much like the Cooper Chameleon, Tom Trbojevic seems to come and go, as he paid the price for taking on a random Tigers fan down the Manly Corso, injuring his hamstring and sidelining him until Round 4.
So if Manly’s recent history without Tommy Turbo in the team is a guide, the Silvertails look Screwed with a capital S against the team from the Eastern Suburbs.
Penrith vs North Queensland at Panthers Stadium, 7:35pm AEDT
The Panthers in the Mountains for me – The Cowboys are worse on interstate trips than Burke & Wills.
Fair dinkum, historians named that doomed expedition to the Gulf Of Carpentaria after those two, yet the only bloke that made it back alive was John King, who didn’t even get a statue for successfully traversing Australia from north to south when it actually meant something.
Canberra vs Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium, 4:05pm AEDT
I have three words for you good people…..
UP THE MILK.
St George-Illawarra vs Cronulla at Jubilee Stadium, 6:15pm AEDT
With multiple uses of hyperboles, I can say the fortunes of the southern Sydney rivals are as catastrophically bleak as they’ve ever been.
After failing yet again in 2020, the Dragons capped off a tremendously terrible pre-season by seeing their own skipper in Cameron McInnes sign for the Sharks for 2022, only to tear his ACL two weeks later, Corey Norman got suspended by the league for Round 1 for playing a live-action version of Street Fighter on January 26, and on the field, they yet again lost the Charity Shield to Souths by a record 48-16 scoreline in Mudgee.
So Ben Hunt is now the captain, Andrew McCullough will be getting plenty of time in the No.9, and with Mary McGregor crucified by the club’s board late in 2020, Anthony Griffin has been appointed as coach to try and lead the joint venture back to the promised land, although judging by Hook’s past comments, that promised land could be White Australia.
Meantime, after scraping into the Top 8 in 2020 and promptly exiting stage right against Canberra, Cronulla are expected to do as much as the Prime Minister in 2021, and by that, I mean they’ll do nothing at all.
Both teams have as much defensive prowess as a wet paper bag, but without Shaun Johnson in that Sharks 17 for a few more months, the Dragons have a good chance to start 2021 with a thoroughly uninteresting win.