So as the NRL rakes in the money by fining Trent Robinson and by playing the Queensland expansion hopefuls against each other, a State of Anarchy keeps descending into New South Wales, leaving them to smash personal bests left right and centre, the sweet merciful end of the Home & Away season is here, and now it’s only 4 weeks to go until the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers play in the Grand Final, due to the huge amount of red tape the NRL have to sift through until the start of October.
The other unfortunate news of today is that the NRLW season has been postponed until early 2022… Obviously the Commission didn’t want to let it rip at the same time as the New South Wales government.
And on one final note, good luck to everyone playing their last game of First Grade footy this weekend, including the ones who haven’t even realised it yet, and on that somber note, here’s a touching performance from Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman as a tribute to all the great talent that will be departing the game this weekend, from Alex Glenn to Anthony Don and Will Hopoate.
Total Score = 138/184
Picks are Underlined
Canberra Raiders (9th) vs Sydney Roosters (6th) at BB Print Stadium Mackay, Thursday 7:50pm AEST
Another good game for the people of Mackay to enjoy, as the two most recent Roosters premiership coaches face off in another huge game in the context of the season, and the 9th placed Raiders have a simple finals equation of needing to handle their own bit of business, and hope the Storm beat the crap out of the Sharks, so naturally you’ll expect them to get too far ahead of themselves and slip up.
This might also be Sia Soliola’s last game, and it was great to see his teammates get around him after the tragic death of his mother a few weeks ago – The Raiders leadership group asked Sticky Ricky Stuart for Sia to be included in the 17, incase he never got the chance to wear the green again.
Thankfully Ricky didn’t let them down, and he’s the starting lock tonight.
Meantime, things are getting very desperate at Bondi, because with Joey Manu’s eye socket being blasted out of his head by Latrell Mitchell, the Roosters are now so short of players that Ron Coote, Bill Mullins, Craig Fitzgibbon and Luke Ricketson have all been asked to pull the boots on again.
Unfortunately they may have to start on the bench, because Angus Crichton is back from suspension, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is lucky he was rested last week, because he would’ve been suspended for putting at least one Souths player in a body bag, Matt Ikuvalu goes straight back into the centres, and Josh Morris followed the lead of his doppelganger Brett by announcing this year will be his last hurrah, as he returns for what could be the penultimate game of his career.
That’s classic Brett Morris behaviour, convince everyone he’s Josh Morris and that he didn’t already retire due to the knee injury back in May.
So as is no different to every game of rugbaleeg, the Raiders need a win, the Roosters need a win, so bugger it, I’ll pick the Roosters to win by 6 points and 6 injuries.
Cronulla Sharks (8th) vs Melbourne Storm (1st) at Cbus Super Stadium, Friday 6pm AEST
So based on the information above, the Sharks will know where they stand when they hop on the bus to go to Robina on Friday evening, and I have to say, the fact they’re even in finals contention after everything that’s happened behind the scenes, starting with John Morris standing down as coach many months ago, is a credit to caretaker Josh Hannay, who everyone would’ve assumed was utterly useless after his interim stint as Cowboys coach last year.
I can’t say he’s exceeded expectations, because the Sharks probably didn’t have any for him, so bloody good job Josh, even if this could end up being your last game in charge before Craig Fitzgibbon takes over in a few weeks.
Anyway, the Storm may have lost their shot at history and been forced to share the consecutive wins record, but they are in the box seat to win the JJ Giltinan Shield, although based on their team selections, it appears Craig Bellamy isn’t totally set on winning the minor premiership given the quality of players Storm have rested, although I’ve only assumed they were rested, because we all knows there’s always a few Storm players that don’t survive Bellyache’s Satanic reviews of losing games.
I can recall one final the Storm lost to the Bulldogs that resulted in Ryan Hoffman having his gonads cut off and chucked in a fire…..
I think he signed with the Warriors soon after.
So these are the outs for the Storm:
- Cameron Munster
- Christian Welch
- Felise Kaufusi
- Jesse Bromwich
- Josh Addo-Carr (Who is actually injured)
- Kenny Bromwich
- Reimis Smith
- Tom Eisenhuth
Those outs would make me think that the Storm are trying to work out their spine like a bloke on a medieval torture rack, but they are the top team for a reason, so I’d have to think they’ll still have the depth to win and take back their fourth minor premiership in the last 6 years.
So to finish off the home & away season, here’s some classic Bon Scott AC/DC!
Parramatta Eels (5th) vs Penrith Panthers (2nd) at Cbus Super Stadium, Friday 8:05pm AEST
Despite all prognostications of doom, the Eels reversed their shithouse run of form and ended the Melbourne Storm’s historic 19-game winning streak dead in it’s tracks on Saturday night, thanks in part to Blake Ferguson’s double, and when you remember they also knocked the Storm off in Round 2, this marks the first time the Eels have done a clean sweep on the Storm since 2001.
That double alone could earn Fergo a contract for 2022, so expect him to get it, then go back to doing stuff all.
So for whatever reason, Brad Arthur has chosen to rest key players instead of trying to build momentum, so Clint Gutherson, Junior Paulo and Mitch Moses are all being given the weekend off before the finals, while Ivan Cleary has loaded up his missile bays with star power and pretty much named his best available team, given the Panthers do have a live shot at the minor premiership if the Storm somehow get rolled by the Sharks.
And, given it is the Western Sydney Derby between the two local rivals, we’ll need something involving West….
So I’ll go with The Village People telling us to go in some kind of direction that isn’t North, East or South, because apparently it’s peaceful there.
I think that entire video was also used as the WA Government’s bid to get the AFL Grand Final to Perth.
Brisbane Broncos (15th) vs Newcastle Knights (7th) at Suncorp Stadium, Saturday 3pm AEST
It’s the last hurrah for Broncos captain Alex Glenn before he hang up the boots, while the Knights have now won 5 games in a row to secure another finals berth, so much so that they can’t advance or fall from 7th on the ladder, so conceivably they have absolutely nothing to play for before they take on anyone from the Roosters to the Eels or Sea Eagles next week.
Adam O’Brien doesn’t appear to have made too many key changes, probably in a bid to keep this good run of momentum going into the Spring, although I should note a fact and a half – They may be 7th, but as of Round 24, the Knights are ranked 15th in the league for scoring.
406 points at an average of 17.6 per game…. Even the Broncos are marginally ahead of the Knights, and only the Bulldogs are worse, although they’re on a whole another astral plane of suckage with the ball in hand.
Still, the Knights are in the finals because they’ve found a way to win close games, such as via the boot of Mitchell Pearce, and winning more close games is something Kev’s going to have to teach the Broncos in the coming months as they continue to improve…
So all that said, the fact that the Knights can’t get out of 7th makes the thought of an upset as appealing as a banana skin, so you know what, I hope the Broncs send out Alex Glenn a winner, and as a tribute to the captain and the Broncos for 2021, here’s an appropriate song – Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus!
North Queensland Cowboys (14th) vs Manly Sea Eagles (4th) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Saturday 5:30pm AEST
I suppose this game is entirely dependent on how the Roosters and Eels go, because if either of them win, then the Sea Eagles don’t have any room for complacency, which they showed plenty of against the Bulldogs, although if both of them lose, then Des is going to fire a text message straight through to the NRL saying he’s withdrawing half the team, and you can bet your arse Tom Trbojevic will be one of those players.
The Cowboys aren’t going into the off-season off a massive losing streak, but they’re still praying for Saturday to come so they can hit the golf course for the next few months, while Des Hasler’s Sea Eagles have their Top 4 destiny in their own hands, and Reuben Garrick needs every single point he can spare to crack the 300 point milestone.
Who’d have thought we’d be saying that after their opening month of the year.
So assuming things transpire as expected, you’d have to think the Sea Eagles will turn up and win pretty well in Townsville, and they’ll be giving a 5-star review to the Hotel California while they’re up in the tropics:
South Sydney Rabbitohs (3rd) vs St George-Illawarra Dragons (12th) at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Saturday 7:35pm AEST
I don’t know if you heard last week, but Latrell Mitchell may have caused a mischief against his former teammates, and as such he’ll be missing from finals action for yet another year.
Last year it was the massive hamstring tear against Parramatta that quite literally put him on ice, and this year it’s a 6-week suspension of his own making.
When you think about the fact that Mitchell still hasn’t played a final for the Rabbitohs since he left the Roosters, you have to come to the conclusion that if he wanted to spend September on the couch, he was probably better off just joining the Tigers.
So anyway, much like the Knights, the Rabbits are welded into their position on the ladder, which in their case is 3rd, and as such, Wayne Bennett has rested the likes of Adam Reynolds, Damien Cook, Cody Walker, Alex Johnston and Cameron Murray, which has turned this game from looking like a massive Rabbits blowout to a 50/50 game.
I suppose that’s because you’ve now got a Rabbits team which is a team mainly composed of reserve graders, versus a team of reserve grade quality in St George.
It’ll look like the closing credits to The Benny Hill Show:
Gold Coast Titans (10th) vs New Zealand Warriors (11th) at Cbus Super Stadium, Sunday 2pm AEST
As it turns out, the Titans season isn’t totally shot to pieces, because if the Sharks and Raiders both lose, then the Gold Coasters have a simple tap in on Sunday afternoon to get themselves into the finals, although based on what we’ve seen from Queenslanders and tap ins of late, that won’t go well for them.
Meantime, the Warriors will end another torturous season in Australia, in which they were effectively used as AA batteries to keep the season going, and guess what, with the state of crap that Oceania is in, they can look forward to not getting to play in New Zealand at all in 2022.
Cheers boys, here’s a middle finger for all your sacrifices.
So I’ll take the Titans, in what will be club great Anthony Don’s last game in front of the Robina faithful, and as they say in the classics, IS DON, IS GOOD.
Wests Tigers (13th) vs Canterbury Bulldogs (16th) at Moreton Daily Stadium Redcliffe, Sunday 4:05pm AEST
On that note, with the news that at least 12 Bulldogs are getting the chop for 2022, I just want to say well done to Will Hopoate, who’s calling it a day after this game, and we should remember that Hoppa did play in Manly’s 2011 premiership team, which kind of gets forgotten about because he went on a two-year Mormon mission after the season ended, and he played for New South Wales that same year, and remains the second-youngest Blues representative behind Brad Fittler.
And another congratulations to Russell Packer, who has announced his retirement from the game, and unfortunately he won’t get a farewell game for the Tigers, but he will depart the game having taught everyone the very same life lesson that Don McKinnon taught us back in 1988.
WHEN YOU’VE GOTTA GO, YOU’VE GOTTA GO.