I would’ve gone into a bit more detail for the Random Picks, because I neglect the NRL enough on this website, but I got called up to run the bar at Manning from 12:30 til 4pm this afternoon due to staff shortages, then I had to go and run Jack Attack until 9:30, so I had absolutely no time to give a bit more colour to the Random Picks for Round 1….
Which honestly does give me the shits, but to quote Merv Roberts, it is what it is.
Picks are UNDERLINED
Penrith Panthers vs Manly Sea Eagles at Panthers Stadium, 8:05pm AEST
Nathan Cleary is out injured for the first 3 weeks, the Sea Eagles have got most of the big guns in the starting 13, so you know what, I truly am stupid enough enough to pick the upset in the season opener, as Manly attempt to…
FLY LIKE AN EAGLE:
Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks at GIO Stadium, Friday 6pm AEDT
This was going to interesting, because Craig Fitzgibbon is now coaching the Sharks, and his first game in charge was going to be against Ricky Stuart, who was the rookie coach of the Roosters when Fitz won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2002, as the Chooks won their first premiership since 1975.
But that’s all up the creek now, because Fitz has tested positive, which goes to show even the opposition coach doesn’t want anything to do with Sticky.
Still, the Sharks won’t want anything to do with the Raiders after this game, because I think the Green Machine are good enough to win at home, and I think Ricky Stuart is good enough behind a microphone to impersonate Kermit the Frog:
Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium, Friday 7:05pm AEST
The ‘Wayne Bennett Used To Coach Us’ Cup, as Jason Demetriou assumes the helm at Redfern with Wayne’s departure, and the only reason anyone had to watch the game was seeing Souths’ record pointscorer Adam Reynolds lining up for the Broncos, as captain, against the Rabbits…
But Adam tested positive to the coronavirus last week, and Kevin Walters wasn’t prepared to play him so soon.
So with Reynolds not there, that means Kurt Capewell will captain the Broncos on his debut for the club, ironically at the same ground where he won the title with Penrith last October.
I do think the Broncos are going to improve again this season, maybe even get close to the Top 8 like they’re shouting from the Red Hill rooftops, but Souths are still pretty good on every line, they’re a Grand Finalist from 5 months ago, so I may as well start the year with a bit of Jefferson Airplane:
Sydney Roosters vs Newcastle Knights at the SCG, 3pm AEDT
It’s the big double header at the SCG, with the Roosters and the Knights playing each other in both the NRLW and the NRL, followed by a dinghy race between James Tedesco and Kalyn Ponga when the pitch disappears under 40 feet of rainfall that will fall between now and Saturday.
So for Newcastle, Mitchell Pearce has been banished to England to spend the last of his days rotting away in the Super League, Connor Watson returned to the Roosters and will line up in this game for the Tricolours, and Dane Gagai decided he’d done enough at Souths and came back to Newcastle, where he’ll do absolutely nothing for the season, get picked to play for Queensland in Origin, and randomly score a hat-trick.
Meantime for Easts, all things being equal, this’ll be the first time Luke Keary and Sam Walker have played together for Easts, as Keary tore his ACL in Round 3 last year, and Walker made his debut in Round 4, and despite losing a player a week to a crippling season-ending or career-ending injury (All the best to Brett Morris), the Chooks still finished 5th and made it to a Semi Final.
So I’ll take the Roosters to win in Round 1, and for no reason at all, here’s the Zac Brown Band singing about Chicken Fried:
New Zealand Warriors vs St George-Illawarra Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 4:30pm AEST
Ah, another year of the Warriors being forced to play away from New Zealand to prop up the entire competition, to the detriment of their wellbeing, for which they’ll get absolutely no regard from the ARL Commission.
Then again, that seems to be pretty common with Australian business… Kiwis being used for manual labour.
Anyway, unless the Kiwis can complete 99% of their sets against the Dragons like they have done in the past 2 years, then I think they might be in for a rough one, because St George actually looked half decent in two pre-season games against Parramatta and in the Charity Shield against the Rabbits, they’ve recruited pretty well (Aaron Woods, Jaydn Su’A, George Burgess, Francis Molo, Moses Suli, Moses Mbye), Hook seems to have them on the right path, although in his case it’s probably the far right path…
So I’ll go the Dragons to win, then they’ll all celebrate with a barbeque and hide under the beds when the cops come knocking.
Wests Tigers vs Melbourne Storm at Commbank Stadium, Saturday 7:35pm AEDT
After Wests had another finals-less year in 2021, the entire rugbaleeg press pack spent 3 weeks prophesising the doom of Michael Maguire as the Tigers board undertook a review of the football department, but next thing you know:
Yes, Madge is staying, which gives him more time to break the television record for the most swear words in a 1 hour broadcast, if we get another season of Tales From Tiger Town, and Wests have also gone left field and appointed 5 different captains, because they apparently struggled to put up with just the 1.
However, for all the good about them, Tigers have just one key problem.
They’re playing the Storm in Round 1, which is the most daunting streak to beat since The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
Case in point – The last time the Storm lost in Round 1 was 2001, and the last time they didn’t win in Round 1 was 2004…. When they had a bye in Round 1.
So yes, I do believe Craig Bellamy’s team are starting the year with 2 points next to their name, and I’ll also begin the year by playing Riders on the Storm:
Parramatta Eels vs Gold Coast Titans at Commbank Stadium, Sunday 4:05pm AEDT
Yet another NRL/NRLW double header, which is actually a triple-header considering St George and Brisbane are playing in the NRLW, but the men & women of the Eels & Titans will face off on Sunday afternoon, and it’s two teams who had their 2021 seasons ended by heartbreaking finals defeats
The Titans got back to the finals for the first time since 2016, and lost by a point to the Roosters in Townsville when Patrick Herbert had a 3 vs 2 overlap on the Roosters’ left edge defence in the dying seconds, only to take on the line himself and get dragged out of bounds.
Then the Eels played the Panthers in a brutal, low-scoring Semi Final grudge match in Mackay, going down 8-6 in a game filled with many controversial refereeing decisions that went against the Blue & Golds, but that’s only what their fans will tell you.
Anyway, it’s yet another Round 1 game where I have no idea what will happen, which is basically what I say in every game, so I’ll go for the home team as they return to….
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs, Sunday 5:15pm AEST
I kid you not, I nearly wrote Western Bulldogs in that title.
Actually, they’d probably be better at rugby league than the Canterbury Bulldogs of recent years.
My dear uncle Russell wouldn’t agree with that remark, but the facts don’t lie.
Anyway, it’s fitting that the two-worst clubs of 2021 face off in the graveyard slot of Sunday night, with the Cowboys ending last season with just 1 win in the second half of the season, while the Bulldogs won just 3 games out of 24, although it should be noted one of them was the lucky last game of the season, in which they won 38-0 against Wests.
In fact, prior to that last game, the Berries had cracked 20 points just twice all season, which puts into context how crap their attack was, an issue the footy department has gone a ways to fix by recruiting, Matt Burton from Penrith ‘The Fox’ Josh Addo-Carr from the Melbourne Storm, plus former Dragons Matt Dufty and Paul Vaughan, who hasn’t played since the epic barbeque resulted in him being suspended and given the arse from St George.
So to cut a long story short, it’s a game between two clubs with next to no expectations for 2022, so I’ll go for the Cowboys in the clash of ‘The Hammer’ and ‘The Fox’, and those Katter-worshipping characters from North Queensland will be celebrating to the sounds of Glen Campbell: