I think if the NRL could arrange for most rounds to play out per the form guide as round 13 did, then my experimentation with Elo models and rugby league would be far less embarrassing. It’s less Nostradamus and more John Edwards. Yes, I’m a greasy, shifty fraud who bilks people out of their money despite the fact that you get to read this for free because you Googled the right words and flicked through enough results to land on this smart sounding site. Psychic right?
I was hoping a 5 from 7 level of success would be typical this year but it hasn’t been. In fact, this was a rather good round for all concerned. The jury has managed to eclipse the 60% margin I thought we would all be past by now but Euclid is still struggling to break even.
After round 13:
We’re on for our first full round since all of three weeks ago. There’s something for everyone, not least because all the teams have decided to earn their paychecks by playing. Even for the neutrals – assuming they exist in this sport, in which case they should just pick a team and get on with it – there’s plenty of even match-ups anticipated. That makes it incredibly difficult to tip but being incredibly wrong before hasn’t stopped me.
Melbourne (10-2) @ Cronulla (9-3)
Unlike the cold sterility of playing at AAMI Park in the previous iteration of this game, this one will be played at Shark Park, the epitome of suburban rugby league character and considered a fine stadium by anyone who’s never been to a Broncos-Cowboys game. Sure the fans will be fewer in number but they’re less likely to be in attendance because they got lost on their way to an AFL game.
This season, Cronulla have been a lot like Paul Gallen himself: slow moving, hard playing and racking up surprising stats when you’re not looking. The key one for mine is that the Storm are 6-0 in away games this year while the Sharks are a miserly 3-3 at Southern Cross. Normally playing at home would be considered an advantage but the Sharks seem to have forgotten that. Perhaps the Shirefolk are too precious about it? Something Lord of the Rings something. It’ll be close but I see Melbourne getting home by a try.
Newcastle (2-10) @ Manly (7-5)
Almost every week, the media talks up the Knights and how their young side is improving and one day will come good. Almost every week, the Knights treat viewers to yet another demoralising loss. The fans must all be in it for the pain because there’s precious little pleasure in being a resident or fan of Newcastle.
The only thing worse than living in Newcastle is that Manly will be 8-5 by full time.
South Sydney (4-8) @ Brisbane (8-5)
Freshly rested after a comprehensively defeated bye, the Rabbitohs come north to Brizneyland. They face a Broncos side that desperately needs to post a win and stay in touch with the top four before their premiership aspirations evaporate. When that inevitably happens, I will have to endure a round of garbage Twitter vitriol, including reminders that the Broncos haven’t won a premiership in over a decade, just like half the clubs in the NRL. I really don’t need a public meltdown on social media so we can only hope Brisbane stick to the form guide and sweep Souths away.
New Zealand (4-9) @ Gold Coast (4-8)
Two teams that promise so much and deliver so little. If either side wants to be playing finals footy this year, it’s time to start posting wins and moving themselves clear of the pack sitting outside the top eight. At some point, they will also need to beat top eight sides. They can both claim to have done this. The Titans beat full-strength Storm and Sharks with an injury list the length of the M1. The Warriors managed to sneak a late goal against the Roosters and accounted for an Origin-depleted Broncos. Much of a muchness right?
It really is a 50/50 call with this one going to the Gold Coast because of home field advantage and the Warriors haven’t won a game outside New Zealand this year.
Canberra (6-7) @ Penrith (5-7)
The biggest question in the NRL right now is “Are the Panthers back?” Quite where they went is never explained. Guys in Penrith jumpers definitely seemed to turn up each week. Those guys have recently been able to beat a bunch of bottom five sides to elevate themselves to tenth on the ladder, a full two points clear of the imploding Canterbury. The fact that this is still the same Panthers side that was belted by the top five plus Parramatta doesn’t enter consideration with all the excitement that the Panthers might be back. If that’s what it means to be back, I’d just stay away.
So it’s with good reason that I hope the Raiders put an end to such nonsense and plunge the Panthers back into the melange of self-loathing and introspection that has followed the club since 2003.
North Queensland (7-5) @ Parramatta (7-6)
This is a Parramatta home game played in Darwin. I’m about 90% sure that Darwin is a lot closer to Townsville than Western Sydney and I think conditions will play a role. It was 28°C in Darwin, 21°C in Townsville and all of 12°C at ANZ Stadium at 7.30PM on Tuesday night. Just think what that would do to your brain if you lived in it all year round.
Nonetheless, it’s good to see the NRL get out on the road and visit the less fortunate capitals. Can the Eels get one over the Cowboys? They showed up the Warriors last week but that’s been about as difficult as scoring a try against Mitchell Moses while he’s having a stroke, the only possible explanation for his performance last week. The Cowboys have been hot and cold, 2-2 from their last four, including a loss at home against the Eels only five weeks ago. Most people think that was an aberration caused by Parra not fielding Moses, so I have North Queensland to complete a Queensland trifecta for the round.
Sydney (9-4) @ Wests Tigers (3-9)
Sydney are gearing for the trip to ANZ S…oh, they’re playing at Campbelltown? Good for them. As every self-appointed rugby league expert knows, the trip from Bondi to Campbelltown is the longest, and therefore most exhausting, journey in rugby league if you ignore every team that’s not in Sydney (in accordance with official NRL policy).
In terms of actual football, Easts are coming off an embarrassing Origin-induced loss to the Raiders and a confidence-boosting Kahu-induced win over Brisbane. Wests have only beaten the bye in the last five rounds and have only won a single game at home. The Roosters should take the W comfortably.
St George Illawarra (8-4) @ Canterbury (5-8)
Oh, this is the game at ANZ. Right. The normally soulless environs will aptly suit the club whose fanbase is about to abandon them because they’ve had a bit of a crap first half of the season. The Bulldogs are not in as bad a position as the Knights, because that’s expected now I guess, or the Tigers and a win would actually land them just outside the top eight. That kind of performance definitely deserves some sort of poorly thought-out fan boycott and a coach’s resignation.
The Dragons have been quiet for a while. Widdop is back and managed to lead St George to a massive four point demolition of Wests. Yes, four. The Dragons must have forgotten what the try line looks like but young Gareth will be on hand to remind them. The club in #crisis is unlikely to stop St George Illawarra from booking a ninth win.