Despite being a post-Origin round, if everyone sticks to the form guide for a change, it should be a somewhat easy round to tip. That said, I’ve had a shocking year so I don’t doubt that there will be some “upsets” as I would prefer to think of them but what everyone else calls “blindingly friggin obvious”.
New South Wales (49-2-59) @ Queensland (59-2-49)
Sure, why not? I don’t know anything and I’ve tipped both games wrong. Queensland fixed their game up after the first round. The Maroons will be playing at a packed Suncorp Stadium with standing room only. The poetic justice would be sweet if the NSW “dynasty” lasted for a game and a half.
I’m going to give you some free advice, New South Wales. You can’t build a dynasty on Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney. James Tedesco is pretty good but if Nathan Peats was any good, he’d be playing for a team other than the Titans. None of these guys are the once-in-a-generation players that have been at the core of the Maroons for the last decade and by sheer dint of coincidence, managed to be in the same state side. Instead the Blues have good, even great, players who are not future Immortals. That is why it will not be a dynasty but it may be more even in future. On that basis, I may start flipping a coin next year because it’s as good as any other system.
Penrith (7-9) @ New Zealand (7-9)
Tough game to call. Penrith managed to win a game against the premiership dark horse side, Manly, but have the unfortunate disability of still being the Penrith Panthers with all the baggage that entails. For their win before that, we have to go back to their sneaky, last minute overcoming of the Raiders in Bathurst. It was a while ago. You may remember people getting unnecessarily excited about their prospects after and then being subsequently disappointed.
On the other hand, Mt Smart, or Manu Vatuvei Stadium as it will be known for this round, has been a relative fortress for the Warriors this season. That and the, like, eight internationals the Warriors could potentially field leads me to think New Zealand will take the victory.
St George Illawarra (9-7) @ Canberra (6-10)
This is the other difficult game to call this round. The Dragons went out hard early in the season and have deflated faster than a popped birthday balloon. The Raiders were supposed to be the premiership contenders and have shown even less promise than the Bulldogs.
St George are 4-4 away this year, Canberra 4-4 at home. Dragons have lost three of their last four, Raiders three Ls from three games. Even though this game is in Canberra, I’m still somewhat irrationally expecting the Dragons to pull themselves together at some point. How could a team so good early on be so bad so consistently now? It defies belief and I won’t stand for it.
So St George Illawarra to win this but I reckon the game will go to whoever actually gets going first.
Brisbane (10-6) @ Newcastle (2-13)
This game really depends on whether there are any healthy Broncos left by the time the game kicks off. You could probably pull seventeen randoms off the streets of Brisbane willing to pull on a Broncos jersey if it came to it. They’d probably for a better side than could be drawn from the ranks of the Norths Devils. The upside is that Brisbane’s stars will be all fully rested when they return circa round 22. In the meantime, and with the recent retirement of Matt Lodge (I hear you ask “Who the fuck is Matt Lodge?” and “I dunno” is the answer), the Broncos are having more rostering issues than a cafe on a public holiday.
Given that the Knights dropped ten points in ten minutes against the Bulldogs, got flogged by the Tigers and play like an U20s side (mostly because they are under 20), Brisbane could field a mix of Redcliffe, Souths and Wynnum players (or seventeen randoms) and still get across the line, so I think the Broncos for this one.
Cronulla (11-5) @ Gold Coast (6-10)
The Sharks are playing away from home, where they are undefeated and are the only team in the league with this peculiar statistic. The Titans are 3-5 at home and so somehow even worse at playing for their home bogans than the Sharks.
Despite coming in on a two-win streak, the Gold Coast side seem extremely unlikely to repeat their unbelievable win of earlier in the season. In the worst possible “Battle of the Beach” matchup since Gold Coast-St George Illawarra, I think that Cronulla will be the winners here.
Wests Tigers (4-12) @ Manly (10-6)
Manly lost to Penrith. Just let that sink in for a second. It was supposed to be the match where DCE showed everyone – by which I mean the Maroons selectors – just how good he was and the Panthers very rudely refused to roll over. While the good Liberal voters of Sydney’s northern beaches started to dust off their premiership hopes, surely a loss to western Sydney’s most enigmatic side would dent their confidence but no. Instead, they’ve heroically focussed on the ostensibly poor refereeing decisions instead of their team’s ill discipline and inability to grind out a win.
Nonetheless, they’re facing Wests, a team that got a confidence boost from beating Newcastle. That’s how low their bar is set. The Tigers also suffer from a lack of playing talent, which is generally considered by experts to be an important ingredient in winning rugby league games. Of particular concern is the talent in the 6 and 7 jerseys. Tigers fans may hate Mitchell Moses but his various understudies are not much chop either.
I see the Sea Eagles getting home in this one.
North Queensland (10-6) @ South Sydney (6-10)
It’s a South Sydney “home” game at the most famous of Souths’ venues, Barlow Park in Cairns. I think just a few more Cowboys fans might make the trek for this than will come from Redfern.
The Cowboys have beaten the Eels, Panthers and Raiders in their last four outings, all teams ranked above the Bunnies, and only lost to the Storm. Souths failed to beat an understrength Easts in their last outing, snapping their run of two wins in a row that got everyone excited about whether or not they were a finals chance (spoiler: they’re not). North Queensland should give the Cairns fans something to cheer for and take the two points.
Let’s not talk about last round.
After round 18: