I struggled to get this post together. I must be running low on creative juices after what feels like a season that’s already been decided (Melbourne to win everything) but for some reason, we have to go through the formalities of playing the last few games. I propose we just lock the ladder positions now, go to the finals and wrap up a month early. Just in case the NRL isn’t listening to the fifteenth best non-podcast/non-gambling based blog, here’s how I think the round will go.
Parramatta (12-7) @ Canterbury (7-12)
Tuesday’s front page of the Daily Telegraph means we all need to sympathise with Bulldogs fans as they get painted with the same brush as an alleged terrorist, a sentence you would never write in any other sport. It’s okay though because by the weekend, we’ll all be back to panning the Bulldogs’ terrible on-field performances.
Parramatta beat the Broncos last week, taking their streak to four wins on the trot. What utter bastards. Having been forced to watch Eels’ games lately, I’m not entirely convinced they’re the real deal, particularly defensively. That won’t matter this match because the Bulldogs are pathologically incapable of scoring points (and we’re back, baby). Parra will be able to run in the minimum fourteen points required and so the Eels will win.
South Sydney (6-13) @ St George Illawarra (10-9)
The Dragons lost to the Knights after smashing the Sea Eagles. The Rabbitohs lost to the Raiders after, well, we’d have to go back a bit further to find their last win but it was against the Panthers in round 17. I’ve run the numbers and that was at least four games ago.
The thing is that both of these sides are better on paper than they’ve performed on the field over the last few months. The unpredictability of which team will turn up is about as frustrating as watching Souths try to string together an attacking play without making an error. Guys, uh, just don’t.
It’s an odd one being played at the SCG for the one and only time this season. Perth sees more NRL action. Presumably it’s for old time’s sake, being Retro Round and all. It’d be like the Broncos playing at Davies Park. In this case, I think it’ll be a throw back further than the 1980s to the 1950s to see Saints take the two points.
Melbourne (14-5) @ North Queensland (12-7)
This is a doozy of a match-up but I think we all know how it’s going to go. This section practically writes itself: the Cowboys don’t have their magic talisman for warding off evil, Jonathan Thurston, while the Storm roster includes a bunch of positional GOATs and above average replacements that make a mockery of equalisation in the NRL. Melbourne to win this one.
New Zealand (7-12) @ Newcastle (3-16)
If you could see me now, I would be sucking air through my teeth. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, I’m doing that because I’m constantly trying to work out how to separate these teams.
Just wait a moment while I’ll check the temperature in hell because the Knights actually won a game. In an occurrence rarer than Halley’s Comet, the city of Newcastle didn’t melt into a puddle of referee-oriented fury and actually had a game go their way. In a sign of how far the Warriors – who are 1-8 away from home this year – have fallen in my estimation, I’m seriously wondering whether they can actually win a game in Newcastle. Hence the teeth sucking.
At the end of the day, the Knights are having a tough time. Twelve wins would be a fairly average season for most sides but spread across three years, it’s a disaster. The Knights that take to the field this Saturday are more or less the same side that’s been taking to the field over that time. And last time Newcastle won a game, I got all excited and tipped them only to be disappointed, so for better or worse, it’s the Warriors for me.
Brisbane (12-7) @ Gold Coast (7-12)
The Titans managed to fumble their way through an entire game last week. I guess that’s an improvement over earlier in the season when they would play well for a while and then not play at all. Trying for a full eighty minutes is definitely better than trying for fifty minutes but when the Titans try, it’s the game of rugby league, and everyone watching, that suffers. How Joe Greenwood is playing this game after costing his team multiple scoring opportunities with his clumsiness is something I refuse to understand.
Then we come to the other side of the fence. You couldn’t have paid Jonus Pearson to stay on his feet against Parramatta. Which is funny because that’s what he’s paid to do. Usually it’s up to the other guys to put him on the ground. Jonus, being the helpful type, decided to help his Eels mates out and put himself on the ground, even when he didn’t have the ball. What a guy. In a strange turn of events, Wayne Bennett left him off the team list on Tuesday.
That’s some high level strategy work there from der Sueprcoach and that’ll be the difference on Saturday. So while we can pretend this is a south-east Queensland derby but the other team has to show up for it to be a true derby. The Titans have only won this fixture five times since 2007 and the last one was in 2014. I’m expecting that to continue, so the Broncos for me.
Canberra (8-11) @ Cronulla (13-6)
Eratosthenes is the Greek Elo rating system who measures “class”. For me, that’s basically a measure of how good a team has been over a couple of years and by that measure, the Sharks have the third highest rating in the competition. In fact, if they win and Brisbane loses, they will move up into second, making the Cronulla Sharks – the club based in the Sutherland Shire and employer of Paul Gallen – the classiest team this side of the Murray River. We’re through the looking glass, people. It’s the end of days.
For the record, Canberra trail by nearly 100 points to have a rating that sits a touch below average. The current rating glosses over the fact that both these sides have averaged about the same, noticeably below average rating over the last decade. But in that time the Sharks have won a title while Canberra haven’t managed a premiership without Mal Meninga. Seeing as he’s not playing this weekend, I’m tipping the Sharks.
Sydney City (14-5) @ Manly (11-8)
In case it wasn’t clear, I don’t actually sit down and watch every single game of rugby league every weekend. I have stuff to do and seven hours of NRL on Saturday is not always the optimal use of my time. As a result, I don’t really remember the last time I watched the Roosters play. I think it was the game against the Bunnies where the Roosters put in a performance that was as uninspiring as it was forgettable. A result of not watching every game is that my impressions are not fully formed but I don’t think the Chooks are consistently good. On the other hand, a 14-5 record says, “Pretty consistently good”. Who to believe: numbers or my combination of anti-Sydney bias and anecdotal analysis? It’s a tough call.
Similarly, I would watch more Manly games if a) they weren’t Manly and b) they didn’t play games opposite the televised Queensland Cup match. Their recent upswing and even more recent downswing in form has caught me and plenty of others off-guard. The Sea Eagles have just got to get over this game and the run to the finals is as cruisy as they get. With a bit of rest, they might be a threat in September but for now, I’ll overcome my bias and pick Sydney.
Wests Tigers (5-14) @ Penrith (10-9)
Jesus Christ. Who the hell keeps scheduling goddamn bottom eight sides for free-to-air games? These fixtures were only decided a few weeks ago, so its not like we didn’t know the Tigers sucked this year. The only conclusion I can draw is that the NRL is out to punish the viewing public. Why? I don’t know but its probably because Todd Greenberg’s Twitter mentions are full of people calling him names. I’d probably do it too if I had the power.
It’s been billed as the Battle of the Clearys by people with no imagination. Surely “Tigers v Panthers” (rawr) offers more evocative imagery. Contrary to popular belief, Ivan won’t be pulling on a Tigers jersey and actually playing. He’ll be merely guiding the Tigers to a loss against a superior Panthers outfit where we all hope Nathan will show a bit of panache in his kicking game as he single-handedly drags his team into the finals.
A mixed bag of results last week. Euclid had a rubbish round with only two correct tips. Euclid is well on its way to its worst season yet. Eratosthenes and I didn’t fare much better with 50%. Archimedes did a lot better than the others with six from eight.
After round 21: