Round 17 kicks off on Friday night from Melbourne’s AAMI Park with the Storm hosting the Broncos. Brisbane have only 1 win from their past 5 and are suffering. By rights, they should have nabbed the two points at Mt Smart last week but had their hearts ripped out by a Konrad Hurrell intercept to lose in the final moments. Rugby League can be a filthy old mongrel sometimes and the Broncos are carrying the fleas of that mangy old dog as we speak.
The Storm are reaching a point they reach every year; Dropping a few games around the origin period and simply biding their time until the silly season ends. They are heavy favourites here and with Cameron Smith returning from injury and Melbourne coming off a loss last week, they’ll be dumping all over the Broncos from a great height. Brisbane’s attack not good enough with Peter Wallace and Scott Prince doing it tough again.
My tip: Melbourne 18-4
Cronulla Sharks v Wests Tigers
Somehow, someway, the Tigers have won 4 from their past 5 and actually forced a desperate Sydney media to discuss whether they can make the eight. This week, they travel to the Shire to face the Sharks but this one won’t be easy. In round 9 of this year, Cronulla ripped the Tigers to shreds at Allianz Stadium. Wests were in a very dark place at the time but now, on the back of a magnificent victory against Melbourne, they’ll be out for revenge.
Pity that the NRL has banned the shoulder charge, banned fighting, banned aggression and banned any type of violence whatsoever, because there are a few ex-teammates facing each other here. Usually, that’s when fans are truly entertained with some big hits and elevated aggression between old friends. No malice – just mates keen to bash each other. What a shame. Moving on, the Sharks get the chocolates in Wade Graham’s 100 first grade appearance.
My tip: Cronulla 21-14
St George Illawarra v Sydney Roosters
Saturday night from Kogarah’s WIN Jubilee Oval. Usually a momentous occasion between two giants of the NRL. Perhaps we can see something of this rivalry here – but only if the Dragons find a spark from the muddy, messy, ugly beast of a season they are having. Saints aren’t even waiting for an official ‘performance review’ at the end of the season to clean house. They’ve booted Jamie Soward and Steve Folkes and now, fans can only cross their fingers and hope.
The Roosters, by contrast, are capable of anything. They have weapons all over the park and a defensive structure that rivals the famous Dragons brick wall of 2009-10. This could get ugly if the home side doesn’t get their house in order. Steve Price’s very young forward pack from the South Coast will do well to stay close to the all-star and all-time pack from Bondi. Fingers crossed these kids don’t get embarrassed, but they may well.
My tip: Roosters 30-12
The Titans delivered possibly the worst half of football played this season against the Knights in Newcastle last week. They were not up to standard and their right side defence looked like they’d never watched a game of footy, or perhaps even met each other before. Now, with injury added to insult, Gold Coast must name a couple of kids from country Queensland in Jahrome Hughes and Hymel Hunt. Say that last name again….. Awesome.
So, just in case the Titans hadn’t been to enough remote locations across the country, off we go to Darwin’s TIO Stadium on Saturday night to watch them take on the Panthers. Could be hot, but the boys from Penrith will be ready for this. They’ll be clinical and enthusiastic enough to beat the Titans who will no doubt be motivated by last week’s debacle, but Ivan Cleary’s men are well drilled. Plenty of young talent on show here for the lovely people of the Northern Territory.
My tip: Penrith 32-22
God knows what dish the Cowboys will serve up here. They’ve got all the ingredients and a chef in charge who can deliver an array of the finest cuisine a rugby league menu can offer, but somehow it all leaves a very bad taste in your mouth. Christ, I hope that sentence wasn’t as exhausting to read as it was to write. Anyhoo – the Cowboys travel to our nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon to face the Raiders who will be very happy to come home.
They’ve lost their last two matches, both away, but now have the advantage of a miserable winter, an inconsistent opponent and a perfect record at Canberra Stadium in 2013. It must be said though, that since rumours spread about Neil Henry’s demise, North Queensland have won two in a row albeit against the Dragons and an undermanned Sharks. They’ll be brave again here and if given the weight of possession, they’ll be dangerous, but you simply can’t tip against Canberra at home.
My tip: Canberra 34-20
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights
Sunday afternoon from Mackay. The success of the Bulldogs trip north in the corresponding fixture last year has given ‘Dogs CEO Todd Greenberg plenty reason to head back this year. The people of Mackay surely deserve to see favourite son, Ben Barba, once again. However, they might not be treated to the same level of 1st class footy as they were in 2012 because this year, the ‘Dogs have been inconsistent and the Knights are playing Bennett ball. Ugh.
But I’m ready, so let’s hope the Bulldogs are out for revenge after the butt-kicking delivered to them by the Knights in round 10 this year and let’s hope Beau Scott is at his annoying best. Perhaps he and Mick Ennis can just get mic’d up for the duration so we can be entertained by some A grade sledging. The NRL are taking all the fun out of everything else so we may as well get as close to the action as possible. ‘Dogs turn up here.
My tip: bulldogs 24-12
Off to Perth for Sunday afternoon footy. The Warriors trip to our western capital in 2012 signified the end of their season and the end of Brian McClelland’s career. They led, then reigning premiers, Manly that night by plenty, only to lose in the most unbelievable final moments you could see. They’ve come full circle since that night and are now on a 5 match winning streak. The New Zealanders have been very, very good over the past month.
Speaking of very good, guess who’s waiting for the Warriors after a very long trip from Auckland to Perth? That’s right… your table topping, pride of the league, 13 and 2 Rabbitohs. Souths are favourites here and with the NRLs best attack in their holster, ready to fire, it’s no surprise. With a dry track predicted and some of the finest athletes you’ll see in any code in the country, don’t miss this one and don’t blink. Greg Inglis continues his Dally M winning season.
My tip: South Sydney 24-18
Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels
Round 17 comes to a close with one of the great rivalries of the NRL. You’ve been all over the country to watch footy this weekend but this match brings it back to the grassroots of the insular peninsular and Brookvale Oval. Monday night football has the Eagles hosting the bottom of the table Parramatta Eels in a monumental mismatch. Geoff Toovey’s men are very short favourites even though they’ve struggled of late but the Eels should prove no threat.
Especially with the Eagles spine intact for the first time since round 8 when they won at Kogarah, this should play the home side back into form and back into contention. DCE and Kieran Foran should outplay the Chris Sandow / Joseph Paulo combination over the 80 minutes. If they don’t, might be time to scrap the whole plan. Jarryd Hayne returns for the Eels to add some flavour here but the Eels simply cannot compete.
My tip: Manly 28-12