A disappointing end to a disappointing year for the mighty Brisbane Broncos. They gave fans some hope for a miraculous late season salvation with an undefeated month of football, only to squander it at Centrebet Stadium last week. This week, they face a desperate Newcastle team who are hanging on to 7th position by a thread. Suncorp Stadium hosts your round 25 opener and the Broncos are favourites.
If the Knights don’t come out of the dressing rooms with fire in their eyes and intent to shred their opposition to pieces, Wayne Bennett has surely lost his mojo after all these years. They’ve had a forgettable run home so far, winning 1 from their past 5, but surely this is the weekend where the combination of experience and toughness gets them home. Jarrod Mullen and Danny Buderus provide the experience whilst Beau Scott and Willie Mason play tough guy.
My tip: Knights 20-18
As Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall see the end of their partnership coming and as Benji celebrates his 200th, we look at their history. They presided over some of the most entertaining footy we had seen for ages, or may see for ages. The grind has taken over. Now the wrestle wins. Coaches, mostly, advise their teams to avoid risk, dominate the ground game and then play for a penalty or error. God help us all.
Vale Benji and thanks for the memories. It was only a few weeks ago when the Tigers showed some of their old flare in horrible conditions under lights at Leichhardt oval. Against Melbourne, no less. Beat them by plenty, too. Little did we know it could have been the last time we’d be enjoying the old Tigers style. It certainly won’t magically appear on Friday night against the finals bound Bunnies at Allianz Stadium, but you never know.
My tip: South Sydney 28-14
Saturday arvo footy continues this week from Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland as the Warriors host the green rabble from our nation’s capital. Winning 3 in a row before giving up 68 points to the Storm, the Raiders then went on to lose another 3. They fired their coach, lost one of their star players, literally... and now travel across the Tasman to face a home team still believing in a semi final appearance.
The Warriors refuse to give up after a difficult year where they all but turned things around before losing 2 straight games at home in the past month. Unforgiveable so close to the business end and especially when your home ground advantage is so big. Can they continue last week’s good showing at Robina? Yes. Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke have a field day with a lumbering Canberra forward pack as big Sam Rapira celebrates his 150th NRL appearance.
My tip: New Zealand 30-16
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers
ANZ Stadium, Saturday 5:30pm
The mighty Panthers keep finding ways to surprise punters this year. This recent resurgence comes on the back of a horrendous 4 game losing streak where they were giving up 40 points a game, to then beat the Warriors away and Brisbane at home. Amazing. So, as Ivan Cleary gets rewarded for this with a contract extension, the Bulldogs welcome the Panthers to ANZ Stadium on Saturday night and what a test it will be for the boys from Penrith.
The ‘Dogs will be dirty after a tough loss to South Sydney last week and will want to start this match with authority. Any sniff given to the upstart visitors and the Bulldogs will pay. Penrith are better than the $3.65 odds suggest and they’ll be right in this. Canterbury’s attack should be too potent for the Panthers to handle but only if they respect the pill. Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds should lead the way with their kicking game and the Dogs win their last home game of the season.
My tip: Canterbury Bankstown 24-20
This magnificent rivalry has delivered some wonderful memories over recent years and Saturday Night at Brookvale will be no different. Except that it’s buried in a pay television timeslot and at 7.30 on drinking night, but we digress. Brooky will be rocking and the Eagles fans will be loud. They won’t forget the lost premierships and won’t forget the bar-room brawls that have highlighted some of the Storm’s last few visits to the insular peninsular.
So, with the scene set and the weather prediction looking pretty, Melbourne bring a 4 match winning streak to face an Eagles team who’ve won 7 from their past 8. Anthony Watmough is rested from this one and rightly so. If Jeff Lima can’t break your leg with a wrestling hold, then the Storm certainly could. Keep an eye on the kicking duel between both halfbacks and fullbacks in this game; he best in the league. Melbourne’s defence too strong.
My tip: Melbourne 18-12
The Sharks play their last home game of an unbelievable season on Sunday afternoon and the Shire faithful should reward these players, whilst they are still innocent, with their attendance. Cronulla sit 5th on the ladder at the tail end of a premiership tilt that began with doubts about the clubs future and the sacking of their coach – but now finishes with a brilliant run home including the clubs best performance for many years against the chooks last week.
What’s next for Cronulla? The red hot North Queensland Cowboys. They come to Remondis Stadium with a 4 match winning streak and a broken season all but mended. North Queensland haven’t just pulled together a few wins: they’ve dominated their opposition for 80 minutes in each encounter. So, with two teams looking to shore up their post-season chances, this will be an absolute cracker. Question marks on whether the Sharks can back up from last week’s violence.
My tip: North Queensland 22-16
Spring has sprung and September football has now arrived for the best performing team of 2013 so far. The Roosters have had a mighty year and will celebrate their home finale with a bang. After being blown off the park early against the Sharks last week, Trent Robinson will no doubt have his charges revved up for this one against the Titans at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, it could be a Father’s day massacre, according to the bookies.
Chooks star five-eighth James Maloney plays his 100th first grade game and he’ll be the one to get the home side on the front foot early on. The Titans will fight hard and play with pride, as they always do, but won’t have an answer for Maloney and the Rooters monster pack of forwards. Speaking of monster forwards, Luke Bailey plays his 250th NRL match here and what a magnificent career it has been. Fingers crossed for ‘Bull’ that this one is a happy memory.
My tip: Roosters 30-10
And so, the army of Parramatta members and fans find themselves 160 minutes away from the end of a suffering they’ll hopefully never feel again. This week, the Eels play at home for the very last time in 2013 and presumably, hardly any of these current Parra players will ever have to walk out onto Parra Stadium, ever again. A pretty big farewell party, you’d expect, but judging from what the Eels board has delivered in recent memory, there probably won’t be.
Either way, the Dragons will be on hand to spoil any party that Parra had in mind on Monday night to close out round 25. Jarryd Hayne returns to play only his 15th game for the Eels this year and the home side should be confident with the Dragons current record not looking much better than their own – but this is not something they should be proud of. Brett Morris plays his 150th match and the Saints march towards Mad Monday.
My tip: Dragons 24-14