Now that Origin I has passed, will this round be a bit of a letdown for the fans and the players? Only time will tell I guess but there are some interesting match ups to analyse in round 12.
Tonight we see the Broncos taking on the Dragons at Suncorp and we know now that Shane Webcke has been ruled out with rib damage so the pendulum swings in favour of the Dragons, who managed a last gasp win against the Broncos last year thanks to a great penalty goal to Mark Riddell on full time that gave the Dragons a miraculous one point victory. It could be that close again and the Dragons have a host of young talent stepping up in the absence of their forever injured stars. The Broncos will still be feeling the effects of Wednesday night and I don�t think they�ll have enough to topple the young Dragons. St George Illawarra by 6.
Hard to see anything but a convincing win to the Sharks here. The boys from down south are starting to shake off their early season hangover and show some signs they are not yet a spent force in 2004. Brett Kimmorley will be out to cement himself a place in Origin II so look out Rabbitohs. Souths on the other had find themselves anchored to the bottom of the table and unless something drastic happens like another Bulldogs salary cap scandal, that�s where they�ll remain for the duration of the season. Sharks by 20.
The Knights are at home to the Storm and with the Storm playing well below their best, I expect the Knights fans to turn out in force and watch their team inflict another loss on the Storm, who did not deserve to win against the Raiders last week. Newcastle are thriving under the enthusiastic guidance of Kurt Gidley, who looks to be the games next superstar and was rightfully included as the 18th man for the first Origin match. Storm skipper Steve Kearney plays his 250th match against the Knights. Knights by 12.
The Raiders are playing without confidence at present and although they were the better team against the Storm last weekend, they still came away from Olympic Park with nothing to show but two injured players in Schifcofske and Monaghan. Manly lost a close but high scoring game to the Sharks and would fancy their chances against the underachieving Raiders. Should the Raiders lose this match, it could well be the end of their season, as they don�t look to have a solution to their attacking and defensive woes at present. The Raiders only have Ryan O�Hara backing up from origin and they are close to full strength so there will be no excuses if they lose this one. This could be the game to turn the Raiders season around. Raiders by 10.
Who would have thought two years after they played in the grand final, the Warriors would be one point out of last place? The Roosters are where everyone expected them to be and are still playing with that awesome intensity that intimidates sides before they set foot onto the park. The Warriors are playing like there is a mutiny imminent and Daniel Anderson looks to be running out of time with his troubled charges. The Roosters are without Anthony Minichello, Adrian Morley and Craig Wing but they will still have far too much firepower for the Warriors, who turn their toes up at the first signs of trouble. The Warriors no doubt have the ability to win this game but they are a team devoid of a soul at present and that is a cancer for a club. Roosters by 18.
The Panthers get their first real taste of what it�s like to back up after rep footy and have a host of players who will still be feeling the effects of Wednesday nights� golden point thriller. Add to that the loss of Craig Gower for six weeks, the Panthers are in for a testing time over the next month. The Bulldogs have several players backing up as well and they are all forwards, so the if the Panthers play their cards right, they should have enough to get them across the line against the Dogs, who are coming off a loss to the Tigers in Gosford and will be keen to avoid consecutive defeats. The big question is how will the Panthers travel without the guidance and kicking game of Craig Gower and can Preston Campbell lead the team to victory? Panthers by 4.
The final game is an interesting one. The dreadful Eels take on the high flying Tigers who are out to cement their place in the top eight and inflict another defeat on the shockingly bad Eels. How a team can fade from contention so fast is beyond me. Brian Smith has huge problems with his team and looks to be in some trouble regardless of what Denis Fitzgerald says. Parramatta fans expect better and deserve better that what they are being dished up at present. There are so many questions to ask about the Eels that I simply do not know where to start. The Tigers on the other hand are having a marvellous season and are showing they could be there when the finals start which would be a great achievement when you consider they have already won the Sevens. A semi final berth would be the coming of age for the Tigers and Scot Prince showed on Wednesday he is capable of leading his team deep into the playoff's if his current form holds true