Melbourne have opened up 5.5 to 6 point favourites in their top of the table clash with Brisbane. The three Storm Origin representatives are set to back up while Matt Gillett is the only one of the five Broncos named for the match. The Storm have won 14 of 18 against the Broncos including 8 of the last 9 in Melbourne. The Storm are 20-11 ATS at home and 34-19 ATS as a favourite since 2010 while the Broncos are 18-12 ATS on the road in that time. As an underdog, the Broncos are 13-9 ATS. There is a small lean on Brisbane at the plus here but team selection is a worry so no play.
Issac Luke, Grub to the Core: Rugby league would be better off without Issac Luke. He is the kind of skirt better suited to soccer or random midnight park attacks on innocent victims. He has done so much to shame the game this year that I would be embarrassed to be in any way associated with this filthmonger.
He added to that list with another cheap shot in the Four Nations opener, attacking the knees of a stationary opponent for the second time in two Tests in what was a shameful and disgraceful act of thuggery. It follows on from his lay-down against the Cowboys, where he showed no pride in himself or the game. I used to be such a fan of Luke. Never again. He is a disgrace.
Manly have opened up 6 point favourites across the board against New Zealand in Sunday’s Grand Final despite the Warriors’ impressive win over the Storm.
The Warriors match-up well with New Zealand again holding a big advantage in the pack. What the Warriors have is a big, aggressive, mobile, disciplined forward pack and man-for-man they have a major edge in the pack with only Glenn Stewart and Matt Ballin topping their opposite man. The Warriors made great metres against the Storm and can do the same against Manly though it must be said the Sea Eagles pack is bigger and more aggressive.
Manly have opened up 4.5 point favourites against Brisbane in their preliminary final at the Sydney Football Stadium.
There is supposedly a question mark over Broncos skipper Darren Lockyer after surgery on his fractured cheekbone but there is absolutely no doubt that the champion will play. And it does seem like he is on a fairytale run. That kind of inspiration will count for plenty. The Broncos have now won eight straight while Manly have won eight of their last 10. Manly have won five of their last seven against the Broncos but lost in the final round of the regular season though, admittedly, without a number of their stars. They won plenty of admirers with their 18-10 defeat. Manly are 16-0 in Sydney this year while the Broncos are 3-1 in the Silver City. Manly are 4-4 at the SFS dating back to 2008 while the Broncos are 10-1-2 at the venue going back to 2004.
The Wests Tigers open their semi-final clash with New Zealand as 8.5 point favourites.
The Warriors were awful last week, getting hammered by 30. In their last 11 matches following a 20-point defeat over the last three years, the Warriors have bounced back with a win only twice. Up against a Tigers team that has won nine straight, it is hard to picture the Warriors turning last week’s result around. The most concerning aspect of last week was not Manu Vatuvei’s errors but the meekness of the Warriors’ key position players. The Tigers have won their last three against the Warriors and should make it a fourth with a 1 unit play on the minus a play.
One of the great modern rivalries plays out on Friday night with the Wests Tigers and St George-Illawarra squaring off, the Dragons going off at 2 to 2.5 point favourites.
The Dragons have won 4 of their last 5 against the Tigers but Tim Sheens’ men won when the two teams last met 16-14. ANZ Stadium looks to suit the Dragons, who have won 11 of 12 at the ground compared to the Tigers who have lost four straight at the venue and only won four of their last 15. I think the Dragons are a tougher outfit and at the venue, a small 1 unit play at the minus is on.
Betting in the Newcastle-South Sydney playoff has opened pick 'em though some early money for the Knights has seen them firm to 1.5 point favourites with some books.
There is a play with the Knights here. The Rabbitohs three-quarter line looks as bad as any I have ever seen and surprisingly, in what could be his final match, Adam MacDougall looms as a key player. If he is on song, him and Akuila Uate will have a field day. The Knights have won 10 of 11 against Souths at Ausgrid Stadium and should extend that. Bet 1.5 units on Newcastle at $1.87 at Centrebet.
Modern technology is a wonderful thing. As you are about to find out with the first episode of Steve Mascord's White Line Fever, which first up features none other than Making The Nut's own Nick Tedeschi, along with Ray French and a ton of other guests talking rock 'n' roll and rugby league and rugby league and rock 'n' roll.
In a monster clash, Manly have opened 2.5 to 3.5 point favourites against Melbourne.
I remain unconvinced by the Sea Eagles. Their attitude has been patchy over the last few weeks and they were very lucky to get away with the win and cover against Canterbury following another uninspiring win against Parramatta. Melbourne, meanwhile, have won 12 straight and are as determined as any team I have ever seen. More impressively, the Storm have won nine straight matches on the road. The Storm have won two of three at Brookvale Oval and with Cooper Cronk expected to be a late inclusion, they should grind out a nice win. Bet 2 units on the Storm with 3.5.
Nick Tedeschi is the editor of The Footy Almanac: Rugby League, a new arm of John Harms' Footy Almanac. A number of different writers will be covering all of the remaining matches of the 2011 season. Please check it out if you are interested in quality and personal rugby league writing.
I first visited Melbourne in 2000, a lads trip from Canberra in a busted-up Camry that lost both reverse and fifth gear mid-trek as Rohan, Bommy, The Judge and I all took our turns from the passenger seat holding the bastard in fifth as we chugged down the Hume.