Golden Points – NRL Round 3

Filed in NRL by on March 20, 2014

Round 3 Preview

Fri: Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ: Scintillating against an awful Gold Coast side last Sunday, the Tigers will find the going much tougher this weekend. A disciplined Rabbitohs side smarting from a loss to Manly and a short turnaround after playing in stifling heat should prove too tough for the financially-stricken Tigers. TIP: Rabbitohs by 14

Fri: Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters at Suncorp: Unbeaten surprise packets the Broncos face their sternest test to date against a Roosters side with a taste for blood after running up a score on the Eels. Another arm-wrestle looms in Brisbane, but the defending premiers’ superior halves and backline firepower should get them home. TIP: Roosters by 8

Sat: Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs at Sportingbet: An intriguing battle at Penrith on Saturday in the wake of the new-look Panthers’ fine start to the year and Canterbury’s big win over Cronulla. Very little between the sides on paper, but Penrith’s backline weaponry could be enough to secure another win for the home side. TIP: Panthers by 4

Sat: Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons at Remondis: The Saints are marching on the back of two big wins, while injuries and player retention issues are adding to an already full plate of drama at Cronulla. The in-form Dragons have to be favoured, but this derby is traditionally a dogfight. TIP: Dragons by 6

Sat: North Queensland Cowboys v New Zealand Warriors at 1300SMILES: The Warriors could not have started the season any worse and are already on the brink of crisis, while a 12-year Townsville curse does not make their task any easier this week. The Cowboys would be disappointed to have left Brisbane without two premiership points, but they’re building nicely. TIP: Cowboys by 12

Sun: Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels at Brookvale: The Sea Eagles proved yet again they are grittiest side around by wearing down Souths, while the Eels emphatically returned to their wooden spoon worst. Unless Parramatta shows some mettle, watch out for a cricket score at Brookvale. TIP: Sea Eagles by 22

Sun: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at GIO: Arguably worse than the Eels and Warriors in Round 2, the Titans face an ugly road trip to the capital to turn it around. Milford’s brilliance, Campese’s control and an improving pack will ensure a sizeable win for the Raiders. TIP: Raiders by 18

Mon: Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights at AAMI: The Storm, fresh from two heart-stopping victories, will have semi-final revenge on their mind against a Newcastle outfit ravaged by injuries and now a reported player payment issue. Too big of an assignment for a Knights side that has rarely proved themselves in backs-to-the-wall situations in the last few years. TIP: Storm by 16

Round 3 Most at Stake

Again it’s the Warriors, and more to the point, coach Matt Elliott. A victory in Townsville might be a bridge too far for the out-of-sorts club, but at least showing some semblance of their blistering pre-season form and putting up a fight is essential. Elliott questioned his side’s ‘will to compete’ after the Dragons loss, and will be looking for a vast improvement in that department if he is to hang onto his job.

The selection table:

There’s a front-row shortage at the Broncos with Josh McGuire (suspended) and Ben Hannant (injury) out of Friday’s match, with Martin Kennedy coming into the starting line-up against his old club. Jamie Soward returns for Penrith, as does Tim Grant, who comes in for the injured Brent Kite. Minimal changes again for the Warriors: Manu Vatuvei returns, Feleti Mateo comes into the starting side with rookie John Palavi dropping back to a five-man bench which belatedly includes Konrad Hurrell. Glenn Stewart is the only Manly star to return this week, while Eels rake Nathan Peats comes back from a club-imposed suspension. Gold Coast centre Maurice Blair has been relegated in favour of Brad Takairangi, while the absence of Josh Papalii (injured) and Shaun Fensom (suspension) sees David Shillington return from injury on the bench and surprise pick Matt McIllwrick – usually a hooker – also join the interchange.

Hoodoo Gurus

-The Warriors have not won in Townsville since 2002, losing on eight straight road trips to the tropics.

-The Roosters have mustered just four wins in 14 encounters with the Broncos since 2003.

-Souths have won five straight and seven of the last eight against the Tigers, while the Tigers have lost five straight and nine of their last 10 against all opponents at ANZ.

-Cronulla has won just three of the last 10 derbies against St George Illawarra.

-Manly has downed Parramatta in 10 of the last 13 clashes between the bitter rivals.

-Newcastle’s semi-final upset of the Storm last year broke a seven-match losing streak against the heavyweights, while it ended a 10-match losing streak in Melbourne dating back to 2004.

-Brett Morris has scored 13 tries in 14 matches against Cronulla, including a remarkable 11 in his last nine derby appearances.


Round 2 best individual match-ups

-Upstarts James Tedesco and Luke Brooks match their burgeoning talent against established stars Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds.

-Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend are out to prove who the rightful heir to Cameron Smith’s No.9 crown is.

-Todd Carney is slated to make his return from injury opposite the red-hot Gareth Widdop.

-James Tamou and Ben Matulino are both in good touch and go mano-a-mano on Saturday.

-The chances of them coming together isn’t high, but Steve Matai seems like the kind of guy that holds a grudge and he’s sure to go looking for Mitchell Allgood.



-Brett Morris’ length-of-field effort against the Warriors’ was his 99th NRL try; one more four-pointer will see him and his dad ‘Slippery’ Steve become just the second father-son combination to reach a century of first grade tries. Steve crossed for 122 tries for St George and Easts, while Brett’s twin Josh isn’t too far behind, notching his 88th career try on Monday.

-Billy Slater’s next try – his 159th – will move him into equal-fifth in premiership history alongside Matt Sing and Hazem El Masri.

-Nathan Merritt’s next try will see him move past Benny Wearing’s long-standing South Sydney record of 144 tries, while it will also take him past another Rabbitohs legend, Harold Horder, into outright eighth in premiership history with 153 (Merritt scored eight tries for Cronulla, while Horder scored 50 for Norths).


Sharp’s dislike for Lichaa: In what will be revealed as a shocking case of hypocrisy when Andrew Fifita returns from suspension, Cronulla caretaker coach Peter Sharp has dumped boom hooker Michael Lichaa after news broke he had signed a rich deal with Canterbury. A veteran of just one NRL game, Lichaa was snapped up on a three-year contract worth close to $1million – he would have been crazy not to take it. No doubt his 2015 Bulldogs teammate Fifita will not be handed the same punishment for ‘disloyalty’ to the Sharks. The Lichaa scenario revives memories of Wayne Bennett’s controversial decision to drop teenage sensation Justin Hodges after he signed with the Roosters during 2001, while it is the first sign of Sharp dropping his bundle after being pitched into a tough gig in the Shire.  

Trent’s turnaround: Perhaps buoyed by the signings of Fifita and James Graham leaving the Bulldogs with a diminished cash pool to go after a top-line halfback, Trent Hodkinson turned in arguably his finest display in a blue-and-white jumper on Monday night, recovering from an ordinary Round 1 showing. Playing his 50th game for the club, Hodkinson scored a try, laid on two more and hemmed in the Sharks all night with a superb kicking performance.

Tedesco in demand: Canterbury is rumoured to be chasing another potential superstar in Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco. Canberra, Gold Coast and North Queensland are equally in need of a quality No.1, but the Bulldogs have the inside running if Tedesco is to leave the Tigers. Robbie Farah has already tried to cut the Tigers’ rivals off at the pass, publicly telling other teams to back off in the wake of Tedesco’s dazzling performance on the Gold Coast in what could be construed as a thinly-veiled guilt trip for the 21-year-old speedster.

Warriors dodge a bullet: Newcastle has reportedly staved off a determined bid from the Warriors to snaffle centre Joseph Leilua, who has developed into a fringe representative player with the Knights after leaving the Sydney Roosters in disgrace. Leilua would have been a disastrous acquisition, and his decision to remain in the Hunter is a piece of dumb luck for the Auckland-based club. The Warriors are already stacked with erratic three-quarters – they don’t need another, as good as it would be to relieve Dane Nielsen of stinking up their backline at left centre.

Keary Query: The stringent rules brought in at the end of 2012 to eliminate further Origin eligibility debacles has hit its first major snag, with Luke Keary facing the prospect of being forced to make himself available for NSW. Keary was born in Ipswich and lived north of the border until he was 10, but under the current criteria he only qualifies as a Blue, much to the young Rabbitohs half’s despair. Commonsense has to apply in these situations, with leniency granted in cases such as Keary’s – which is miles away from the farcical scenarios which allowed Greg Inglis to play for Queensland and James Tamou represent NSW. Unperturbed, NSW coach Laurie Daley was positively frothing at the prospect of one day coaching the emerging playmaker.

Farewell Jharal: Jharal Yow Yeh’s retirement announcement after a brave two-year battle to save his career put the injury plight of a number of current stars in stark perspective. Regarded as the game’s best winger in 2011, Yow Yeh – who earned the rare distinction of scoring a try on his first grade, Origin and Test debuts – will now seek a new path at just 24 years old. He is not alone is having he career tragically cut short in recent years, however:

Taniela Tuiaki – Bulldozing flanker Tuiaki accepted the 2009 Dally M Winger of the Year gong on crutches after scoring 21 tries in 22 games during his fourth season in the NRL, but never played again after failing to recover from his broken ankle.

Simon Dwyer – Tigers backrower Dwyer suffered irreversible nerve damage to his shoulder when making a regulation tackle in 2011. Regarded as a future NSW and Australia forward, Dwyer’s career was over after just 35 games at just 22 years of age.

Adam Ritson – A 16-year-old first grade debutant for Cronulla, Ritson was regarded as one of the best front-row prospects of the modern era. He was still just 19 at Parramatta when a scan after a high shot by John Lomax in 1996 revealed a cyst on his brain. Ritson underwent a series of operations which saved his life, but unfortunately his football careeer was finished.

Reece Williams – Backrower Williams played 98 games for Cronulla but was forced to retire in 2010 at just 25 after a series of head knocks left him hospitalised twice in the previous year. He turned his hand to refereeing and is now a regular in the video box for NRL games.


Commentary Gold: Veteran Kiwi commentator Dale Husband got card games and prostitution confused during the Warriors-Dragons NYC clash. Calling another error by the Warriors Under-20s side, the affable Husband exclaimed: “To use an old euchre expression, the Warriors can’t turn a trick today”. For the record, the junior Warriors indeed struggled to take a trick all afternoon and were pumped 40-16.

Try of the Year contender: Luke Brooks’ second half try was brimming with skill and youthful exuberance. The halfback kicked for James Tedesco, who gathered it in and kicked ahead for Brooks to finish.

Blunder city, population …

The decisions by the video referees to overturn the on-field officials decisions and deny Boyd Cordner and Martin Taupau tries did not just make a mockery of the current system – they were blatantly wrong even under the old system. Fortunately, neither howler had any impact on the result and both forwards later found their way onto the scoresheet.


Form Origin Teams

Each week, the below line-ups will be updated for NSW and Queensland State of Origin sides if NRL form was the only selection factor. A number of changes from last week, including fullback wunderkinds James Tedesco and Anthony Milford forcing their way into their respective state sides.


1. James Tedesco

2. Josh Mansour

3. Will Hopoate

4. Jarryd Hayne

5. Brett Morris

6. James Maloney

7. Trent Hodkinson

8. James Tamou

9. Robbie Farah

10. Aaron Woods

11. Shaun Fensom

12. Tyson Frizell

13. Trent Merrin


14. Josh Reynolds

15. Tyrone Peachey

16. Boyd Cordner

17. Aiden Tolman



1. Anthony Milford

2. Edrick Lee

3. Greg Inglis

4. Dale Copley

5. Daniel Vidot

6. Johnathan Thurston

7. Daly Cherry-Evans

8. Matthew Scott

9. Cameron Smith

10. Corey Parker

11. Gavin Cooper

12. Sam Thaiday

13. Matt Gillett


14. Cooper Cronk

15. Brenton Lawrence

16. Ben Te’o

17. Josh Starling


Mini’s try motza: Most pundits were astounded to learn Roosters veteran Anthony Minichiello had not bagged an NRL hat-trick prior to his treble against Parramatta on Saturday night. The highest try-scorer in the Tricolours’ history with 125, Minichiello’s swag also broke the longest try-drought of his 15-season career, 12 games, stretching back to Round 14 last year.

Minichiello had equalled his former skipper Brad Fittler as the all-time record holder for most career tries without scoring a hat-trick on 122, but ‘Freddy’ now reclaims sole ownership of the dubious but noble honour. 


122 – Brad Fittler (Penrith, Sydney Roosters)

110 – Brett Kenny (Parramatta)

100 – Tim Brasher (Balmain, Souths, North Queensland)

90 – Steve Rogers (Cronulla, St George)

88 – Ron Coote (Souths, Easts)


This week in history:

1979 – St George thumped defending champs Manly 34-9 in the opening round of the ’79 premiership at Kogarah.

1988 – Manly humiliated Parramatta 64-12 at Parramatta Stadium, with Dale Shearer and Cliff Lyons both collecting hat-tricks, and Michael O’Connor scoring 24 points.

1996 – Seven of the eight Super League-aligned clubs (the Warriors were the only exception) forfeited their opening-round ARL premiership games after a court injunction stopped the rebel competition from going ahead. Four ARL-only matches were played in Round 1, but all teams returned to the field a week later.

2004 – A Willie Peters field goal secured a 17-16 golden point victory for struggling South Sydney over Wests Tigers.


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Comments (1)

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  1. Mike Butterfield says:

    Why should the Sharks develop Lichaa any more, the more experience he gets will only benefit the Bulldogs, they won’t drop Fifita as he has already developed, don’t forget the Broncos dropped Cory Norman to the ISC last year, he did then play crap footy for Wynnum.