Round 6 Preview
Fri: Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs at Sportingbet: Souths broke a three-match losing streak to dismantle St George Illawarra, while Penrith also returned to the winner’s circle in the wet against Canberra. This match will test the Panthers’ finals credentials, with their ability to contain Inglis and Burgess paramount. The Rabbitohs’ line-up changes appear to have done the trick and they’ll be hard to beat on Friday. TIP: Rabbitohs by 10
Fri: Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos at Cbus: The shock competition leaders will need to overcome a dismal recent record against ‘big brother’. The Broncos are in good touch despite letting games against the Roosters and Eels slip late, while surely the Titans can’t keep winning with their consistently patchy performances. TIP: Broncos by 7
Sat: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at GIO: The strain of the Knights’ recent ordeal began to show in a big loss in Townsville, while the Raiders are thereabouts and can keep in touch with the front-runners with a win at home. TIP: Raiders by 14
Sat: Parramatta Eels v Sydney Roosters at Pirtek: Plenty has changed since the Roosters whipped the Eels 56-4 in Round 2 – Parramatta is on fire after winning two straight, while the Tricolours have slumped to two losses in a row. The Roosters’ cast-iron defence is a step up from anything the Eels have encountered recently, however, and should be enough to stop the rot. TIP: Roosters by 8
Sat: Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys at Campbelltown: Regarded as poor travellers, the Cowboys’ away record is highlighted by a decade-long winless streak against the Tigers in Sydney – but they are coming off their most impressive performance of 2014 to date. Outstanding in the comprehensive thrashing of Manly, the Tigers face a big test without key spine performers James Tedesco and Braith Anasta. TIP: Cowboys by 4
Sun: New Zealand Warriors v Canterbury Bulldogs at Eden Park: After a week of being battered from pillar to post in the press, the Warriors are morals to get up for a big win over the in-form Bulldogs. A couple of key on-field personnel changes should spark the Warriors who, it should be remembered, gave the Tigers a bath two weeks ago. TIP: Warriors by 16
Sun: Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks at Brookvale: Cronulla recorded an emphatic – and desperately needed – maiden victory for 2014 last week, but now they head to Brookvale, which has been a graveyard for the Sharks for several years. Manly will be smarting from Sunday’s thrashing at the hands of the Tigers and primed to put in a forceful performance. TIP: Sea Eagles by 20
Mon: Melbourne Storm v St George Illawarra Dragons at AAMI: An intriguing and vital Monday night match-up. The Dragons and Storm occupied the top two spots after Round 3, but both sides dropped their subsequent two games. Melbourne has more capacity to rebound, but it will be another tough grind. TIP: Storm by 4
Round 6 Most at Stake
After a dazzling start to the season, St George Illawarra has slumped to back-to-back losses at the first sign of decent opposition. A victory – or at the very least an honourable loss to the Storm – on Monday night is required for the Dragons and Steve Price to keep the vociferous critics off their backs.
The Selection Table:
Aiden Sezer returns from injury in a big boost for the Titans, while Justin Hodges starts for the Broncos after a strong showing off the bench last week. The injured James Tedesco will be replaced by debutant Kurtis Rowe, and Blake Austin fills the Tigers’ five-eighth role vacated by the suspended Braith Anasta.
Andrew McFadden has made his presence felt immediately at the Warriors by dumping Feleti Mateo and Chad Townsend, with Thomas Leuluai back at five-eighth and Sebastine Ikahihifo starting at lock. Ngani Laumape comes in for the injured Glen Fisiiahi on the flank. Chase Stanley is out of the Bulldogs’ line-up with injury, replaced by Mitch Brown. Other big-name returnees this week include Glenn Stewart, Fuifui Moimoi, Josh Papalii and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
-The Broncos have won eight of their last nine against the Titans, including four of their last five at Robina.
-Cronulla has won just one of its last nine against Manly, and is winless at Brookvale since 2008.
-The Cowboys have won just three of their last 12 against the Tigers, and have not beaten them in Sydney since a victory at Campbelltown in 2004.
-St George Illawarra has won only three of its last 15 encounters with the Storm, and is winless in Melbourne since 1999 – a streak of 12 losses south of the border.
-The Warriors are winless in four games at Eden Park.
Round 6 Best Individual Match-ups:
-Look for Penrith’s Adam Docker to enhance his burgeoning reputation by standing up to opposing No.13 Sam Burgess.
-Co-captains, converted front-rowers and representative teammates Nate Myles and Corey Parker will send the tackle and run counts soaring on Friday.
-Anthony Milford will give Queensland coach Mal Meninga more food for thought if he outplays incumbent Maroons winger Darius Boyd.
-Semi Radradra v Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Wow.
-Mature-aged rookie Manu Ma’u can make another emphatic first season statement opposite Sonny Bill Williams.
-The centre battle between Konrad Hurrell and Josh Morris should be a ripper.
-Gareth Widdop returns to his former home ground, playing opposite rookie No.6 Ben Hampton but effectively duelling with his ex-halves partner Cooper Cronk.
-Gold Coast ironman Luke Douglas makes his 200th NRL appearance on Friday night, which doubles as his 200th consecutive first grade match since making his debut for Cronulla in 2006.
-Billy Slater’s next try – his 160th – will take him into outright fifth on the all-time try-scorers register, just four behind Terry Lamb and five in arrears of Andrew Ettingshausen.
Cult hero alert: Cronulla has snapped up Papua New Guinean powerhouse Mark Mexico for the remainder of the NRL season. Mexico was one of the standouts of the Kumuls’ ultimately disappointing World Cup campaign, and has carried that form into Queensland Cup newcomers PNG Hunters’ maiden season to pique the interest of the embattled Sharks. Watch for Mexico to give more than a few opponents an impromptu mid-game siesta with his bullocking charges and rugged defence.
Match Review panel shows superstar bias: It is baffling that Daly Cherry-Evans did not have to front the judiciary to defend a charge of deliberately kneeing an opponent in the head. One of the NRL’s nice guys, the cherubic Cherry-Evans appeared clearly frustrated when he leant on a Tigers player’s head during the first half. It is another example of the game’s beloved superstars – Billy Slater displaying Teflon-like qualities to avoid the judiciary time and again – receiving preferential treatment after grubby incidents, while lesser lights defend comparatively innocuous charges.
Warriors ‘crisis’ overreaction: The hysteria throughout the game following Matt Elliott’s abrupt exit has been out of control. Sure, it was handled poorly, but Elliott leaving was the right call. Many are writing off their season already, demanding the owners, CEO, board and players be sacked, bemoaning a allegedly ‘toxic’ culture at a supposed basket-case of a club – all pure kneejerk hyperbole. A few points to keep everything in perspective:
-Since Eric Watson took over ownership of what effectively became a new club in 2001, the Warriors have made the finals seven times in 13 seasons – better than six other current clubs and equal to three more.
-They have made two Grand Finals during this period – only Melbourne, Manly and the Roosters have played in more, while the Bulldogs and Parramatta have also played two.
-The Warriors have never collected a wooden spoon, a feat only Brisbane, Manly, St George Illawara and West Tigers can also boast.
-While undeniably one of the disappointments of the last two seasons, the Warriors have a better record combined in 2012-13 than four other clubs.
-Which clubs besides the Roosters, Manly and maybe Cronulla and Penrith actually exceeded expectations in 2013?
-Most coaches are first given the courtesy of resigning rather than being sacked – there is little difference, so who cares that Elliott actually was pushed? Of course he was! Co-owner Owen Glenn – virtually a silent partner who is currently trying to sell his share in the club – made some inflammatory, ill-informed comments that whipped everyone into a frenzy over a total non-issue.
-The Warriors are currently 2-3 for the season – the same as some pretty handy outfits in Souths, the Roosters and North Queensland. They are far from done in a 2014 premiership that is shaping as the most even of the modern era.
-The Warriors don’t need a hard-nosed, vastly experienced coach. The only coaches to enjoy success at the club – Daniel Anderson and Ivan Cleary – were first-time NRL coaches who had served a long lower grade apprenticeship, much like McFadden. The efforts of Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire and now Brad Arthur has shown that is the trend for top coaches, not crusty coaches with a string of first grade failures and plenty of baggage.
-Tim Sheens is not the answer. Yes, he won a memorable premiership with the Tigers, but missed the finals for the next four seasons, and was punted – after a series of woeful recruitment decisions and discontent in the club – with a record of three finals series in 10 years.
Memorable mid-season coaching appointment debuts: The signs are good for a first-up win for Andrew McFadden.
1990 – Russell Fairfax’s ill-fated term in charge of the Roosters ended after a run of 10 games without a win, but the club bounced back to beat Wests 26-14 in the first of caretaker coach ‘Bunny’ Reilly’s two games in charge.
1994 – After Phil Gould’s acrimonious departure from Penrith, Royce Simmons steered the Panthers to a 28-24 win over St George in his first game at the helm.
1998 – The struggling Adelaide Rams broke a seven-match losing streak after punting Rod Reddy as coach, trouncing Penrith 35-18 in their first match under Dean Lance.
1999 – Manly began 1999 with seven straight losses, leading to the legendary Bob Fulton stepping down. But the Sea Eagles beat heavyweights Parramatta 12-6 in their first match with Peter Sharp in charge.
2004 – Daniel Anderson relinquished the Warriors’ coaching role after a 58-6 loss to the Roosters, but they beat Canberra 20-14 a week later under Tony Kemp.
2004 – A week after Kemp’s dream debut, Arthur Kitinas guided Souths to a massive 28-26 upset of Melbourne after Paul Langmack was shown the door, breaking an eight-game winless run.
2007 – The Roosters recovered from a 56-0 thrashing from Manly and Chris Anderson’s resignation to score a stirring 23-12 victory over Cronulla in Brad Fittler’s first match as coach.
2009 – Brian Smith walked out of Newcastle late in ’09, but caretaker coach Rick Stone led the Knights to a 26-14 boilover victory against eventual champs Melbourne in his first game.
Commentary dirge: “He’s all over him like calamine lotion,” screeched Ray Hadley during the Broncos-Eels clash last Friday. I’ve only lived in Australia for six years – can someone please explain why Hadley has crafted any semblance of popularity on television or radio over the last 25-plus years when he constantly combines these hackneyed ‘expressions’ with a torturously annoying voice? Time for Gyngell to swallow his pride and beg Vossy to come back.
Try of the Year contender: Semi Radradra’s 2014 highlights reel will become a DVD Box Set by the end of the season, adding another spectacular try to his burgeoning collection against the Broncos. The Parramatta powerhouse started the long-range movement with a deft pass and finished it with raw speed, power and excellent balance. An absolute gem.
Blunder city, population …
Warriors five-eighth recruit Chad Townsend endured a horror return to the Shire, making three handling errors, missing touch from a penalty and throwing an intercept pass for Nathan Stapleton’s first try. He finds himself back in NSW Cup this week, where he skippered the Sharks to a premiership last year.
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.
1. Jarryd Hayne
2. Josh Mansour
3. Will Hopoate
4. Joseph Leilua
5. Brett Morris
6. Josh Reynolds
7. Albert Kelly
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Robbie Farah
10. Aaron Woods
11. Boyd Cordner
12. Greg Bird
13. Trent Merrin
14. John Sutton
15. Adam Docker
16. Tyson Frizell
17. Luke Douglas
1. Anthony Milford
2. Brent Tate
3. Greg Inglis
4. Willie Tonga
5. Dale Copley
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Chris Sandow
8. Jacob Lillyman
9. Cameron Smith
10. Corey Parker
11. Nate Myles
12. Sam Thaiday
13. Matt Gillett
14. Andrew McCullough
15. Brenton Lawrence
16. Ashley Harrison
17. Dylan Napa
This week in history:
1947 – Manly and Parramatta made their premiership debuts in the opening round. Manly went down 15-13 to Wests despite scoring three tries to the Magpies’ one, while the Eels were swamped 34-12 by Newtown.
1954 – Newtown and Souths played out a 20-all draw in Round 3 in a preview of the eventual Grand Final; the Bluebags finished as minor premiers but the Rabbitohs prevailed in the first ever mandatory Grand Final.
1982 – Canberra felt the harsh realities of premiership football when they were pumped 54-3 by defending champs Parramatta in Round 7. Eric Grothe scored four tries while Mick Cronin and Peter Sterling bagged hat-tricks. The result remained a Raiders club record loss for 31 years.
1995 – The South Queensland Crushers netted their maiden first grade victory with a 16-12 upset of heavyweights North Sydney in Round 5. Englishmen St John Ellis and Mike Ford got on the scoresheet for the battling Crushers. It was the first of just 13 wins the doomed club would enjoy in 65 games.
The Punters Guide to the 2014 NRL Season: If you haven’t picked up your copy of Nick Tedeschi’s all-encompassing, fascinating bible for NRL consumption in 2014, what are you waiting for? Anyone who has a punt, makes a fantasy trade or even sits down to watch a game is selling themselves short by not consulting this super-affordable tome first. Get it at newsagencies or on the iTunes store.