I paid the price for my arrogance. I figured that the Raiders and the Warriors were done, dusted, spent forces that would not be able to stand up to even a weakened Roosters or Broncos outfit. They managed it and came home comfortable winners to boot. Scoring just one from four was not a pleasant experience and not one I intend to repeat. At least the rating systems had an excuse – there was nowhere to put the information that Origin is upon us – but for me, only failure.
As suggested, not a great round. No one got above 1 in 4 except good old Eratosthenes, who correctly tipped Canberra over Easts, so there hasn’t been much movement since last week. So far this year listening to the two “form” Elo rating systems would have been less effective than listening to a coin.
After round 12:
New South Wales (48-2-58) @ Queensland (58-2-48)
It’s the first of the three big games that keeps rugby league relevant in this country. The opening round of State of Origin will be played at Suncorp in Brisbane in front of a not-quite-capacity crowd thanks to a dipshit ticket pricing structure. It’s the showpiece of the entire sport so if you did run rugby league, you would want to ignore the fact that it didn’t sell out in five minutes in one of your most important markets. It’s called “giving the people what they want at a price just above what they can afford”. Look it up.
The Greeks have no way of having any input here so I have no objective way of evaluating which team is better other than comparing which side’s vitriol is more effective. So far it’s neck and neck to see which side’s fanbase can be the least coherent and farthest from reality in their Twitter banter.
Other analysts are doing stat-by-stat comparisons of each player’s performance in the NRL. This fails for two really important reasons:
- The NRL is not Origin. The quality of the two teams is much higher than the standard opposition and the pressure is immense.
- Those stats are fairly meaningless unless they contribute to actual wins. Show me the sabermetrics! Where’s Bill James when you need him?
So for all that, I don’t know who’s going to win. I’m tipping Queensland because I just want to see New South Wales lose. And I’m from Queensland.
Back to the real world, it’s a slightly reduced round with the Sharks and Rabbitohs getting the bye. Some of the teams most heavily affected by Origin, e.g. Brisbane and Sydney City, are putting up full strength line-ups as of Tuesday and, if their stars make it through tonight in one piece, should be close to prime form, minus a bit of fatigue.
Newcastle (2-9) @ Melbourne (9-2)
We kick the round off with the top-vs-bottom of the ladder clash. Even after last week and only two days between Wednesday’s Origin and Friday’s game, surely the Storm can get home over the Knights. Surely. The average of the Greeks has this pegged at 84%, giving Newcastle a one-in-six chance. They don’t come much more certain. I would like to think it will be a race to see how long it will take the Storm to rack up 50 but this season, they seem to be scared of going too far in front, so a winning score in the 30s should do it for Melbourne.
New Zealand (4-8) @ Parramatta (6-6)
Both teams are coming off what I would call surprise wins last week. New Zealand seemed to remember that they have the resources of an entire nation at their disposal and never let Brisbane see the light of day. Parramatta trounced Souths in a performance that could be described as effective if it had been against a team above 14th on the ladder. In a contest of which is the least ugly and despite my misgivings about Western Sydney – and that’s the whole geographical area, not just their football teams – I’m going the Eels.
Wests Tigers (3-8) @ St George Illawarra (7-4)
A game in Woollongong should be a dream for the people who put together NRL footage. Some nice B roll of the waves crashing on the beach right next to WIN Stadium would really put the telecast into a beautiful local context. Alas, we are instead playing at ANZ where a huge crowd that might just sneak into five figures will turn up, be thoroughly disappointed by the Tigers’ performance and go home again, wondering why they made the trek to Sydney Olympic Park in the first place. Dragons should romp home.
Brisbane (8-4) @ Sydney (8-4)
Both teams put up 23-man team lists thanks to an exception in the rules that if you have four or more players selected for Origin, you can do that. Both lists look really good on paper but it will be extremely telling – and we will know within about the first ten minutes – who’s managed to back up from Origin and who hasn’t. I know the Greeks will favour Sydney, having lost by less last week and playing at home, but I remember the last game, which was ridiculously recent, when the Broncos tore through the Roosters, so I’m hoping that will happen again.
Gold Coast (4-7) @ North Queensland (6-5)
There’s nothing quite like a Queensland derby, except when it involves the Gold Coast. I feel for the Titans, I really do. They should have everything going for them: a big slice of the SEQ market, a great stadium, good public transport, an even nicer location than Woolongong, big names on their roster and other players who actually turn up and play rugby league. The reality seems to be that no one cares about them. I would adopt them as a second team but I think that would be an exercise in masochism and I don’t like pain. Cowboys to lasso the Titans and take this one home.
Canberra (6-6) @ Manly (6-5)
What do you think happens when you take the two most mercurial teams in the NRL and make them play each other? There’s four possible outcomes here:
- Manly turn up/Canberra don’t – Manly win, boring game
- Canberra turn up/Manly don’t – Canberra win, boring game
- Neither side turns up – Rugby league loses
- Both sides turn up – 2nd law of thermodynamics is broken and all hell breaks loose
It’s times like this that I just go with the Greeks. Seeing as Euclid and Archimedes have decided to give up entirely after a woeful first half of the season and are just picking home teams, I’m going to go Manly.
Penrith (4-7) @ Canterbury (5-7)
I thought we had a contest for the worst looking between the Warriors and the Eels but this game between the Panthers and Bulldogs should take the cake. The seasons of both of these teams are pretty much already over so I don’t think anyone really cares outside of Lakemba and Penrith. The Bulldogs have looked if not better, then at least more consistent, of the two teams so a win for Canterbury.