After an intriguing round 14, we dive into round 15. It’s one of those lovely short rounds that allows me to get on with my life outside of NRL hashtags. I have stuff to do, you know.
Gold Coast (4-9) @ South Sydney (4-9)
The Gold Coast are a chance here. South Sydney have been playing like ANZ has myxomatosis. The Bunnies are yet to win a game at home, which would be unfathomable if we were talking about literally any other franchise. Even Newcastle manages to give the home fans something to cheer about occasionally.
Meanwhile, Jarrod Wallace put in the greatest attempt at the Bart Simpson defence in denying he shoulder charged Blake Ayshford in the game against the Warriors last week. This was the high point of a procedural approach by the Warriors that cooked the Titans in fifty minutes. Hopefully Neil Henry has them doing some cardio this week. The Titans showed a level of fitness I expect from normal people, not professional athletes. So far this year, the Titans are either proof that everyone has a lucky day or two or that the best have off-days but they’ve not exhibited any signs of getting on top of their flaws as a team.
Myxomastosis or no, the Rabbitohs look a lot closer to stringing together a bunch of tries from their error-riddled attack than the Titans.
North Queensland (8-5) @ Melbourne (11-2)
This is the pick of the round. Both teams are supplying plenty of stars to the Maroons line-up, so it’ll be interesting to see who has the backup talent to prevail at AAMI Park. Melbourne have barely blinked this year, accounting for all who come before them, while North Queensland have been patchy without Thurston.
Both teams are in the unenviable position of having to decide what their sides are going to look like once their linchpins retire. Yes kids, your current heroes of rugby league will get old and head off into the sunset at some point in the near future. It happened to Messenger, Churchill and Langlands, it’ll happen to Thurston, Slater and Smith. Thermodynamics is a bitch like that. This game might offer some insight into what the Storm and Cowboys are going to be once the Second Law takes its course.
For now though, I see the Storm taking this one.
Wests Tigers (3-10) @ Cronulla (9-4)
The Tigers played well for about forty, maybe forty-five, minutes last week against the Roosters. Then they stopped playing well and conceded thirty-odd points. Whether or not this tactic will see them get over the Sharks remains to be seen but let’s be honest, as a strategy it has its flaws. Half the team is on their way out next year for better pastures and, like a bunch of Jarryd Haynes, have a perpetual air of being too good for the situation in which they find themselves, despite it being entirely of their own making. I’m not going to mention any names except for James Tedesco because that’s clearly who I’m talking about .
Cronulla are possibly the best in the NRL now, except for Melbourne and maybe City and Brisbane. And except when they play at home when they become a slightly more befuddled version of Cronulla, with a 3-4 record at Southern Cross. How a team let’s their own home ground become their bête noire is probably best explained with a complex statistical analysis that reveals its basically bad luck. Sharkies for the win.
St George Illawarra (8-5) @ Parramatta (7-7)
After a spiteful, ugly and all-round garbage performance last weekend in Darwin, the Eels will be hoping not to get smashed two weeks running. Mitchell Moses has hopefully been to hospital to check out the partial seizures he’s been having whenever someone runs at him from dummy half. Here’s a tip for the Dragons: just run at Mitchell and he’ll stare slackjawed as you cross the stripe, unable to conceive the nightmarish world he inhabits where doing absolutely nothing defensively leads to conceded tries.
In contrast, we have St George Illawarra who barely managed to account for fifteenth placed Wests and lost to Canterbury, a team everyone figured was well advanced in their planning of Mad Monday celebrations. It’s a real coin flip to see who can play the least worst and maybe score a try if its not too much to ask. The Greeks have this one on a knife-edge, just favouring the Dragons by 51% to 49% for the Eels. I’m inclined to agree and am backing St George.
Round 14 was not too bad with everyone knocking over five or six out of the eight. The two trip-ups were Saints going down to Canterbury and the Titans copping one from the Warriors. It’s probably the last time the Titans will be shown any favour. Euclid is closing in on 50% and Eratos on 60%, so the percentages are slowly improving but far from good. I’ve nearly beaten picking the home side.
After round 14: