Round 15 was great with each game was more exciting than the last, except for the first one and the last one and there was only four games. Round 16 is ahead with some tricky fixtures: 1st vs 2nd, 3rd vs 5th, 11th vs 12th and the always celebrated 14th vs 16th. There’s also an Origin game where New South Wales are going to try to stitch up their first series in a few years.
Queensland (58-2-49) @ New South Wales (49-2-58)
The core issue the Maroons faced in the last game is that they were roughly as effective as the Belgian border at stopping the Germans, which is the Blues forward pack in this poor choice of an analogy.
The Blues’ forwards were so good that they didn’t even bother selecting Paul Vaughan in what I assume is an example of classic anti-Italian bias in the NSWRL selectors panel (Germans again). Andrew Fifita, meanwhile, continues to weigh a, literally, solid 15kg over any of the Queensland forwards. While the Storm contained him fairly well when they played the Sharks recently, Origin seems to get him pretty fired up and the physics of momentum is his friend.
The Queensland selection changes seemed to be made due to public and media pressure. If you believed Slater was good enough for game 2, why not pick him for game 1? It’s not like Darius Boyd was the weak point in the team. Adding Valentine Holmes, yet another fullback, feels like someone has not analysed the issues correctly in a panic to be seen to be fixing the problem.
While I’m tipping NSW, I do hope that everyone that wrote the Queensland dynasty’s obituary before the second game was stitched up are shown up in a hilariously embarrassing way.
But back to the main game:
Canterbury (6-8) @ New Zealand (6-8)
I have trouble picking this one. Both teams have the same losing records. Both teams have been similarly uninspiring on the field. Both teams are coming off a win in round 14, with the Bulldogs’ win signalling an “oh shit” moment for the Dragons’ form, and the Warriors’ win coming over a Titans side that only played five-eighths of the game before they punched in the clutch and rolled in to full time.
I’m going the Warriors. They’re at home, have no Origin commitments and the Bulldogs have been crap playing away from home. A game in Auckland is like a double away game.
Gold Coast (4-10) @ Wests Tigers (3-11)
Neither the Titans nor the Tigers seem to have played a full eighty minutes in a long time. The Tigers played for seventy against the Sharks and then let the game slip through their fingers and chalked up another very disappointing loss. At least it wasn’t the exercise in tedious banality expected and it was an improvement over the forty-five they put in against the Roosters.
The Titans were only in the game for fifty minutes against the Rabbitohs, no improvement over their performance against the Warriors. GCT might have been on the field but I think they were more focussed on what was for dinner than getting the ball and scoring tries. It’s like they think the game’s over at half time and the second half is just an exhibition.
I’d guess that the Tigers will win solely because they play the game for longer before being distracted by something shiny.
Penrith (6-7) @ North Queensland (8-6)
There are two teams back in this competition and in this game they will face off to see who is the most backest of them all. Penrith have the advantage of having been so unpredictable – literally, as in you don’t know whether they will dominate or be insipid – this year that they aren’t involved in Origin at all. While North Queensland are one-third of Queensland’s primary line of defence*, the Cowboys demonstrated last week against the Storm that they are a fundamentally quality side.
North Queensland are more than capable of belting teams back from the tropics back to the western Sydney mortgage belt, so I’m favouring the Cowboys.
*The other two being Brisbane and Melbourne. Obviously, the only “primary” thing that can be associated with the Gold Coast is a “primary school level of ineptitude”. Hey, I’m here all week.
Brisbane (9-5) @ Canberra (6-8)
I’m not mad at the Raiders, I’m just disappointed. They finished one of the top rated teams last season on this site and took second on the ladder, which seems to matter to a lot more people than what I come up with. You wouldn’t know it to look at them this year. They lost to Newcastle for crying out loud.
The Broncos have apparently been in such electrifying form that they sent a guy who’s about to go onto a million dollar per annum contract to play for Ipswich (not even one of the good Intrust Super Cup teams like Redcliffe), where Ben Hunt managed to hand out a flogging to Norths. Then he jumped into the Maroons camp and now will start on the bench in Canberra. Long story short, I’m confused because what I’ve seen from the Donkeys doesn’t merit that level of confidence.
Having said that, the Marshall/Nikorima pairing should be good enough to get the Broncos pointing in the direction of a win at GIO.
Melbourne (12-2) @ Sydney City (10-4)
It’s the battle we’ve all been waiting for. Which Australian city is the most overrated: Sydney or Melbourne? Oh and there’s a game of rugby league on as well and surprise, suckers! It’s in Adelaide.
The Storm’s young team of replacements from the Intrust Super Cup put in a performance that was as exhilarating for their fans as it was emotionally devastating for everyone else in the NRL. How can they have been so good for so long and have more in the pipeline? Sydney couldn’t even be bothered to play last round because of something called a “bye”. In their last game, they belted the Tigers which is like saying you managed to tie your own shoelaces this morning. We’re not that impressed.
Even though I personally prefer Sydney to Melbourne, the Sydney City Roosters have yet to convince me that they can compete with the Melbourne Storm. The Storm to win.
Newcastle (2-11) @ St George Illawarra (8-6)
The Dragons have been in bad form lately, edging out the Tigers and then losing to the Bulldogs and Eels, but do we really think they’re in “lose-to-the-Knights” bad form? Newcastle beat the Gold Coast, fluked one past Canberra and were cruelly denied against Manly. We’ll find out on Sunday whether the Dragons will join that illustrious club when the Knights travel to Kogarah to take on the Dragons.
I’ve tipped the Dragons and the Greeks only give Newcastle a one-in-four chance but I honestly think this is the most likely to end up in an upset. A win here for the Knights and a loss for the Tigers against the Titans would cement the Tigers on the bottom of the ladder, so there’s actually a lot on the line here. I’m not predicting it but there’s like a 10% chance of that happening.
Manly (8-5) @ Cronulla (10-4)
If you thought the battle for Australia’s top city was inane, wait until you see the battle of the Sydney beachside suburbs. It’s north versus south, bogans versus silvertails. It’s two pretty good teams going head to head.
Cronulla have made leaving it late into an art. They took the lead against the Tigers, a game the Sharks were supposed to dominate, with two minutes to go. How confident do you have to be to be that calm and know you’ll turn it around before the final siren? Nonetheless, Cronulla manage it week-in, week-out.
The Sea Eagles are 8-5 and what I want to know is who let that happen? It feels like that came from nowhere. One minute they’re floundering in the water like an infant with floaties, next minute they’re Ian Thorpe (or at least Grant Hackett). I looked into Manly’s run to the end of the season and they have the worst of Western Sydney and the Warriors to face. It’s unbelievable how easy rich people have it.
Manly to go out to an early lead before Cronulla chase them down and win by four or less.
The worst round for anyone was 75% and it was only because most of us thought the Dragons’ performance against the Bulldogs was an aberration. Not so, and they went down to the Eels. Eratosthenes had a perfect round. I should listen to that guy more because I’ve only just now surpassed the impressive metric of “pick the home team”.
After round 15: