We did it, guys! We made it to the end of the season. If you’re like me, it’s been a slog. It’s certainly the most committed I’ve been to watching large, sweaty men smashing into each other for many years. Making it so far has not been aided by my truly terrible tipping performance but you’ve come this far, we may as well see it through.
Brisbane (15-8) @ North Queensland (13-10)
This is, without a doubt in my mind, the biggest rivalry in the NRL. You might have mistakenly thought it was Easts-Souths but that the two games earlier this year had an attendance of about half of those who turned up to Suncorp in round 3 tells a different story.
You, being a bit on the slow side, might have also mistakenly thought that copping a belting at the hands of the Eels would have dented the Broncos’ confidence in any meaningful way. Nothing could be further from the truth and I don’t say that because I’ve repressed any memory of last Thursday night with large quantities of liquor.
The Cowboys’ season is on the line, although they can still make the finals even if they lose and the Dragons win. This should provide additional motivation but North Queensland’s lineup is looking tender and bruised after a long, difficult season. If they do make the finals, they’ll need most of their current lineup to still be in one piece if they are to succeed.
I can’t go past the Broncos to settle this one and hopefully by more than one point.
South Sydney (9-14) @ Parramatta (15-8)
If the Eels are going to make a decent fist of the finals, they’ll need to win this game. Parra will have the added bonus of playing in a nearly empty stadium in their own city. It’s like having a homeground advantage without all the screaming fans putting you off. The win will keep Cronulla at bay on the ladder, securing a top four finish and opening a door to the premiership.
For Souths, who knows? They just got body slammed by the best in the business. Nearly sixty unanswered points were scored by the Storm in a performance so lacking in lustre that it was basically the opposite of a diamond. So… chalk, I guess. Cheese, maybe. There are no good metaphors available to describe the performance.
Parramatta to take the last two points of the season.
Gold Coast (7-16) @ Sydney City (16-7)
Do the Titans even care about this game? It’s eighty minutes standing between them and the end of an extremely painful season. Notwithstanding the fact that the Titans have barely strung eighty minutes of committed play together all year, I think they’ll be keen to put themselves, and anyone who’s witnessed their games, out of their misery.
The Roosters, on the other hand, are looking to stitch up a home qualifying final. The alternative is an away qualifying final, likely against the Broncos or maybe the Eels. Home field advantage is worth about four points and Sydney are going to need all the points they can get, unless the same Broncos that turned up last Thursday are scheduled for the qualifying final, in which case it won’t matter and Easts will be allowed to walk across the try line while Darius Boyd stares blankly, unable to remember what he’s supposed to do in these situations.
The Roosters will win this for mine.
Penrith (13-10) @ Manly (13-10)
The winner of this game secures a place in the top eight, making it this most important game of the round.
Manly have shockingly only won two of their last six games, prompting questions like, “Was Manly just really lucky during the middle of the season?” and “Are we sure Tom Trbojevic isn’t just a bunch of kids in a trenchcoat?” These questions only got louder when they barely managed to account for the Warriors last week.
Penrith’s seven game winning streak came to an exciting end at the hands of the Dragons. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Penrith haven’t played a top five side since April. April. Donald Trump has nearly caused a nuclear armageddon at least three times since the Panthers last took the field against a contending NRL side. There’s no real way to gauge their form.
Both teams need this but I still think the Panthers are better, mostly because Nathan Cleary doesn’t dive.
Canberra (11-12) @ Melbourne (19-4)
The Storm are going for an unprecedented forty-four points. Sort of. It is precedented. Melbourne reached forty-four points in 2006 and 2007. These minor premierships were later stripped for blatant salary cap breaches.
Canberra have not been close to forty-four points since 1995 and they won’t get there this year. The Bunnies demonstrated quite clearly what happens when you try to get in the way of the Storm. It closely resembles that of a bug meeting a windscreen on a highway.
I’m expecting a similar performance so Melbourne to finish on forty-four.
Cronulla (14-9) @ Newcastle (5-18)
The good people of Newcastle should be congratulated for turning up in numbers even after three wooden spoons running. That’s about where my praise ends because I remember when Newcastle were good and I didn’t like them then and I don’t like them now.
Same goes for Cronulla really, except that this is the only time they’ve ever been any good.
I’m not sure any of this is relevant. Just trying to pad out a paragraph for a foregone conclusion: Cronulla to win.
Canterbury (9-14) @ St George Illawarra (12-11)
St George Illawarra need to win this to have a hope of getting in to the top eight. The Bulldogs, last couple of games not withstanding, have been terrible enough that they haven’t had a hope of making the top eight since May.
The sand in the gears is that the Bulldogs, like the Rabbitohs and the Tigers, have started to trying to win games again. Right when it matters least. Two games on the trot for the boys from Bankstown, albeit one was against the least capable side in the NRL, which is the most they’ve had since April. The Dragons have been wobbly and are prone to losing against weak opposition and are vulnerable now, right when it matters most.
That said, the Dragons have all the motivation, more of the skill and probably won’t engage in a cheeky few before the game, so St George to win.
New Zealand (7-16) @ Wests Tigers (6-17)
The nothing game of nothing games, duly buried in a 6.30PM Sunday timeslot. Go ask the AFL how their “twilight” Sunday games are rating. They’re about as popular as the 6PM Friday slot. Or smallpox.
New Zealand came worryingly close to a win against Manly. Like walking a tightrope between two buildings, the Warriors started to think about what was happening, panicked and managed to lose the game, despite being up by seven with six minutes to go. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Wests have been kind of good lately, although its been a while since they notched a win. They’ve given half the top eight a run for their money and in that sense, we have a better idea of how well they would in the finals go than, say, the Panthers, but of course they won’t be there. This is also the farewell game for James Tedesco (he will be missed) and Aaron Woods (he will be roasted like the marshmallow he is).
I have a bit more confidence in the Tigers so they should win this and condemn Newcastle to a wooden spoon.
After round 25: