Coming into the Easter long weekend and the competition is starting to take shape. Despite protests from many, I had a reasonably good week with the tipping in round 3 but still trail my Greek colleagues. To be fair, none of us are doing particularly well but hopefully things will settle down soon and the natural course of events will take place.
Penrith at North Queensland
This could have been a blockbuster but then Nathan Cleary got himself injured for ten weeks and I had to put a line through the Panthers. It was like putting down a faithful pet. They’re not much with him and they’re going to be even less without him. The upside for Penrith fans is that it will mean the much maligned Anthony Griffin is given the toss. The remaining Penrith juniors will probably be forced out with him.
North Queensland have been beset with their own injury woes. Michael Morgan missed a couple of games and still doesn’t look quite right. Lachlan Coote’s hamstrings are responsible for him going MIA. Meanwhile, Johnathan Thurston is one bad tackle away from destroying his shoulder permanently and Matt Scott appears to have aged five years after one season off. The Cowboys’ superstar lineup is looking a lot more fragile than we first thought. Or, the Cows are just easing themselves into the season before going gangbusters in the back half.
Penrith have nothing going for them, so if the Cowboys are going to make it to September, they need to strike and win games like this. North Queensland to win.
Warriors at Sydney
The comp’s form team comes head-to-head with one of the premiership triumvirate in a pretty exciting clash, although you would’ve wanted a HIA if you’d said that twelve months ago. The Warriors have a tough stretch ahead, facing down the Roosters, Broncos, Cowboys, Storm and Dragons over the next five rounds. If they’re the real deal, it starts with a win here. NZ are still playing with exciting, unpredictable football that makes me want them to win.
We expected the Roosters to be 4-0 after three rounds, that’s how highly regarded the new look line-up was considered pre-season. Despite a tumble against the Tigers, big wins over the Bulldogs and Knights have seen the jelly mix that is the Roosters spine congeal into a firm, flexible and sugary packet that is one of the league’s best. Food metaphors are definitely best used in a rugby league context.
I’m not sure I could imagine or process a Warriors win, so I’m tipping Sydney.
Canberra at Manly
I’m being rebellious with my tip this week. Canberra will win a game eventually. I know, I know, they put about as much effort into their last minute defence against the Warriors’ taking freebie shots at the goalposts as they have into everything they’ve done over the last few years. That is, nothing, and they paid the price accordingly with an acutely embarrassing one point loss. Ironically, their first win in 2018 will likely be by a decent margin and it may as well be this one.
Manly have been busted for salary cap breaches during the week, so their attention may lie elsewhere. The irony of Manly fans blasting the Storm for their late 2000s breach and their fans for a 40-0 grand final loss in 2008 is not lost on anyone. Like on the football field, at least the Storm had the guts to go hard with their cheating. What do the Sea Eagles have to show for it? Nothing. First learn to cheat properly, then the wins will flow. Until then, you may as well not bother.
I’m tipping the Raiders to snap their streak. Just don’t let Cherry-Evans inside the 40 with only a point in it.
Souths vs Canterbury was the hardest of this round to tip but I was more impressed by the solid win produced by the Bunnies, so that’s where I’m going. Cronulla-Melbourne looks interesting on paper but the Storm will be too strong (unless it rains, then all bets are off). The Dragons and Broncos will go through the motions to lock in a W each. If the Tigers and Eels play like they have the last three weeks, then (in what is probably a first) Wests will comfortably send Parra to 0-4.
Sunshine Coast at Easts
I’ll admit that I’ve really struggled with ISC tipping. It’s a lot harder than the already unpredictable NRL. Last year, this would have been a blockbuster. In fact, it was the minor semi final last year, which the Falcons won before going on to fumble a Queensland Cup away in the grand final.
This year, though, Easts have struggled to the point they lost their opening round game against the Capras. For context, that’s like being the sole dropkick of a team that lost to Newcastle in 2016. The Falcons have just come off a comfortable win against the last year’s premiers, the PNG Hunters while the Tigers lost out to the Jets.
While both sides have lost key players to the Storm (specifically, Croft) and other clubs (e.g. Hamilton to Souths) during the off-season, the Falcons seem to be going better and get my sole dissenting vote.
The Jury reached unanimity this week on the other games. The Bears and Pride are hot at the moment and will take care of the Magpies and Cutters respectively. Last year, PNG lost both games to Tweed. I don’t see that happening this year, so Hunters to win at home. The Devils will win the curtain raiser before the Broncos game while the Dolphins should account for an out-of-shape Blackhawks. Ipswich will be our sole away winner in Rockhampton.