I did get held up earlier this week with a bit of not being well and working a lot (it’s amazing how often those two things go hand-in-hand). It nixed my ability to do this week’s recap (I did tweet it out though) but I managed to find time to do the tips. Suck on that, work!
Last week was pretty standard, with four or five right for various systems, in a week that some people seemed to struggle with. It might be that the Elo ratings are fairly well dialled in (unless you’re Norths losing to Mackay) or it could just be luck. This week brings a new set of challenges.
Wests at Penrith
Penrith didn’t appear to struggle without Nathan Cleary. He’s back anyway which is timely as he gets to take on Dad in yet another interminable battle of western Sydney team. James Maloney took over game management and play making and showed why he is one of the best in the sport. The Panthers’ forwards continued to provide opportunities for their guys while denying the opposition theirs in what is emerging as one of the season’s main themes; the successful teams of late are all following in the wake of their packs (e.g. Bunnies, Dragons, etc). It’s all going their way and that’s why Penrith are second on the ladder.
Let’s check in on Wests and see where they’re at on the ladder. Hmm, let’s see. Right. Seventh with a 6-4 record. Is that good? There are two answers. The first is, yes, that’s a lot better than I thought they would be doing. I personally thought they would struggle to generate six wins at all this year. The second is, no, that’s not where we expect the team that beat the Storm twice to be, especially as Melbourne are now flexing their muscles and showing us what they’re capable of. Cleary appears to be swapping players in the backline regularly and still extracting good, if not consistently outstanding, performances from the no-name players. The forward pack is performing extremely well and forming the bedrock of the Tigers’ 2018 campaign. Despite this, Wests are 1-3 over their last four and only have a win against the Cowboys to their credit. I think they’ve found their level, which is a bit above average.
With the home ground advantage, superior form and a returning starting halfback, I see Penrith winning this one.
Warriors at Parramatta
A really great start to the season has started to give way to inconsistent performances for our Kiwi friends. The Warriors have been blown out by the Storm for 50+ and now shut out by the Roosters for 30+. In between, they beat the Dragons, the Tigers and, also, the Roosters. Nobody knows which Warriors outfit will turn up on Friday in the pub slot. Injuries are starting to mount with Isaac Luke returning, no Shaun Johnson and Mason Lino with a shadow of doubt. It’s a tricky time.
Conversely, Parramatta were starting to resemble a functional footy side. Emphasis on starting. The return of Clint Gutherson did inspire a win or two from the perpetual losers but they’re back to their old ways, having now lost two on the trot. So it is with a very light heart, because I don’t like Parramatta, and it may only be ten games into the season but there’s no way the Eels are getting out of the bottom four. They’re smoked, they’re unagi and their blood is no longer toxic, although debatable whether their culture is likewise.
For me, this is a good opportunity to the Warriors to do a tune up, snag a win and get back on track.
Newcastle at Gold Coast
Newcastle, much like the real Cleopatra, isn’t what we would consider a classically attractive footy team. They are missing their biggest signing in years, with Mitchell Pearce needing another four weeks to put his pectoral back together again. The strategy in the interim seems to be to throw the ball to Kalyn Ponga and hope the rest works out. I’ve tried that “let’s see what happens” strategy numerous times in my own life with varying outcomes, none of which I would describe as success.
The Titans started the season quite well, at least compared to the very low expectations set for them by the media, the fans and, undoubtedly, themselves and their families. Then reality set in and it got hard. The GC lost what few bandwagoners it had and now the Titans are 0-5 in their last five games and only sitting above Parra on the ladder. Bryce Cartwright, a man easier to get past than a spider web, is supposedly joining Konrad Hurrell and Kane Elgey in the reserves. I’m not sure who’s left to turn up and play with Ash Taylor. He may be a very lonely boy come Saturday.
Much like having toxic snake venom removed from your system would make you feel comparatively good enough to take on the world, expunging Cartwright from the Titans lineup may trigger similar feelings and I reckon they’re a shot of snapping their streak. Further, it’s the first time that the Greeks had tipped the Titans at all this year, so a win should be doable for the Gold Coast.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Roosters will beat the Broncos but this is exactly the kind of game, at home and coming off a horrific loss, that they would win so I’m backing Brisbane out of a sense of misplaced loyalty. Souths will roll over North Queensland. The Storm will do likewise to the Sea Eagles. The Raiders are not good enough to stop the Dragons. Canterbury and Cronulla are going to play out a low-scoring, dull and dour affair resulting in a Sharks win.
Norths at Ipswich
Norths suffered a fairly embarrassing loss against Mackay in their last outing. Euclid knocked a fairly substantial 40 points off their rating, taking them slightly below mediocre. The reason I’m telling you this is because the same Elo rating system has Ipswich as favourites over Norths in their meeting on Saturday. The Jets start 5-4 while the Devils are 6-3. The Jets have already knocked off both Redcliffe and Townsville, so they’re capable but I think Norths will be smarting enough to show they’re a threat and take a win.
Is Kane Elgey playing for Tweed? Yes. What’s that? Konny Hurrel is also pulling on the black and white? Well, that’ll double do me: Seagulls (yes, again). The line between the Falcons and Dolphins is pretty tight and could easily go either way. I’m leaning towards Redcliffe thanks to Sunny Coast’s two most recent wins – in among a few losses – coming against CQ and Mackay. PNG playing at home? Lock in a win for the Hunters over the mildly-better-but-still-not-good Capras. Burleigh and Souths, like my Norths tip, is just running with the form teams over Easts (who are 1-3 since Brodie Croft came back) and Mackay. I rate Townsville and Wynnum-Manly as closer than the Greeks have it but will probably back in the Blackhawks nonetheless.