I thought I did well in round 11, with seven tips correct in the NRL and six in the ISC. Round 12 went pretty bloody well too, with six in the NRL and a perfect round in the QCup. It’s a real shame that the work comp is for NRL and not the ISC. Never in the deepest depths of despair, where I was getting two or three right a week, did I think I’d ever get a perfect round. Truly, the stuff of miracles.
This week, with a short NRL round, I’m going to do a mix of the shorter ‘Other Games’ and the MVR selected previews for all four games. We’re going back to 2017, baby! The Intrust Super Cup, continues with a full round this weekend, and if last weekend was anything to go by, should provide plenty of entertainment where the NRL fails. And, if you’re one of those compulsive types, I’ve a very brief State of Origin tip at the end.
North Queensland at Manly
Reminder: Elo ratings don’t care about player movements. They don’t. I’ve tried to get them to care but the Greeks just won’t listen.
Here’s my logic: the Cowboys came really close to beating the Storm and while the Storm aren’t as good as last year, they are still a reasonable team (results against Manly and Wests notwithstanding) so that should be encouraging. Manly have beaten Brisbane and Melbourne. They were flukes. It’s like rolling a six twice in a row. Good for you, Sea Eagles, but it don’t mean any more than me getting from Suncorp to Tangalooma in one roll*. Case in point: you lost to the Raiders when they scored a last minute field goal. I can’t begin to fathom the absoluteness of the reversal of NRL logic that allowed that to happen.
With Origin selections taking the Turbo brothers out of the game but leaving North Queensland’s starting line-up almost untouched, I’m backing the Cowboys.
Cronulla at Souths
Cronulla are on a roll at the moment. Six wins in a row and Paul Gallen’s return didn’t even snap their streak. In a brilliant tactical move, Shane Flanagan managed his team so poorly early in the year that none of his players, other than Valentine Holmes, were selected for Origin. Given that Holmes is not the lynchpin of the team, I would say that leaves the Sharks more or less intact.
Souths have lost Damien Cook, the fastest hooker in Sydney (which is definitely a title one wants), Dane Gagai, Greg Inglis and Angus Crichton. That’s definitely a big pile of firepower gone from the premiership contenders (there, I said it). There might not be enough talent left to resist the blue and black tide coming for them. Worse still, Souths won’t be used to this sort of depletion of resources (not like, say, the Broncos who have their easiest year for selections since 1995), being composed of talented Englishmen but insufficiently talented Aussies.
Sharks for me.
Newcastle at Parramatta
That is, the cup played for by clubs that should get in the bin, if not already in there. Newcastle have resumed playing like its 2016 and losing is going out of style. I didn’t think the Knights could possibly anticipate the return of Mitchell Pearce any more than they anticipated his arrival but here we are. Without him, the Knights are looking shakier than the French at Agincourt.
The Eels have lost all hope of anything good coming out of 2018. Their best bet is to avoid the wooden spoon. To do that, they need to win games like this. Brad Arthur can also use this opportunity to experiment a little should he retain his job next year, or even past the Origin period. He’s already underway by dropping Corey Norman, who frankly didn’t seem like he was the source of the club’s woes (or is he injured?).
For now, the Knights are due a win and the Eels are in the dumps. Newcastle win.
Wests at Sydney
Outs for the Roosters in this week include Tedesco, Mitchell, Napa and Cordner. Outs for the Tigers include no one because the entire team was overlooked. We could debate the merits of these decisions but they are what they are and the game will go ahead on Sunday, as it does every Sunday from late March through September. ‘Tis the poetry of the rugby league season.
The Tigers have been up and down recently, picking up wins over the Cowboys and the Bulldogs while losing out to the Eels, Warriors and Panthers. So have City for that matter, losing to Brisbane and Saints while beating NZ, Manly and Gold Coast.
It’s a tough choice but I think it’s one that Wests can jag.
Townsville at Central Queensland
With the Capras back on TV for the second week in a row, I get to resume my new favourite sub-hobby: Dave Taylor Watch. A visibly overweight Dave Taylor, fired from the Toronto Wolfpack in the pre-season for some indiscretion while on a training camp in Portugal, is in the Queensland Cup and he is obviously carrying the entire team on his very wide shoulders. Last week against Redcliffe, he made at least two lines breaks and would’ve had two more try assists had teammates not bottled the chances he’d created, turning the result on its head. Remember that “he” in this context is a 130+ kilo second rower at the end of his career, not some spry, up-and-coming play maker.
The novelty of seeing ex-NRL players very clearly on the decline aside, Townsville are about as good as Redcliffe; both teams are on 7-4 and sit third and fourth on the ladder respectively. The Dolphins had some trouble against the Capras last week but got there in the end, so I think the Blackhawks win this.
The Hunters seem to have found form a lot earlier than the Tigers, so I’m going PNG. Mackay and Wynnum-Manly are playing out the Bin Cup this week and I’m tipping the Cutters on home ground advantage. The Bears should continue their winning ways against the Jets, whose flair is no match for actual quality of play. I have the mighty Magpies winning a close one over the Pride in Cairns. Tweed, still featuring Kane Elgey and Konrad Hurrell, might cause an upset over Redcliffe and step up into a finals place. Norths will get over their current mini-slump by cleaning out the Sunshine Coast.
State of Origin Tip
New South Wales (46-58-2) vs Queensland (58-46-2) in Melbourne
You can read my StatScore preview from yesterday but my tip is the same as the consensus on social media (apparently 55% of my followers are in NSW, only 20% in Queensland) and I reckon the Blues will win this.
I’m more interested in how tight the Maroons can keep the scoreline before (hopefully) coming back in games two and three, as they did ending NSW’s two hour dynasty last year. The Blues’ forward pack is too big and too strong and, one would think, too motivated to let the Maroons in the game and could easily run riot like Fifita did last year, breaking the line at will. Hunt and Munster are no Cronk and Thurston but may be a match for Cleary and Maloney. Queensland’s best hope is to exploit Latrell Mitchell’s and James Robert’s defensive capabilities, or lack thereof, and push it wide, perhaps with more of a focus on the side that Addo-Carr is on. Its going to be a tough ask and I think it’s time that New South Wales tried to begin attempting to even the ledger.
*It’s a Brisbane Monopoly reference. Yeah, it’s a thing.