Game I of Origin has come and gone and it mostly lived up to expectation. I might do a short wrap-up early next week when the dust has settled a little bit. While it’s disappointing to be on the losing end, it wasn’t an awful performance from the Maroons, unlike last year’s opener in Brisbane. Generally speaking, I don’t mind my team losing if it’s against a good opponent and they don’t embarrass me for being affiliated. NSW turned up and earned the win. Still, go fuck yourselves.
Sorry, that’s the lizard brain talking. In tipping, last week was a return to more normal form with only two correct in each comp. That’s not so bad in the NRL, especially a shortened round where more than a few got zero, but that’s pretty crap in the QCup, which had a full complement of games.
Penrith at Canberra
I’m going to ignore MVR a little this week because I think this is the most interesting matchup we can hope for in this Origin affected period. The alternative would be talking about Brisbane vs Melbourne and I think we all know how that’ll go.
So, Canberra. Papalii will be backing up from Origin but that’s it. Despite a pretty killer backline and a respectable forward pack, the Raiders have spent the best part of eighteen months struggling to put away wins. The team should be close enough to full strength but that’s the problem. At full strength, Canberra just barely beat Manly, a team that sits in the bottom four, and have turned in a number of sixty minute performances in a sport that runs for eighty. Given the way Dave Taylor is going in the Intrust Super Cup, they never should have let him go to Toronto.
Meanwhile, Penrith. Cleary, Maloney, Campbell-Gillard and Peachey are supposedly backing up from Origin. Peachey played seven minutes, so he should be OK. Campbell-Gillard played more but really only turned up for the final ten after the game was won. Cleary and Maloney both played a full eighty at hypersonic Origin speeds, so might be a little worn down. Wins are at a premium so the Panthers can’t afford to just write the game off and in days past, the Panthers would default to the likes of Matt Moylan and Te Maire Martin but they’re gone so maybe Peachey comes off the bench into the halves while the starters play enough to win and then pack it in. The rest of the team should be raring to go and includes “the most underrated player in history”, Isaah Yeo, and old hand James Tamou.
The Panthers have been working well and should have enough depth to cover for the worn down stars, so Penrith for me but I will concede that the Raiders could jag this one by playing at their best.
Warriors at Manly
We say “at Manly” but we’re really “at Christchurch” at the aptly named Rugby League Park, otherwise known by the significantly less interesting AMI Stadium. Manly are flogging off home games because the thought of playing at Brookvale – a glorified council park that hasn’t had any maintenance since Cliff Lyons left Norths – is an anathema to even the most staunch Tony Abbott-voting-but-same-sex-marriage-endorsing footy fans.
The Warriors have a curiously bad record playing in New Zealand outside of Mt Smart. They are 7-20 across nine venues. The only venue other than Mt Smart they have a winning record at is in Taupo, where they are 1-0 after a single game against Cronulla in 2011, and they also have a 3-3 record at Lancaster Park in Christchurch. By contrast, the Warriors are 3-3 in England, 9-6 on the Gold Coast and are undefeated in Gosford. So before NZ have even left the country, they’re already on the backfoot. That said, they’ve named Shaun Johnson alongside Blake Green in the halves and that may well be enough to get them back on track.
As a bonus for the Warriors, they face Manly, a team so bereft of ability and direction that they’d be a laughing stock if Parramatta and Newcastle hadn’t decided to be even worse, almost purposefully so in the former’s case. The Sea Eagles’ last outing saw them lost a close game to the Raiders, a team’s whose trademark is falling asleep with ten minutes to go like a sixty-year old man in front of the TV or me after I’ve had a long week at work.
How Manly let that happen, when Shaun Johnson showed us earlier in the year that the trick is to keep kicking field goals until the siren goes, is beyond me. I can’t in good conscience tip them, so I’m going to the Warriors to take it to 8-20.
Wests at Cronulla
This is not as straightforward a game to call as it would have been last year.
Wests have definitely come off the boil after their electrifying start to the year. They’ve slipped outside of the top eight, although arguably only because the Broncos had the bye. The Tigers’ last few outings have seen them beat bottom four sides but be convincingly swept off the park by the season’s contenders, the last minute comeback against the Roosters not withstanding. While the ingredients are still there for the solid defensive efforts that got them wins earlier in 2018, and unsullied by Origin duties, there’s not enough talent in the backline or form in Benji Marshall to make the most of Luke Brooks’ sheer unrepentant perseverance. The forwards have quietened down and need a big gee up. The increasing use of Josh Reynolds, preferably at hooker, has the potential to spark a Wests renaissance in the back half.
Meanwhile, Cronulla were brought back to earth after suffering a somewhat surprising loss to Souths. They were out-muscled by the team that has perfected the lost art of the very simple approach: gain metres, do something smart when you’re in the red zone and pile on points when opportunities present themselves. If Cronulla can’t stop the metreage, they have very little to offer, especially when attacking sparks Josh Dugan and Val Holmes were out with injury and Origin respectively. Val is back this week in his preferred fullback position, despite being probably the best rugby league winger in the world (and he only get that because Semi Radradra is playing union now), lining up behind an experienced and, on the balance, tougher and grittier pack than the Tigers can hope to field.
I don’t trust the Tigers with a tip against anyone over, say, the Raiders so Sharks to bounce back from their loss with a win in the Shire. It’s a shame because compared to the Tigers, the Sharks are a bunch of Emilys.
Souths were missing four players last week and still smashed the Sharks’ winning streak. Gold Coast aren’t even as good as Cronulla, so this is going to be one way traffic for the Bunnies. The Roosters don’t need their Origin stars to put away the Knights. North Queensland will easily win the Darwin Derby, just as they did last year. There are a lot of Ls for the Broncos in their recent history with the Storm but their last three Ws came in Melbourne. I still think the Storm will win though. Rudely playing a game on a day that is not a public holiday in Queensland, the Dragons will cruise in against the Bulldogs, especially as their Origin players will almost have had enough time to recover.
Pride at Burleigh
The Pride at Burleigh is not a parade for the LGBTQI community and their allies but rather a second tier football game at Pizzey Park on the Gold Coast. The Pride have done pretty well this season, jagging a 7-5 record and claiming the scalps of four of the current top six teams. Given that they sit in fifth, the only one remaining is that of the Bears. I don’t know if they’re aware of that stat but if so, that should provide some motivation.
Meanwhile, I can’t remember the last time Burleigh lost a game. Tipping them is like tipping the Storm last year. Sure they might drop a game here or there but most of the time, they chalk up the win week in, week out. In fact, their last loss was against Townsville a bit over a month ago. This would make it five in a row and that’s what I’m tipping.
Burleigh to win.
Magpies to win the Guy Hamilton Cup against the Falcons. Townsville will clean up Easts without too much trouble, despite Brodie Croft leading the Tigers to only their third win since he came home last week. Kane Elgey is joined by Leilani Latu at Tweed this week against rampaging Dave Taylor’s Central Queensland. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of in-decline ex-NRL talent that the Seagulls should win. The Devils have lost the spark that saw them go on an early season tear while the Dolphins are hitting their straps, so should be an easy one for Redcliffe. I’ve bagged out the Jets plenty but they should be able to beat Wynnum-Manly. Mackay will be no match for PNG at home.