I’m still out of sync after Rep Round but I at least got my tips in before the kick-off of the first game. In stark contrast to the other half round, round 17 offers some interesting match-ups and, with only two games in Sydney, we might actually see some people in the stands. And because it’s a short round, I’ve written up all four games.
St George Illawarra at Melbourne
We thought we had a blockbuster last week, with the Storm facing off against the Roosters in Adelaide, but that only had a Match Viewability Rating (MVR) of 90, a year high. This week’s battle between the Dragons and the Storm has a MVR of 93, a new high for 2018.
Based on my survey of games this year, the actual quality of the game is indirectly proportional to the MVR. Last week’s game wasn’t that much chop but let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a dour, defensive affair. Both teams are missing a half dozen stars each due to Origin, so it’s hard to judge how each team is going to run. The Storm still have Cam Smith, a couple of big forwards and the likes of Brodie Croft and Brandon Smith coming off the bench. St George Illawarra still have most of their backline intact, Gareth Widdop but most of the forward pack will be in camp.
Without the big names, it likely won’t be the blockbuster it should have been, which is probably a good thing, but the Storm’s core talent – and the likely ninth Immortal – will see them through.
Warriors at Penrith
Penrith are struggling through a massive injury crisis. To boot, their star halves pairing is in Origin. Their best player, and captain, is the underrated second rower Isaah Yeo. There’s a couple of other Panthers regular starters named but is it enough of their squad to replicate their usual performance? Adding to their woes is a recent downturn in Penrith’s form, losing their last two and only just scraping home against the Raiders. Prior to that, they had absolutely flattened the Dragons.
The Warriors’ season has been easier to predict. They lose big to top four teams, they get beaten but not excessively by the other top eight sides and they beat anyone in the bottom eight. Normally, this would put the Panthers in the box seat for a 1-12 point win. However, the Warriors are back to full strength and, with Denver in the rear view mirror, don’t have to reckon with rep selections. The Warriors are offering Johnson, Luke, Tuivasa-Scheck and Fusitu’a, so I see the New Zealanders getting the win.
Canberra at Canterbury
I’ve asked this question repeatedly this season and I’ll ask it again: at what point do we turn our back on the Raiders? By all accounts, a team that has come as close as Canberra have to winning games, should have won a lot more. In fact, by that logic, they should’ve been minor premiers last year and undefeated this year. The reality is that the Raiders are 6-9, almost certainly out of finals contention and have probably wasted some of the best years of their players’ careers. If that wasn’t bad enough, they almost had their game against the Broncos in the bag last week and then let it slip again, triggering an outpouring of grief, the likes of which Twitter usually only reserves for a celebrity death.
I don’t need to ask a likewise question for the Bulldogs because their season has been over for some months now. It looked bad after round 2, it looks bad now and given the financial crisis that the club has put itself into, it looks bad for the foreseeable future. Nothing about their current roster inspires any hope and it will be some time before they stop paying players like noted park footballer, Greg Eastwood, insane sums of money to barely contribute to their NRL team’s on-field success and I use the term loosely because there hasn’t been a whole lot of that lately.
So, in short, I’m going Canberra. Don’t screw this up for me.
Brisbane at Gold Coast
It feels like it’s been a long time since the Titans were in a position to get a mention on these pages beyond a one sentence summary inevitably tipping their opposition.
The Gold Coast has never beaten the Broncos twice in one season, a record that stretches back to the period when the city was variously represented by Giants, Seagulls and Chargers. In fact, the Gold Coast are 3-12 from 1988 to 1998 and 6-18 from 2007 onwards against the Ponies, so the GC franchise strike rate has improved from 20% to 25% against their SEQ cousins, which I guess if you’re the Titans, you take what you can get.
The thing is that the Titans aren’t exactly a huge outsider in this game. They’ve been playing reasonably well by their standards, finding a niche as a team that can attack and tries desperately to pile on more points than their opposition. Trying to keep the opposition out doesn’t seem to be on the cards but it has worked well enough for them to be 6-9 so far when I, and many others, had them pegged as potential spooners. The Gold Coast demonstrated this by holding the Broncos to an incredibly frustrating loss at Suncorp earlier in the year.
Can they do it again on home turf? Archimedes thinks so, which is the first time since 2014 that’s happened in this fixture but while the Broncos played abysmally for forty minutes last week, they turned it around and if they play like that again, Origin outs or otherwise, then the Broncos will win.
Wynnum-Manly at Tweed Heads
FLOCKBUSTER. On STRADBROKE ISLAND. Hell yeah.
It’s probably the most picturesque game on the Queensland Cup calendar, with Moreton Bay providing a great backdrop. Forecast is for a few showers which may dampen proceedings though.
Tweed’s still looking the goods, although not as good as their cross-town rivals, Burleigh, who beat them last week. Wynnum-Manly aren’t. Compare the Gold Coast’s Seagulls 8-7 record to the Bayside’s 5-10. It will be interesting to see how Kane Elgey and his goons go without Bryce Cartwright (now supposedly heading off to Manly) and Koni Hurrell (on the bench for the Titans) and if they can maintain the run that’s seen them go 8-2 over the last ten games. Wynnum have Delouise Hoeter in the centres but not much else to recommend them other than they’ve won ten of the last fifteen Flockbusters. Tweed for me.
No short rounds for us here in Queensland. It’s the real deal. Ipswich to short kick their way to beating Mackay. Burleigh will be too strong for Norths and are looking pretty good for a minor premiership. The Pride will be putting the final nails in Easts’ season. Townsville will be hoping to keep pace with their northern Queensland rivals by beating the Sunshine Coast. At the Barcaldine Showgrounds, if the flight in doesn’t kill them, the Magpies will see off the Capras and keep their finals hopes alive. Redcliffe will need to take a win to stay in the top four and should do it over PNG at Oilsearch.