If you’re interested in tonight’s final Origin game, I think Queensland will win. There’s no particular reason and I’m well aware that Slater’s track record in milestone games is not flash but I don’t think the Blues will turn up with the intensity required to actually get the sweep. They were perilously close to losing game II and the Maroons have dumped one of the players responsible (how Will Chambers still gets a run on is beyond me). I gather from the media frothing over the idea, and subsequent undermining of the Maroons’ achievements from the state media, that Brad Fittler is quite keen on the idea so maybe he will do his job well, something that the Blues will be unfamiliar with, and get them over the hump.
Either way, we would’ve been better served with an Australia-Tonga test over a dead rubber.
Cronulla at Penrith
The Cup of 1967 is back and this looks to be a good contest on paper. The Sharks have the same team together for this encounter that’s only lost twice since round 7. Admittedly, those two losses came at the expense of two fellow top eight teams, so I think that puts a ceiling on how far Cronulla will go in September but it’s only July.
The Panthers’ had their squad decimated by Origin selections and still put in an incredibly strong, 32-point win against the Warriors last week. You’d think based on that, you wouldn’t need to worry about playing the likes of Cleary and Maloney and that Anthony Griffin might be better off resting them. I do think an element of that was luck (or whatever you want to call it) in the sense that it would be difficult to repeat that performance but, given the same reserve graders belted the Hunters on grand final day last year, maybe not.
I would normally consider tipping Penrith but I’m not convinced the fill-ins can go back-to-back at such a high level while Cronulla are good enough and at full strength. Sharks for mine.
Canberra at North Queensland
Are Canberra back? Well, no. A narrow win over the Bulldogs is exactly the kind of crap they’ve dished up all year, just with a surprising twist ending. It’s no different to losing by two points to most of the league, except instead of being impossibly unlucky, the Raiders got impossibly lucky. The return of Josh Hodgson has put a bit of fire into the squad but the halves aren’t worth a damn and guys like Papalii aren’t having the impact of years past.
Are North Queensland back? I think sort of. The season’s over and the main goal will be avoiding sending Thurston out with a spoon but two very narrow losses to the Bunnies and one to the Storm should be encouraging. Taumalolo aside, the Cows’ forward pack hasn’t really performed this year so backing up from Origin shouldn’t make a difference. Injecting fresh blood into the backline would help but Paul Green appears to want to stick it out this year as is. Kyle Feldt has enough ability to help cover that up.
I think the Cowboys are due a win.
Warriors at Brisbane
I’m getting that awful rising feeling in the pit of my stomach that signals that the Broncos are doing well but likely to hit an incredibly disappointing wall. Given that Brisbane ended the Warriors unbeaten run earlier in the year, I wonder if that portends good news or bad. A big win over the Titans is nice but it hardly sets the confidence for a good run to the finals. There are signs that Brisbane are getting their act together and a win here would solidify that.
The Warriors seem to be reverting to the mean, with sloppy play and a lack of energy replacing their previous enthusiasm, high fitness and discipline. Or they could just be having a mid-season lull. If they continue down this path and the Raiders go on an upswing, a Dragons’-style last minute exit from finals contention is not out of the question. A big showing here will help ward that off chance, even if they head back to NZ with another loss.
Broncos for me but they’ll undoubtedly make a meal of it.
Choosing between Newcastle and Parramatta is like choosing past used-by chicken or past used-by beef. They’re both technically meat but I’d prefer something that’s not off. Mitchell Pearce is back, so I’m going the Knights.
The Bunnies should be able to contain the Bulldogs without breaking a sweat and put points on. The Easts Tigers/Sunshine Coast Falcons fill-ins are better than Manly could hope to be this year, especially with the Sea Eagles’ top players backing up from Origin, so Melbourne to get revenge. The Tigers may as well start thinking about getting set for next year, while the Dragons practice Nene MacDonald putdowns on the Corey Thompson wing (that is a brutally unfair matchup) as Hunt and company recover from Origin. Given that the Titans are coming off the Broncos’ biggest win of the year, I don’t see them having the confidence to challenge the Roosters’ multi-million dollar spine, giving them an easy win.
Burleigh at Redcliffe
This is pretty important game as to where the minor premiership may land this year. While there’s only three wins separating nine teams, Burleigh, Redcliffe and Townsville have been this season’s powerhouses, with the fortunes of the other half dozen chasers fluctuating significantly from week to week. In this round’s televised game, the Bears face off against the Dolphins in what one hopes will be a cracking game but if the NRL is anything to go by, will be a massive flop. Both teams are fielding their usual line-ups with Tom Opacic the only semi-first grade name, pulling on the red and white for Redcliffe. The Bears won the game in round 3 at home but the Dolphins had a slow start, so I’m not sure if we should hold that against them. I’m leaning towards Redcliffe, despite Cameron Cullen being a DCE fan, for a tighter margin than the Jury is predicting.
And if you were wondering, that’s the Bears’ fifth appearance on TV this year. Magpies (wonder who they pissed off at the QRL) and Hunters are yet to get their first appearance on Channel 9.
In contrast to the NRL, it’s looking like comfortable wins across the board but, being the Queensland Cup, nothing is ever certain. In the weekend’s tightest match, I see the somewhat cooked Magpies going down to a Tweed outfit looking to rebound. The Blackhawks will crush the short kicking frauds that are the Jets. The Devils will have the homeground advantage as Norths should be able to do what Souths weren’t and beat Central Queensland, despite (because of?) Dave Taylor returning to the side. Mackay are done for the year, just waiting out the last half dozen rounds, so I’ve got Easts down for an easy win. I’m not as confident on PNG over the Pride but that’s what I’m tipping. The Falcons are about due and they should be able to sneak home past Wynnum.