By now, you’ll probably have processed last night’s Immortals announcements. Pre-war superstars Frank Burge, Dally Messenger and Dave Brown were joined by Norm Provan and Mal Meninga in receiving Australian rugby league’s highest honours. This of course means that the Souths Magpies have an Immortal. Finally. Everyone in the QCup, except for Wynnum Manly and Redcliffe, can suck ovarian genitals. Hmm, cloacae actually, I guess. Norths, please, Churchill doesn’t count for you guys. That’s like the Gold Coast Seagulls claiming Wally Lewis. You’re embarrassing us all.
Anyway, I’m not sure where the #crisis angle will come from but I’m sure the usual suspects will have a multitude of think pieces about how there were too many and too few Immortals inducted, which simultaneously offers long overdue recognition for greats of the game but also overlooks other obvious and more deserving selections. I’m sure we’ll get over it by kick off tonight.
Melbourne at South Sydney
The Bunnies managed to string together a nine game winning streak off fast play, rolling momentum and high discipline. That came to a grinding halt against one of the year’s more bizarre statistical anomalies. Who would have picked the Tigers as not only giant slayers but also incapable of beating minnows? It’s like David just offed Goliath and then tripped over a rock and had a stroke on the walk home. Souths bounced back against the Eels last weekend but have a tough run ahead of them which presents a crisitunity: either these will be great games for final tune-ups before a big push to the grand final or successive losses to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (and maybe Wests again) will destroy the confidence of the Redfernians and they’ll be gone in the first week of the finals.
If so, then I hold little hope for them in Friday night’s blockbuster against the Storm. Melbourne, buffeted by the same refereeing conditions that saw them make the last two grand finals, have found a way to win a lot of games and are actually on their own eight game winning streak since last losing to Manly back in May. Whatever it is – the team’s clicked, the conveyor belt of talent is producing, Cam Smith is working his magic – they aren’t as dominating as last year’s purple tsunami but they are rightly favourites, albeit marginally, at this time.
I’m defaulting to my pre-season mindset and tipping the Storm but for the sake of the NRL, I hope the Rabbitohs at least put up a good fight.
Gold Coast at Parramatta
Bit of a spoonbowl this one. Parramatta have five games remaining. Three of them are against the Storm, Roosters and Dragons. This one against the Titans and a trip to Townsville are really the Eels only chances to notch up wins this year to help them avoid the wooden spoon. Remember when we all thought the Eels were a good chance of wrecking it this year? Yeah, me neither.
The Titans really only have Melbourne and JT’s last rugby league game as serious obstacles and it helps that they have a three win headstart over Parra, so are not really in contention for a spoon. It is really ridiculous to think that the Gold Coast will probably finish with twice as many wins this year as Parramatta. Truly, rugby league is a baffling sport.
The Greeks are favouring the Eels. Generally, they don’t think that the blue-and-golds are as bad as their ladder position suggests (if you will turn your head slightly to the right, you will see exactly that… or maybe scroll up a bit… make that down if you’re on your mobile… look, never mind). I just don’t agree but that could be because I’m a person with eyes and not a spreadsheet algorithm. The Eels have been hopeless and, while the Titans are sometimes even worse, they have also demonstrated a much higher level of competence over the course of 2018. Titans to win.
Canberra at Penrith
I’ll tell you this about Penrith. The flogging they copped at the hands of the Broncos is not really indicative of their form. There’s a pretty low likelihood that the current Broncos are capable of stringing together three tries in fifteen minutes and there were some definitely low percentage plays in that quarter hour that just happened to come off. Before the Panthers knew it, the game was over. I don’t blame them for punching in the clutch and rolling after that. The following week’s near loss to Manly was probably far more damning but they’ll cop less of an inquisition for that one because they pulled off the win in a fairly spectacular fashion. Overall, I’m not sold on Penrith in crisis but I’m also not convinced that their season will end much differently to last year’s campaign.
I said last week that I’m sick of writing about Canberra. Losing to the Storm by thirty-four points does not change that.
Penrith to sneak home, yet again. Probably by kicking three field goals in two minutes.
The Broncos make life hard for themselves but should make short work of the Bulldogs with superior attack and defence. At some point the Tigers will beat a bottom eight team and I’m hoping it this week’s match against the Knights. The Dragons have slipped, but the Warriors have slipped harder and further, so St George Illawarra to win. With a match viewability rating of just 34, I’ve got the Roosters by 13+ over the Cowboys. Sharks to do likewise to the Sea Eagles in another match that I’m not sure I can be bothered watching. Then again, if I don’t watch, the crisis merchants win. It’s a big ask of the fanbase to watch Manly at the moment when it doesn’t even look like the players can be bothered turning up.
Townsville at Norths
A few weeks ago, I would’ve rated this as a top contest. Since then, Norths have copped a clear loss to PNG, albeit one in Lae where the homeground advantage to the Hunters would be close to 100%, and a big loss to Easts, a team that couldn’t string wins together a few weeks ago but are now in hotter form than the sun. You could mount the argument that with four wins in a row, Townsville are due for a loss. Their winning streak has seen them go clear at the top of the ladder and they’ve done it against Souths, Sunny Coast and Ipswich, not the weakest teams in the comp, and in emphatic fashion against Tweed Heads.
I’m playing the percentages and tipping the Blackhawks.
Now that formlines have been established – for at least the second or third time this season – it’s getting a bit easier to pick the games. Redcliffe should roll over Mackay and their middle Queensland counterparts in the Capras will go down to the Pride. The Greeks have the Jets but I have a suspicion that the Falcons are finding form at the right time, just like their parent club. Hard to imagine the Seagulls getting one over the Bears in Burleigh. Finally, I’ll be at Davies Park to watch Phil Dennis break the Queensland Cup record for most games played. I know it was the big deal was last week when he broke it the first time but every week he plays, he continues to break the record, so there. Despite this, I reckon the Hunters will roll the Magpies.