We’re in the penultimate round of the regular season and can definitely feel the approaching finals footy. There’s still some unfinished business to be resolved, specifically ensuring that the Tigers finish ninth as they are destined to do until the heat death of the universe, or maybe when Jeremy Marshall-King’s backended contract at the Bulldogs forces a transfer to Wests and history can try to repeat with the lesser relative. Or maybe they will have to wait until Benji’s and Robbie’s kids grow up?
In the meantime, my tipping has gone to crap so maybe you should ignore me and go with the Greeks.
Penrith at New Zealand
No one really knows what’s going on at Penrith at the moment. Griffin is gone, Maloney is injured and no one left seems to know a whole lot about what they’re doing. The net result has been… 3-3 over their last six games? That does not seem disastrous. Sure they copped an unlikely hammering from the Broncos, lost to the Sharks (who may well be premiership contenders) and somehow lost to the Knights last week. Their three wins were close: by 4 over Manly, by 9 over the Raiders and by 1 over the Titans. Those wins were what really signalled the weakness underlying the Panthers’ game at the moment.
The Warriors, on the other hand, are also 3-3 over their last six. The kiwis picked up wins over the Broncos, Dragons and Knights, while losing narrowly to the Bulldogs and the Storm and copping a hammering from the Titans. Blake Green is out of the team again this week but otherwise, their line up is about as strong as it gets.
I mean you could look seven games ago to when Penrith flogged the Warriors but that was a bit of a weird game, with the young guns stepping up in a big way and most of who won’t be a factor. So ignoring that, throw in a home ground advantage, combined with their (marginally) better form and stronger lineup, I’m taking the Warriors.
South Sydney at Canberra
I’m still tired of writing about the Raiders. If the league weren’t about to ship the Eels, Sea Eagles and half of the other Sydney teams to Perth, the Raiders would be packing their bags.
Souths’ outside backs, which have been dropping like flies over the last few weeks, are mostly back with Inglis, Johnston and Graham all big ins, joining Gagai, although it’s debatable if he’s been paying much attention to what’s happening around him in this non-Origin period.
The Raiders strong point this season has been their attack – somehow they’ve scored the most number of points in the comp – but their defence has been lacking – bottom four levels, in fact. As ever, if the Burgii hold on to the ball, Souths will go a roll on and start to pile on the points and Canberra don’t have enough to stop them.
Canterbury at St George Illawarra
Here’s a thing: the Bulldogs have a 1472 form rating, putting them thirteenth in the league. The Dragons’ rating is a slightly heftier 1487, which is good enough for ninth. Four places aside, those ratings are pretty much the same. The Dragons have decided to fully embrace their April (June-ish I guess) premiership while the Bulldogs have strung together a couple of good wins in the last few weeks. The only game they’ve lost in their last four, they were missing the Great Bambino, Lachlan Lewis, who will forever be known by that nickname because of calling a kick once. That’s it, tagged for life and he’s wearing the 6 again this week.
What to do with the Dragons? They’ve been in even more strife than the Panthers but St George Illawarra still have their coach. For now. Two wins from their last seven does not inspire confidence for their post-season prospects. Also, remember when their season was on the line in round 26 last year? And the Dragons bottled it? And it was against the Bulldogs? Yeah, Canterbury for me.
Wests at Manly – I will admit that I haven’t watched much of either team lately. A loss here for Wests will mean an official end to their season, so the Tigers will probably fold under the micropascal of pressure that the Sea Eagles will apply in this situation.
Parramatta at North Queensland – Perhaps the Spoonbowl should’ve been worthy of a write-up but I spent a big chunk of my recap on the consequences of this game. I’ve got the Eels.
Melbourne at Gold Coast – No surprises here.
Brisbane at Sydney – There may be surprises to be had here. Sydney haven’t beaten Brisbane at home since 2014 and earlier this year was no exception. The Broncos haven’t beat the Roosters at home since 2012. I feel, rather than think, a Brisbane win is on the cards here, mostly because this year has delivered some surprising results which has been largely due to massive variability, and which other top eight teams have been as inconsistent as these two?
Newcastle at Cronulla – What happens when the league’s worst pack comes up against one of the best? Newcastle should get steamrolled.
Burleigh at Easts – Back to Suzuki for this week’s TV game and it’s become something of a blockbuster. A win here gives Burleigh a shot at the minor premiership and, at the very least, secures a top two finish and a first round bye in the finals. A win for Easts keeps the Pride and the Hunters at bay. That said, the Tigers are a little light on the talent that’s gotten them through the last few weeks, leaving only Scott Drinkwater as the only Storm-player-in-waiting still suiting up for them. The Bears have their usual line-up, so I’m going with the Gold Coastianites.
Souths Logan at Mackay – This is a nothing game for both teams with neither in finals contention. The Magpies should be strong enough to take care of the spooners-in-waiting.
Tweed Heads at Northern Pride – The Pride, finals-bound, should be using this as a tune-up before a week one clash with the Tigers. Kane Elgey isn’t there to save the Seagulls and the only Titans “talents” they have are Latu and Bryce Cartwright. Ouch.
Sunshine Coast at Redcliffe – Bit of a risk this one because the Falcons can still ball, although they haven’t been much of a threat this season. Redcliffe should be strong enough to win though, securing the minor premiership and putting them on an easier path to the full premiership.
Townsville at Wynnum Manly – A brief history of the Townsville Blackhawks:
- Entered the comp in 2015 and finished second and lost the grand final to Ipswich
- Second in 2016 with a second week finals exit
- Sixth last year and bundled out in week one
A third place finish, secured with a win over Wynnum-Manly, and could it be a first premiership? I think they might do it, although it’s worth pointing out that at this time, five teams are all rated about 1560 on form in the Intrust Super Cup. It could be any of them.
PNG at Central Queensland – The QRL was talking up the Hunters’ comparatively bad away record and they do have to travel to Rockhampton for this one. The Hunters need a win to stay in touch and are at risk of dropping out of the top six if they lose and the Jets win. The Hunters are in top form though and the Capras are most assuredly not. Well, compared to last year they’re doing OK but it’s still not reliable enough to tip them.
Norths at Ipswich – With their season on the line and Norths with nothing to play for, I fully expect Ipswich to kick the ball out on the full at least three times, giving the Devils one last win for the year while they consider what might have been if they had beaten Wynnum Manly at Suncorp.