What a team the Canberra Raiders were in the early 1990s. As one of the NSWRL’s first expansion teams in 1982, the Raiders made five grand finals between 1987 and 1994 (that’s seven years!). Of those five grand finals, Canberra won three of them in 1989, 1990 and 1994. Jason Croker, Mal Meninga, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Brett Mullins, Gary Belcher, Glenn Lazarus, Craig Bellamy, Tim Sheens – the list of top players in those premiership winning sides is almost endless.
Since then, it’s been a whole lot of nothing. The Raiders have been poor but not so bad that they even find themselves at the bottom of the ladder. 2016 was a year of redemption, finishing second on the ladder, the momentum of which they have blown throughout the 2017 season and they will be lucky to make the finals.
This is a real headscratcher of a round. Enough crap teams have recently found some form in the bottom of the barrel so they can at least go into pre-season training with a semblance of self-esteem. It also means that they are playing better than the teams whose season is actually on the line. The top teams are starting to rest players (Storm rested Cronk last week, Kahu is off this week for the Donkeys) which makes it even harder to call. As if I haven’t suffered enough this year.
Parramatta (14-8) @ Brisbane (15-7)
As the old song says “Thursday night’s a mediocre night for football.” But the game’s in Brisbane which means about four Sydney games’ worth of people will turn up.
Parramatta won this fixture not that long ago. If I do my maths correctly, it was actually only five weeks ago but 89% of people on footytips.com.au are tipping Brisbane. Why? Because even nefarious and immoral teams like the Eels get lucky against brave and honest teams like the Broncos.
I may have been reading too much of the Courier Mail lately.
The Broncos have been playing out of their skin, scoring points like no one’s business. Their defence is less solid but it won’t matter because Parra’s attack isn’t that great (6th lowest ‘for’ and only put 30 past the Titans last week) and while their defence is good enough, it’s not good enough to stop the Boyd/Milford/Nikorima/Hunt show that’s been doing the rounds the last few weeks. Broncos to take the two. Read more
Cronulla won a premiership. You might have heard about it. It was last year. It was also their first since joining the NSWRL premiership in 1967.
The Sharks are also the only team stupid enough to recently get caught in a doping scandal. In the NRL, you’d basically have to leave a box of used syringes with a note saying what was in them on the front doorstep of NRL House and I’m still not sure the authorities would put two and two together. To get pinged for peptide use while not even being good enough to make the finals in 2013 and 2014 is a level of dumbassery unsurpassed in the sport of rugby league.
That aside, prior to those incidents, Cronulla were a journeyman’s team. They were never terrible (only three wooden spoons to their name, two from the early days and one in 2014) but never great (refer lack of premierships, 1967-2015). The Sharks were the home of some top class individuals, including Andrew Ettinghausen, Steve Rogers, Brett Kimmorley and David Peachey. Their current line-up features stars, including Valentine Holmes, and also features some guys that have contributed to multiple Origin losses, like Paul Gallen, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita.
Only three games to go. There are a couple of finals places still up for grabs, as well as the all important wooden spoon battle, which is proving to be more inspirational than wondering which big market team is going to finish where in the top four.
Gold Coast (7-14) @ Parramatta (13-8)
While the Gold Coast melts down over whether they’ll keep their coach or their “star” fullback/centre or boot both or neither, Parramatta have had to spend a week of soul searching after a devastating loss to Newcastle – probably the worst side to play this decade – brought their six game winning streak to a grinding halt.
The question is: Will Parramatta recover? I almost think it’s irrelevant what the Eels do. The real question is: do the Titans even bother to show up or will they follow their erstwhile leader’s example and half ass it? I’m expecting three-quarter ass tops, so the Eels should be able to recover and get their finals campaign on track.
It may surprise you to discover that this blog is actually fairly low on my list of priorities and when time’s tight, its always going to be the first to suffer so this isn’t going to be much of a post. With that in mind, this week’s games are looking like a re-run of round 20, where each game had a clear favourite. That weekend, seven from eight tips got up.
Round 23 offers more top eight match ups with the Roosters/Storm, Broncos/Sharks and Cowboys/Panthers going head-to-head. While you would expect 1st vs 2nd, 3rd vs 4th and 6th vs 8th to be tight, we’ve got the Storm, Broncos and Panthers well ahead of their rivals. In fact, the Jury was unanimous on every game except for Wests/Manly, where Euclid was the sole dissenting vote.
The favourites have an average odds of 2-to-1 of picking up the win. As I warned in round 20, you would expect to be correct in 5.2 games but still find upsets in 2.8 games. We’ll have to wait and see which games those are.
Canterbury (7-13) @ South Sydney (7-13)
Newcastle (4-16) @ Parramatta (13-7)
Cronulla (13-7) @ Brisbane (13-7)
Gold Coast (7-13) @ St George Illawarra (10-10)
Sydney City (14-6) @ Melbourne (15-5)
North Queensland (12-8) @ Penrith (11-9)
Canberra (9-11) @ New Zealand (7-13)
Manly (12-8) @ Wests Tigers (5-15)
I struggled to get this post together. I must be running low on creative juices after what feels like a season that’s already been decided (Melbourne to win everything) but for some reason, we have to go through the formalities of playing the last few games. I propose we just lock the ladder positions now, go to the finals and wrap up a month early. Just in case the NRL isn’t listening to the fifteenth best non-podcast/non-gambling based blog, here’s how I think the round will go.
Parramatta (12-7) @ Canterbury (7-12)
Tuesday’s front page of the Daily Telegraph means we all need to sympathise with Bulldogs fans as they get painted with the same brush as an alleged terrorist, a sentence you would never write in any other sport. It’s okay though because by the weekend, we’ll all be back to panning the Bulldogs’ terrible on-field performances.
Parramatta beat the Broncos last week, taking their streak to four wins on the trot. What utter bastards. Having been forced to watch Eels’ games lately, I’m not entirely convinced they’re the real deal, particularly defensively. That won’t matter this match because the Bulldogs are pathologically incapable of scoring points (and we’re back, baby). Parra will be able to run in the minimum fourteen points required and so the Eels will win.
Parramatta of the ’80s and Parramatta of the ’00s were powerhouses of top flight rugby league. The ’80s vintage managed to win their first, second, third and fourth premierships. The ’00s vintage, on the other hand, was less successful. In 2001, Parra won all but four games of the regular season, taking the minor premiership, and secured a grand finals berth. The opportunity to claim their first title in fifteen years went begging as Newcastle took honours that year. A less dominating, but still minor premiership winning, performance in 2005 took them deep into the finals only to be eliminated at the preliminary final by the Cowboys.
Depending on your perspective, the Eels were robbed of a premiership in 2009. Despite finishing in eighth position that year, Parra made the grand final against the Melbourne Storm. The Storm won the game but were later stripped of the title due to salary cap breaches. It would be the last time the Eels played finals football, declining from there to pick up back-to-back wooden spoons in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Parramatta joined the illustrious club of serious salary cap breachers themselves. This cost them their first shot at finals football since 2009. With that behind them, the Eels are well on track this year to break their drought.
We’re getting down to the wire, with only a handful of rounds left to run until finals time. While the finals places may be more or less decided, unless you’re a Panthers or Eels fan, there’s still a lot to play for.
The better teams are looking to secure a pathway through the finals that doesn’t involve playing the Storm. The lesser teams are using their time constructively too. By planning Mad Monday activities six weeks in advance, I’m sure they can negotiate a discount at their venue of choice. There might also be some focus on next year and not sucking so much but that’s surely more of a coach problem than a player problem. Just ask Des Hasler.
Canterbury (6-12) @ Penrith (9-9)
The Bulldogs have nothing left to play for. They were embarrassed by the Broncos last week, so they don’t even have pride left. There’s just an interminable series of six games left to go before they can go hide for a while and go back to whatever it is Canterbury players do in the off-time. I really don’t want to know what that is.
Penrith are the only team currently outside the top eight that could conceivably still finish inside the warm embrace of finals contention. It’s an ask but they need to win games like this, even if it’s just to avoid the indignity of losing to this particular version of Canterbury. Seeing as the game plan recently has been “pass the ball to Nathan Cleary and get out of his goddamn way”, I think that will be as effective against the Bulldogs as it was against the Warriors, so I think Penrith will keep the home fans happy with a victory.
The Gold Coast Titans have only been in the NRL since 2007. The Titans franchise are the most recent iteration of top-level rugby league’s attempts to crack the Gold Coast market, following in the footsteps of the Giants (1988-89), Seagulls (1990-95) and Chargers (1996-98).
Gold Coast peaked in 2009 and 2010, managing top four finishes. Since then, results have been thinner on the ground and the club collected a wooden spoon in 2011. The Titans finished outside of the finals spots every year until last season when the Eels were docked enough points for them to sneak in, only to be eliminated in the first round against the Broncos.
Let’s be honest. This round doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of comedic potential and I use “comedic” in its loosest possible sense because I’m not actually funny. But I try hard and isn’t that really what life is about? No, it’s not. It’s about getting tips right.
Round 20 has eight lopsided meetings. Six of the eight are a pairing of a top eight team against a bottom eight team and the other two aren’t much chop either. To demonstrate, I will forgo the usual jocularity in favour of cold hard stats, just to drive the point home.
Having said that, with eight games at an average of 67% chance for each of the favourites, you’d expect around 2.5 upsets per round. I don’t see why round 20 would be any different because God himself has singled me out to not get a perfect round this year. It’s like a trial from the Bible but involving less infanticide.
The Manly-St George match-up is the only meeting of top half teams, even though the Dragons haven’t played like a top eight team in months and will shortly cease to be in finals contention. At the other end, the Panthers-Titans game is a meeting of bottom eight teams with both sides showing form: Penrith taking a win would make it three running and the Gold Coast would be four on the trot. If it buckets down in Penrith, maybe the Titans will slip-and-slide to victory.
I’ll go back to roasting crap teams next week but man, it’s not even worth doing for this weekend. They’ll suffer enough.
Canterbury (7-10) @ Brisbane (11-6)
- Greeks: 70% average
- Betting markets: 74%
- Footytips.com.au tippers: 94%
- Plus home ground advantage