Despite being a post-Origin round, if everyone sticks to the form guide for a change, it should be a somewhat easy round to tip. That said, I’ve had a shocking year so I don’t doubt that there will be some “upsets” as I would prefer to think of them but what everyone else calls “blindingly friggin obvious”.
New South Wales (49-2-59) @ Queensland (59-2-49)
Sure, why not? I don’t know anything and I’ve tipped both games wrong. Queensland fixed their game up after the first round. The Maroons will be playing at a packed Suncorp Stadium with standing room only. The poetic justice would be sweet if the NSW “dynasty” lasted for a game and a half.
I’m going to give you some free advice, New South Wales. You can’t build a dynasty on Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney. James Tedesco is pretty good but if Nathan Peats was any good, he’d be playing for a team other than the Titans. None of these guys are the once-in-a-generation players that have been at the core of the Maroons for the last decade and by sheer dint of coincidence, managed to be in the same state side. Instead the Blues have good, even great, players who are not future Immortals. That is why it will not be a dynasty but it may be more even in future. On that basis, I may start flipping a coin next year because it’s as good as any other system.
St George Illawarra were the first club to form from a merger of the 1980s expansion team Illawarra Steelers and the second most successful NSWRL premiership side of the St George Dragons. The team met early success in their first year, reaching the 1999 grand final and going down to the then newly minted Melbourne Storm.
Through the 2000s, the Dragons were always a threat, regularly making finals appearances. This period of strength reached its peak at the end of the decade with back-to-back minor premierships under Wayne Bennett with Darius Boyd, Jamie Soward and Brett Morris and winning the big one in 2010. Leaner years have followed recently, with the Dragons appearing in only one finals series since 2012. Nonetheless, the Dragons stormed off to flying start this year and remain in contention for a final appearance.
In the tumult of the instigation of the National Rugby League, one of Sydney’s oldest and most successful clubs was on the chopping block after years of below average performance on and off the field. Needing to rationalise the competition to fourteen teams in 2000, the NRL took the decisive step of excluding South Sydney from the competition. This led to years of court action, unprecedented protests and investment from movie stars before the Rabbitohs were returned to the NRL in 2002.
The Bunnies’ return to the NRL was not met with success. Spared the wooden spoon in 2002 thanks to the Bulldogs‘ salary cap rorting, Souths would take the spoon in three of the next four seasons before starting the long march back to the top. Souths first finals appearance in 2007 was the club’s first since 1989. A shallow few years passed before it clicked into place with three consecutive top four finishes and a premiership in 2014.
We are nearly, finally at the end of the Origin series. I’m sick of every single game being interrupted by ten sold minutes of Origin analysis and promotion. Guys, its not that exciting that it should distract from another deadly boring edition of two Sydney teams somehow simultaneously losing to each other. Well, when I put it that way, maybe it is.
Anyway, it’s a short round 18 ahead and here’s my tips.
South Sydney (6-9) @ Sydney City (11-5)
Souths are coming off a big win last week and Easts off a big loss. This is probably why betting markets have the Rabbitohs as favourites. The fact that the wisdom of crowds brought us John Howard, acid wash jeans and every financial crisis in history probably tells you all you need to know about following betting markets.
That said, the last time I thought the Roosters were a solid bet during Origin, they lost to the Raiders. Meanwhile, the Bunnies took my advice to run training drills against the Panthers too far and ended up winning the game. They look better, are coming on to form and aren’t affected by Origin, so Souths are my pick.
Penrith first joined the NSWRL in 1967, the same year that Cronulla was admitted to the competition. Success came much sooner for the Panthers, reaching their first grand final in 1990 and taking out the big prize in 1991.
The Panthers had some leaner years, including a very mediocre 2002 season, before a surge at the start of the 2000s saw a side featuring Rhys Wesser, Preston Campbell, Ryan Girdler, Luke Priddis and captained by Craig Gower taking a second premiership in 2003 and making it deep into the finals the following year.
Since then, the club seems to have a spurt of quality for a season or two before fading into the background again. The Panthers look to be going through a similar spurt at the moment with finals football the cards for two years in a row, which would be only their seventh NRL finals appearance.
The number of rounds remaining is now into single digits as we close in on the final third of the season and the run to the finals. Here’s how round 17 is shaping up.
Canterbury (6-9) @ Parramatta (8-7)
At no point in their last game did Canterbury look like they actually wanted to win the game. They had checked-in, boarded the flight and turned up to the ground and then seemed quite content to let the Warriors walk away with two points. The Doggies even committed a bunch of basic errors to help them get there.
Parramatta had a lazy weekend off while they contemplated whether they were actually good enough to play in September. Clint Gutherson is trying to drag the team along like a tugboat with a stranded oil tanker but its slow and hard work and no one, not even Mitchell Moses, is helping him.
In a battle of the west, the Bulldogs don’t even have a tugboat, so I’m going for the Eels.
Round 15 was great with each game was more exciting than the last, except for the first one and the last one and there was only four games. Round 16 is ahead with some tricky fixtures: 1st vs 2nd, 3rd vs 5th, 11th vs 12th and the always celebrated 14th vs 16th. There’s also an Origin game where New South Wales are going to try to stitch up their first series in a few years.
Queensland (58-2-49) @ New South Wales (49-2-58)
The core issue the Maroons faced in the last game is that they were roughly as effective as the Belgian border at stopping the Germans, which is the Blues forward pack in this poor choice of an analogy.
The Blues’ forwards were so good that they didn’t even bother selecting Paul Vaughan in what I assume is an example of classic anti-Italian bias in the NSWRL selectors panel (Germans again). Andrew Fifita, meanwhile, continues to weigh a, literally, solid 15kg over any of the Queensland forwards. While the Storm contained him fairly well when they played the Sharks recently, Origin seems to get him pretty fired up and the physics of momentum is his friend.
The Queensland selection changes seemed to be made due to public and media pressure. If you believed Slater was good enough for game 2, why not pick him for game 1? It’s not like Darius Boyd was the weak point in the team. Adding Valentine Holmes, yet another fullback, feels like someone has not analysed the issues correctly in a panic to be seen to be fixing the problem.
While I’m tipping NSW, I do hope that everyone that wrote the Queensland dynasty’s obituary before the second game was stitched up are shown up in a hilariously embarrassing way.
We tend to think of the North Queensland Cowboys as an indisputable top team but in doing this, we forget just how crap they were when they first started out in 1995. The Cowboys joined the ARL as an expansion team at the same time as the Warriors, South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds. Only two of those teams survive today and it was tricky going as the Cowboys established themselves and searched for acceptance in the early days. Eventually, North Queensland built a following in regional Queensland, particularly around their home in Townsville, and their rivalry with the intrastate Brisbane Broncos is one of the most fiercely contested in the NRL.
Since superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston has came to the helm, the Cowboys have strung together a series of finals appearances as good as any team in the league, featuring every year since 2011. Their zenith was reached in 2015 when North Queensland won their first premiership, twenty years after their founding, beating the Broncos in golden point.
After an intriguing round 14, we dive into round 15. It’s one of those lovely short rounds that allows me to get on with my life outside of NRL hashtags. I have stuff to do, you know.
Gold Coast (4-9) @ South Sydney (4-9)
The Gold Coast are a chance here. South Sydney have been playing like ANZ has myxomatosis. The Bunnies are yet to win a game at home, which would be unfathomable if we were talking about literally any other franchise. Even Newcastle manages to give the home fans something to cheer about occasionally.
Meanwhile, Jarrod Wallace put in the greatest attempt at the Bart Simpson defence in denying he shoulder charged Blake Ayshford in the game against the Warriors last week. This was the high point of a procedural approach by the Warriors that cooked the Titans in fifty minutes. Hopefully Neil Henry has them doing some cardio this week. The Titans showed a level of fitness I expect from normal people, not professional athletes. So far this year, the Titans are either proof that everyone has a lucky day or two or that the best have off-days but they’ve not exhibited any signs of getting on top of their flaws as a team.
I think if the NRL could arrange for most rounds to play out per the form guide as round 13 did, then my experimentation with Elo models and rugby league would be far less embarrassing. It’s less Nostradamus and more John Edwards. Yes, I’m a greasy, shifty fraud who bilks people out of their money despite the fact that you get to read this for free because you Googled the right words and flicked through enough results to land on this smart sounding site. Psychic right?
I was hoping a 5 from 7 level of success would be typical this year but it hasn’t been. In fact, this was a rather good round for all concerned. The jury has managed to eclipse the 60% margin I thought we would all be past by now but Euclid is still struggling to break even.
After round 13:
We’re on for our first full round since all of three weeks ago. There’s something for everyone, not least because all the teams have decided to earn their paychecks by playing. Even for the neutrals – assuming they exist in this sport, in which case they should just pick a team and get on with it – there’s plenty of even match-ups anticipated. That makes it incredibly difficult to tip but being incredibly wrong before hasn’t stopped me.