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
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.