Troy Dodds has already previewed Panthers v Eels, but Peter Lang takes a look at the rest of the round…
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Gold Coast Titans
On the surface you have to pick the Sea Eagles who are the real surprise packet of the 2019 season. I mean seriously, how many people outside of the peninsula actually picked them to be in their Top 8? I know I didn’t and the fact that former coach Trent Barrett was still being paid despite the fact that Des Hasler had been coaxed out of…well…doing nothing made more headlines than the return of the prodigal son showed how much the media cared about the Silvertails. Fast forward to round 11 and while Manly is entrenched in the Top 8, the Titans are hovering around the bottom of the ladder despite another high profile offseason spending spree. One problem is their halfback Ash Taylor is underperforming despite his $1 million dollar plus price tag and unfortunately the team is failing to gel as a cohesive unit despite a number of individual talents in their side. Tip: Sea Eagles by 10
Newcastle Knights v Sydney Roosters
Well it had to happen eventually, all good things must come to an end….and…ok that’s enough of the cliches. The Roosters were beaten comprehensively by the Broncos last week despite the closeness of the final score. The Chooks understandably looked tired after a short turnaround and Brisbane came with the perfect game plan to run their opponents ragged by playing an up-tempo game of football. The Knights on the other hand gave me the big one finger salute after I tipped against them the week before and conveniently placed about a hundred spiders all over superstar Kalyn Ponga as he put on an attacking master-class to almost single-handedly tear St George-Illawarra apart. To beat a fired-up Roosters side Ponga and about half-a-dozen of his teammates are going to have to play the game of their lives. It still won’t be enough. Tip: Roosters by 12.
Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys
The Green Machine came agonisingly close to beating the top-of-the-table Rabbitohs last week while the Cowboys continued to improve with a nice win over the Eels at home. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart will be happy this game is on in Canberra because the Cowboys never play as well away from 1300SMILES Stadium (what does that mean anyway, has it got something to do with teeth?). The Raiders will once again rely on their big men to roll the team up field so they can unleash their attacking prowess close to the opposition tryline. North Queensland coach Paul Green will be hoping his Dad’s Army forward pack will do enough to stop the Raiders from marching too far down the field each time they have the ball. For by limiting the space Canberra have to work with is the only way the Cowboys will win this encounter. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be cold and that can only mean one thing. Tip: Raiders by 14
New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos
Don’t take too much notice of the Warriors 30-10 victory over the Panthers last Friday night as any sort of form guide. Penrith are playing such horrendous football that they’d struggle to beat a reserve grade side at the moment. In saying that the Warriors did look impressive each time they ran any attacking plays at the Panthers with a reborn Kodi Nikorima absolutely carving the Penrith opposition up each time he touched the ball. To me, it will all come down to the halves and in this department, the Warriors have a slight edge. Nikorima has the chance to shove it to Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold and stick it to him where the sun don’t shine for letting him go only a few weeks ago. While Seibold’s can coach his side to victory with five-eighth Anthony Milford leading the way. Nikorima v Milford….I can’t wait! Tip: Broncos by 8
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
It’s the Rabbitohs vs their former coaches part two. After successfully defeating the Broncos and last year’s coach Anthony Seibold a few weeks ago, this week they’ll face the Tigers, a team coached by the man who coached them to their first premiership in 642 years – Michael ‘Madge’ Maguire. Meanwhile smiling from the coaches box high above is their current coach Wayne ‘No I’m not as old as Clint Eastwood’ Bennett. The Tigers are a tough team to beat this year, well apart from that one game against the Eels of course and Madge will know his former players strengths and weaknesses. It’s whether he has the roster at his disposal to actually do anything about exploiting those weaknesses. The Bunnies are playing a far more attractive style of football then they did under Maguire and while it’s true it did deliver them a premiership in 2014, it also led to their demise in 2016 -17. The Tigers have been a real bogey side for the Rabbitohs over the last few years, will they be so again. Maybe. Tip: Tigers by
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm
We all know what happened the last time these two sides met down in Storm territory…yep Melbourne won…but only just. Going into this match the Doggies are on a one-game winning streak and boast a far superior roster with the return of both prop Dylan Napa and five-eighth Kieran Foran. Add to that the fact that the game is being played at Belmore Sports Ground, the spiritual home of the Dogs and you can only come to one possible conclusion when tipping a winner out of this one. That’s right, the Storm will win in a canter! Sure they only just scraped home against the Tigers last round, sure they’re showing increasing signs of vulnerability lately but let’s face it, they are the Melbourne Storm and they don’t stay in form slumps for long. The fact that this team can still win the majority of their games while not playing their best football is something which can’t be ignored. Tip: Storm by 10
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Don’t you just love a local derby! It doesn’t matter where on the ladder these two teams are when that game rolls around it’s always a special occasion. Just as well because both teams are sitting outside the Top 8 and neither side has really set the world on fire this season. The Dragons were simply diabolical against the Knights last Sunday missing tackles, kicking balls dead in-goal and letting Newcastle run at will…and Dufty …and Hunt and….well you get the picture. The Sharks meanwhile are far from the worst team in the comp but they are struggling for consistency with a patched-up side every week. If they can ever get their best 17 onto the paddock they may actually give this premiership a shake. One of the pieces of that missing puzzle is the return of Matt Moylan who this week was named on an extended reserves bench. Tip: Sharks by 8
Rumour of the Week: Which prominent first grade hooker is being shopped around to other clubs? At this stage, no one has shown any interest and the strange this is, he’s playing good football at the moment.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.