You can read Troy Dodds’ Panthers v Knights preview here. Peter Lang takes a look at the rest of the final round of the NRL…
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters
What pin head decided to put this blockbuster game on Thursday night where only two people and their dog will turn up to watch it. Any game between these two sides is always worth watching for the intrinsic hate that exists between the two clubs. Last week the Roosters made short work of a gallant but inexperienced Panthers side while the Bunnies continued their winning ways over the Warriors, or should I say Worriers, without really getting out of second gear. You don’t need me to hype up this encounter, it sells itself. Whichever team ends up getting the chocolates will enjoy a nice positive springboard into the finals series. TIP: ROOSTERS
Parramatta Eels v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
“Here we go again, Manly and Parra, Parra’s well ahead but the gap starts to narrow”…ahhh those Tooheys Ads in the 80s were something special. This match promises to be the same with both sides certain to bring their ‘A game’ as they fine tune their preparation for the finals series. The Sea Eagles have unfortunately lost one of their big weapons in Tommy ‘Turbo’ and it will have an negative effect on Manly’s attack for sure and certain. Just how much of an effect remains to be seen. The Eels on the other hand will need to play better than they did in their one-point loss to the Broncos last week. The final scoreline really flattered them. TIP: SEA EAGLES
Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
With the minor premiership all locked up Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has decided to ‘rest’ some of his stars for this encounter with the Cowboys. While it doesn’t matter whether they win or lose you can bet the players who turn out for the Storm this week will give it their all and play their hearts out to ensure a win. Such is the Melbourne Storm culture that losing is almost a sin. Plenty of other clubs would love to boast such a strong ethos. For the Cowboys it’s another season of disappointment and unless there are some major recruiting done during the offseason things don’t look like improving anytime soon. TIP: STORM
Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors
Despite suggestions to the contrary it appears as if Canberra coach “Sticky”Stuart has resisted the urge to rest too many of his key players for this clash against the hapless Warriors. Although I expect maybe another one or two players to be replaced before kick-off with mysterious niggling injuries. The Warriors on the other hand have the perfect opportunity to finish the year on a high by defeating a bona-fide Top 4 side on their home turf. Seriously though does anyone actually think such an upset is even on the cards given the form of the Warriors of late? If the boys from across the ditch won this game it will be the biggest miracle since….since… God talked to Moses. TIP: RAIDERS
Canterbury Bulldogs v Brisbane Broncos
The Bulldogs bubble finally burst last weekend against a gallant Cowboys side which was determined to finish their time at 1 300 SMILES Stadium with a win. Canterbury have been one of the form sides of the competition over the last two months despite their current lowly place on the ladder and have shown sides with perhaps more talented players in their roster, that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that counts but the fight in the dog that matters most. The Broncos meanwhile have also come good at the backend of the season and apart from having their backsides kicked to Kingdom Come by the Storm a few weeks ago, they’ve hardly put a foot wrong. The Dogs will be gallant and willing but the size, strength and power of the Brisbane forwards will mean this is one pack the Bulldogs won’t end up the leader of. TIP: BRONCOS
Gold Coast Titans v St George-Illawarra Dragons
HELP!!!! No disrespect intended to either side or their fans but how do I begin to make this game sound interesting and exciting. In fact didn’t we just see this match about a month ago? Anyway, here goes. The Titans will want to repay their loyal fans after a miserable season while the Dragons will want to do the exact same thing. Look out for players such as….oh you know what…I can’t do it…TIP: Titans and Dragons to fight out a 40-all draw.
Wests Tigers v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
This without doubt is the match of the round. That’s pretty &^%$ obvious isn’t it. To quote ABBA ‘The winner takes it all’ and will earn themselves a place in the NRL finals series. The Sharks are almost old hands at this finals caper but for the Tigers, if they win, it will be the first time they’ve made it past the regular rounds since 2011. How much of an effect this will have on the final result remains to be seen. The game is also being played at the iconic Leichhardt Oval and the place will be busting at the seams with Tigers fans cheering their team on for a win. It’s going to be a lot closer that a lot of people think but I’m going with the home ground advantage in this one. TIP: TIGERS
Rumours of the Week
* “Don’t be surprised if the subject of relocating a Sydney club comes up on the NRL agenda in 2020. The whispers just won’t go away despite denials from the top brass at headquarters. “- You all read it here last week and then on the weekend the Sunday Telegraph led with this story on its front page – “Channel Nine’s radical league plan: DUMP AN NRL CLUB” – I’m just saying!
* The big Sydney club I mentioned last week is in danger of losing more than just one of their star props to a western Sydney club next season, they could also lose one of their backline stars as well. If not in 2020 then definitely in 2021. Keep watching this space.
* Two key players are set to leave Mexico next year and head to the promised land. Both currently play in the backline.
Rumours from the web: Here are some rugby league rumours doing the rounds on social media.
* Jai Arrow is being heavily courted by the Newcastle Knights
* Lloyd Perrett to the Rabbitohs in 2020
* Shane Flanagan to be an assistant coach alongside Paul McGregor at St George-Illawarra next year
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.