100318_ant'sanalysisSunrise, sunset.  My tipping is as inconsistent as the form shown by the Eels.  Ok, ok, so my upsets picks were a bit overzealous, but that’s what happens when you confuse confidence with arrogance (e.g. the Roosters’ Round 3 performance).  Maybe I’m just confused.

What is absolutely free from doubt is that the teams in our great competition continue to test, stretch and bend the rules governing the salary cap.

Scott Prince and the Titans are being called to question over some unscrupulous dealings with a Gold Coast property developer, while the Storm are sitting in their own teacup of salary cap accusations.

I am a big fan of the salary cap.  It may inadvertently cause a player drain, but it props up the clubs less fortunate and is the main reason the NRL is such a competitive and consequently entertaining competition.  My only query is whether too many resources are being spent on creative accountants and lawyers engaged to develop more and more complex third party arrangements. Surely the clubs would be better off spending that money on the development of the game itself?

I wonder how I would look in a salary cap (or a new house on the Gold Coast for that matter).

Storm v Dragons – 2:10pm Friday April 2, Etihad Stadium

This game features two of the three participants in the ménage à trios atop the premiership ladder.  Falling short of the Titans being somehow invited to join this romp on a triangular paddock in a three-way tussle for line honours, we will have to settle for this top of the table clash, and fear not, for this game has plenty of intrigue to whet the appetite.  While both teams boast clean records for 2010, they have achieved those feats in remarkably different fashion.  The defending premiers have won their three games by diminutive margins of 4, 6 and 6 points while the Dragons have steadily increased their dominance by scoring margins of 6, 20 and 25 points respectively.   The Storm were due for a loss last week, and that may have eventuated had Cronk not returned to fitness.  Now they’re overdue, and the librarian is angry. The Dragons have been nothing short of impressive and should overcome any home ground advantage the Storm can deliver.  The Dragons are set to continue their impressive defensive efforts and beat the Storm at their own clinical game plan.

Dragons to win by 8.

Roosters v Broncos – 8:35pm Friday April 2, Sydney Football Stadium

Two demoralised teams. But which one will bounce back?  The Broncos fooled me completely.  I thought that their rubbish performance down in Canberra was a mere mishap for a team that otherwise showed much promise in Round 1.  How wrong I was.  The Broncs were completely outplayed by the visiting Kiwis.  They were so comprehensively walloped in the second half (at Suncorp Stadium!?!?), that I am now convinced they are not the team I thought they were. The Roosters’ spectacular nose-dive against the Doggies was made more enjoyable when Minichiello threw some expletives at his teammates.  Trouble in paradise.  Could they go the same way as Clarke and Bingle?  Carney was horrible.  It was funny at first, but the poor bloke couldn’t put a foot right!  If only the TV picked up some commentary from the Channel Nine audio team “Can’t catch, can’t tackle”.  Carney won’t play like that again.  The Roosters will regroup and return to their winning ways this weekend as the Broncos are not the team they led me to believe.  Oh yeah, and Izzy’s out ’cause he hurt his finger.

Roosters to win by 10.

Sharks v Eels – 5:30pm Saturday April 3, Toyota Stadium

For their long suffering fans’ sake, I hope the Sharks are religious and not superstitious.  They need more than a little divine intervention if they are to emulate Lazarus and Jesus and resurrect their season.  After suffering their 13th straight loss at the hands of an improved Rabbits outfit on Monday, the Sharks will be hard pressed to avoid matching the Magpies’ consecutive loss record in the NRL of 14 games.  It’s not all bad news for the boys from Cronulla, at least they are not about to match University’s loss record of 42 games spanning 1934-36 in the NSWRL.  That sort of performance prompted the Students to withdraw from the top competition, something which I am not suggesting to the Sharks – Yet.  The Eels were well beaten by the Tigers last week as they were unable to match the defensive effort their opposition displayed, but if their backs man-up and Mortimer plays to potential they should run away with this one.  Tim Smith’s addition to the Sharks line-up against his old team could improve the Sharks’ attacking options and take some of the burden from Barrett, but he is no saviour.  The dismal (if any) home crowd advantage will not be enough to save the Sharks.  Little hint to the Eels: Send some bombs to Kelly.

Eels by 14.

Cowboys v Titans – 7:30pm Saturday April 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium

The Cowboys have Thurston and Prince is injured for the Titans.  This game’s tip is an easy decision.  The Tigers v Eels game last weekend demonstrated the importance of having a star player in a playmaker position with the Tigers’ in-form skipper Marshall, directing proceedings.  On the other hand, the Eels’ star player Hayne was unable to take control of the game wearing the No. 1 jersey.  Thurston commands too much attention from oppositions who have a tendency to wait for him to shimmy past them.  Like some strange mating ritual, he dances seductively with ball in hand, distracting the defensive line from the other Cowboys lurking nearby. The Titans are undefeated and have competent playmakers in Bird and Rogers, but without Prince they are an unavoidably different side who will struggle to adjust to his absence.  Even though the Titans are sitting pretty at second on the ladder, the Cowboys at home with a fit Thurston should score a handful of tries.  Here’s hoping they have learnt how to tackle during the week.

Cowboys by 8.

Warriors v Sea Eagles – 2:00pm Sunday April 4, Mt Smart Stadium

Once were warriors?  Cook me some… eggs…! The Warriors were back to their menacing best in the second half against the Broncos last week.  The only trouble is that they need to back it up, with fewer players.  They will be short of intimidation as the Beast is injured, while workhorse Mannering’s services will also be sorely missed.  Manly are not without their own injury woes and big George Rose is having another stint on the sideline.  I’m hoping Terence Seu Seu takes his spot just because he has an excellent name.  The Sea Eagles will put up more of a fight than the Warriors’ previous opposition, and have travelled quite well across the Tasman in the last few years.  That being said, the Warriors got the better of Manly 26-24 in their only match last season on the Northern Beaches.  Dessy seems to have lodged his right boot squarely up his players rear, and they should improve further this weekend.  I don’t see the Warriors being successful with their erratic play against the more structured Sea Eagles defence.  I still have neck brace envy of Tate – Cheating anyone? Manly should get this, but it wont be easy.

Sea Eagles by 4.

Raiders v Tigers – 3:00pm Sunday April 4, Canberra Stadium

Since I’ve determined that the Broncos are actually crap, I can discount the Raiders’ victory in Round 2, and blame it on the Broncos’ inability and inexperience.  The Raiders didn’t show anything against the Titans last week that would make me think otherwise.  The Tigers on the other hand played some quality football – Not only were they impressive in attack but their defensive effort probably won them the game.  I’m sorry Phatass, but I’m going against the Green Machine again this weekend.  Benji and Farah will kick short for tries, and kick deep all day to force the mistakes from the Raiders’ back three.  Canberra Stadium does add some extra “umph” to the Raiders’ performances, but the Tigers’ last visit to the Nations Capital was a pleasant one, leaving 21 point victors.  The Tigers are building their season and addressing the shortcomings in their game week to week.  The Raiders just wish they played at home every week.  Can the Raiders demonstrate some premiership or even finals credentials?  Don’t count on it.  It’s a Sunday arvo game, and I hear Lote really likes Sunday afternoons.

Tigers by 20.

Knights v Panthers – 4:00pm Monday April 4, Energy Australia Stadium

This should be a cracker of a contest.  Both teams have had wins in round 1, followed by a pair of defeats.  Not a whole lot separates them in form, and they each have their fair share of quality players across the park.  The best thing about this match, is the fact that the Knights were responsible for booting the Panthers out of last year’s competition in round 26 with a devastating 35-Nil rout.  The Novo Castrians will be out in force on Easter Monday to support their team, and watch them humiliate the Panthers again.  The Panthers will put up a better showing this time around but the scars from last season run deep and may take longer to heal.  Both teams have an unfortunate casualty list, however the Panthers’ current outfit is looking a little more tired and frayed at the edges.  Newcastle have been refreshed by a new coach, and will be looking to register their first home win of the season.  I think the bookies are favouring the Knights more than what is deserved, but the win will be theirs.

Knights by 6.

Rabbitohs v Bulldogs – 7:00pm Monday April 5, ANZ Stadium

In contrast to the Roosters and Broncos who were both thumped last week, these two teams finally posted wins on the board.  The Bulldogs ran in twelve tries against a hapless Roosters outfit who contributed to the Doggies’ cause with nineteen errors, while the Rabbits finally met a lesser opposition in the Sharks.  “At last!” cried the Redfern locals as all of South Sydney joined in a collective sigh of relief.  The momentum built by a solid performance from Issac Luke and a forward pack that was somewhat committed in attack and defence, was enough for the Rabbits to win by 22 points.  But don’t get too excited Russell, it was just the Sharks, it was nothing to write home about, you got the Sharks’ sloppy 13ths.  While they were dominant in most facets of the game, they were still hamstrung by 11 errors, and 8 penalties.  It is that ill-discipline that makes me favour the Bulldogs in this one.  With Ennis and Kimmorley marshalling the troops, the Bulldogs should be able to take advantage of the South Sydney pack who still have much to improve on.  If both teams play like they did last weekend, this could turn into an engaging contest in front of a big crowd at the neutral ANZ Stadium.  While it may be engaging, the truth is that the Doggies have performed better against better opposition than the Rabbitohs.  As both teams have displayed suspect defence and attacking ability, expect plenty of tries.

Bulldogs by 8.

Multi-Magic … My long shot bets for the punter within…

  • Storm v Dragons – Dragons to win
  • Roosters v Broncos – Roosters 1-12
  • Sharks v Eels – Eels -13.5
  • Cowboys v Titans – Cowboys 1-12
  • Warriors v Sea Eagles – Sea Eagles 1-12
  • Raiders v Tigers – Tigers 13+
  • Knights v Panthers – Knights -4.5
  • Rabbitohs v Bulldogs – Bulldogs 1-12