100318_ant'sanalysisSpoilt rotten.  I’m not sure where this talk of a player strike is coming from but the idea of it couldn’t be more insulting to the fans.

The players need to understand that the sporting, television and radio broadcasting, and the experience industry landscapes all exist within competitive markets.  Importantly, Australia is a relatively small market with a lot of competition.  With four football codes vying for pieces of the consumer dollar pie, there isn’t a whole lot to go around.

Sure the salary cap is larger in the AFL at over $7 Million per team, but there are many more players on the roster at each team, and the teams are drawn from more than the eastern seaboard.  Additionally, NRL players currently see a greater percentage of the TV revenue generated than their AFL counterparts.  Unless more revenue comes in there won’t be any more to go out.  Rugby Union is a different matter as it is a truly international game that can command the big bucks from private enterprise, especially overseas.

Rugby League will continue to develop talent, and talent will continue to go where the money is.  The unfortunate reality is that the money is not in rugby league in Australia, and our market size means that it probably never will be.  The NRL have opted for a competitive competition where clubs are propped up by the imposition of the salary cap to level the playing field, rather than letting the market forces take control so only the rich survive.  The so called “player drain” is unavoidable if the competition is to me retained in its present form.

By suggesting a player strike, only damage will be done to the game.  If fans aren’t already disenchanted enough in the wake of the Melbourne Storm salary cap fiasco, a strike would certainly go along way to achieving that.

The salary cap in its present iteration can be improved to protect long serving clubmen, ensure non-marquee players receive adequate compensation, and to encourage player development, but a strike is not the answer, intelligent dialogue is.

The pie isn’t getting any bigger, yet the players are biting the hands that feed them, and are then going back for seconds.

Broncos v Titans – 7:35pm Friday May 14, Suncorp Stadium

Queenslander!  The Broncos surprised everyone last week by beating the Melbourne Storm at their new stadium, while the Titans have won the last three on the trot.  BrisVegas vs Sin City.  Normally I would go with the Broncos at home, but before last weekend, they were the ugly ducklings of the competition, swimming aimlessly around the cesspool at the bottom of the table trying to avoid the Sharks.  I’m not convinced that the Broncos have turned their season around.  On the other hand, the Titans have been winning, but they’ve been leaking tries like there is no tomorrow.  They only just got out of gaol against the Knights last week, and will need to shut down the talented Broncos backline if they are going to stop the Brisbane crowd going home wearing grins.  Titans should be too strong with better coverage across the park.  They just need to tackle.  My favourite moment from last weekend – Folau wrong footing Billy Slater, making him look like an idiot.  Fantastic.

Titans by 10.

Bulldogs v Dragons – 7:35pm Friday May 14, ANZ Stadium

The Doggies are my underachievers of the comp.  They looked the goods early in the game against the Eels two weeks ago, but couldn’t break their defence.  Idris was well marked, and Ennis played out of his skin, but it wasn’t enough.  They were lost in attack, and unless the doggies have sorted that out during their week off, they won’t trouble the Dragons.  Like the Dragons were after their loss to the Storm, they will be out to amend the mistakes of the previous weekend, and unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they will be on the receiving end.  Bennett needs to do something to stop the Dragons playing like Bambi in the headlights when they come up against quality opposition.  Hannant is still on the sidelines for the Doggies, and without him they struggle to muscle up against forward packs that are half decent, let alone one at the top of the table.  The Saints will stay on top without too much trouble.  I hope the Morris brothers go for round two.

Dragons by 8.

Raiders v Storm – 7:30pm Saturday May 15, Canberra Stadium

Who would have thought, the Raiders currently have two wins away from home, and only one from Canberra!  The Raiders seem to have lost much of their home ground advantage, and have lost the last two against the Tigers and the Rabbitohs.  Sure they should have beaten the Rabbits with the lead they set up, but you can’t turn off in the second half.  The Storm should (fingers crossed) rediscover their carefree nothing to win/lose style of play.  They had a whole heap of players backing up from the rep games last week, but that’s still no excuse against the Broncos.  Their bodies were on the field, while their heads were resting comfortably on the piles of cash they received over and above the salary cap.  If the Storm switch on, they should run rampant at the Nation’s Capital.  The Storm sorely missed the services and leadership of Cameron Smith last week, but they have now had a week to deal with it and work around the changes.  I like the Raiders, and I like they style of footy they are capable of playing, but with an injury list as long as theirs against a team that has made a mockery of the salary cap, you’d have to think the cheaters will prosper.

Storm by 18.

Roosters v Knights – 7:30pm Saturday May 15, Bluetongue Stadium

Both of these teams are coming of last round losses, but in completely different circumstances.  The Roosters were absolutely rubbish last week against the Cowboys, preferring to watch the Bowen show than tackle.  Carney didn’t work at playmaker.  The Knights had one of their better games of the season, but still went down in a high scoring affair 38-36 against the Titans.  I didn’t think the Knights had that many points in them!  Cooper Vuna is stamping himself as one of the form wingers, and the players around him are responding.  The bookies are having trouble separating these two, but the Roosters have won five, and the Knights have only won one at home.  I’m picking a back flip by the Roosters, and a return to form for Carney.  The fact this game is up at Gosford should play into the hands of the Knights, but Smith won’t have his Sydney City boys playing like they did last week for two weeks in a row.  They have gone ‘win – loss’ since round two, and its time for a win.  I don’t trust the Knights.

Roosters by 10.

Warriors v Cowboys – 7:30pm Saturday May 15, Mt Smart Stadium

The Beast is back.  Big Manu Vatuvei was having an awesome season before he came down with an injury, he was even catching balls without knocking on!!!  Sure Matty Bowen is back for the Cowboys, and he single-handedly destroyed the Roosters last week, but Bowen is the David to Vatuvei’s Goliath.  The Cowboys beat the Warriors at Mt Smart around this time last season, but the Warriors are a slightly more assured team this year, and the Cowboys are missing Thurston.  The Cowboys gave us a hint last week that they might start to play like their roster would indicate, but the win was exaggerated by a Roosters side that didn’t show up.  The bookies are heavily behind the Warriors, but I don’t think it will be as one-sided as they believe.  If the Cowboys play as well as they did last week, and the Warriors don’t respect their Kiwi fans, the Cowboys will cause an upset.  How the hell did the Warriors lose to Canberra at Mt Smart?  The Warriors would have been flogged during the week off, and will put an end to their losing streak.

Warriors by 6.

Tigers v Rabbitohs – 2:00pm Sunday May 16, Sydney Cricket Ground

La piece de resistance of the heritage round, the old Balmain Tigers against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the SCG.  Historically, two of the most successful clubs in the game, go head to head for the first time this season.  The bye would have served the Tigers well after they slumped to their third loss in a row against the Roosters, while the Rabbits weren’t good enough against the Sea Eagles a week before last.  Some teams relish the week off, and you’d have to think both teams would have put the bye into good use to address the shortcomings in their games.  Both teams have won four from eight and will be looking to cement their positions in the top eight.  What a nothing statement, but it’s true.  As the table currently stands, either team could slip out of the eight with a loss.  The Tigers have the X factor in Marshall who will be more comfortable in the orange and black, than he looked playing for the Kiwis.  The Rabbits have shown that they can compete with the best of them, but which Rabbitohs team is going to show up ?  This is the week for the Tigers to find form.  There won’t be another Merritt field goal like last year ’cause that was just ridiculous.

Tigers by 4.

Sharks v Panthers – 3:00pm Sunday May 16, Toyota Stadium

Two more teams, both coming off a bye… Pot luck you say?  Hardly.  The Sharks have only won two games, have had twice as many points scored against them than for them, and still haven’t worked out how to actually score tries consistently.  The Panthers, until two weeks ago, were the apple in my eye.  They were playing hot footy, but went missing against the Titans.  The last four games between these two have been won by less than 10 points, but I reckon that will change this week.   Even though the Sharks are at home, they don’t have the backline to cover the talent of Jennings.  As far as forwards go, Luke Lewis has been playing out of his skin.  His performance for the Kangaroos last weekend was nothing short of impressive.  He is a handful for any defence, let alone one of the worst in the competition.  I just don’t see how the Sharks will be competitive.  Time to see the Panthers return to form and back into my good books.

Panthers by 14.

Sea Eagles v Eels – 7:00pm Monday May 17, Brookvale Oval

Another Monday night game, and I smell another Manly victory.  The Sea Eagles are soaring once again, and are firming as legitimate premiership contenders.  What a game to knock off the top dogs (Dragons) last week.  Jamie Lyon has been driving the troops with aplomb.  And don’t forget Foran from number one…  Do we really need Stewart back?  The Eels may be a team that will suffer from the week off.  They played some tough football against the Doggies two weeks ago, and finally looked to be hitting their straps with three wins in a row.  Nothing like a bye to halt momentum.  Tahu is great to watch and has been playing some exceptional football.  Up quick in defence, he caused half the mistakes committed by the Doggies and was all over Idris.  Keating was hot and Inu, the defector, scored a cheek little try.  The Eels play a less structured game than the Dragons, and should pose some questions to the Manly defence.  Questions the Northern Beaches boys will answer (without choking again).  The only thing that scares me is that Manly might suffer a comedown like no other.  To beat the ladder leaders, with half the team backing up from the night before may have drained the team.  Will they be able to back it up against a team that doesn’t pose the challenges they faced last week?  In short – Yes.

Sea Eagles by 10.

Progress Score Round 8 – 42/68  61.8%

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

  • Broncos v Titans – Titans 1-12
  • Bulldogs v Dragons – Dragons -6.5
  • Raiders v Storm – Storm 13+
  • Roosters v Knights – Roosters to win
  • Warriors v Cowboys – Warriors 1-12
  • Tigers v Rabbitohs – Tigers -2.5
  • Sharks v Panthers – Panthers 13+
  • Sea Eagles v Eels – Sea Eagles 1-12

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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