Once again, the Queenslanders have been predictable in their selections, while the NSW selectors have inconsistently applied faith in the incumbents and faith in NRL form.
Israel Folau is in the Queensland side, and should stay there regardless of his career decisions. His form since being omitted from the Kangaroos has been spectacular. I could watch the footage of him turning Billy Slater inside out, over and over. Cooper Cronk on the bench is an interesting choice, but I don’t mind a playmaker being used off the bench. Or is he just insurance for Thurston and Lockyer?
The big weakness in the Queensland side (if you can call it a weakness) is their forwards. They are missing the services of Hannant and Price, and don’t have the depth of experience that they have had in the last few series. Still, their back line virtually fills the Kangaroo roster. Will Dave Taylor shrink in the spotlight of Origin?
Gallen is missing from the NSW line up, but I don’t have such a problem with that. Luke Lewis will be an absolute asset as one of the game’s form forwards, and Timana Tahu will absolutely explode. Cooper is a little bit lucky to be in the run on side, and although he is our Captain, a massive unit, and a good bloke, I’d prefer to see Kurt Gidley on the bench. He is a brilliant utility back, but Hayne is not nearly as potent on the wing. Surely we have the depth in other positions to shuffle Gidley out of the starting 13. Then again, who would be captain?
By the way, who came up with Cockroaches and Cane toads as the Origin mascots? Sure cockroaches may survive a nuclear holocaust, and cane toads are impressive at procreating, but there is nothing admirable about being repulsive pests. I have never cheered for the Cockroaches, and never will. Let’s stick to the Maroons and Blues.
The Blues will win Game 1 at ANZ Stadium by 10 points at least. They will roll with the confidence of winning Game 3 last year, and will be too strong and energetic up front.
Favourite moment from last weekend – The rabid Raiders fans flashing wads of cash at the Melbourne Storm players in the vain hope of enticing a different result. Evidently the wads of cash weren’t thick enough. Try cars and boats next time boys.
Knights v Tigers – 7:35pm Friday May 21, Energy Australia Stadium
These two teams appear to be heading in opposite directions. The Knights have put in three pretty good performances, including a last round win against the Roosters, while the Tigers have lost three on the trot, culminating in an absolute shellacking by the Rabbitohs last weekend. You’d think heritage round would have provided the Tigers with a bit of pride in their jersey. Not so. Their 50-10 loss answered that question! The Knights were convincing in their victory over the Roosters but I doubt they can back it up. Both teams are ravaged by injuries, and the Knights are missing their ‘Captain Courageou’s Kurt Gidley on Origin duties. Newcastle are in slightly better form than the Tigers, but this is the week for the Tigers to climb out of the hole they find themselves in. The Knights do have a strong backline, but they lack the playmaker to take advantage of it. The Tigers have Benji, and after losing by 40 points, the Tigers will fight through the pain and inflict some on their opposition. The Knights are a shaky prospect against any team – basically I’m not convinced that they’ve turned their season around. This week is the opportunity for the Tigers to stop the rot. Akuila Uate’s try off a kickoff last week was hot.
Tigers by 10.
Eels v Sharks – 7:30pm Saturday May 22, Parramatta Stadium
The Eels may be missing a couple of their Origin stars, but there is no way they will be embarrassed like the last time they fronted up to the Sharks. Their 11-Nil loss in round four will not be repeated. The Eels have to thank Tahu for their turn of form, and as such he will be sorely missed while out though Origin or injury. So what. A couple of quality backs don’t make a team. With Keating and Grothe back from injury, sorry Sharks you won’t win this week. The one thing in the Sharks favour is that their team is unchanged from last week, with Gallen being overlooked for Origin. Will he have a blinder to alert the selectors to their terrible mistake, or will he have a sulk and play miserably through another loss for the Cronulla boys? I reckon sulk. He will be up against Moi Moi, Hindmarsh and Cayless, all significant representative players in their own right. Gallen, maybe if you lead the Sharks to a victory, the NSW selectors will realise that there are actually a few people who can play footy on the southern beaches. The Sharks will be hoping Barrett isn’t called up, otherwise they’ll struggle in attack, well struggle moreso.
Eels by 14.
Dragons v Raiders – 3:00pm Sunday May 23, WIN Stadium
Most people I know, think that I’m crazy – especially when I back the Raiders against the table topping Dragons. Hear me out. The Dragons are missing six players through Origin duties, and although Bennett knows how to handle this sort of disruption, the Dragons are of a different cut to the Brisbane Broncos. I’m not convinced that the Dragons are free from self doubt. They are the best team in the competition at the moment, but that is down to consistency. There are other teams that have put in better performances, like Manly two weeks ago. Until the Dragons learn to time their runs, step up against quality opposition, and wrestle out wins when their chips are down, they won’t win the comp. This week will be a test for St George. It’s the Raiders’ time to shine. The Raiders may have had their opportunities, and squandered them with two hands, and this week they are missing Shillington and Learoyd-Lahrs to Origin, but their backs remain unaffected, and that is where Campese will unleash. The Raiders have shown promise, and if they put it all together, they will disappoint the Saints’ fans down at Wollongong. History supports my ridiculous tip to a certain extent – Raiders have won the last three against the Dragons, and here’s to hoping it’ll be four.
Raiders by 8.
Warriors v Rabbitohs – 4:00pm Sunday May 23, Mt Smart Stadium
Call me indecisive, but I changed my tip about five minutes after making it. I like the Warriors, and I like them at home. My reflex was to tip the Warriors at Mt Smart without much thought on the matter. Then I remembered that the Warriors have been unpredictable and uninspiring. Plus they’re missing the Beast. The Rabbits only have one more win than the Kiwis this season, but they have won 5 from the last 7, and are only missing man mountain Dave Taylor to Origin. The Bunnies certainly have form on their side after they ceremoniously smashed the Tigers last weekend, while in contrast the Warriors only beat the cellar dwelling Cowboys 24-12. Yes, playing at Mt Smart is an advantage to the Warriors, but this is the weekend when Souths will finally establish some premiership credentials. Isaac Luke has been on fire for the Rabbits, and if he continues in that fashion, the Warriors will struggle to keep South Sydney at bay. The Rabbitohs won this contest in round four 22-16, but I reckon the margin will blow out this weekend. The Warriors have not seen victory against the Rabbits in the last three outings, and unfortunately for those across the ditch, they will not be reprieved this week.
Rabbitohs by 12.
Panthers v Bulldogs – 7:00pm Monday May 24, CUA Stadium
These two teams are missing three players a piece to Origin. The Panthers’ forward pack will be decimated with the loss of Civoniceva, Waterhouse and Lewis, but the Doggies will miss the services of Kimmorley, Ennis and Idris. Surely the Bulldogs will feel the pinch with the loss of their two main playmakers, and their biggest attacking weapon (Idris is massive with and without his hair). Barba has gained a starting spot and will put on a show, but he will have more responsibility than he can handle. His team performed well early against the Dragons last week, but they continue to lack the killer punch. Missing their Origin stars will not provide the solution. The Panthers retain Coote and Jennings in the backs, and those two can start something from nothing. The stability in the Panthers’ line up will prove too much for the Doggies to handle. The Bulldogs have the players to beat most teams, but their form suggests otherwise. Origin will take its toll, the Doggies will get convincingly beaten.
Panthers by 20.
Progress Score Round 10 – 46/76 60.5%
Multi-Magic … My long shot bets for the punter within…
- Knights v Tigers – Tigers 1-12
- Eels v Sharks – Eels -11.5
- Dragons v Raiders – Raiders 1-12
- Warriors v Rabbitohs – Rabbitohs 1-12
- Panthers v Bulldogs – Panthers 13+