On the Ball Match Previews Souths vs North Queensland Star studded team out to show they’re the real deal. So many teams would kill to have a Roster like the Cowboys. The Australian front row, a scintillating fullback, one of the best five eights of all time, one of the best young back rowers in the game in Tariq Sims and the list goes on. If that’s not enough they have a proven finisher in Ashley Graham, Brent Tate an origin and former international centre, workhorses such as Dallas Johnson, Glenn Hall and Scott Bolton. However the Rabbitohs aren’t bad either. A player voted the best in the world by his peers in Greg Inglis, an experienced player finally fulfilling his potential in John Sutton and his young halves partner just starting to discover his own who goes by Adam Reynolds. They have arguably the best forward in the NRL with Sam Burgess and his mountain of a brother George doesn’t go to badly either. They also boast one of the best finishers of all time in Nathan Merrit. These are all the type of players who can decide games. The kicking games of Thurston and Reynolds will be on show and have a huge impact in the final result. Inglis showed last week he can turn a game on its head in a matter of minutes and we’ll see it all again this week. The cowboys have a terrible record in Sydney but even after a win last week over the Eels with origin coming up their season is in its make or break point if they’re serious about top four aspirations. The Rabbitohs are a team flying high and I can’t see the Cowboys slowing them down. Reynolds and Sutton will be pushing hard for origin births and the Burgess brothers will rise to the
occasion of versing the Australian front row. The first half will be close but the Rabbitohs will pull away in the second half. West Tigers vs Cronulla Two struggling teams pit against each other. With Paul Gallen likely not to play you’d Expect Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita to step up. Aaron Woods vs Andrew Fifita, two players desperate for an origin spot. Woods is the front runner but Fifita ran an unbelievable 250 metres against the Knights to put cement himself in the minds of the selectors. Despite the fact there might be room for both of them in the team it seems unlikely. Woods has practically been carrying the Tigers injury depleted pack all year and will most likely reap the rewards soon. Cronulla came into this year with high expectations following a spectacular recruitment drive. However with just 3 wins from eight games they’ve slumped to 11th on the ladder. The ASADA investigation couldn’t help though. After delivering a very disappointing season last year many were hoping the Tigers new coach Mick Potter would be a positive breath of fresh air. It wasn’t to be though as an injury crisis ensured they’d be glued to the bottom of the ladder. The Sharks pack even without Gallen should run all over the Tigers and they should win. Sharks by 12. Origin Special NSW No.6 The incumbent is 2010 Dally M medal winner Todd Carney. The front runner is brilliant new roosters recruit James Maloney. The player whose form just demands it is John Sutton. The guy who’s burst onto the scene and is really putting his hand up with an in your face attitude in Josh Reynolds. All have a case for that jersey. Todd Carney had a few good touches last year but his performance wasn’t quite
up to standard. James Maloney has been in incredible form and has a lethal combination the likely halfback Mitchell Pearce. John Sutton has turned into an outstanding player who wouldn’t look at all out of place in a sky blue jersey. Josh Reynolds has played great football in a struggling side this year and may be inexperienced but has the mongrel attitude you need in Origin. Reynolds and Sutton have the versatility but Carney and Maloney have both shown they form a great combination with Pearce. Best Running game-‐ Maloney can hit a hole beautifully which is a huge part of his game. Sutton sometimes busts the line with ease but it would help to have Inglis running off your shoulder. Reynolds has shown he can break tackles and has a good step on him. Carney hasn’t been running much since his Achilles injury but has a proven running game and led to a Stewart try last series. Over the years Sutton has shown he has the best running game however so far this year it would have to be Maloney. Best Passing game-‐ John Sutton hasn’t really been known as a traditional ball player but he has shown great ball skills especially in 2013. Carney is a brilliant passer of the ball and developed his ball playing ability greatly at the sharks. Josh Reynolds is often referred to as a non-‐traditional half without real playmaking skills. However he has a much underrated passing and kicking game. Maloney is a very good passer of the ball as shown with his service to the Roosters outside backs, primarily Michael Jennings. These are some great players but when it comes to a passing game none of them can quite match Todd Carney. Best Kicking game-‐ John Sutton isn’t known for his kicking game and doesn’t have much pressure on his kicking game playing next to Adam Reynolds. However you can see his worked hard on it and
while it isn’t a dominant kicking game it is more than competent. Josh Reynolds often has a fair bit of kicking to do but he’s not exactly known for his kicking game. However in a struggling team he did show off his attacking kicking game early in the season and at times last year. Todd Carney has an above average kicking game without it being spectacular. James Maloney is about the same as Carney but probably a little better. Both will have a slight advantage due to being goal kickers. Carneys goal kicking ability under pressure was largely questioned during last year’s series after some shocking misses. He went a long way to redeeming himself with a spectacular kick from the side line during Origin 3 at a critical period in the match. I can’t decide between Carney and Maloney who are also the front runners for the jersey. The real question is who will rise to the occasion? You know Reynolds will come out and give it his all but his skills aren’t quite as refined as the other five eighths. James Maloney is becoming known as a player to rise to the occasion and a big performance in city country could have all but wrapped up a start in last year’s series. If and this is a big if, if Laurie Daley changes his stance on Mitchell Pearce being halfback and selects Adam Reynolds you’d have to imagine John Sutton would instantly become the favourite due to the way he perfect compliments Reynolds. Sutton is 28 but would prove a handful for the defence and his versatility could help as he can move to the back row if necessary. Todd Carney has returned from injury well and is known as a player to turn a match around but he didn’t lift for the occasion as much as needed to during the 2012 series. Who should play there? James Maloney is the perfect man for the job. His game possesses competitive spirit plus a sharp and accurate kicking game. He has strong passing game, great combination with
Jennings and Pearce. He doesn’t quite have the versatility of some of the others but there’s a fair chance that it won’t be called upon anyway. If Carney hits a purple patch and Maloney falls away he’s a real chance and would love another crack at the Queenslanders. Sutton and Reynolds will need to produce something real special over the next few weeks to be in contention for a starting spot. So in summary the time has come for Maloney to step up and win NSW a series. Warriors vs Bulldogs Two teams coming off a much needed win come together. Shaun Johnson and Josh Reynolds will each be at the centre of their teams attacks. Ben Matulino will need a huge game if the Warriors are to stop Bulldogs props Tolman, Graham and Kasiano. Ben Barba is set for a big game if he’s serious about origin aspirations. The Warriors may be inconsistent but the truth is they haven’t been playing all that bad this year. Shaun Johnson is in brilliant form as is Reynolds and they could well decide this game. The Bulldogs seem to be on the way back up and the Warriors will need a brilliant start if they want to still being in the match come the 70th minute. The Warriors might give them a scare but the Bulldogs will roll through the middle and break through the edges. Bulldogs by 8. Eels vs Broncos Last week they both match their higher on the ladder opponents for large parts of the game but fell short in the end. Opposite fullbacks Jarryd Hayne and Corey Norman are crucial in their respective teams attack and have shown the form this year to suggest they could go a long way towards deciding whose team comes away with the points. The eels have produced some horrendous displays this year especially against the Roosters and Panthers. The Broncos got off to
a slow start but have been gradually improving. Broncos are the obvious favourites and have a far superior forward pack. Jacob Loko will have a tough time trying to shut down Australian centre Justin Hodges. Loko is a good young talent and this will prove a great challenge. Broncos seem to simply have better quality of player and better attitude. Broncos by 16. Raiders vs Knights Two teams with scintillating backlines and underrated forward packs. Great young centres Dane Gagai and Jack Wighton come face to face, Reece Robinson comes head to head with Darius Boyd and while not in the same position big powerful outside backs Blake Ferguson and Akuila Uate will be playing on the same side and both vying for NSW selection even though Ferguson is an outsider. Willie Mason and Brett White are both players who aren’t afraid to show passion on the field and its contagious to their team mates. The Raiders are not surprisingly having a rocks and diamonds season but have been spectacular at home with 3 wins from 3 games including a comeback over the roosters. Terry Campese will be keen to get back to his best by outplaying his opposite halves, especially with the knights missing Jarrod Mullen. Josh Mcrone will do everything he can to secure his no7 jersey with Sam Williams breathing down his neck. 18 year old prodigy Anthony Milford will add spark off the bench. It’s a game that really could go either way and Wayne Bennet would be desperate to get his side a win. However at home I think the Raiders should come away with the two points. Raiders by 4. Titans vs Dragons Titans started the season on fire but have descended a little with 4 wins and 4 losses. They have a good chance to better that record with a win over the Dragons. The titans lost by a point last week and
Dragons were in it till the end with premiership heavy weights Manly. The dragons pack will have to lift immensely if they want to match the star studded Titans pack. Dave Taylor is playing with a point to prove and will try and build on his great performance last week. Jamal Idris is coming off a brilliant season but he’ll be up against Matt Cooper who’s a brilliant defender. Soward and Fien a very under fire halves combination will be coming up against a much better performing but much less experienced halves combination in Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer. Speedy wingers Kevin Gordon and David Mead are returning. Dragons will be without Australian winger Brett Morris so they may lack strike out wide. All signs point to a Titans win and missing Morris won’t help. Titans by 10. This seasons surprise packet and disappointments Surprise Packets-‐ Roosters With the Roster they’ve got it’s not really a surprise that they are where they are. However I don’t think anyone predicted them to gel the way they have. We all knew Sonny Bill Williams was an extraordinary talent but I don’t think anyone though he’d play the way he is. Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney are steering their team around with class, poise and individual brilliance. Michael Jennings has given them speed out wide and Tuivasa Sheck and Daniel Tupou are both performing out wide in their young careers. Jared Warea Hargreaves is in career best form and Sam Moa has shown he is more than worthy of a first grade starting spot. Boyd Cordner is showing why he’s an origin player of the future. They have a lot of brilliant players but few thought Trent Robinson would be able get them to play such brilliant, fast tempo and exciting football.
Disappointments-‐ Canterbury Bulldogs In 2009 the Eels embarked on a sensational run that took them all the way to the grand final. The next year they collapsed and are yet to bounce back. In 2010 the Roosters captured the hearts of many in a brilliant season and came so close going down in the decider. They also had a spectacular loss of form and only now in 2013 are the once again a team in premiership contention even if they are only outsides. In 2011 the Warriors came oh so close to their first premiership but Manly ousted them in the final match of the year. Then in 2012 they never even looked like a top eight side. The Bulldogs were the team that seemed destined to break the trend. However off field issues and injuries stopped them from shooting out of the blocks in 2013. While they’re starting to rediscover form with the return of James Graham and Sam Kasiano there have been some real negatives this year. Star recruit Tony Williams who was tipped to fire under his old coach Des Hasler has been a real disappointment and in the process lost his Australian jersey. Off field issues and all 2012 Dally M medal winner Ben Barba has struggled to get his mojo back. Krisnan Inu earned himself a six week suspension for a horrendous spear tackle on Greg Inglis. Teams they lifted and won against at times last year in the Cowboys, Storm, Rabbitohs and Manly were all victorious over them. However it appears their season could start to turn around now and hopefully for them by the end of the year they won’t look back on it as a disappointment. Panthers vs Storm Cameron Smith doesn’t often loss his cool. However when Gareth Widdop put in an all or nothing kick that may well have cost them the game in the 79th minute of last week’s game verse the Raiders the exasperated look on his face was unmistakable. In the game of
footy there are very few things you can be sure of, but I am sure of one thing this week. The storm will not want to lose. They will come firing on all cylinders and it seems unlikely the Panthers will be able to match it with them. Sika Manu comes up against his old club and is one of the many Penrith players who will need a huge game if they are to get a result. The storm are a team known for an exceptional attitude and it just wasn’t there against the Raiders. You’d have to assume it would be back for this week. Melbourne will surely come away with the points, its always risky to tip a big win but I’ll go out on a limb and say Storm by 30. Manly vs Roosters Set to be the match of the round. Disappointing to not have Brett Stewart involved but you could hardly complain about Jorge Tafua’s performance last week while filling in which included the match winning try. Roosters have looked simply unstoppable at times this year and Manly have somehow once again made themselves strong premiership contenders. Glenn Stewart will be looking for a huge performance if he wants to be right back in the frame for origin. Brilliant centres Jamie Lyon and Michael Jennings come head to head in what will be a great match up of speed and skill. It’ll be an intense battle of the halves as two of the form combinations come together. At the moment with Warea Hargreaves and Cordner making inroads through the middle letting likely NSW halves combination Mitcell Pearce and James Maloney take control of the game. The Roosters have just two much strike power to go down at the moment and it doesn’t help Manly that they’ll be without star fullback Brett Stewart. Manly will lift but Roosters will show they are the real deal. Roosters by 6. Josh Dugan confirms deal with Dragons
Adding a player with the talents of Josh Dugan to any team can’t do much harm especially to a team struggling to score points. However after less than admirable off field behaviour that led to his sacking at his Raiders he certainly lost a few fans. If he fails to perform at his new club it will do extreme harm to the clubs image. Steve Price is still unproven as a coach but turning around Josh Dugans career wouldn’t look bad on a resume. The signing of Gerard Beale was supposed to go a long way toward fixing their attack but he got that dreaded ACL injury and is unlikely to be back this year. There’s a small chance Dugan could make his debut this Sunday and a bad performance would lead to him being crucified by critics. At the start of the year he came out and said he was desperate to win back his NSW jersey about to be occupied by either Brett Stewart or Jarryd Hayne. It seemed like Laurie Daley was going to give him every chance to win it back yet a series of bad decisions off the field have him at near impossible odds to do that. Redemption can be a huge form of motivation and if Dugan can trigger that it’s not ridiculous to say that he could make the Dragons a top eight side. Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale and Josh Dugan would be a formidable back three. With Gareth Widdop coming next year they could have some real strike power. Steve Price recently extended his contract with the club and responding to that with results could reinstall some confidence with the Dragons Board. Dugan is an hugely talented player but the Dragons have taken a risk signing him and saving his career. Jamie Soward currently runs the Dragons attack but seems to be struggling to have carry a team in attack, Dugan could let Soward play his best football similar to Maloney taking pressure off Pearce. If those two can fire the Sky is the limit for the dragons because people just how good Soward was. The arrival of Gareth Widdop, Joel Thompson and Dylan Farrel plus the return of Beale from injury next year will do wonders for the Dragons add the possible signing of Feleti Mateo
and hypothetical or not that’s a good looking team. There’s a serious chance he’ll repay that by playing out of skin and taking the Dragons up the ladder by helping Jamie Soward engineer the Dragons attack.