THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
NRL ROUND 21 PREVIEW
St George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm
WIN Stadium, 7:35pm (local).
DRAGONS: Jason Nightingale, Brett Morris, Chase Stanley, Beau Scott, Daniel Vidot, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby, Dan Hunt, Mitch Rein, Trent Merrin, Matt Prior, Ben Creagh, Dean Young. Interchange (from): Nathan Fien, Jack de Belin, Josh Miller, Will Mathews, Leeson Ah Mau
STORM: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Dane Nielsen, Will Chambers, Anthony Quinn, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Jason Ryles, Sika Manu, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange (from): Todd Lowrie, Rory Kostjasyn, Richie Fa’aoso, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie
Can the Storm stop the rot? Who could have predicted that after the Storm’s lightning start to the year where they notched 11 wins from their first 12 games, that they would be entering Round 21 with just 12 wins from 17. Last week topped it all off when they lost to 16th placed Parramatta and it’s all left the Melbourne faithful wondering when, and if, the Storm will get their title campaign back on track. A major boost to their chances is the return of Australian international fullback Billy Slater to the team. I have no doubt that Slater’s presence alone will be enough to lift the Storm a notch but they face a Dragons team that despite sitting 13th on the ladder actually hold the 4th best defensive record in the comp. This ensures that the Storm are going to have to be prepared to fight until the end.
I’m tipping the Storm in what could be a close game but one that the Storm will be in control of throughout proceedings and their odds of $1.48 are a good reflection of their chances to stop the rot!
Chance of winning: Dragons 32%, Storm 67%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Storm -5.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
Allianz Stadium, 7:35pm (local).
ROOSTERS: Anthony Minichiello, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Joseph ‘BJ’ Leilua, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Tautau Moga, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Frank Paul Nuuausala, Aidan Guerra, Boyd Cordner, Tinirau Arona. Interchange (from): Nafe Seluini, Lama Tasi, Mitchell Aubusson, Martin Kennedy, Brad Takairangi
TITANS: William Zillman, Kevin Gordon, Jamal Idris, Steve Michaels, David Mead, Aidan Sezer, Scott Prince, Luke Bailey, Matt Srama, Luke Douglas, Greg Bird, Mark Minichiello, Nate Myles. Interchange (from): Matt White, Ben Ridge, Luke O’Dwyer, Beau Falloon, Michael Henderson
Hopes of making the finals are all but dashed for the lacklustre Roosters after they slumped to their 6th consecutive lost last week, but for the Titans it’s all to play for after their upset win over the Broncos sees them sitting just one win outside the top 8 in 10th.
The Titans have won 2 games in a row and fans are desperately hoping that they are building up to their best footy heading into the finals after a very disappointing first half of the season.
The Roosters have the home ground advantage but so far in 2012 the Titans have won 5 games away from home as opposed to just 3 when playing on the Gold Coast and the trip to Sydney shouldn’t be too detrimental to their chances in this one.
I have to tip a Titans team with so much more to play for than their opposition.
Chance of winning: Roosters 42%, Titans 57%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Titans
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Titans @ $1.70 (Sportsbet)
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v North Queensland Cowboys
ANZ Stadium, 5:30pm (local).
BULLDOGS: Ben Barba, Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, Krisnan Inu, Jonathan Wright, Josh Reynolds, Kris Keating, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis, James Graham, Frank Pritchard, Josh Jackson, Greg Eastwood. Interchange (from): Martin Taupau, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne, David Stagg, Harlan Alaalatoa
COWBOYS: Matthew Bowen, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Dallas Johnson. Interchange (from): Anthony Mitchell, Ricky Thorby, Ashton Sims, Scott Bolton, Ray Thompson
It was a big week for the Bulldogs as they moved to outright 1st on the ladder after defeating the Sea Eagles. Impressive was the manner in which they did it. They fought tooth and nail in a semi-final style match and showed the NRL world that they are indeed the real deal.
The Cowboys went up against the Tigers on Monday night and turned on some spectacular attacking plays in front of their home crowd. For the sake of a great game I hope they can do the same when on the road and playing in Sydney. They’ll have to turn around recent history if they are to win as the Bulldogs have won the last 4 games against the Cowboys.
I’m taking the Bulldogs as were massively impressive last week and the Cowboys can be a dodgy betting prospect when away from home especially on the back of a 5 day turnaround from their last match.
Chance of winning: Bulldogs 61%, Cowboys 38%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Bulldogs
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Bulldogs Head to Head @ $1.65 (Sportsbet)
Manly Sea Eagles v New Zealand Warriors
Patersons Stadium, 5:30pm (local).
SEA EAGLES: Dean Whare, Jorge Taufua, Steve Matai, Jamie Lyon, David Williams, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jason King, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams, Glenn Stewart. Interchange (from): Jamie Buhrer, Joe Galuvao, Darcy Lussick, George Rose, Vic Mauro, Daniel Harrison
WARRIORS: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Lewis Brown, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Ben Henry, Elijah Taylor. Interchange (from): Sam Lousi, Sione Lousi, Jacob Lillyman, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pita Godinet
The Sea Eagles have moved their matchup against the Warriors to Perth’s Patersons Stadium this week as they look for a victory to embed themselves deeper into the top 8 or risk being caught by a pack of contenders that sit just outside 9th spot. Despite losing to the Bulldogs last week, the Sea Eagles played a seriously competitive brand of footy that they have become renowned for in the last 5 years and they are certainly going to be tough to beat.
The fortunes of the Warriors were in their own hands last week when they fell to the Knights at home after holding an 18-0 lead.
The Warriors are 9th just one win outside the Top 8 but are also equal on points with the 13th placed Dragons and if they concede a victory here they could find themselves tumbling down the ladder.
Expect a hard fought battle as these sides have put on some tight finishes in recent times, none more so than back in Round 1 when the Sea Eagles snuck away with a 26-20 win.
The Warriors form has been inconsistent at best and it’s with bold guesswork that you would put your money behind them. Manly for mine.
Chance of winning: Manly 64%, Warriors 35%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Sea Eagles
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Sea Eagles -5.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)
Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers
Toyota Stadium, 7:30pm (local).
SHARKS: Matthew Wright, John Williams, Ricky Leutele, Colin Best, Nathan Stapleton, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson, Bryce Gibbs, Isaac De Gois, Ben Ross, Jeremy Smith, Jayson Bukuya, Paul Gallen. Interchange (from): Andrew Fifita, Tyson Frizell, John Morris, Mark Taufua, Anthony Tupou, Jon Green
PANTHERS: Josh Mansour, Etu Uaisele, Michael Jennings, Brad Tighe, David Simmons, Lachlan Coote, Luke Walsh, Sam McKendry, Kevin Kingston, Tim Grant, Clint Newton, Cameron Ciraldo, Nigel Plum. Interchange (from): Shane Shackelton, Mitch Achurch, Ryan Simpkins, Matt Robinson, Danny Galea
The Panthers ended round 20 plus 2 competition points and minus Travis Burns who is facing a seriously lengthy suspension following his high tackle on Martin Kennedy. The Panthers never gave up against the Roosters and it was the admirable trait that got them over the finish line in first place. If they can produce some of the same this week, they may be able to catch the Sharks unawares as they try to rectify their current form slump.
In the Sharks favour are the likely re-additions of Paul Gallen and Jeremy Smith to the team; two players they missed dearly last week when they fell to the Raiders 36-4.
I think the key to winning will be for the Sharks to come out all guns-a-blazing and establish dominance early on to demoralise the Panthers out of the game. With Gallen heading up the charge, my money is with them to win, albeit by less than 12.
Chance of winning: Sharks 67%, Panthers 32%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Sharks
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Sharks 1-12 @ $3.10 (Centrebet)
Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights
Canberra Stadium, 2:00pm (local).
RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Sandor Earl, Jarrod Croker, Blake Ferguson, Reece Robinson, Josh McCrone, Sam Williams, David Shillington, Travis Waddell, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Josh Papalii, Joel Thompson, Shaun Fensom. Interchange (from): Shaun Berrigan, Joe Picker, Mark Nicholls, Sam Mataora, Jarrad Kennedy
KNIGHTS: Darius Boyd, Kevin Naiqama, Dane Gagai, Timana Tahu, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Tyrone Roberts, Zane Tetevano, Danny Buderus, Willie Mason, Chris Houston, Joel Edwards, Neville Costigan. Interchange (from): Robbie Rochow, Zeb Taia, Adam Cuthbertson, Alex McKinnon, Marvin Filipo
It’s an important battle for both sides in a bid to inch closer to a coveted finals berth. Both sides are amongst the log jam of teams that sit one win outside the top 8 and out of the Knights and Raiders, we are about to find out which team yearns for it the most.
Home ground advantage is always a bonus for the Raiders in winter. Canberra Stadium’s hostile harbouring of freezing weather conditions hardly inspires opponents into mounting a charge. However the Raiders have been enigmatic at best and their last 3 results read like this: A 32 point win against the Sharks, a 36 -28 loss to the Titans which was only made to look good after they crazily ran in 4 consolation tries in the last 10 minutes of the game. And going back 3 weeks ago they thrashed the Storm 40-12. If you have a solid form line on the Raiders currently then you’re a better person than me because it’s near impossible to work out what the Raiders are going to bring to the table each week.
I’m going to tip them but I think it’s safer if we keep our betting funds well away from this contest.
Chance of winning: Raiders 61%, Knights 38%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Raiders
Mike’s Suggested Bet: None. Raiders could win or lose by 30!
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
ANZ Stadium, 3:00pm (local)
RABBITOHS: Nathan Merritt, Justin Hunt, Matt King, Dylan Farrell, Andrew Everingham, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Eddy Pettybourne, Nathan Peats, Sam Burgess, Chris McQueen, Dave Taylor, Michael Crocker. Interchange (from): Jason Clark, Dave Tyrrell, Luke Burgess, Ben Lowe, Shaune Corrigan, Josh Starling
TIGERS: Tim Moltzen, Matt Utai, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Beau Ryan, Curtis Sironen, Benji Marshall, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (c), Adam Blair, Liam Fulton, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington. Interchange: Junior Moors, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Matt Bell, Ray Cashmere
Both teams suffered their share of player loss this week after Greg Inglis’ well publicised trip to the judiciary resulted in a 3 week suspension thanks to his shoulder charge on Dean Young.
In the Tigers camp the week ended with a loss to the Cowboys after several players suffered injuries which saw the Tigers end the game with just one player left on the bench and that didn’t even include losing Tim Moltzen during the pregame warm up.
If certain result go certain ways this week, we could see the Rabbitohs sitting equal first and the Tigers could drop as low as 11th from their current position of 8th.
I’m expecting a fairly high scoring, yet close match and one with plenty of ball movement in attack in what could prove to be the most entertaining game of the round.
The Rabbitohs have the best of the last 5 outings with the Tigers with 4 wins to their name and although this one could go either way, I’m just leaning towards the Rabbitohs.
Chance of winning: Rabbitohs 60%, Tigers 39%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Suggested Bet: HT/NT Double – Any other result @ $11 (Centrebet)
Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels
Suncorp Stadium, 7:00pm (local).
BRONCOS: Luke Capewell, Aaron Whitchurch, Alex Glenn, Gerard Beale, Lachlan Maranta, Corey Norman, Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Petero Civoniceva, Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange (from): Ben Hunt, Josh McGuire, Mitchell Dodds, Dunamis Lui, Brendan Gibb
EELS: Jake Mullaney, Luke Burt, Ryan Morgan, Cheyse Blair, Ken Sio, Ben Roberts, Chris Sandow, Tim Mannah, Nathan Smith, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Ben Smith, Reni Maitua. Interchange (from): Joseph Paulo, Taulima Tautai, Justin Poore, Matthew Ryan, Mitchell Allgood
Brisbane left the Gold Coast last week without two competition points which many had expected them to walk away with. The loss saw them remain in 4th and now there are a 3 teams breathing down their neck following their failure to break away from 5th place. They take on the Eels who have just announced that Ricky Stuart will grab the coaching reigns in 2013 for 3 years and it will be interesting to see if this news will offer any sort of boost to the Eels.
Chance of winning: Broncos 72%, Eels 27%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Broncos
Mike’s Suggested Bet: None