THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
Tigers v Rabbitohs
Fri 21 Mar, 7:40pm, ANZ Stadium
Tigers: James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Keith Lulia, Tim Simona, Pat Richards, Braith Anasta, Luke Brooks, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, Keith Galloway, Liam Fulton, Bodene Thompson, Adam Blair. Interchange: Martin Taupau, Ava Seumanufagai, Sauaso Sue, James Gavet, Cory Paterson
Luke Brooks, the youngster thrown into the Tiger’s number 7 jersey for 2014 has so far shown that the preseason media hype has had no effect on his ball skills. His attacking plays have been terrific considering he only has three NRL games to his name and I’m sure the attacking raids will get better in the weeks to come.
But there’s just one teensy weensy criticism to be made of his game; defence, or rather lack of.
Brooks missed a whopping 13 tackles in round one and on Sunday against the Titans missed another 2 from 10 attempts. I’m not having a dig at you Luke. I’m just prefacing the friendly warning I’m about to give you. That warning is in relation to one family in particular called the Burgess boys. They’re coming for you Mr. Luke Brooks so either get your tackling buddies to look after you or the paramedics will!
Rabbitohs second rower Ben Te’o is also aware of the mission stating earlier in the week,
“We want to make him tackle, we want to get him involved defensively in the game.”
The Rabbitohs went down to the Sea Eagles by two points last Friday night in what was a hard fought match. The Sea Eagles deserved their victory but it’s fair to say the Bunnies didn’t play to their full potential. If they bounce back accordingly they could put a decent sized score on the board.
Without sounding like I’m condemning the Tigers to a loss before the game has even started, they shouldn’t try too hard and walk away disappointed with a loss. If they execute their plans correctly against this quality Rabbitohs side, then it will be a foot in the right direction down the path of success throughout the rest of the season.
The Rabbitohs have the nous to outplay the Tigers in front of the home crowd, even more so if Isaac Luke runs the ball from dummy half a bit more when the opportunity arises.
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: if you’re determined to have a bet, Souths -11.5 @ $1.83 (Centrebet) could be the best option. The Tigers weren’t tested last week and the Rabbitohs finish the game strong, potentially pushing any leading margin to 12 points or beyond.
Broncos v Roosters
Fri 21 Mar, 8:40pm, Suncorp Stadium
Broncos: Ben Barba, Daniel Vidot, Jack Reed, Dale Copley, Lachlan Maranta, Josh Hoffman, Ben Hunt, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Corey Parker, Alex Glenn, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett. Interchange: David Hala, Martin Kennedy, Todd Lowrie, Jarrod Wallace
The Broncos have shown in the first two rounds of the competition that they have made serious headway in the offseason in defence having kept their first two opponents, the Bulldogs and the Cowboys to just 12 points.
The big test for Anthony Griffins men comes this Friday night in the form of reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters.
Griffin knows his side now need to compliment their tight defensive structures with some attacking potency if they are to get on top of a Roosters side that were played into form by the Eels last week.
The Roosters hit back hard from their round 1 loss to the Rabbitohs albeit against last year’s wooden spooners the Eels. 10 tries from 13 line breaks were the order of the day for the Roosters but everyone knows you don’t get gifted such presents when you make the trek to Suncorp Stadium.
I don’t have any interest in betting on this match based on the form lines out of the first two rounds. The Broncos have been solid but is reality about to hit home once they face one of the classiest teams in the comp in the Roosters?
The Roosters on the other hand were beaten by a classy opponent, the Rabbitohs in round 1 and rolling the Eels isn’t a lot to crow about. Not to mention the Roosters have to travel to Suncorp Stadium which as I mentioned in previous weeks, always makes the Broncos about a try better in attack.
Hard to pick a margin here that gets us ahead of the bookies.
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: If you’re keen for a bet, I would probably once again take up Sportingbet’s option of ‘Money back if your team scores 12 points but loses.’
Back the Roosters and make 50% back on your wager, or get a refund at worst if they lose but score 12 points.
Panthers v Bulldogs
Sat 22 Mar, 4:30pm, Centrebet Stadium
Panthers: Matt Moylan, Kevin Naiqama, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, Josh Mansour, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Nigel Plum, Kevin Kingston, Sam McKendry, Lewis Brown, Elijah Taylor, Adam Docker. Interchange: James Segeyaro, Jeremy Latimore, Tyrone Peachey, Tim Grant
Another team that were played back into form last week were the Canterbury Bulldogs. Facing a Shark’s line up decimated by losses, the Bulldogs looked like they were using the outing as a training session to hone their attacking raids as they went forth and acquired 42 points and only conceded 4. (In the last 15 seconds of the match)
A lot gets said about big boppers in forward packs firing up and bringing passion to a match that infects teammates resulting in quality performances. However in the Bulldogs clinical display on Monday night it was five-eighth Josh Reynolds who exacerbated the Shark’s woes with a passionate display of skill and motivation. Look for more of the same from Reynolds with prop James Graham not far behind him.
The Panthers seem to have hit the ground running in 2014 despite a loss to the Storm last week. Many pointed out that the Panthers had it easy in Round 1 against a depleted Knight’s team and that they would be found out once the fronted up to the Storm in round 2 at AAMI Park. But many doubts were put to bed as the Panthers fought gallantly, losing by a mere point to the Storm in a game that they were equal to the Storm in.
The Panthers now return to their home ground to host the Bulldogs on what looks set to be a hot, humid day in Penrith and one that will make sure the winning team is the group of players that handle the conditions most effectively.
I’m expecting plenty of attacking prowess to be shown by both sides thanks to what will likely be a fast track and Sportsbet have put up an early line of 41.5 which I recommend jumping on early as I can’t see it getting any lower with little chance of rain forecast for the Penrith region.
Which side do I think will handle the conditions the best? Probably the Panthers, but not by much, which is why the line for this game has caught my attention. The Bulldogs are available with a +4.0 start on with Pinnacle, which looks attractive, especially after the Panthers have to back up from a lengthy game played in what were at times, heavy conditions. Plus I like the overall improvement in the Bulldogs now that Sam Perrett has settled into his fullback role a little better after showing some nerves in round 1.
Mike’s Tip: Bulldogs
Mike’s Best Bets:
1. Bulldogs +4.0 @ $2.07 (Pinnacle Sports)
2. Total match points to be over 41.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Sharks v Dragons
Sat 22 Mar, 7:00pm, Remondis Stadium
Sharks: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Blake Ayshford, Ricky Leutele, Jonathan Wright, Todd Carney, Daniel Holdsworth, Sam Tagataese, John Morris, Bryce Gibbs, Tupou Sopoaga, Wade Graham, Chris Heighington. Interchange: Michael Lichaa, Tinirau Arona, Matt Prior, Siosaia Vave, David Fifita
It must be a tough time for Shark’s fans having endured their club being under scrutiny for over a year waiting for ASADA to wrap up their findings into drug use allegations which has so far resulted in the club losing their coach for 12 months. As if all that wasn’t bad enough a recent string of injuries to key players has left the club struggling big time after just two rounds of the new competition.
Finally their star playmaker Todd Carney has returned to the side from his hamstring injury (although I reported his return last week and he ended up being a late withdrawal.)
Carney will provided a much needed boost to the starting 17 and should also bring some confidence to the players around him who will feel a bit more secure knowing a proven playmaker is heading the attack.
The match is a traditional local derby against their southern Sydney rivals the Dragons. Historically it’s combat that the Sharks lift for, so one shouldn’t completely write them off based on their lack of output in the first two rounds. The bookies certainly haven’t; posting the Sharks at a seemingly flattering $2.40 throughout most of the corporate markets. But if you’re keen to back the Sharks, head over to Pinnacle where the current odds for the Sharks sit at $2.66 (odds correct @ 7:30am 21/3/14)
The Dragons played some fantastic Rugby League last week against the Warriors. Travelling across the ditch proved no hindrance for the Red V as they gutsed out a difficult first half running into a strong head wind before making the most of the wind assistance in the second half. If they can keep the performance levels to a high standard for a third week in a row, critics will be forced to stand up and take notice of the Dragons as a potential force to be reckoned with throughout the season.
In relation to bets on this game, this is definitely one to just play spectator on. As mentioned earlier, the Sharks get Todd Carney back for the first and couple that with the home ground advantage and we simply can’t say with any certainty just how well they will perform.
Mike’s Tip: Dragons
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: If you decide you’re not content playing spectator and want to have a bet, I would recommend either taking the Dragons 1-12 @ $3.00 (Sportsbet) or back a low scoring game by taking the ‘Under’ option on the match point line of 40.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Cowboys v Warriors
Sat 22 Mar, 9:00pm, Townsville Stadium
Cowboys: Michael Morgan, Kyle Feldt, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston, Robert Lui, Matthew Scott, Ray Thompson, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Jason Taumalolo, Tariq Sims. Interchange: Rory Kostjasyn, Glenn Hall, Ashton Sims, Scott Bolton
The Cowboys got a bit more than they bargained for when they took on their Qld rivals the Broncos last Friday night as they fell to a loss of 16 points to 12. Enter the ‘bounce back’ factor. Expect the Cowboys to hit back this week in front of their home crowd in an attempt to redeem themselves for the round 2 match they feel they could have won.
Standing between the Cowboys and redemption will be the Warriors who are certainly after a bit of forgiveness themselves after two sub-par performances in the first two rounds where they have conceded 36 and 31 points respectively. Coach Matt Elliott will definitely be feeling the pressure if a hat trick of losses is acquired but I’m not sure if a trip to Townsville is where his solace will be found.
The Warriors showed promise in preseason trials but now that the matches count for NRL points, the playmakers have somewhat stiffened up under the expectation and have lost all the fluidity in their set structures which are looking rather predictable.
Stats guru David Middleton pointed out through the week the reality of the task that lay ahead for the Warriors on Saturday night: The game starts at 8pm Qld time which back home in New Zealand would be 11pm this means the game will essentially finish at 1am New Zealand time which can’t be ideal for the players. Especially after and international flight to Brisbane followed by another plane trip to Townsville.
The other interesting statistic Middleton produced was that out of the last 14 games between the Cowboys and the Warriors, the away side has won just once.
My tip: The Cowboys, and they are more than capable of beating the -8.0 line on offer from Sportsbet. Their attack is superior to that of the Warriors and their defence has improved over the first two weeks so I expect it to be a even a touch better this week.
Mike’s Tip: Cowboys
Mike’s Best Bet: Cowboys -8.0 @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)
Sea Eagles v Eels
Sun 23 Mar, 3:00pm, Brookvale Oval
Sea Eagles: Peta Hiku, Cheyse Blair, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, David Williams, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Starling, Matt Ballin, Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough, Justin Horo, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: James Hasson, Dunamis Lui, Jamie Buhrer, Jason King, Jesse Sene-Lefao
I spoke of redemption in the Cowboys v Warriors game and there is undoubtedly a similar theme lacing this matchup between two classic 80’s rivals.
Redemption for Manly will come with a winning display in front of the Brookvale crowd after they choked in round 1 leaving the Manly faithful in disbelief as their boys squandered a huge lead in wet weather to go down by a point in the 83rd minute. The Sea Eagles made up for the loss to a huge extent the week after with an impressive win over the much fancied Rabbitohs but they will be yearning to impress the home crowd this week.
Redemption for the Eels will simply come in the form of ‘having a dig’ after their 56 – 4 shellacking at the hands of a scintillating Roosters team last week. Defensive efforts were virtually non-existent in the Eel’s second half and many are now asking if we are about to see them plunge their way towards a 3rd consecutive wooden spoon.
I’m of the opinion that Nathan Peats’ return to dummy half this week will give the side some much needed drive. Peats work rate in defence is also crucial and he was instrumental in the Eels’ 36-16 win over the Warriors in round one when he racked up 46 tackles for the game before being dropped in round 2. Now that he is back, don’t expect Manly to have everything go their own way.
I’m tipping the Sea Eagles, and it’s hard not to do so when they are playing a day game at home. They seem to thrive in the classic Sunday arvo conditions but I’m not exactly jumping out of my skin to back them to win by 13+ either.
My thinking behind this is that after a tough game against the Rabbitohs last week, the Sea Eagles face the Eels with Nathan Peats back in the side. Even if Manly are good enough to get out to an 18 point lead with 10 minutes to go, they might decide to have a little nap at the end of the game which could quite easily let the Eels back to within 12 points by the time the fat lady sings.
Mike’s Tip: Sea Eagles
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: I’m not keen to try and pick a margin for this affair so if you’re dying to have a bet maybe have a go at David Williams to score a try at anytime @ $1.75 (Centrebet) as he has a great tryscoring record against the Eels in recent times.
Raiders v Titans
Sun 23 Mar, 6:30pm, GIO Stadium
Raiders: Anthony Milford, Reece Robinson, Jarrod Croker, Matt Allwood, Edrick Lee, Jack Wighton, Terry Campese (c), Dane Tilse, Glen Buttriss, Brett White, Jarrad Kennedy, Joel Edwards, Paul Vaughan. Interchange: Josh McCrone, Matt McIlwrick, David Shillington, Shannon Boyd
Preview coming soon.
The Raiders get their first shot at a home game for 2014 and get a good chance at walking away with 2 competition points when they face a somewhat dilapidated looking Titans outfit.
The Gold Coast side will be forced to go into the match in the A.C.T. without five eighth Aiden Sezer who has succumb to a quadricep injury which has forcied regular lock Ashley Harrison to move into the number 6 jersey.
Some people who watched the Titans last week may still be trying to recover the 2 hours of their lives they lost having to watch them stumble their way around CBUS Stadium in a display that can be best described as ‘the blind leading the blind.’
It makes the mind wonder how they are going to recover from such a diabolical display when having to travel to a colder climate without their first choice five-eighth.
On the plus side for the Titans, and to the absolute detriment of the Raiders, is that fowards Shaun Fensom and Josh Papali will miss the match thanks to a suspension and an ankle injury respectively. To put the loss of Fensom into perspective; last week’s win against the Knights saw Fensom produce 51 tackles which was 21 more than his nearest teammate. Not to mention the 135 metres gained in runs which was also the most by any other Raiders’s player.
Betting doesn’t interest me here. I was weighing up the factors involved in taking the Titans with the points start with confidence they may have bounced back from last week’s shemozzle, but as soon as I heard that Sezer was on the sidelines, I withdrew my interest and adopted a spectating role. No bets for me, and I’ll sit back and see how the Titans fare away from home.
Mike’s Tip: Raiders
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: Raiders -5.5 @ $1.80 (Ladbrokes)
Storm v Knights
Mon 24 Mar, 7:00pm, AAMI Park
Storm: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua, Young Tonumaipea, Ben Hampton, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Bryan Norrie, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange: Kenny Bromwich, Tohu Harris, Jordan McLean, George Rose
The round 3 clash against the Storm in Melbourne would have been a challenge that Knight’s five-eighth Jarrod Mullen would have relished. But alas, a severe hamstring injury keeps him on the sidelines and the Knights will have to face ‘The Big 3’ without him.
The Newcastle side has yet to open their 2014 account but went almightily close last week when they faced the Raiders, only to go down 26-20.
There were plenty of promising signs in that loss including a bit more fluency in the halves, and their attacking raids in general, but it still lacked that bit of pizzazz.
It was the pizzazz of Anthony Milford that turned out to be the key element in the Raider’s victory and hopefully the Knights learned a simple lesson when it comes to kicking to the more skilled players in open pastures.
Another simplistic element to the Novocastrian’s game that will save them some energy come the back half of the game is completions. Obviously, every time they turn over the ball cheaply they are condemning themselves to more time defending their line which has hurt them immensely in the final quarter of their first two games.
The Storm have looked pretty good after the first two rounds despite scraping home with one point victories in both matches. Their stars, Slater, Cronk and Smith were all instrumental in the victory over the Panthers last week but it could be the forwards that hold the key this time around if they manage to get on top of the Knight’s pack early.
The last time these two sides met was in the second week of finals last year when the Knights produced a massive upset to send the Storm to an early mad Monday.
This time however, I can’t tip anything other than a Storm win as the Knights just look far too vulnerable on the road with key players Mullen and Boyd missing.
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Casual Bet: I’m not betting but I won’t be surprised if the Knights lose in a hard fight by 12 or less. So if you’re desperate for a dabble, try the Storm 1-12 @ $2.90 (Sportsbet)