It’s Easter Friday and it’s nearly time for the NRL to get under away again, ‘The Grubber’ comes in early to cast his eye over the Rugby League games for this weekend and look at what each team needs to do and the key match-ups in each game:
Roosters v Broncos: Each team showed plenty of positive signs in Round 1 – getting healthy first up wins. The Broncos particularly impressed in the forwards and with their new halves combination of Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace. The Roosters pulled off some great set plays and in a single word looked ‘crisp’. While fitness dropped off a little for the Roosters in the back end, I think the home game and the fact that Brisbane have a few injury concerns – might be enough to swing this the Roosters way. On paper the Roosters look particularly strong this year and their bench is something that now looks very promising, something that this week Brisbane don’t have to the same extent. Grubbers Comment: Roosters win this well, they could prove serious Top 4 material this year
South Sydney v Bulldogs: A Sydney classic here. Both teams play an in your face and aggressive style of Rugby League. Souths have changed a few faces and will start with their trial game winning combination in the halves of Ben Rogers and Eddie Paea. On the flip side, the Bulldogs have a way to go until their halves are match winners. While showing good signs early last week Ben Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth need more match time together. The forwards are the biggest concern for the Bulldogs, I feel that Souths will have too much dominance in their area and should lay the platform for a win. Grubbers Comment: The family of Steve Folkes have arranged for a heart machine to be installed in the coaches box, should the under pressure Folkes have to deal with another Bulldogs display like last week.
Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders: The battle of the NRL cellar here and two teams that will be desperate to get a win to put some NRL Results on the board. Penrith are a team that does play better at home and while this is at CUA Stadium, I think because Penrith were beaten so heavily – they will really come out firing this week. “The old NRL rebound syndrome – where punters always back a team belted by plenty the week before” it generally rings true; however Canberra cannot be underestimated. They chipped away at Newcastle last week and had injuries and bad luck not came into play, they were close to stealing a win. Raiders forwards might struggle in this one. Grubbers Comment: The Panthers have this week renovated the coaches box – doubling the size, allowing Matt Elliott to invite up to 40 assistants in his continuing trend to bring former players, brothers, mothers and cousins into the box to help out.
Newcastle Knights v Manly: After 80 minutes here, we’ll know a lot more about these NRL sides after interesting Round 1 showings. The Knights, were they simply lucky against a lowly Canberra side? And Manly, how in the hell did they lose at Brookvale to the toothless Sharks? The Sea Eagles should be too good overall for the Knights, but it will be a test for Newcastle to see if they can hang in there. I feel Adam McDougall and Cooper Vuna will be heavily targeted in the air and on the ground and could get found out in this one, with Steve Bell due for a big one and will love the broken field action here. Grubbers Comment: Josh Perry could be the one leaving on a medi-cab here, the ex-Knight could be a moving target in his former heartland.
North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers: Stirring up plenty of interest, not just because of the NRL being played but the fact that Luke O’Donnell gets to face his tormentors from 2007. It should have a bit of everything, one minute you will feel like you are ringside at the MGM Grand in Vegas should the fireworks erupt or maybe a UFC Prize Fight as the caged animal that is Luke O’Donnell hunts the running Liam Fulton or Bronson Harrison. This NRL game should not be missed. At home the Cowboys should register their first win of the year, the Tigers were helped last week by a woeful Dragons outfit – the same won’t happen again this week; the Cowboys will be primed for an assault and will get the 2 points. Grubbers Comment: Liam Fulton’s dad was seeking permission to take an elephant gun on the plane to North Queensland, fearing his son’s life could be in danger.
NZ Warriors v Parramatta Eels: A hard one to pick. The Warriors at home for this one, but were very shaky against the Storm last week. The Eels too look unpredictable after 2 very different 40 minute showings last week. Should be an engrossing battle in the forwards with the mobile Eels against the big bopping Warriors front men. The Eels backline aided by the return of Jarryd Hayne should have enough firepower to put on more tries than the Warriors. Manu Vatuvei should aid the Eels greatly in this area, he struggled to catch a single ball last week and coach Ivan Cleary is showing more faith than a long lost surrogate dad. Eels in a close one. Grubbers Comment: Warriors players have pleaded with Ivan Clearly to drop Manu Vatuvei; fearing their team mate may end up in a mental institution for life if he has to deal with trying to catch anymore high balls and then sit down and look at the review tape for hours each week.
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks: The Storm at home at always certainties but if anyone can give them a decent challenge at the moment it’s the gritty Cronulla Sharks. If the Sharks can turn on their best grinding game and keep the Storm in the trenches, they just might sneak out of jail here. Cronulla will try to keep the game slow, kicking deliberately for touch of the dead ball line at times – forcing Melbourne to restart from set positions. However, the Storm have class across the park – looking unbeatable in the forwards and right through-out their backline. Just too good. Grubbers Comment: Ben Ross cleared to play after team-mates agree to point him in the right direction on each hit-up.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Gold Coast Titans: Well lets start by saying the Dragons can’t get any worse and playing their first game at WIN Stadium for 2008 should help them somewhat. The red hot Titans line-up does look good and showed plenty of promising signs last week, but the pressure on the Dragons is so great – they simply will have to perform. Forward battle should be intense, if the Dragons big men put their hand up after a quiet first Round. Saints in a close one. Grubbers Comment: If Jason Ryles is playing poorly in this one, expect him to get an injury.