Round 25 has arrived and top four and top eight spots are not yet locked away and will not be confirmed until the second last game between Wests Tigers and Cronulla both locked on 24 premiership points.
The winner of the sold-out Leichhardt Oval clash will win a ticket to the September finals. However, in the event of them playing out a draw and the Bulldogs springing another upset over the Brisbane Broncos, the finals landscape changes. It would mean Brisbane, Wests Tigers and Cronulla all finishing the regular season on 25 competition points with the Wests Tigers (6) and Cronulla (33) advancing over Brisbane who with a -41 for and against would drop out of the eight and miss the finals action.
The top two places are secure with Storm already having wrapped up the minor premiership and the Sydney Roosters safe in second place. Manly, who are still coming to grips with the terrible news surround star fullback Tom Trbojevic can if they beat Parramatta and the Roosters knock over the Rabbits. The trap for tipsters here is locking in your selections too early because the chances are a few coaches will make late decisions to rest a few star players knowing the results of their game will not impact on their positions going into the finals. So hold off as long as possible and wait for the late mail. Last week we cam up with eight from eight selections and the challenge is to repeat that effort, but as I said, there will be some late changes and a few surprise selections which may upset the apple cart.
NRL Betting Promotions
Thursday, September 5, 2019
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters
Venue: ANZ Stadium | Start: 7:50pm AEST
Wow. What a way to kick of the final round of the minor premiership with a clash between two top four teams in a preview to what lies ahead. And isn’t there some feeling an animosity between these two foundation clubs. Cooper Cronk and skipper Boyd Cordner have both been flagged as returning to the side, a huge lift heading into the finals. Souths will want to protect their top four spot but more importantly strike a mental blow against the Roosters.
The last time these teams clash the Roosters won a fiery affair 26-16 and there is a good chance some of the feelings from that game could boil over. Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell could be a match-winner but he will also need to be careful Souths don’t get under his skin and trigger a brain-snap from the talented young centre. Discipline will play a part in this outcome. The strength of the Roosters side can be gauged by the fact that have and Origin forward, Angus Crighton on their bench. Brett Morris plays his 250th game and the chances are good he will celebrate the milestone with a try.
The off-field battle between seven-time premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett and Rooster’s mastermind Trent Robinson will also play its part as the match unfolds. The Roosters have the runs on the board but South Sydney have the ability if livewire hooker Damien Cook gets scooting out of dummy half like he can, to make it a real heart-stopper.
Friday, September 6, 2019
Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 6:00pm AEST
Another ripper clash between two clubs who have experienced tough seasons but have made it into the top eight. Manly have been in the headlines all week following the season-ending pectoral muscle injury to star fullback Tom Trbojevic who was so crucial to Manly in so many different ways.
The Sea Eagles have a much poorer win-rate (4-10) when Tommy Turbo is out and the task facing coach Des Hasler is nothing short of monumental, although Manly are not a team to turn it up when the going gets tough. Still, Trobjevic’s replacement Brendan Elliott will do a good job in the number one and he has played 11 games in that slot this season so he knows the plays well. The Sea Eagles still have a powerful side guided around the park by halfback Daley Cherry Evans behind a strong forward pack with plenty of drive and power.
While Cherry Evans will be Manly’s money-man, Parramatta five-eighth Mitchell Moses has been in tremendous form with his running and kicking games both spot-on in recent weeks. His ability to turn the opposition around with his kicks into the corners has been a key component of the Eels defensive strategy but he is also attacking brilliantly with the ball in hand. This is a tough game to pick but people writing Manly off because of the injury to Trbojevic should be careful. Manly are fighters.
Melbourne Storm vs North Queensland Cowboys
Venue: AAMI Park | Start: 7:55pm AEST
As expected Storm coach Craig Bellamy will rest injury-battered No.6 Cameron Munster from this game to help him recover from neck and shoulder injuries he has carried in recent weeks. Bellamy offered a “spell” to a few other of his star players but they believe they are better suited by continuing to play week after week into the finals.
There is very little at stake here for Melbourne and a big scalp awaiting the Cowboys should the Storm turn up and just go through the motions. You would not expect that to happen under Bellamy or for that matter skipper Cameron Smith who would want his players to adopt a hard-line approach to the game before the hit the finals. The Cowboys would love the end a forgettable season on a high and on the back of wins from their last two games have struck a bit of late-season form.
There is no Josh Addo-Carr but young Brody Croft finds himself back in the Storm halves while intimidating forward Josh McGuire returns to the Cowboys via the reserves bench. It is hard to see Melbourne dropping this game given they have lost only four games all season with the finals just around the corner. One of the highlights could well be the clash of exciting young fullback rivals Ryan Papenhuyzen for Melbourne up against the improving Scott Drinkwater. Both youngsters have great footwork and pace to burn and will be looking to attack at every opportunity. Storm for mine here.
Saturday, September 7, 2019
Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors
Venue: GIO Stadium | Start: 3:00pm AEST
This was going to be an easy one to pick until Canberra coach Ricky Stuart handed leave passes to several of his top players. Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who has re-signed with the Raiders until 2023, Jordan Rapana, John Bateman and Iosia Soliola will all be in the stands cheering following Stuart’s decision to freshen up some players for finals actions.
It doesn’t mean the Raiders can’t win but it sure gives the Warriors a leg-up. Stuart has taken a bit of a gamble based on the fact Canberra will finish top four regardless of the result but the last thing he would want would be to head into the finals on the back of a loss and the damage that could do. Still, without being disrespectful, it is the Warriors they are playing, and they are not a team noted for their consistency or their ability to play together for 80 minutes. You still get the feeling Canberra will have enough troops to win this one.
The Warriors could well turn up in the right mindset and we all know how they can play razzle dazzle rugby league when the pressure is off. The bookies may have got this game all wrong with the Warriors ($3.40 with Ladbrokes) and ($3.80) with Sportsbet. I keep looking at the players Stuart has rested and the Raider’s line-up looks so different, then I remember who they are playing.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Brisbane Broncos
Venue: ANZ Stadium | Start: 5:30pm AEST
Massive game for Brisbane whose season is on the line. Brisbane lost four of their first six games this season and it is easy to forget they have won 7 of their past 9 games which makes them one of the form sides heading into the finals.
The Bulldogs have also come good at the back-end of the season and will be gunning to knock Brisbane out of the finals and finish 2019 in style for coach Dean Pay, Brisbane’s bunch of eight debutants have done a remarkable job in 2019 and the club has every reason to feel optimistic about next season. But they aren’t done with 2019 and a win over the Dogs will secure them a finals slot. How well the Bulldogs contain the power games of twin-destroyers Payne Haas and David Fafita along with Matt Lodge in the middle and on the edges is the key to the game. The Dogs will greatly miss the ball-returning of fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniac.
They will lose nothing with Will Hopate at the back because he is very safe and a strong runner but Watene-Zelezniac has been great since joining the club mid-season. A finals spot beckons the Broncos if they put together a strong 80 minutes. That should be enough incentive to make sure they are ready to play. Skipper Darius Boyd had a very good game last week and fullback Anthony Milford is starting to involve himself more and more. It all adds up to a Brisbane victory and finals action. The only way Brisbane can miss the finals is if they lose to the Dogs and the Wests Tigers and Cronulla play a draw.
Gold Coast Titans vs St George Illawarra Dragons
Venue: Cbus Stadium | Start: 7:30pm AEST
The season can’t end quick enough for the Titans who have won just 4 games in total in 2019 and had more than 600 points scored on them. The Dragons haven’t been much better to be honest winning just 7 games in a season riddled with drama, injuries and disappointments. At home, the Titans have a chance to give their fans a rare win against a team which is struggling after surrendering 42-14 to the Wests Tigers last weekend.
The battle of the cellar dwellers may produce some points but the Titans will leave their home ground with the wooden spoon firmly in their grasp regardless of the outcome. The Titans will actually field a half decent side with Michael Gordon playing his final game of his career at fullback, Tyrone Peachey back in the centres, AJ Brimson in the halves with Ryley Jacks and Jai Arrow back at prop. They also have two playmakers in Mitch Rein and Nathan Peats to cause some headaches. Dragons coach Paul McGregor has endorsed a host of changes to his 17 man squad including Reece Robson (ex Cowboys) who replaces Cam McInnes (broken leg).
Super League bound Gareth Widdop, will play his last game in the Red V while Corey Norman is expected of shrugging off injury to fill the number 1 jumper. I won’t be surprised in the Titans cause an upset here but on paper, the Dragons should get it done and at least end a poor 2019 on a positive note.
Sunday, September 8, 2019
West Tigers vs Cronulla Sharks
Venue: Leichhardt Oval | Start: 2:00pm AEST
After 182 games this season it all comes down to this one match for the Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks with the winner moving onto the finals and the loser packing their bags. A lot of interests hovers around whether veteran hooker and club stalwart and legend Robbie Farah is cleared to play what could be a fairy tale farewell to the historic Leichhardt Oval which will be packed to the rafters for this game.
Farah along with utility Moses Mbye has been named on the reserves and the mail out of Balmain is he is a good chance of playing but a decision will be left as late as possible. Josh Reynolds, who has given the Tigers a lot of energy in their past two wins will play hooker if Farah is not cleared. If Farah plays the Tigers’ faithful will go off big time with the old firm and Benji and Robbie working in tandem. It’s not only a swansong for Farah but also Sharks great Paul Gallen who led Cronulla to their maiden premiership. One of these champion players, who have been loyal servants to their respective clubs, will, unfortunately, bow out on a sad note. Cronulla will play like they always play, with a lot of grunt in the middle and look to Shaun Johnson to conjure up some magic with the ball.
If Matt Moylan gets a late clearance to play Cronulla’s stocks skyrocket. For mine veteran playmaker Benji Marshall holds the key along with Luke Brooks in the halves. Marshall has discovered some of his old touch with his face ball last week a leading candidate for pass of the year. He is running the ball and putting the defence in two minds which he needs to do this weekend. Probably the toughest game of the round to pick.
Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights
Venue: Panthers Stadium | Start: 4:05pm AEST
A game between two teams expected to be part of the finals action who came up disappointingly short. Nothing to really play for here except pride and going into 2020 on the back of the last round win but apart from that it comes down to the individual player as to how much they want to win and put in.
Penrith’s James Maloney will play his last NRL game before heading to the English Super League to join the Catalans Dragons. The competitor in him will want to sign off his 248 game NRL career on a winning note. Maloney was a true journeyman playing for five NRL clubs and winning a premiership with the Roosters. Maloney’s former Roosters premiership-winning team-mate Mitchell Pearce will be looking to spoil his party after Newcastle found their mojo last weekend with a big 38-4 win over the Titans.
Penrith have been major disappointments in 2019 and the father-son coaching partnership of Ivan and Nathan Cleary did not deliver as expected. Young Nathan has played some good games but his consistency has not been at the level required for an NRL first grade halfback. Who wins this game? I’m not sure but I am going to take a punt on the Panthers at home purely based on the fact I think Maloney could pull out of a big swansong game.