A long weekend is coming up, and it’s full off rugby league just the way we like it. Enjoy it while you can as the term “Origin Bolter” will soon be whispered through league analysts mouths soon, which means the dreaded origin affected rounds aren’t too far away. So let’s enjoy 8 games with teams at full strength while they’re on offer.
Plenty of good games too – Cowboys v Parramatta, Melbourne v New Zealand and the tradition Anzac Day clash of Rooster and Dragons. The Broncos – Souths game probably looked good on paper at the start of the season too.
Here in all its glory is our brief rundown of the weekend ahead.
FRIDAY – BRONCOS v RABBITOHS
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ungrateful Souths fan. Lord knows after a lifetime of supporting them I thought I’d never see a premiership, and in 2014 they provided a title on one of the great days.
I’ve sat through many a merciless beating at Lang Park too (yes the losses go that far back) and arrived knowing full well we were going to be thrashed. But that was a team who had no stars, who would have been lucky to beat a good reserve grade team, but at least they looked like they were trying.
Put aside the first two weeks and Souths have been ordinary, and it is disappointing as the much heralded Sam Burgess arrival has run out of steam already and we lost a few good players for the privilege. Sam is playing well, especially after his near miss with the neck injury, but doesn’t appear to be getting much help. Sure injuries to key players Reynolds and Sutton didn’t help, but there was enough left on the park to make do. The attack has been limp at best and that is a concern as they face the Broncos this weekend – the most miserly defensive team in the NRL with just 73 points against in 7 games.
Luckily Souths’ defence is better than their attack, as the form of Milford and Co. will make life tough. Or maybe Greg Inglis will spark into life at the ground he has had so much success on in recent years. As a Souths fan, I hope that is the case, lest he save all his best form for Australia and Queensland.
GURGLER TIPS – BRISBANE – 11.5 start
SATURDAY – BULLDOGS v GOLD COAST
Hard to know what to think about this game. Bulldogs aren’t sure if they are a top 4 side which they show from time to time or one of the many midfield teams scrapping over the lower playoffs scraps. Gold Coast are doing well avoiding the worst team in the comp vibe they had at the start of the year with some good performances if not wins every week.
The Bulldogs have yet to win a home match this year, although last week’s home match was in NZ against NZ, and they have won at their home ground when it was an away game against co-tenants Souths. Hard to pick, easy way out is outside with start.
GURGLER TIPS – GOLD COAST +10.5 start
SATURDAY – CANBERRA v WESTS TIGERS
Canberra at home? Tip other side. The Raiders won 3 from 12 last year and just 1 so far this year, if that form continues you can’t see too many braving the bitter cold to watch games later in the season.
This could also be billed as the clash of the next coach sacked, with both of these coaches among the favourites at the start of the season for the first sacking, the results aren’t exactly terrible currently, but with the personalities the next big blow up can’t be too far away.
A their best, this should be a game with plenty of attack and points and young players with speed and skill to burn. At worst the Intrust Super Cup is on at the same time in Queensland and provides an excellent alternative.
GURGLER TIPS – WESTS TIGERS to win.
SATURDAY – COWBOYS v PARRARADRA
Who’d have thought this would be 2nd v 4th at this time of year. It should be a great game too, one could argue game of the round. In the tradition Saturday night timeslot too so people can travel from all around North Queensland to catch a glimpse of Semi Radradra.
Not that’s there’s any less to see from the Cowboys who have been awesome at home and have racked up the for and against of 140 to 32 in their first 4 home games. But the Cowboys drop off every second game so far in 2016 with two losses and a close win to Penrith in the games after good wins. That may have more to do with the fact they were away from home than some kind of sequence, but The Gurgler likes a pattern
GURGLER TIPS – PARRARADRARA +10.5 start
SUNDAY – SHARKS v PENRITH
Sunday afternoon? It must be time for an all Sydney clash at a Sydney ground, with all Sydney callers, for an all Sydney audience. We get it, League belongs in Sydney on a Sunday afternoon, Rabs doesn’t like to travel, and Gus loves it.
Channel 9 may well point to the games in NZ and Melbourne, but they are during the pitiful half arsed origin affected NRL rounds, so interest is at its lowest anyway.
This may well prove to be a great game, and the Sharks at least look capable of a Top 4 finish this year to fly the flag for Sunday afternoon football, and Penrith are the safest bet around for +8.5 start, so it will probably be close. Standard tip prevails for us here though.
GURGLER TIP – PENRITH +8.5 start
MONDAY – NEWCASTLE v MANLY
Not much went Newcastle’s way on Saturday against the Broncos. They came up against a side that were due a big performance, and had to do it with fewer players than usual after injuries and head knocks depleted their squad. 53-0 hurts, but there’s still positives to be had, as they were compeditive for much of the first 10 minutes.
Manly have hit a brick wall with using a hooker as a makeshift halfback, so may look for an alternative, and a welcome return for Matt Parcell for those with him in their dream team.
GURGLER TIPS – NEWCASTLE +7.5 start
MONDAY – ROOSTERS v DRAGONS
Time for the “traditional Anzac Day clash” between the Roosters and Dragons. Quickly developed in 2002 when the NRL realised how good the AFL one was, but it is usually a great game, and great to have league on Anzac day, or we might have to revert to watching AFL.
Channel 9 will talk about the tradition of the clash and their broadcast, not tradition enough to bother showing it from 2005 to 2009, but thankfully this year with Fox Sports we don’t have to rely on their drivel. Especially last year where the hail storm delay led to Rabs asking Todd Greenberg what would happen to the news at 6pm. Thankfully the reply was along the lines of he doesn’t give a stuff. If that’s not enough reason to highlight the commercial channel’s ills then nothing will.
Onto the game and you can’t see it being a high scoring game, although the Dragons broke the shackles last weekend by scoring. So it’s under for total points for us.
GURGLER TIPS – NO – BOTH SIDES TO SCORE OVER 20 POINTS
MONDAY – MELBOURNE v NZ
If you’re leagued out by the time this game comes around then it is a shame as there should be plenty to like about this one, and there have been a few quality clashes in the past.
The Monday night timeslot for Melbourne fans on the same day as the huge MCG clash not far away should ensure bugger all people turn up for this one, and crowd numbers should be approaching the average home gate of the Titans.
The loyal fans will turn up and will probably get the home result they want, as you can’t trust the Warriors two weeks in a row, yet, or away from home.
GURGLER TIPS – MELBOURNE to win.