Almanac Rugby League – NRL 2022 Round 15: An old rivalry and a possible new spoiler.

 

 

The 1965 Grand Final (oil on canvas, 100 x 125 cm) – John Campbell

 

Who said that one round of the competition can’t change the whole complexion of the season? It could be argued that Round 14 did just that!

 

Consider these couple of points: an understrength Cowboys had a strong win to show once and for all that they are the real deal this year when, up until the last couple of weeks, it seemed that they might be up-and-coming but not really ‘there’ just yet. Then there’s the confusing case of the Roosters – so strong on paper but just not able to go with the top of the table sides. And now that Keary is struggling with concussion issues, will they be able to mount a real challenge after many, including me, tipped them for the flag before the season kicked off? The Broncos had their best win for a few years when they overcame significant injury concerns to forge a win over the Raiders and remain in the top four. Chalk up kudos for Brisbane but put a question mark next to the Raiders as genuine finals contenders. But the weekend’s matches kept the best story (0r the worst, if you’re a Parramatta supporter) until last with the Bulldogs scoring a genuine shock, comprehensive win over the Eels. Two questions: Will the Doggies, much improved under Mick Potter, become the spoilers of the second half of the season if they can keep this up? Where does this leave Parramatta who looked like title contenders a month ago but got properly towelled up by the cellar dwellers? “You’ve just gotta love footy,” says Matt O’Hanlon!

 

Let’s turn our attention to Round 15 which features several matches of significance. We start tonight with the clash between old rivals the Dragons and the Rabbitohs. (And thanks to John Campbell for the image above depicting the 1965 Grand Final from the days when this was one of the great rivalries in the code.) This time around you’d have to say that Souths are hot favourites based on recent form. The Dragons were ordinary against the Cowboys while the Rabbitohs jumped the Titans early before taking their foot off the gas later on. Zac Lomax, not so long ago the great hope of the Dragons, has been copping heaps in recent times for his erratic efforts. By contrast, the Bunnies have been finding a bit of form with AJ in sparkling touch. Souths for me.

 

Tomorrow night starts with one of the attractive games of the round when the Sea Eagles host the Cowboys. Once they got going Manly looked good against the Tigers and have home ground advantage this week. The Cowboys are the revelation of the season and this match presents them with the opportunity to show that they can win on the road against substantial opposition, a proposition that has been a challenge for them over many years. I don’t like to tip against Manly at home but this will be one of those occasions. Later on that clinical machine known as the Melbourne Storm hosts the resurgent but somewhat battered Broncos at AAMI Park. Melbourne has been Brisbane’s bogey team for years and, after seven wins on the trot, Brisbane is due for a loss. I think they’ll find it on Friday night. They will be without gun halfback Reynolds who will have a couple of weeks off to allow his ribs to heal. But the Brisbane boys will want to put up a good fight to show that they are among this year’s big improvers. That won’t be enough this time out – the Storm comfortably.

 

Saturday starts with the Sharks up against the Titans who now sit at the foot of the ladder. And they’ll stay there after the Sharks returned to form against the woeful Warriors. A good performance will put Nicho Hynes in the Blues No.14 jumper for Origin II; another loss will anchor the Titans to the wooden spoon. Sad to say, they really are the underperformers of the season. The Sharks by plenty. And it only gets worse after that when the Warriors take on the Panthers in Redcliffe. Perhaps the Panthers might have mercy and declare after 60 minutes and refuse to score any more points to make the scoreline respectable. Otherwise I fear a cricket score. Too big, too fast, too skilful, too coordinated. too talented, too…(add your own words here).

 

The late game between the Eels and the Roosters is the most important of the round. The Eels were unrecognisable on Monday, a rudderless, mistake prone, disorganised rabble who made a mockery of their top six ladder position – and yet they’re still only one win out of the top four! Another loss this week, this time against a genuine finals contender, risks putting their season on the slippery slope. They must win to halt any slide.The Roosters have lost two on the trot and, apart from a few good individual performances (think Manu and Suaalii), have been ordinary for such a talented team. Already two games out of the top four, and if Keary is out for a while, it’s getting close to a ‘must win’ this week for them, too. Don’t ask me why but I’m going for the Eels.

 

On Sunday the Raiders have the Knights as their visitors in the national capital. The Raiders beat themselves too often; if they only realised that that mob on the field in different colours were the opposition they might get their act together a bit better. I almost want to say ‘poor Ricky Stuart’ because there was no more fierce competitor in his time; somehow he has to get his troops to work out who is who and work together to beat the real opposition rather than shooting themselves in the foot. In spite of all that, I think Canberra will win, especially if Ponga is ruled out after that head knock last week.

 

The round concludes with the back-on-track Bulldogs hosting the toothless Tigers. Expect the Bulldogs faithful to flock to this one in droves and bay for blood! If they are to become ‘the spoilers’, then the Doggies have to win this one, preferably convincingly. If they don’t, then it’s all a false dawn. The Tigers? My mother taught me that if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything. I will remain silent at this point.

 

So my winners this week are the Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Storm, Sharks, Panthers, Eels, Raiders and Bulldogs.

 

In late news, the NRLW will expand to 10 teams for the 2023 season with the inclusion of the Cowboys, Wests Tigers, Cronulla and Canberra. Read about that here.

 

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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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