Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 20: Getting Edgy

It’s not hard to understand why fans of several NRL clubs will be on edge this weekend. With several do-or-die clashes in prospect, second chances are a thing of the past. Any bookings made for September might be more about holiday options rather than finals tickets!

 

On Thursday night, the Cowboys simply have to win, and win big, to retain any hope mathematical chance of September action. Frankly, I think they’re gone, gone, gone. Wests Tigers, at home and in the emotional effusion of Robbie Farah’s retirement announcement, should get the job done. But they need a strong scoreline, too, given their poor for and against situation. A loss will put the Tigers the equivalent of two and a half games of out the top eight – a gap too far.

 

The Warriors got shafted last weekend and will take it out on the Raiders on Friday evening. Another loss will be ‘season over’ for the lads from Auckland. The Raiders will be looking to further reinforce their top four credentials and should have enough defensive capability (they got a lot of practice last weekend) and offensive talent to maintain a gap ahead of the chasers. Maybe next year, Warriors.

 

Brisbane Broncos will be cursing Melbourne Storm’s last minute loss to Manly. The northern lads have enough problems with Melbourne at the best of times, but who wants to face Cam Smith et al coming off a loss? ‘Bellyache’ Bellamy will have his Storm-troopers fully primed. We’ll see if the young Broncos forwards, who have been going well lately, can hold their own against this pack of marauders. With Brisbane clinging to eighth spot, they certainly have the incentive to step up but I can’t see them winning this one.

 

On Saturday afternoon, Manly will account for the floundering Knights at Brookvale. The Sea Eagles are the smokies of the competition and somehow keep flying under the radar. Another solid win against a declining opposition will simply look like another game won and no great headlines. It’s hard to say anything much good about the Newcastle side at the moment, They are badly on the slide and rely far too much on Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga. I fear that the slope will only get steeper. Start planning for next year, Newcastle.

 

The Bulldogs will give the Panthers a good run for their money for about 60 minutes but the Mountain Men of the west will have too much attack for the Canterbury lads to hold out. James Maloney will be the difference, as long as his mind is on the game and not the numbers on his contract to play in the Super League next year. The Bulldogs have the makings of a top eight team in 2020 but just can’t find the key to unleash their potential. When does pre-season training for the 2020 season start in Campbelltown?

 

The Sharks v Rabbitohs clash is the game of the weekend. The Rabbitohs keep winning (albeit fortuitously last weekend) but the men of the Shire badly need a win to stay in finals contention. I think that will be enough to get them across the line at home, plus Souths are due for the wheel of fortune to run against them. Sam Burgess is back but will be short of a run. The Sharks will stay alive for a while yet.

 

This will allow the Roosters the opportunity to move up to second place after they thrash the Titans at the SCG on Sunday afternoon. It’s hard to see this as anything but a massacre, so thank goodness it’s not the free to air game! The Titans players may well be playing for new season contracts for the rest of this year.

 

In the final game of the Round, the Eels should be slippery enough to escape the wrath of the Dragons. St George will feel disappointed to lose last weekend but you can’t expect to win when you play rubbish for 65 minutes. It would have been a travesty of justice if they had fallen over the line against South Sydney. But maybe they created a bit of self-belief and with Gareth Widdop steering them around, they could cause an upset. The Eels can almost afford a loss as they have a good draw in the weeks ahead. A win on Sunday would be a bonus. I’ll give the Dragons the benefit of the doubt but their season is gone anyway.

 

So if you’re a Tigers, Warriors, Broncos, Knights or Sharks fan, put on the whole armour of rugby league faith this weekend and pray fervently to the footy gods for the rub of the green. The alternative to a win will be not just a game lost but, quite possibly, a season almost gone!

 

The whistleblowers will also be on edge this weekend after 4 were demoted after a poor performance in Round 19. Fair enough, too, given the glaring nature of some of the incidents. I’m more focussed on the continued selection of Belinda Sharpe who, by all reports, had another very good game on Saturday night.

 

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 happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV - although I do share the never-to-be-beaten record for the tenth wicket for the long-defunct Unley Lutheran Cricket Club - a partnership of 62 with Craig Hartmann in 1973! A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I'm a firm believer in the notion that there is a fine line between winning and losing in sport. 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 footyalmanac.com.au's online editors, I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

Comments

  1. No matter what the sporting code, Ian, it’s that time of year when teams are nervously looking over their shoulders to see what their competitors for a spot in the eight are doing.
    Belinda Sharpe must be highly thought of at NRL Referees HQ.
    I notice she’s one of the on-ground refs for Saturday’s Bulldogs-Panthers clash (go the Chocolate Soldiers!) and is listed as a sideline official for tonight’s Tigers-Cowboys match.

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