Almanac Rugby League – NRL 2020 Round 9: Most interest is in the middle of the pack

As the grind of the NRL season plays out, it’s the middle of the pecking order that holds the most interest for this fan. The top five and the bottom half dozen seem pretty well sorted but there’s a heaving chaos in the middle order. (Perhaps not a lot unlike the current Australian cricket Test team!)

 

So this weekend it looks like a hungry Roosters outfit will be keen to take out the bumbling Cowboys, even though the NQ lads have home ground advantage. I just can’t see the Easts boys losing two on the trot. The Titans v Warriors and Broncos v Bulldogs games will struggle to find an audience, such is the parlous state of their combined situations. I’ll go with the Titans and Broncos but only because they have the home ground.

 

All five other clashes have some intrigue. The Rabbitohs and Tigers are on the edge of the top eight and this result will see one of them fall behind somewhat. The Rabbitohs fail to inspire confidence and are stuttering along; the Tigers are keen but seem to lack the nous to win consistently. The importance of this game to both teams might bring out the best in one of them. I think that will be the Rabbitohs.

 

The Sharks have been showing more bite lately but will be tested by the surprisingly strong Panthers. Some say that Penrith is a one-trick pony, relying too heavily on Viliame Kikau, but I think that undervalues the grit they’ve shown across the park. Unspectacular – yes; determined and willing to slog it out for 80 minutes – a resounding YES! If there is a team that relies on the performance of one particular player, it may well be the Sharks and Shaun Johnson respectively. He’s gone well of late but the challenge is still there to perform week after week after week. The Panthers for me.

 

The Raiders have had the measure of the Storm in the past 18 months and pose a bogey problem for the Melbourne lads. But Melbourne were everything you want in a team last week in their win over the Roosters. The Raiders, by contrast, have not been anything much of late and now have to see out the season without Sia Soliola. I’ll take the Storm this time around, leaving the Raiders in that middle group and looking for a way out.

 

The Knights have shown a lot to like with their grit, even if they’ve yet to find the full consistency button. They were all G&D against the Sea Eagles and, with a couple of more favourable refereeing decisions, could have won comfortably last week. But the Eels are the form team of the competition and I expect their pace (and their brimming confidence) will be too much for Newcastle.

 

Finally, the Sea Eagles will be really tested even though they are playing the modest Dragons. Missing Turbo Tom, Dylan Walker and the suspended Fonua-Blake, we’ll see what depth Manly has in its roster. The Dragons don’t look too bad on paper, especially in the forwards, but can’t seem to find the key to turn themselves on. I think Manly will be too hungry in this one.

 

So my winners this week are: Roosters, Titans, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Broncos, Storm, Eels and Sea Eagles.

 

Thursday July 9

Cowboys v Roosters, Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 7.50pm

Friday July 10

Titans v Warriors at Cbus Super Stadium, 6.00pm
Rabbitohs v Tigers at Bankwest Stadium, 7.55pm

Saturday July 11

Sharks v Panthers at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, 3.00pm
Broncos v Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium, 5.30pm
Raiders v Storm at GIO Stadium, 7.35pm

Sunday July 12

Knights v Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium, 4.05pm
Dragons v Sea Eagles at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, 6.30pm

 

@blenheimboy2

 

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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