Short and Sweets July 26


Renee McKay/Action Photographics
Renee McKay/Action Photographics

This NRL Round 20 looks like a beauty to me. So much is hanging on so many matches especially those clubs needing a victory, desperately, to stay in the play-off race.

The stand out matches for me in Round 20 are Knights versus Roosters (see full preview Hunted or Haunted at Hunter) and Sharks at home to Panthers on Sunday at 2pm.

This latter match is intriguing for me. Sharks were well under-staffed away to Roosters last round and were beaten everywhere (even to the pies at fulltime). Penrith were dealt a pretty tough beating by a more physical Knights in round 19 showing just how vulnerable they can be in that type of match. I get the impression that they are a much more effective team when they play without a lot of structure in attack but with more offloads, even passes that go out the back, hit the ground, to be picked up and PLAY ON! Luke Walsh is dynamite at reading and capitalising on broken line defences – touch footy type play, off quick play the balls, on the roll, he can find the money ball where the space is. Its “ballsy” to go out there with that as a plan but it would trouble a Sharks team who have some defensive issues of their own against unstructured attack.

And when the Sharks have the ball? If Todd Carney sets up good plays around Walsh, not just running at him but asking questions of all those defenders around him, Sharks will likely carve Panthers up.

This could be quite a high scoring game or a big victory to the Sharks, particularly if Andrew Fifita is refreshed for a big one. I think his speed in carries around the rucks could trouble the Panthers work man like pack.

The stakes are high here with Penrith going above Cronulla if they can win away from home. A loss for the Sharks, two in a row, a trip away to Warriors next week and ASADA interviews the week after could spell a real dive.


After the confidence restoring win over the Rabbits can the Dragons beat the odds and the hoodoo and Canberra on Saturday arvo? The Raiders were good enough to brush the Eels aside but might need to do more this time round.

If the Drags can find some more of what they did in attack that worked on Monday night and less of what didn’t they could surprise another highly fancied opponent. I sure know what didn’t work. Do you? On Saturday we will see if Pricey and his troops do too. What am I saying, the Canberra based footy gods have triumphed 14 out of the last 15 times when these teams have met! That is some curse.

The Friday night match in Queensland could well be for that State’s wooden spoon. The Cowboys host the Broncos with the loser likely to be in all sorts wallowing near the bottom. The winners will be talking of rejuvenation and hope or at least some respect. It will be interesting to see what Coach Griffin’s selection shake-up has done for his Broncs. Talk of Coach Henry’s demise could destabilize.

The Titans need to re-establish themselves at home but that might not be easy because so too will the table topping Rabbits after slipping up on Monday night. It’s a contest for both clubs to quickly find the reasons for their losses. Jamal Idris injury as well as the absence of Myles and Bird for Origin will be easy excuses for the Titan’s but it might have more to do with attitude of those involved in those losses rather than those who weren’t. We will all find out on Saturday night.

Warriors versus Storm looks like a ripper to me too. The style of the Warriors attack, trying to mix it up with some tough stuff running by front rowers with some offloads and shifts when they get onto the front foot can really trouble the Melbourne crew who are not at all comfortable when they are required to adjust to a bit of ad-lib footy. They will be doing everything possible to stop the Kiwi team’s ball carriers getting onto the front foot. If the Storm can control the tempo through good kicking and first contacts in their tackling they should grind out a win as they like to do. The Warriors really need a win at home to stay in touch with the playoffs looming.

The other lowest placed teams Eels (versus Bulldogs) and Tigers (versus Eagles) are meeting in-form opponents and in trouble. The Eels are not responding with improved performances since their mid-season shake-up of the playing roster and the Tigers will need to focus hard while Benji Marshall’s exit rolls out over these 7 remaining matches. Not easy. I like the way both Manly and Canterbury are building momentum which should continue this weekend.

I am more interested in the how and the why rather than the who wins but for a bit of a laugh let’s see if you can beat me in a one-off round of tipping – Roosters, Raiders, Cows, Eagles, Dogs, Storm, Rabbits, Sharks for me.