There are eight rounds remaining in the shortened 2020 NRL season and the race for finals places will continue in earnest this weekend.
With State of Origin on the horizon, the first fragmented round of regular season footy is upon us and the absentee list makes for some interesting tipping!
Souths vs Eels
Neither team is affected by the upcoming State of Origin fixture which is indicative of how both sides are travelling.
Souths have been a pillar of mediocrity in 2017 coming in to round 12 with a 4-7 record. Perhaps the most damming notion of that record is the opposition they managed to defeat. The Knights, Tigers, Manly (at the start of the season before they hit their straps) and a Panthers outfit missing six regular first graders are the only wins they have mustered.
It’s difficult to suggest they deserve to sit any higher than their 13th placed position at present. It was an improved showing against the Storm in round 11, but once again a lack of finesse was brought to the fore.
The Eels, despite sitting a little higher on the ladder have been just as mediocre. Despite having 5 wins to their name they have been one of the worst performers in 2017, seemingly boring their opposition to death to claim victory in 2017. One of their five scalps was against the Panthers in Round 8 which can only be described as one of the worst games of rugby league ever witnessed at any level.
This one might simply come down to confidence on the back of recent results and Souths were the side to most recently win a match. Couple that with the Eels poor record at ANZ Stadium and we have a shaky winner.
Tip: Souths 1-12
Warriors vs Broncos
The perpetual train of disappointment that is the Warriors rolled in to round 11 once again. The train car battered, scuffed seats, running infrequently and late. It sounds a lot like Sydney transport and the irony being that if Stephen Kearney were a Sydney coach, he’d be long fired by now. This is a man who failed abysmally at the Eels and turned a mid-table team into a wooden spoon surety with zero defence.
If that doesn’t sound familiar than simply focus on the present and you’ll see New Zealand aren’t far off. Their effort against the Dragons last week was the poorest of any team this season – and that says a lot.
The Broncos conversely took advantage of some very favourable refereeing and a despondent opposition in the form of the Tigers to add a healthy buffer to their for-and-against tally.
But, with six players missing due to Origin and forever being the optimist, I’m going to offer the Warriors one last chance to make good before I consign them to the tipping scrap heap.
Tip: Warriors 1-12
Sharks vs Dogs
The Sharks continue to fly under the radar on their quest for back to back premierships.
They’ve yet to really put on a performance that stamps them as contenders in their own right, but, combined with the knowledge that they are defending champs, their 8-3 record has them well placed, and a confidence boosting come from behind victory against the Cowboys will have them full of self-belief.
The Dogs, on the other hand, are likely to be doubting themselves at every turn. When they’ve won it’s resembled a dog’s breakfast – excuse the pun.
Both teams are heavily affected by origin – the Sharks lose 4 players (Fifita, Bird, Maloney and Graham) and the Dogs lose 3 (Jackson, Brett Morris and Klemmer).
With both sides filling capable replacements it might just be home ground advantage that separates the two squads.
Tip: Sharks 1-12
Raiders vs Roosters
As we approached the midway point in the season it’s safe to say that the Raiders have been incredibly disappointing. Most would have tipped them to be deeply entrenched in the top four by this stage but instead they have a negative win-loss record and are clinging to the top eight.
They enjoyed a confidence boosting win last week over the Eels and meet the high-flying Roosters at the best possible time with the Bondi club missing five key players due to Origin commitments.
The loss of Cordner, Guerra, Fergusson, Napa and in particular Pearce will be too much for the Sydney-siders to overcome as they face a Canberra ambush.
Tip: Raiders 13+
Last week’s tips: 6/8, running tip total 55/88.