Three things The Thinker learned in round five
- Age catches up with us all. Two of the modern day greats of the game in Cameron Smith and Jonathan Thurston are about to turn 35. Even the greats come back to earth, but the greats come back to earth more slowly than everyone else.
- Kalyn Ponga is starting to show everyone why the Cowboys were so disappointed to lose him.
- You can count the number of teams that have beaten the Storm twice in a season on one hand. The Tigers, barring an incredibly unlucky run with injuries, will play finals football in 2018.
Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Thursday night – Allianz Stadium
Someone will have to remind the Sydney Roosters where the airport is. After six rounds they haven't left home, and with what looks to be the sweetest draw in the competition they won't have to leave too often in the rounds that follow. They've been hot and cold this season, but hot more often, and when the Roosters are hot they are very hot indeed. You would expect they'll be fired up for this one. The Rabbitohs impressed without winning last start against a very good side, and they'll be fired up for this too. In recent years the Chooks have well and truly had the edge, and I expect they'll prevail again. It's the oldest derby in the NRL, and Cooper Cronk will rise to the occasion and get the red, white and bluesters home. The game of the round.
Verdict – Roosters by 7
Result – Rabbitohs 26 defeated Roosters 14
Melbourne Storm vs Newcastle Knights – Friday night – AAMI Park
For a very long term the Melbourne Storm have set very lofty standards. The standard appears to be slipping, but all is not lost for fans of the purple machine. Through five games they have conceded just 67 points – only the Tigers, Dragons and Warriors have conceded less. The Knights by comparison, have conceded almost double that tally. The Storm are struggling in attack, but they've still scored more points than the Knights. The transition to a post-Cronk world is taking time, with Ryley Jacks replacing Brodie Croft at half this week. I also think the slowing down of the play the ball has had an effect on the impact of Cameron Smith out of dummy half (while I have you here...check out how Wikipedia describes Cameron Smith in the first few sentences - hopefully it hasn't been edited before you see it). The champs are on the ropes but I have a feeling they might drag themselves back into the contest on Friday night with a very big win.
Verdict – Storm by 26
Result – Storm 40 defeated Knights 14
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks – Friday night – WIN Stadium
The Dragons have averaged more than 30 points per game through five rounds, and are unchanged from last week. The Sharks season has spluttered along thus far, and they are averaging less than 14 points per game. That tells you the Sharks need to find more points if they want to win on Friday night. Josh Dugan returns, but with the Dragons conceding less points than just about anyone I doubt that's enough. The Dragons beat the Sharks away in round two, and I expect they'll do so again at home.
Verdict – Dragons by 10
Result – Dragons 40 defeated Sharks 20
New Zealand Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday afternoon – Mt Smart Stadium
I went to the trouble of heading along to watch the Broncos training session today. It can be a very useful thing to do if you have the time, because I've seen sessions where they have been absolutely switched on and they bring that energy with them on game day. Sadly, I have to say the Broncos looked flat. There was nothing wrong with the session, but it lacked energy. Perhaps they are holding themselves back for the trip across the ditch, but on the back of that session I can't possibly tip them this weekend. I probably wasn't going to tip them anyway. The Warriors are unchanged and unbeaten, and they should get quite a crowd on Saturday afternoon if the Auckland weather is reasonable.
Verdict – Warriors by 14
Result – Broncos 27 defeated Warriors 18
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Saturday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
I didn't think the comments by Greg Alexander about Jonathan Thurston were unfair – it seemed a pretty accurate assessment to me. Thurston does seem a little slower than he has in previous seasons. I'd love to see him back to his best, but he turns 35 in a few weeks. You can't keep playing the game like Thurston plays the game forever. In any case, I expect Thurston (and his team-mates for that matter) to respond to the criticism on Saturday night. They'll say they didn't discuss it, and they probably didn't...but they don't have to. Lachlan Coote finally returns at fullback which can't hurt. It's been frustrating watching the Cowboys this season but we should see a better showing here. As for the Bulldogs...I remain unconvinced.
Verdict – Cowboys by 8
Result – Bulldogs 27 defeated Cowboys 10
Canberra Raiders vs Parramatta Eels – Saturday night – GIO Stadium
It's almost the game of the round. The Raiders gave us their most complete performance last week and those returning to the seventeen (Wighton, Papalii and Austin) will be keen to show their best. Parramatta are still looking for their first win of the season – the return of Gutherson and French helps considerably, but the injury to under-rated forward Nathan Brown dents their chances. Kane Evans gets called into the seventeen on the bench for the Eels. Things haven't quite gone to plan for Evans – he left the Roosters because he wanted to be a starting prop. Maybe one day.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Raiders 18 defeated Eels 2
Penrith Panthers vs Gold Coast Titans – Sunday afternoon – Panthers Stadium
The Titans are the best Queensland-based team in the NRL at the minute, and you don't get to say that very often. I can't tip them against the Panthers in Penrith, but only because Ryan James is out suspended and I think that throws their forward rotations out considerably. With that in mind, I expect the Panthers forwards will gain the ascendency with a vocal crowd pushing them on. That said, I'm expecting an entertaining and high-scoring affair..
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 35 defeated Titans 12
Manly Sea Eagles vs Wests Tigers – Sunday afternoon – Lottoland
Manly have had an up and down season thus far but they tend to be up when they're playing at Brookvale. Tom Trbojevic returns after a week out from injury and this Manly attack is a lot more difficult to contain with him lurking around. The Tigers defence has been extraordinary. They'll be hard to crack again, but with a number of line-up changes I expect the Sea Eagles can do enough under daytime conditions at Brookie.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 8
Result – Tigers 38 defeated Sea Eagles 12
Wally Lewis - round six selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- ROOSTERS vs Rabbitohs
- STORM vs Knights
- DRAGONS vs Sharks
- WARRIORS vs Broncos
- COWBOYS vs Bulldogs
- RAIDERS vs Eels
- PANTHERS vs Titans
- SEA EAGLES vs Tigers