Three things The Thinker learned in round two
- A lot can change in an off-season – five teams are undefeated after two rounds, and last year those five teams finished 7th, 9th, 13th, 14th and 16th.
- It's a small sample but home teams have won 78% of games in 2018 – if you can't split two teams picking the home side is a better option than tossing a coin.
- There were a number of high profile signings this season – it's early days but in the cases of Hunt, Pearce, Ponga, Cronk and Tedesco it appears to be paying dividends.
Melbourne Storm vs North Queensland Cowboys – Thursday night – AAMI Park
Jonathan Thurston got to enjoy a victory in his 300th NRL game but no such luck for Billy Slater. While it's possible the Storm let the moment get the better of them, you would have thought the purple machine have enough experience managing big games and milestones. Regardless, Craig Bellamy wouldn't have been subtle with his feedback to the troops. Take note that the purple machine don't lose two games in a row very often, and they almost never lose two games in a row at home. Not knowing the final line-ups (at the time of publishing) makes this a tough game to pick. Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote are flying to Melbourne, but both or neither of them could play. While the Cowboys lost to the Broncos they looked the better side for much of that contest. The Storm have won the last five games against the Cowboys (including the 2017 grand final) but I'm with the visitors in what looks like the game of the round.
Verdict – Cowboys by 1
Result – Storm 30 defeated Cowboys 14
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs are yet to win this season while the Panthers are yet to lose. Note that the Bulldogs have faced the Storm and the Roosters – two teams most expect to do well this season. Also note that both those teams have been beaten by the Tigers – perhaps the Storm and the Roosters aren't that good after all. If that's the case it spells doom for the Bulldogs in season 2018. Clearly it's too early to make grand calls about anyone this season just yet, but on what we've seen you have to go with the Panthers.
Verdict – Panthers by 8
Result – Bulldogs 20 defeated Panthers 18
Wests Tigers vs Brisbane Broncos – Friday night – Campbelltown Stadium
Tigers fans won't be pleased with my thinly veiled swipe at them in my Bulldogs vs Panthers preview, but they'll be pleased with their side. Not even the most ardent of supporters would have expected them to beat the Chooks and the Storm, and keep both those sides to just 8 points. Their defence is in order and I'm expecting another low-scoring contest here. Jack Bird is likely to slot in for the injured Jordan Kahu (perhaps Ms Thinker should have hit Kahu with the car...the injury may have been less severe) and I'm keen to see how he goes. It wouldn't surprise to see him slotting into the halves at some point this season. Broncos for me...not with any great confidence, but I thought the quality of that game against the Cowboys was first-class and I'm hoping the form from that game holds up.
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Broncos 9 defeated Tigers 7
Canberra Raiders vs New Zealand Warriors – Saturday afternoon – GIO Stadium
The other game this round where a team without a win takes on a team without a loss. I'd trust a carnival worker before I'd trust the Warriors but on face value this is their best start to a season in as long as I can recall. I don't trust them, but I don't trust the Raiders either. Note that the Raiders lost to the Titans in round one and the Warriors beat the Titans in round two. If you only have one bet this round (and one is enough) you could do worse than back 'Total points overs' in this game – a 34-30 scoreline (or thereabouts) seems likely. Ramble Gesponsibly.
Verdict – Warriors by 4
Result – Warriors 20 defeated Raiders 19
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Manly Sea Eagles – Saturday afternoon – ANZ Stadium
The four Sydney teams taking part in the big double header at ANZ Stadium on Saturday have managed just one victory between them so far this season, but what a victory. Plenty of people thought the Sea Eagles would beat Parramatta last weekend, but 54-0 was completely out of the box. Were the Sea Eagles that good or were the Eels that bad? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but 54-0 is hard to ignore against any opposition, and I can't see those young Rabbitoh halves matching their opponents on Saturday. Inglis has been named and is captain so let's assume he'll play. Manly are, as you expect, unchanged.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 14
Result – Rabbitohs 34 defeated Sea Eagles 6
Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla Sharks – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
Two teams looking for their first win of the season, and while the Sharks haven't impressed, they've been less unimpressive than the Eels. Interest lies with how the Eels respond after that dreadful effort against Manly. Also of interest is the inclusion of promising youngster Jesse Ramien who replaces Aaron Gray in the centres for the Sharks. At the risk of sounding like a gossip, there are rumours that Valentine Holmes is looking for another club, and the club he is looking for is the Cowboys. We shall see. What we shall also see is a Sharks victory. While the Eels will probably improve (they couldn't get worse), I can't see them improving enough.
Verdict – Sharks by 8
Result – Sharks 14 defeated Eels 4
Gold Coast Titans vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday afternoon – Clive Berghofer Stadium
Not a bad idea to get out of the Gold Coast with the Commonwealth Games looming, although I suspect Toowoomba has more Dragons fans than Titans fans. Two important inclusions for the Titans with Ashley Taylor back from a hamstring injury and Jarrod Wallace back from suspension. Taylor was brilliant in round one and his inclusion gives the Titans a real hope of an upset victory here. I can't tip them because I've fallen in love with the Dragons forwards, but I expect this game will go down to the wire. If it wasn't a silly thing to do I'd be tipping a draw. Instead I'll choose a slightly less silly outcome - golden point extra time and Ben Hunt slots a field goal for the win.
Verdict – Dragons by 1
Result – Dragons 54 defeated Titans 8
Sydney Roosters vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Allianz Stadium
There are four former Roosters in the Newcastle starting thirteen, and all four of them started with the Roosters as teenagers. This amuses me, because Newcastle is seen as a rugby league nursery and the Roosters clearly isn't. That said, the Chooks have knicked Tetevano from Newcastle so it's not all one way traffic, and we all know they have bolstered their ranks with some high profile imports. We saw a lot more of what Cronk and Tedesco can bring to the tricolours in round two, and what we saw was very good indeed. This team can win a premiership. The Knights have come through the other end of a long dark tunnel and Novascastrians will be delighted with what they are seeing this season. Pearce and Guerra will give their all, and I expect a contest, but the steady hands of Cronk and Cordnor should get the Roosters home. Compulsory viewing...for a whole range of reasons.
Verdict – Roosters by 7
Result – Roosters 38 defeated Knights 8
Wally Lewis - round three selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- STORM vs Cowboys
- Bulldogs vs PANTHERS
- Tigers vs BRONCOS
- RAIDERS vs Warriors
- Rabbitohs vs SEA EAGLES
- Eels vs SHARKS
- Titans vs DRAGONS
- ROOSTERS vs Knights