Mired in the depths of their self-manufactured hell
Dolphins won, Cowboys lost, Titans won, Broncos won, Tigers and Capras won, and the Upcoming Slate
NRLM Round 27
DOLPHINS: The Dolphins beat down a second string Warriors side in front of their own fans. It turns out the Warriors really did not try, ironically fielding eight players who have played at least one game for Redcliffe in Cup (51 games total). Instead, we were treated to Redcliffe leading 22-0 at half time and lasting almost an hour before conceding points. A ninth win, probably three or four more than anyone really expected they’d achieve, puts a nice capstone on this first season.
COWBOYS: If there are any Cowboys fans left, they don’t really need to hear from me on this one. It was not good.
TITANS: There's an interesting contrast for the 9-win Titans and the 7-win Bulldogs. The former is a franchise, not with a future per se, but with at least a promising plan for the future. The latter is a franchise mired in the depths of their self-manufactured hell and not for the first time in the last decade or so. They weren’t separated by much on the ladder.
The Titans were background scenery once more to the media's personal feud with Phil Gould and/or uncovering of what is likely to be the Bulldogs’ incredibly toxic workplace practices. No 7-17 team should generate multiple headlines every day for over a week but here we are. What are these “finals” you speak of? Undoubtedly, the Dogs loss will be fuel for the media conflagration, possibly upgrading Ciraldo’s position to “embattled” on the danger cliche spectrum. It’s hard to get a read on whether that loss was in a meaningless game to complete contractual obligations, was only by four points and the Titans didn’t defend much better will be context used by the prognosticators. Perhaps they will be distracted by Gould’s promised signings?
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Moment of the Weekend
Jack Bostock. It's not his first NRL game or his first try but this put down, and that he got past Taine Tuaipiki, are both sick.
NRLW Round 7
BRONCOS: We’re starting to see what this team could be. The first four or five weeks ranged from good to very poor but now, the Broncos are starting to put it together and we can see what Scott Prince wanted his team to be. I am more than willing to admit that I couldn’t see it but it’s starting to come into focus. It’s not just tossing the ball to Hurricane Hufanga and hoping. It’s not just letting Broughton run along the line, probing for gaps. It’s not just Maddick doing nothing. It’s not just Brigginshaw chipping and chasing for herself. It’s a balanced mixture of all those things as Destiny Brill steering a decent pack down the field. I don’t think the defence will hold up especially well against the top two teams, doubly so in a win or go home scenario, but even getting to the semi-final would be a hugely encouraging sign for 2024.
COWBOYS: If there are any Cowboys fans left, they don’t really need to hear from me on this one. It was not good but North Queensland were in this for the first 20 minutes or so. Then one defensive lapse led to a pounding on the next set, setting up the next defensive lapse and so on. When Makenzie Weale was binned for a hip drop, which is likely to ensure she will not play again in 2023, that was enough for me.
TITANS: The Titans forwards really aimed up but the backline is a mess, though it's no particular fault of the players. This game was a bloodbath, almost literally with the split eyebrows and cheeks and chins. Kiria-Ratu moved to centre to cover Jaime Chapman, who passed a HIA but did not return, and did a reasonable job. That left Brown and Lofipo in the middle, with the occasional help from Hale.
Hale and Mato dominated the field and the second half possession to park the Titans in the red zone. From there, it was simply a matter of taking the shots and waiting for them to hit. There was too great a reliance on bargeovers and crash balls, which won't be enough against the better teams, but it was enough to lock in a fifth win.
Queensland Cup finals week 2
MAGPIES VS SEAGULLS: There was the potential, especially as Souths Logan went down 12-0 in less than ten minutes, that this game might spiral out of control. It would simply be the by-product of both teams paying their tithes to their shared liege lord. Both teams managed to find some guys around the clubhouse in Manly West and West End to fill the gaps and the potential for chaos existed as potentially one side might be significantly better than the other.
Instead, we were treated to a tense and even battle between two well-matched sides. Tries were traded through the second half and no conversions, from the nine taken by both sides, were missed. The Seagulls seemed to just have the edge and scored the winner with a short ball from O’Hagan to Talita to bust through a Magpies line that was carrying more than a few contusions.
CAPRAS VS FALCONS: This game ran largely to spec. The Falcons, bereft of the Storm-based talent they’ve relied on all year, took not one but two penalty goals and an early lead. Once the Capras got their hands on the ball, it was all one way traffic. The Capras had the muscle and skill to dominate the Falcons. The final score is even flattering to Sunshine Coast, as Central couldn't hit a conversion all afternoon and conceded the Birds’ only try in the last six seconds of the game. It wasn't the cleanest kill for Central but they did more than enough and then some to progress.
🚨 Friday 19h50: BRONCOS vs STORM in NRLM qualifying final
You don’t need me to tell you the stakes of this one. I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks that a Broncos-Storm final was inevitable, although I thought it would be a prelim, and that if the Broncos ended the hoodoo and won in round 27, they’d lose the final or if the Broncos lost, then they’d exorcise their demons in the finals. The Broncos lost in round 27, so by a process of elimination…
Saturday 11h30: TIGERS vs BRONCOS in NRLW round 8
Brisbane have far more points on offence available, especially as Ali Brigginshaw seems to be fine, Hayley Maddick has (presumably) taken on the criticism and shown something for it, and there are even other options, when compared to Gold Coast, who just dispatched Wests. Burying what’s left of the Tigers will bring the Broncos very close to a top four finish.
Saturday 14h00: BEARS vs SEAGULLS in QCup preliminary final
Wynnum have done extremely well to make it this far in the competition. It’s been an off-and-on season, as the club begins a gentle rebuild after missing the finals last year off back-to-back grand final losses in 2019 and 2021. Anything beyond this point is house money. Burleigh are the form team of the competition, with the guys, some dudes and last lost to the Seagulls in 2017, which was longer ago than their last premiership: the Bears handed Wynnum that grand final loss in 2019. Wynnum don’t appear to be getting any Broncos this week either, which makes it very hard to imagine anything other than an Ursine win.
Sunday 11h30: COWBOYS vs RAIDERS in NRLW round 8
If you’re going to give a game a swerve this weekend, strike this one out. Canberra need a win to keep their post-season hopes alive and need a big win to keep pressure on the other two Queensland clubs. North Queensland could give them a run for their money and do everyone else a favour but we saw what happened to both Cowboys teams this week.
Sunday 13h30: TITANS vs EELS in NRLW round 8
Easy Titans dub. The forward pack will steamroll Parramatta and, like last weekend, spend an eternity parked on their goal line as they figure out how to put some points together. Get it done, lock down a finals spot and fix the points difference all in 70 minutes. If you’re feeling brave, run Fuimaono out from the reserves for 15 to 20 minutes to get some game time under her belt before finals.
🚨 Sunday 14h00: TIGERS vs CAPRAS in QCup preliminary final
I am taking an extreme interest in this game and not just because this is a preliminary final in my favourite rugby league competition. The Capras and the Tigers pose a compelling stylistic match-up. The Dolphins are done, in both the first and second tiers, so could throw some talent at this one - Edrick is back - while the Storm will not be mucking around like they did last week, freeing up the most of the Tigers’ pack. Easts have been relatively polished all year, dare I say formal, with a side that’s not quite the apex predator with the ball or on the other side of it. Central have a homegrown squad of the kind of conscientious talent that’s served the Dolphins well, and has conceded the second fewest points in the league. The Caps are making only their second preliminary final appearance and looking for their first grand final appearance. The Tiges want a sixth crack to win their first title. Only a game and a half and 20 points separated them on the ladder. Can’t wait.
A critical play-in match between two “fierce” Sydney rivals with over a century of history on Friday night drew 7,000 fewer fans than the Queensland Cup All-Stars game on Thursday night. Even the Saturday arvo joint Dolphins-Warriors home game drew a couple hundred more to Suncorp. With numbers like this, no wonder the NRL is reluctant to play their Sydney finals in real stadiums.
Reader MattyMcP tells me that Max Plath has played two NRL games for the Dolphins, both against the Warriors. He's never played an Australian NRL team in his career. Great stat.
The Panthers have lost 16.5 games (regular season and finals) since the start of the 2020 season. St Helens’ run from 2018 to 2021 is the only other example of a team who has lost 15 or fewer first class regular season games over a four year cycle since the early 50s. St Helens winning the 2023 World Club Challenge obviously annoits them as the greatest rugby league club of the 20s.
The Tigers have eight wins over the last two seasons. The Dolphins had nine wins in their foundation year.
Before I deleted my Twitter accounts, I posted a predicted number of wins for each NRL team at the start of this season. It also included ratings of the roster and coach, the latter of which caused some Penrith fans to lose their minds because I didn’t (and don’t) think a coach who has helmed one of the most dominant teams of the last 70 years but still has a career winning percentage of just 55%, is a particularly exceptional talent1. Anyway, I was curious how I did and I love to hold myself to account for my takes. I got two teams exactly right - the Raiders and the Storm - and another five within the plus-minus I set (Eels, Sharks, Titans, Manly, Panthers). I most underestimated the Knights, Broncos and Warriors and I most overestimated the Bulldogs and Tigers. I was off by an average of 3.3 wins per team.
Brenko Lee is off to Super League and does not appear to be under investigation by the NRL Integrity Unit, as initially reported by Badel. It's not clear where he's going to land as yet.
Omission: In the last post, I said it had been 17 years since the Broncos last won a trophy. This is only true of men's trophies, as the women's team won three trophies in the last six years.
Not rugby league: following on from that study of CTE in young athletes, there’s this:
The Q-Collar is a silicone collar worn around the neck that applies light pressure to the jugular veins. This pressure causes a slight increase in blood volume inside the head and helps reduce the brain’s movement upon impact, which is the primary cause of brain injury. The FDA has approved the device, and it costs $199.
I don’t like that. I’ll take the concussions, thanks.
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For what it’s worth, I’m more sold on Billy than Kev. I’m more than willing to downgrade my view of Payten, who keeps getting the benefit of the doubt for some reason. I was right about Holbrook.