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THE WEEKENDLY: The general unrelenting Panthers-ness of it all
Broncos have already lost, previews for the NRLM/W games and QCup finals, Colts canned and Edrick Lee
NRLM Round 27
BRONCOS: The Melbourne Storm won, again.
If you needed a crash course on how far this club has come during Walters’ tenure1, this was it. A group of reserve graders (some profiled by Jason at Rugby League Writers), plucked from Wynnum Manly and Souths Logan2, and piled together outplayed Melbourne for the first half. Then the thought that they, they - Tyson Smoothy, Josh Rogers, Jock Madden, Tristan Sailor, Jesse Arthars, Cory Paix, et cetera - would be the ones to not only break the hoodoo but deliver the club’s first minor premiership in over two decades entered their heads3. They promptly voided their bowels and deviated from the up-the-guts strategy that had won them superior ball and field position in the first half, and panicked.
Never mind the blown tries and the insistence on going right when there was a left option, taking the two with Reimis Smith in the bin was tactically inept at best and pathetic at worst. Not only was a prime attacking opportunity against a weak defence wasted but the goal and restart chewed 90 seconds out of a precious 10 minute advantage. The Storm, whether it be their regular guys or the Sunshine Coast-Easts Tiger-Falcons, can sense weakness as sensitively as a shark with blood in the water or any child with a substitute teacher. Melbourne aimed up and won the game.
It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth4. Fans are not used to discarding entire games as entirely meaningless, but if there was a time to do it, it is now. Almost none of the Broncos who played this week, will play for the Broncos next week (or possibly ever again). We can just be happy we’ve got the guys we’ve got.
COWBOYS: This is the only remaining game that really matters this weekend with two-fold impacts for readers of this publication. The primary objective of the Cowboys will be to win and hope the Raiders lose, ensuring a place in the final eight.
North Queensland have not been dealt a Penrith team that is going to lay down, especially as the secondary impact is the destination of the JJ Giltinan Shield. The Panthers are fielding Dylan Edwards, Nathan Cleary, James Fisher-Harris and Isaah Yeo. The Mountainmen are close to full strength, eschewing the concept of rest and recovery.
The Cowboys can win this game in theory but you’d feel a lot better about their chances if we had the Cowboys from rounds 14 to 21. That team did claim a victory over a Panthers side missing at least Cleary and Yeo. To call it an uphill battle for the Steel Greys in their current form would be putting it mildly. If the Cowboys put their absolute best foot forward in attack and refused to yield the ball for any meaningful length of time, the lack of defensive capability to keep even this pedestrian Penrith offence at bay would be much less relevant.
Despite the motivation to win the minor premiership, to stamp on the face of the competition and the general unrelenting Panthers-ness of it all, as St Helens showed what feels like a million years ago, you still have to play the games. Expect a Panthers win.
DOLPHINS: This will be a Warriors home game. The Dolphins will look ok but will not win unless the Warriors really don’t bother. Redcliffe can commence their end of season holidays and we can begin the post-mortem. Expect a Wahs dub.
TITANS: This is a game the NRL should use to trial unusual rule changes. Here are my suggestions:
12 a side
Lineouts instead of scrums
One forward pass per half (only from behind the play the ball)
Expect no one to care who wins.
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Edrick Lee takes an intercept to get the Capras on the board. Unfortunately, both Lee boys are out for this weekend's game.
NRLW Round 7
BRONCOS: The Rugby League Eye Test published their August update of efficiency numbers. The Broncos are in the efficient/lucky quadrant on both attack and defence. That is, for the metres that the Broncos make, they score a lot of points compared to the league average, and for the metres that the Broncos concede, they don’t concede very many compared to the league average. In fact, the Broncos concede the most expected points and score the fewest in the league and yet are one of three teams of the ten that have a positive points difference5.
The Broncos results so far are an 18 point loss, a 1 point loss, a 28 point win, a 10 point win, a 2 point loss and 32 point win. Brisbane are net +1 on blowouts (a big loss to the Roosters offset by big wins over the Cowboys and Raiders) and this probably skews the metrics a bit in a six game sample size. Nonetheless, there is something here that I think is interesting. Against the Sharks, a team a good team would beat and a bad team would not, we should get another data point to decide where the trend line actually sits in a dataset that is currently all over the Cartesian plane.
Ali Brigginshaw is still named, which seems insane because putting aside the actual pain inflicted by the injury, she has an easily exploitable spot on her face that the other side will surely target, but I’m not really sure what this team would do to replace her if she did have to sit. Expect the Broncos to win, if only because I am getting an inkling that my pessimism in this team has been misplaced.
COWBOYS: With three games left, North Queensland are largely playing for pride. They almost certainly can’t make finals with a 2-4 record and a last round fixture against the Roosters but they can theoretically win any individual game they are in.
Against the Dragons, another Sydney side that bought too much hype (i.e. any) without enough talent to clear the cheques, the Cowboys have more than enough talent to win the game. The challenge so far in 2023 has been marshalling that talent and getting it pointing in the right direction. Kirra Dibb has done her best but can only do so much. Expect the Dragons to rely on Teagan Berry slicing through a tired middle to win.
Chapman has all the physical attributes to put up Mele Hufanga numbers each week for the Titans this season. It will all come down to the work of her teammates on the inside though.
If her half can consistently isolate Chapman one-on-one, she’ll score more often than not.
That’s the trick isn’t it? Getting the halves to do the right things. They’ve been asked to do a lot and I keep harping on about it but it’s the obvious structural weakness in this team. A win here puts the Titans into firm finals favouritism, after the top two, but they cannot progress to the grand final with the band-aids they’ve applied to date.
I’m not too concerned about the Titans’ ability to beat the Tigers. The Tigers have, as usual because I guess people are sentimental about Balmain, been grossly overrated and look set to miss the finals, and now has neither Vette-Welsh nor Togatuki. Expect Gold Coast will make it look harder than it is but to still get home.
Queensland Cup week 2
MAGPIES VS SEAGULLS: While it is possible that some might choose to backup from Thursday night to Saturday afternoon to do their best to keep their own seasons alive, the upward movement of players from these sides to the Broncos has defenestrated any capacity to predict the outcome of the match.
In other parts of the country, perhaps those less prone to Getting Origin, they would get upset about the derailing of Souths Logan’s (potentially losing Te Kura, Paix, Mozer, Pereira and Sailor) and Wynnum Manly’s (potentially losing Rogers and Hoeter and definitely losing Willison) attempts to avoid elimination in this game. I think it’s just one of those things that happen. Without the relationship with the Broncos, these sides wouldn’t be in the position they’re in right now. With that relationship comes responsibilities and if Kevin Walters decides his boys are taking the week off, then the feudal obligations kick in and players are sent to their (metaphorical, professional) deaths at Suncorp. At least both sides will suffer roughly equally.
This is primarily a test of coaching, between Mathew Head of the Gulls and Karmichael Hunt of the Mags, and a test of club depth. For example, Issac Luke will be returning for the Magpies. Expect Wynnum Manly to swoop to victory, ending a drought against their avian rivals that dates back to 2019, but for no particular reason than I am a pessimist.
CAPRAS VS FALCONS: At time of writing, Sunshine Coast have still not named a five-eighth. With the rapturing of Falcons to the heavens, a list of the saved that includes Pene, Lewis, Howarth, Nikorima, Olam, Faalogo and Wishart, and toss in the loss of Luke Polselli, the Birds are playing with a very limited deck. Unlike in the battle of Broncos affiliates, this game is in Rockhampton on Sunday, so it is not a simple matter of driving half an hour to Logan to play the game. I would expect the travel will cap the number of guys returning to be dudes for the Falcons.
With the home ground, and a severely weakened opposition, and a more familiar lineup, and no issues with the senior team grabbing their best talent - indeed, the Capras are really the only going concern within the People’s Republic of the Dolphins - this is one for Central Queensland to lose. A win here would be the Caps’ second preliminary final appearance in Queensland Cup history. The previous appearance was in 2009, which they lost to the Pride. Expect the Capras to sleep walk this one in.
Proprietary vibes-based tips
NRLM: Cowboys lose, Dolphins lose, Titans win
NRLW: Broncos win, Cowboys lose, Titans win
QCup: Seagulls win, Capras win
Limited in time? Here’s what’s good in Queensland rugby league this weekend.
This is the last Watch Guide for the year. By next week, there will be so few matches (two QCup finals, three NRLW and one or two NRLM) that it is expected you will simply watch them all, perhaps trimming down on some of the less competitive NRLW games if time is an issue.
This week, because the watch ratings are based on Form Elo, which only runs through the regular season, I have rated the two QCup elimination finals an outright 5-star watch, even though with the aforementioned absence of fringe guys will probably make both games a bit of a punish to sit through.
The Panthers-Cowboys game is given a rare hors categorie quality rating, which is largely thanks to the slightly above average rating of the Cowboys and the historic form rating of the Panthers averaging out to very good (see how the competitiveness is low - possibly some tweaking to the scoring needed there). Other than that, take your pick of the NRLW games. Dolphins fans can have an early mark.
Quality (Q) is rated by the average of the team’s Elo ratings - the higher the average, the higher the quality of the match. Competitiveness (C) is rated by the difference of the team’s Elo ratings - the smaller the gap, the more competitive the match. Matches are rated in each category from very high down to very low and given a star rating from one to five accordingly. Bonus stars available for Queensland derby in the NRL (+1), statewide feature game (+1), PNG home game (+0.5) or the involvement of the Dragons (-0.5).
Surprising news during the week that the QRL is killing off the under-21s Colts competition in 2024. The QRL gave a bunch of sensible reasons why they’ve made this move. I didn’t know what to make of it personally - I didn’t really have any strong feelings about other than to wonder what’s going to be the undercard at next year’s Cup grand final - so I thought I’d wait to hear from the expert:
If Brad’s not fussed, then I definitely am not. Let’s see what the QRL comes up with.
Programming note: This is the last edition of The Weekendly for the season and possibly forever, as I have not particularly enjoyed the workload of doing two of these a week6. The Weekly will remain but will probably shift to Wednesdays for the last few weeks. After this week, there’s no more than half a dozen games of interest each week (possibly as few as zero after 17 September), so the Wednesday post will double as review and preview. The good news (maybe, for you) is that its season review season, so the post-mortems will drop into your inbox just as soon as I’ve found the time to do the dissections.
D-Day on NRL clubs’ game-changing plan to reduce State of Origin to four weeks: “Origin, though, is expected to dominate much of the discussion given how sensitive club bosses are about the issue. They are sick to death of having their seasons put on hold while the NSW and Queensland sides slug it out in the Origin arena.” lol, one assumes that the sensitive club bosses don’t understand that they wouldn’t have clubs were it not for Origin lining the NRL’s pockets. If you needed any proof of their inflated self-importance and utter cluelessness, this it it.
There is no resting problem. There is no resting crisis. Hacks using this nomenclature love it when they can spin stuff like this up. They never want it to end. How else would they get sexual gratification? Elsewhere at Newscorp: “This masthead can reveal Allianz Stadium in Sydney’s east - and possibly CommBank Stadium in the city’s west - might remain empty due to the NRL’s finals structure.” Yes, when the tenants of those stadiums are mediocre and don’t make the finals, then the stadiums will not be used for rugby league in the near future. Remember to buy the paper™.
The development of Kitchener Park, which sounded like Wynnum Manly’s attempt to get a Dolphins Oval-equivalent facility, is not proceeding. Sounds like tis caused some internal dissent. It’s hard to know what kind of facilities will be required to stay competitive over the coming decades, especially for a club with the kind of attendances the Seagulls generate.
Rodrick Tai is going to Warrington. The BBC seems to have confused Tai doing some training with the Dolphins with having an actual contract. The Papua New Guinean, of course, played for the Hunters.
Not rugby league: Study finds CTE in 40% of athletes who died before 30 and Saudi Arabia Is Winning Europe’s Game
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It was also a pretty good indication of whether it’s the troops or the commanders driving this year’s success.
Who, it should be stressed, are playing an elimination final on the weekend.
The tension between this game not mattering in a premiership sense but also mattering a great deal as the best opportunity the Broncos have had of breaking the hoodoo and securing their first trophy of any sort in 17 years, obviously drove the actual players to near madness.
I found myself frustrated that the Storm players were celebrating so hard when they’ve only beaten a bunch of reserve graders. Of course, they themselves are reserve graders and this could be their big moment, either as an apex of their career or a stepping stone to something bigger, so fine, fair enough. Still, fuck you Sua Faalogo.
The Broncos are fifth for running metres.
The declining view count could just be fans switching off at the end of the year or responding to the focus on quantity over quality.