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THE WEEKENDLY: We won’t make you do ads for erectile dysfunction medication
NRLM round 24 and NRLW round 4 previews and tips, QCup outlook, Qld rugby league Watch Guide, news and notes, Stats Preview and something tangentially related thoughts
NRLM Round 24
SYDNEY: At what point am I allowed to stop previewing the men’s Titans? The outcomes of the games no longer have a bearing on Gold Coast’s season, effectively eliminated as they are by being three wins off the pace with four games to go. It’s difficult to predict whether the Titans will deliver one of the more straightforward performances we’ve seen under Lenihan - forwards laying a platform for backs to score points and not immediately capitulating under the slightest pressure, etc - or a more traditional Holbrookian collapse, conceding thirty points in thirty minutes and embarrassing the south-east corner of the state by proximity to 4214. Expect the Sharks to win this one, especially as Hynes’ confidence seems to be returning, but not expecting a rout.
BRISBANE: The Eels just haven’t been themselves this year. They’re suffering from a premiership hangover without having won the premiership. In their previous meeting in Darwin, the Broncos played a straight bat and showed a composure and steel that we’ve seen rarely in 2023, but more frequently as we get closer to the important part of the year, to wrap that game up by half time. Brisbane aren’t any worse in round 24 than round 8 and the Eels’ pack seems less likely to stand up to the Broncos’ as the latter welcomes the return of Jordan Riki (?). Daejarn Asi at centre offers an enticing opportunity for Staggs and Mariner. Expect the Broncos to get home comfortably in the last game at The Gabba.
SYDNEY: At the time, the brand new Dolphins beating one of the premiership favourites in their very first NRL game was a result that sent genuine shockwaves around the league1. With the benefit of another 23 rounds of football, the Roosters are 9-11 (-100) and the Dolphins are 8-12 (-94) and so have arrived at a similar destination (vis a vis not playing finals), albeit via very different paths (stars underperforming versus apparent has-beens overperforming). Much has been made of the Dolphins’ performance away from home but they’re 4-6 at home and 4-6 away. A deeper analysis reveals Redcliffe did win a game in Newcastle in round 3 and that’s their only victory south of the Tweed. Expect the Roosters to use their newfound form and homeground advantage to take the Arthur Beetson Medal.
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Guy Hamilton puts an unexpected banana kick up for Kea Pere to burrow over. Hamilton is not my favourite player. He hasn’t been since he dropped a ball for the Falcons in the 2017 elimination final and got away with it, ending the Magpies potentially game winning momentum and their season. Even when Hamilton was at West End, he too frequently overplayed his hand to the detriment of offensive cohesion. Still, he has very good games in him, more frequently since moving to Burleigh, and this was one of them.
NRLW Round 4
BRISBANE: I’m mentally resigning myself to the fact that the Cowboys being good was a bad pre-season take. It’s fine, really. I’m my worst critic2. The Cowboys face the Tigers at Langlands Park in Coorparoo in the first half of a double-header. The attendance will be fascinating to see, as will the Tigers in this game, the first time they’ve played anyone relevant (to The Maroon Observer). The Tigers are allegedly quite good. The Cowboys have their bright spots but they defended like an absolute rabble last week. If that’s not sorted out, it’ll be Wests by a million. Expect Wests by a bit but don’t expect North Queensland to be relevant to the result.
The Broncos play the Eels in the second game. What’s not clear is why the women’s game is on Saturday and not curtain raiser to the men’s game, with the same opponent, on Friday. The broadcasters are almost certainly to blame, although it’s likely that if the situation were reversed, I’d be complaining about the women not being allowed a standalone game. They just can’t win but the Broncos should, easily. This is the worst team in the NRLW and if the Broncos can’t get it done here, they should pack it in for 2023. Expect the Broncos to make it look a lot harder than it is, unless they actually learned something from last week, in which case Hufanga to score six.
NEWCASTLE: This is the first real test the Titans have faced. Their victories are yet to be particularly convincing: by ten over the Cowboys, one over the Broncos and two over the Sharks. The other three teams in the top four have at least +32 points in for and against, while the undefeated Titans have just +11. The components of good football have all been there for Gold Coast, albeit the halves’ production reflects their inexperience, but there will be less margin for error against the Knights. Newcastle are not infallible, as North Queensland managed to demonstrate in what I think will be looked back on as one of the stranger results in rugby league history (both for the magnitude of upset, but also the dominating run of possession to finish the game). The Titanides have the defensive chops but it’s a question of whether they have the points. Expect the Knights to win by a few.
Proprietary vibes-based tips
NRLM: Titans lose by a bit, Broncos win by a bit, Dolphins lose by a bit
NRLW: Cowboys lose by a lot, Broncos win by a lot, Titans lose by a few
QCup: Wins for Pride, Hunters, Devils, Bears, Magpies, Capras and Tweed
Queensland Cup outlook
With two games left, five teams are theoretically in the running for the minor premiership. The Magpies lead the way with 32 points (13-3-2), then the Bears on 31 (13-4-1), Tigers on 29 (13-5-1) and Wynnum (12-6) and Capras (11-5-2) on 28. This weekend’s game could eliminate Wynnum from consideration with a Souths Logan victory, while the Tigers have the bye. Mags-Caps and Gulls-Tiges next week will all be crucial, with the latter the feature game. All five teams are locks for the finals.
The Dolphins (10-5-3) and Tweed (10-8) are also in consideration for the top four but also could, mathematically, be knocked out of the finals. It seems most likely that they will sit in the second four in a fortnight.
The Pride (9-7-2) lead a pack of the Falcons (9-8-1), Blackhawks (8-9-1), Hunters (8-9-1) and Devils (7-9-2) looking for the final spot in the top eight. Northern have a terrible points difference (-99), and so are at risk of any of the chasing four (ranging from -44 to +70) displacing them. There are a few potential four point swings in this group with the Devs playing the Falcs and the Choppers playing the Hunters this weekend, and the Hunters playing the Devs next week.
The Clydesdales (3-15) and Cutters (2-16) are out of the running, too far behind to challenge for the post-season, but both should be somewhat pleased with their performance as a brand new team with no NRL help and having been abandoned by the Cowboys, respectively.
The Jets (0-19) all have the spoon locked up. The Planes have one game left - this weekend against Tweed - to break their duck and avoid being the first winless team in nearly 20 years of Queensland Cup.
Limited in time? Here’s what’s good in Queensland rugby league this weekend.
Hunters versus Blackhawks has important finals considerations and, being played out of Port Moresby, will have local comms on QPlus. Redcliffe and Central are going to decide who is the favourite child of the NRL Dolphins (previous game was won by Redcliffe, 36-20). The women’s Knights and Titans play a top of the table contest. There’s an outside chance I might get done to the Devils and Falcons replaying last year’s preliminary final. Souths Logan and Wynnum will play on Stradbroke Island, one of the most aesthetically pleasing games of the season, albeit the least accesible in the Brisbane metropolity.
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).
Club bosses have welcomed a briefing by NSW and Queensland officials regarding a push by the state bodies to be granted an additional $15 million in funding from the NRL to help run their competitions. Officials at a high-powered meeting on Tuesday also agreed not to support the idea of a national reserve grade competition, and proposed the State of Origin series be held over a four-week period, with games played on three consecutive Wednesdays. Fun details: “The new QRL boss said he would meet with NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo on Wednesday. The NRL had wanted to sit in on Tuesday’s meeting with the clubs, but Ikin said that request was “politely rejected”. The NRL had floated the idea of rolling out a national reserve grade competition to be played before each game, but not one club was in support of the concept.” lol. I don’t take this to be particularly promising that the states will get what they want out of the NRL but it seems the clubs are less obstructive to that than the NRL/ARLC are being on (deranged) principle.
“Tweed Seagulls are an organisation with similar values to [the Titans]” Titans extend with Tweed until 2025 and pay them what is definitely not a compliment.
The Queensland Cup final will be on 17 September - two weeks before the NRL grand final for reasons that are unclear - and will be broadcast on Fox and not Nine. Nine are crying poor because of NRLW commitments but it seems likely that Nine would prefer to divest itself of state cup altogether. Whether Fox does a better job than Nine will depend on whether they put a half decent comms team on and even then, I guess I won’t care because I’ll be at the game.
The RLPA and NRL have agreed terms. We surely have to thank our lord and saviour, Peter V’Landys, as the only man with the testicular fortitude to negotiate through this stalemate. If only he’d put in this bare minimum of effort prior to the current deal expiring instead of waiting nearly a year. Examples like this have to be ego draining for Andrew Abdo. He should be able to get this sorted and he has to wait for the real power to enter the room for anything to actually happen.
Here’s a nice little breakdown of the Broncos’ attack from Jason at Rugby League Writers. I love the gif tracking Walsh running behind the line and then accelerating into the gap behind Carrigan. Oscar also did a breakdown of Mele Hufanga’s brace of tries.
Former NSW deputy premier Troy Grant is set to quit as International Rugby League boss after delivering the game’s most substantial schedule in a generation. I’ve made my thoughts on what Grant has “delivered” quite clear but I haven’t seen this news confirmed anywhere else. It’s the kind of thing I used to be able to verify on Twitter in seconds3 but instead I found a 2016 photo of Grant with noted anti-semite, Mel Gibson.
The Pride and Clydesdales game will kick off at the wonderful time of 12.30pm in Cairns on Saturday, so it can be the curtain-raiser to Souths and the Dragons, a match I’m sure the people of Far North Queensland will be deeply invested in. I can’t remember if I’ve point this out recently but the Queensland government sure does underwrite a huge part of this sport.
The Northern Pride have announced the signing of their new head coach, with Eric Smith joining the club for the next two seasons. Smith was the 2019 Coach of the Year with Sunshine Coast.
While doing a bit of solo guys remembering dudes and poking around in the List of Queensland Cup honours Wikipedia article, I discovered that Michael Marum, coach of the Hunters from 2014 to 2019, was elected governor and MP for the province of East New Britain in 2022.
Not rugby league
This is too eclectic a collection of stuff even for Notes but it’s your little treat if you decided to scroll past the stats preview. Three things:
The college sports conference, the Pac-12, is dead. Four schools defected to the Big 12 and two more schools joined the Los Angeles colleges in the Big Ten. The trick was the Big 12, which seemed to be in a more precarious position last year, extended their TV deal without taking it to the open market. This was considered bad business, for the same reasons it was when the NRL did it, but it provided security. The Pac-12 did the “right” thing and was rewarded by not being able to find suitable broadcast partners and then was pulled apart by its rival conferences when it became clear that the only offer on the table (Apple TV) held significant risk that the Pac-12 universities weren’t overly convinced by. Without getting into the hand wringing over tradition4, this anecdote is interesting because of the success of the conference who employed the apparently worse business practices and the rapidity with which money for less-than-premium sports rights are evapourating in a non-zero interest rate environment. I haven’t worked out if there are meaningful parallels to Australia’s sports market but I find it interesting nonetheless.
Barstool Sports was sold for $550 million to market a new sportsbook. When the company that owned the sportsbook realised they could upgrade from Barstool Bet to ESPN Bet, they sold Barstool back to the original owner for $0. It should be made clear that the people behind Barstool suck but if someone wants to pay me $550 million to buy The Maroon Observer and produce content for Maroon Bet and then three years later wants to sell The Maroon Observer back to me for $0 when they move on to Kayo Bet, I am open to all offers.
The last place I expected to hear much about the inner workings of the marketing teams of NRL clubs. A quote from near the end: “We sponsor the Cronulla Sharks and its actually been incredibly good… with Pilot. We did Richmond and Cronulla Sharks last year, and Richmond as a test for like the prestige, known brand in Australian sport and the Cronulla Sharks for a little bit of the more, let’s see how it goes, much more willing to work with you organisation. And they have actually been so good to work with… All that you can really care about now is, are they willing to make content for you? The Cronulla Sharks will make any piece of content you ask them to make and distribute it and help you with it. And the prestige brands are like ‘ooh god no, we will not associate with that’. But well, we’re paying you money… if you can own a bit of the narrative around a sporting organisation and build that with them, there’s much more to be gained there than paying what are historically the prestige brands, so Cricket Australia, the big 4 AFL teams, Brisbane Broncos, I feel like people will pay less for that in the future and more for stories they can really be apart of.” New sales pitch for Walters, Donaghy and co: ‘Come to the Brisbane Broncos and we won’t make you do ads for erectile dysfunction medication’.
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It also feels like a million years ago.
I am certainly the most intelligent, best looking and nicest smelling of my critics.
I didn’t go looking for anything repugnant but if you’re not logged in to Twitter/X, the profile shows the most popular tweets from the account in no particular order and that showed up before any confirmation/denial of his intention to resign. Also, the photo looks super weird, like its been photoshopped but why?
A similar parallel might be if Kayo found $50 million behind a couch and decided it wanted to launch a national second division of rugby league. Kayo then used this windfall to sign up the most commercially appealing clubs out of Queensland Cup - for the purposes of this argument, say PNG, Townsville, Central, Sunshine Coast, Burleigh, Redcliffe and Easts - and shove them into a competition with Newtown, Wests Magpies, North Sydney, Wests Newcastle and a revived Auckland Vulcans. Putting aside the obvious caveats about the longevity of such a competition and its relationship to the NRL and its professionalism and other things, I don’t think I’d begrudge the clubs leaving or relegating QCup to a third tier competiton (I might not be happy about it but I could see the logic), not least because my personal theory is that the gap in revenue sources and facilities will create a league of haves and have-nots in the Queensland Cup over the coming decades, even if things stay as they are.