When you let go of a player and throw him under the bus, blaming him for all your salary cap dramas and poor on-and-off field performances, you better hope that you can make the salary cap space and lack of said dramas result in wins and recruits.
Sadly, the Panthers released a statement two weeks ago announcing the signing of Jamie Soward. Which answers the age old question: How does one kick ones self in the nuts?
In contrast, the player you rubbished dusted himself off and is having the best season of his career for a team that is playing the most exciting brand of attacking rugby league in the competition — all while you’re still paying a portion of his salary.
This is like trading an iPhone for a Cisco Flip. Never heard of a Cisco Flip? Exactly.
Team for Round Eight
Anthony Minichiello (C) ,Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Mitchell Aubusson, Sonny Bill Williams, Boyd Cordner. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Martin Kennedy, Aidan Guerra, Luke O’Donnell.
The Roosters have named the same top 17 for the past three weeks, and the combinations are really starting to form across the park. James Maloney and Michael Jennings are dominating the left, Mitchell Pearce and Sonny Bill are developing a strong one-two punch on the right.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Moa are bashing them up the middle, and they get token contributions from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Daniel Tupou depending on match-ups.
The big story in this one is that Jennings is playing his first game since being punted (effectively) by the Panthers just prior to the season, following a year when he was dropped to the Windsor Wolves, played Origin from there, was suspended and went through a scoring drought to start the year.
Now? He’s scored four tries in seven games with eight line breaks, over ten runs a game, 14 tackles a match with just two misses all year, three line break assists and a try assist. Also, he’s making 117 metres per game at 11 metres per run (per NRL.com).
Not bad for a guy who was let go because the Panthers weren’t allegedly getting value for money from their $650,000 per season player. The Roosters are certainly getting bang for their buck (and the Panthers’ buck) from the form centre of the competition (with Justin Hodges).
How they’ll play
They have to just give it to Jennings. He’ll be up against Dean Whare and David Simmons, who both performed well last week but will be up against better competition this week.
Jennings’ combination with Daniel Tupou, Mitch Aubusson and the BBQ on the left fringe is wreaking havoc for the Roosters, even with Sonny Bill changing sides to the right. Mitch threw a beautifuk around the corner pass to Jennings following a beautiful ball from BBQ to put him through a half gap, enabling MJ to streak away. In space, there isn’t anyone with a quicker turn of pace in the game except for maybe Billy Slater.
We should expect plenty of ball to go out left, for other reasons: Jennings will be as pumped as a porn star post-fluffing to stick it up his former team; while the other option is going right to SKD who’s marked up against the better defender in Lewis Brown.
If they do go right, expect that sensual cut out from SBW to RTS once again, as three-game veteran Travis Robinson might be tempted to come in off the wing and help against the superstar.
There’s also potential line breaks up the middle to be had against a less-than-mobile Panthers forward pack sporting several youngsters. With the incredible effectiveness of JWH’s offloads, there will be opportunities for Jake Friend and the BBQ just wide of the ruck.
Defensively they need to rush their only real “weapon”, Luke Walsh, who put on a masterclass against a school of dunces on Monday with a phenomenally-accurate attacking kicking game.
Team for Round Eight
Matt Moylan, Travis Robinson, Lewis Brown, Dean Whare, David Simmons, Tom Humble, Luke Walsh, Sam McKendry, Kevin Kingston (C), Tim Grant, Sika Manu, Matt Robinson, Nigel Plum. Interchange: (From) Adam Docker, Mose Masoe, James Segeyaro, Clint Newton, Nathan Smith.
Sam McKendry will drop out after it was revealed he has a fractured vertebrae in his neck and will get tests on Friday. Either Sika Manu will move to prop with Newton moved into the second row, or coach Ivan Cleary will start former Rooster and budding accountant Mose Masoe.
The Panthers are missing Lachlan Coote, Josh Mansour, Blake Austin, Brad Tighe, James Roberts and Wes Naiqama in addition to the in-form kiwi front-rower and fellow forward Jeremy Latimore — a list people have also dubbed “the only players in the Panthers team capable of possibly threatening the line against the second-best defence in the competition”.
The team is coming off a huge 44-12 win against a woeful Parramatta squad. And we all know what happens the week after you flog the Eels don’t we?
Yep, apparently you let in 24 second half points and lose.
How they’ll play
Who gives a shit.
Wait, do I really have to analyse how this team will score, with all their best attacking options out?
They do have some attacking weapons left standing, just not many. Dean Whare is deceptively strong and light on his feet, and is playing in the position where he’s most dangerous: right side centre. However, he’s coming up against the strong defence of Michael Jennings in his return game, and as mentioned earlier the Roosters’ centre has missed just two tackles all season.
Matt Moylan looks like a real talent in the Brett Stewart mould. He scored a try and set up two more in his first game of NRL last week. Travis Robinson has blistering speed, Sika Manu is a beast and Mose Masoe will be keen to impress against the team that effectively traded him for the best centre in the league (with Hodges).
But it all comes down to Luke Walsh.
No team depends on their halfback more, and no team depends on a halfback who has more ups and downs than a hooker’s head at Kings Cross.
But his kicking game, when it’s on as it was against the Eels, is among the best in the competition. The chip-kick he put in for the final try of the night on Monday to David Simmons was as good as it gets. Look for chips to the wings, grubbers behind the line and the occasional chip-and-chase from the half.
He is most dangerous when he mixes up his kicking game with a running game, but he runs less than Leituenant Dan post-‘Nam on most days.
Outside Walsh, expect them to use Manu near the line and Whare in broken play.
Another thing to watch is continual ball movement. The Roosters struggled in the back-end of the Dragons game to contain quick back-and-forth ball movement. If the Panthers watched that game, they should attempt the same tactics.
But this is the same team that just let go of Jennings, Michael Gordon and Luke Lewis so they could sign Brent Kite, Jamie Soward and Elijah Taylor. So it’s not exactly a Mensa club at the foot of the Mountains.
This should be a cake-walk, even if you are one of the few people still of the belief that the Roosters are suffering from “the curse of the Fred-bino”.
Overall the Roosters have won 48 of 79 games against the Panthers (one draw) and nine of 16 at Allianz Stadium. But 26 Rounds is still smarting from the 2003 Grand Final and the numerous games where the Panthers dominated us as our bogey squad during the Freddy era. Only a flogging will truly shake away the horrors of those years, and stop this writer from rocking back and forth in the foetal position prior to each of these games.
On paper, the five win Roosters with the best for and against, second best defence and second best attack should completely annihilate A Panthers team with just two wins and the fourth-worst defence. They’ve played hard every single game but are still a world apart from a Roosters team stacked with stars and in red hot form.
With that in mind, 26 Rounds will put $50 on a 13+ Roosters win. But I’m holding onto that pineapple like Jack onto that floating bit of wood following the sinking of the Titanic.
Hopefully the shitty Titanic simile won’t act as the basis for a headline the next day.
Jennings for man of the match. Way to go out on a limb.