The Wests Tigers are just like the movie Wild Hogs: shithouse.
If you thought that movie reference lacked imagination, spare a thought for the Tigers’ attack. They score just a point more per game (14.9) than the Roosters’ average differential (13.9). They lost to Parramatta, who broke a 10-game losing streak against them. And on top of that, they are what appears to be the worst-run club in the NRL.
Evidence? They are currently paying the salaries of two head coaches and a portion of Andrew Fifita’s. And they may be about to pay for a third head coach.
Meanwhile, the Roosters had arguably their worst game of the year last week and still won by six, and seem destined for their first minor premiership since 2004 with an easy run home that includes these clowns. They’ve won more games consecutively leading into this game than the Tigers have won all year.
So the only real question is how much the Roosters will win by.
Team for Round 23: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Mitchell Aubusson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Aidan Guerra, Sonny Bill Wiliams, Frank-Paul Nu’uasala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Tinirau Arona, Dylan Napa, Isaac Liu.
Mitchell Pearce has been named co-captain in his 150th match, and will lead the club out alongside Jake Friend. Here’s hoping the Roosters make it through this week without losing a captain to injury, which as you know has happened the past two weeks.
Speaking of injured captains, Boyd Cordner has been ruled out for a minimum of six weeks, meaning Aidan Guerra will start his second straight match following the injury to regular captain Anthony Minichiello. However, Sonny Bill Williams returns from his two-game suspension for a high-shot on Willie Mason which will offset the loss of Boyd somewhat.
Luke O’Donnell has again not been named but this writer was told on Monday he would play this week following a week off with the flu; however, it may also be Robbo’s best chance to rest the 32-year-old LOD against a weak opponent before the finals. With Mini still out, The Sheck gets another start at fullback while Mitch Aubusson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall retain their spots on the right fringe.
The Roosters are aiming for their eighth-straight win, their longest such streak since 2002 when they won nine straight, including the Grand Final. For the record, the longest streak including winning the Grand Final was Manly (1972) and Souths (1955), who both won the Grand Final with 11-game streaks. The Roosters also remain just one nil-against scoreline away from holding the record of holding teams to nil — which they share with the 1977 Roosters squad at the moment with five — all to themselves.
Oh, and another milestone is around the corner! I almost forgot!
The Roosters are on track to be the most penalised team (based on average penalties against per game) since the Parramatta squad from 1996, which averaged 8.62 penalties per game. The Roosters are averaging 8.45 per game (0.12 per game ahead of the 2004 Manly squad), and have won just three of 20 counts all year.
For fuck’s sake.
How they’ll play
As they always do: down the left. Former Roosters junior Blake Ayshford — Cronulla bound next year — is a solid defender and played lock in his junior days, but David Nofoaluma could be found out in defence. The youngster has a lot to learn in that aspect of his game and last week the Eels — yes, the fuckin’ Eels — scored three tries down his flank. He missed four tackles in that game, and he averages over two a match from the wing. Daniel could score a double at the very least if given decent ball from his inside men. He scored his first hat-trick in the corresponding game last year, a game in which Robbie Farah was also missing.
They could also go out right, and while that side might be fraught with danger, the rewards could be huge.
Let me explain.
Tim Simona can grab an intercept with the best of them, and his speed in picking up a loose ball and racing away is well established. Therefore, cutouts should be avoided and putting the ball out to that wing, where SKD averages a drop a match, could result in a runaway try.
However, he races off his line and hasn’t totally mastered the art of that part of the game, and quick hands could result in an easy try out there to either Aubo or Skiddzy. To wit, watch Tim Simona race off the line and aim really at no-one (he’s the second-widest):
If the Roosters play deep enough and entice the youngster with what appears to be low-hanging fruit, SKD could literally stroll over through some quick decision-making from the Roosters’ second five-eighth, Sonny-Bill Williams.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Aidan Guerra can fill that second-decoy role on the left side of the ruck that Cordner had made his own since Origin as well, but either way Pearce could go one short or drop it back to Maloney, or drift across and hit Jenko as he did last week. God dammit, that left side attack is just so frikkin’ lethal.
Jake Friend should also decimate the slow marker play when Adam Blair or Keith Galloway are in the vicinity.
Team for Round 23: James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Blake Ayshford, Tim Simona, Lote Tuqiri , Benji Marshall, Braith Anasta, Keith Galloway, Joel Luani, Adam Blair, Liam Fulton, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Suaso Sue. Interchange: Ava Seumanufagai, Jack Buchanan, Bodene Thompson, Curtis Sironen, Masada Iosefa, Sean Spence, Matt Bell.
The Tigers have been hit hard by injury towards the end of their worst season since the Terry Lamb administration, with Aaron Woods and Marika Korobiete out for the season, while Robbie Farah is still out with a dislocated knuckle (OUCH!).
They also have been subjected to (Benji) Marshall Law lately which can’t be great for morale at the struggling club — but Mick Potter, who is under enormous pressure reportedly to keep his job beyond the year, has refused to drop the half with just four games left in his NRL career.
It’s all this crap that has led to the TAB making them an unbelievable $9 outsiders earlier in the week against the Roosters’ $1.06. Yikes. Essentially we’re Australia in the Rugby League World Cup, and they’re fuckin’ Georgia.
If the Tigers lose their remaining games they will finish as the worst season in the club’s merged history. They’ve won just six games (in 2002-2003 they won seven games a season) and have averaged just 14.9 points a match this year while conceding 26.6.
But Lote Tuqiri gets the start for his first game of the year while Braith Anasta makes his return to Allianz in his first game against the Roosters since the preseason, at halfback.
So there’s that.
How they’ll play
They have some exciting young players and they used quick passing through the hands for each of their four tries last week. Nofoaluma is sometimes impossible to tackle and if given an inch of room could find his way over: he has eight tries in his 11 matches this year as well as an incredible 64 tackle busts in that time at an average of 5.8 a match. Toops and Jenko are going to need to be on their game from as far out as 40 metres.
Simona is as elusive and quick as it gets: in 13 games he has eight tries, 40 tackle busts (3.1 p/g) and nine line breaks. If the Roosters give away a penalty in their first defensive set, look for one of these guys for first tryscorer.
Other than that, who the heck knows. Seriously, this team is a rabble.
Anything less than a 13+ win here would be a disappointment, but I’ll go one further: anything less than a 30 point win would be a shock. After their poor showing last week against a semi-decent team they would have been given a workout by Trent Robinson at training all week, and despite losing Boyd they welcome back the explosive power of Sonny Bill, who will rip in after two weeks on the sidelines.
The Tigers have been one monumental flop this year and they’ve lost their one player who can be relied on this year to provide direction and attacking spark in Farah. They’ve lost five in a row, just two shy of the merged club’s longest-ever losing streak, and they certainly will not win here unless Benji explodes for the rarest of 2013 games for him i.e. a good one.
There are points in this Tigers squad but they are going to struggle to score more than two tries if they score at all, especially against a league-best defensive team that prides itself on holding their line but leaked 22 points last week — a team that will be keen to make up for that aberration.
Man of the Match will be Sonny Bill Williams, who could dominate this game before getting an early rest. There is no one individual on this team who can contain him, no combination of individuals either, and the defensive structure at the Tigers is absolutely non-existent.