What a crazy week it’s been. Konrad Hurrell copped a Leilua then pulled a Leilua, in the process making the most significant Koni viral video since the 2012 equivalent.
We had a homophobic slur in the same game that a dispshit wrote “brothers c–t” on the band on his arm when the damn game was televised, both players proving once and for all that you don’t have to have a long neck to be a dickhead.
Kane Evans copped a headbutt and two old guys got into a punch-up, with the current Roosters fan of the two old coots knocking the teeth out of the former Roosters fan to make him more resemble the rest of the fans at his new club.
Can Friday come quickly enough? Fourth versus fifth. The second most penalised team versus the third most penalised team. Woods versus Moa, and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves versus the world.
And a potential flogging that may boil over and explode
like little Koni as the underdogs do whatever they deem necessary in an attempt to rattle the more fancied opponents.
Team for Round 9: Anthony Minichiello, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams, Aidan Guerra. Interchange: (From) Frank-Paul Nu’uasala, Mitchell Aubusson, Isaac Liu, Remi Casty, Daniel Mortimer, Dylan Napa.
The Roosters have named both James Maloney and Michael Jennings despite both players walking off the field injured in their last-start 34-14 flogging of the Dragons.
Coach Trent Robinson has said that both will play, meaning the Roosters will be at full strength for the first time this year with Remi Casty — the Roosters’ lone major off-season signing — slated to make his debut at long last. He’s been named on an extended bench but in jumper 17. The French prop has struggled with a calf injury but has played the past three weeks for Newtown.
The Roosters have owned the Tigers for a number of years now, essentially since Braith’s field goal. Last year they decimated the merged entity 56-14 and beat them twice the year before when they finished well outside the eight. In short, the Roosters have the wood on these guys, and that will only be exacerbated by the sheer amount of injuries the Tigers face.
How they’ll play
Everyone is expecting a huge game from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, this writer included, after Steve Kearney amazingly did not pick the prop for even a spot on the bench for the Kiwis. From all reports, the Roosters players have seen a focus in his eyes that probably has been missing a little bit this year, and he’s set to unleash against an understrength Tigers pack.
I’m predicting a huge game from the big boppa, who is slowly returning back to form and was excellent last week in (arguably) the Roosters’ best game of the season. I expect 22 hitups, 190 metres, two offloads and 35 tackles from a man who is more fired up than a horny Gaz with Mini’s mobile.
In attacking plays, expect a lot — A LOT — of traffic directed at Luke Brooks. He leads the NRL in missed tackles (per NRL.com) and makes just 1.91 tackles for every miss.
He’s the future at halfback for NSW, but right now he’s a work in progress. He’s too small and doesn’t have a technique to speak of, and against the Warriors — a team with a similar sized pack to the Roosters and with just as many Kiwis — he missed 10 tackles and made just nine.
They’ll test out David Nofoaluma as well. The winger can get airborne and is usually relatively safe under the high ball — he has just four errors this year — but against the Warriors he showed a propensity to come in off his wing and also to chase kicks behind the line while making two errors to boot. He’s up against Tupou and Jenko this week — Tupou has been touted as an Origin star and Jennings who somehow, amazingly, is under pressure to retain his Origin spot.
And is this the game that SBW finally explodes? He is back to talking about “the one per centers” and “earning the boys’ respect” which we haven’t heard all year (he hasn’t done many interviews, but still).
He’s been very good without crossing into greatness, and while greatness shouldn’t be defined with how you play against an injury riddled squad it should certainly help with the confidence needed to get back on that path. He hasn’t broken the line yet, but should be able to find a way through against Brooks, Austin and Lulia.
Team for Round 8: Kurtis Rowe, David Nofoaluma, Keith Lulia, Chris Lawrence, Pat Richards, Blake Austin, Luke Brooks, Aaron Woods, Joel Luani, Keith Galloway, Liam Fulton, Bodene Thompson, Adam Blair. Interchange: Martin Taupau, Ava Semanafagai, Corey Paterson, Sitaleki Akauola.
The Tigers are certainly struggling with injury, as Mitch (@niles1991) never fails to inform me as he endeavours to preface the result with an excuse. And to be fair, the injuries are significant.
Out are James Tedesco, Robbie Farah, James Gavet, Tim Simona and Braith Anasta, among others — or roughly three quarters of the spine, one limb and one leg.
Blake Austin steps into the vacant five-eighth spot with Keith Lulia replacing Simona in the centres. Liam Fulton will captain the squad with Farah out and until he gets concussed.
The Tigers have been the most unlikely top four team this year after this writer and many experts predicted them for the wooden spoon. They head into this game with a 5-3 record… but man, are they battered by injuries. They lost last week to the Titans and lost even more players to injury, and they face a Roosters squad with a pack that has PLENTY to prove thanks to representative snubs and mixed form outside of their last win on Anzac Day.
Tigers fans are expecting a slaughter, as are many Roosters fans — but stranger things have happened, especially this season. You need evidence?
The Tigers are in the top four.
How they’ll play
They are down a swathe players; players that are critical to this squad scoring points. They have the smaller forward pack, and are down their key strike weapon out wide. They are the second most penalised team in the competition and playing the third-most penalised.
They will try and ruffle the Roosters. Big time.
The trick worked a treat against the Bunnies when Aaron Woods, Marty Taupau et. al. baited the Burgii into repeated penalties and threw them off their game, turning Surgii and Gurgii into caricatures of their sorry bunch of fans when shit doesn’t go their way and distracting them as well as a laser pointer distracts a dog.
The Tigers won that game 25-16 in a scoreline that flattered the losers, and the Tigers have even more incentive to get under the opposition skin this time because they don’t have the cattle at the moment to win it with skill.
The Roosters were ambushed last year through overly aggressive play from the Sharks and Titans in rounds 24 and 25 last year, and Mick Potter will remember it. They will niggle, they will woop it up after every hit and they will do everything they can to throw off their more fancied opponents — twisting in tackles on the ground, laying down that extra second on the tackled player even at the cost of a penalty just to frustrate them, and hitting the attacking kickers just that little bit late.
Sonny Bill would be the likely target, with JWH a close second and Pearce/Maloney tied for a distant third.
Oh yeah, and Brooks will do some kicking, Austin some running and Woods will undertake several hitups.
The Tigers really have nothing to lose in this game, and there is a lot to fear in a team with fuck all to give but the middle finger to caution. The Roosters will start heavy favourites ($1.26 per Centrebet) against the team that is a spot above them on the ladder and they will be absolutely fired up — which only means the Tigers, led by Taupau, Woods, Thompson and Blair, have to be even firey-er. More firey?
Regardless, I don’t think it will work. The Roosters would have learned a shitload from last year’s ambushes from the Titans and Sharks, and even more from the capitulation of the Burgii in round three. If they can stay on their game, they simply have too much skill across the park that is rounding into form, even accounting for the injury Maloney is carrying.
This season has been crazy, but we are seeing the balance of power return to the league with the predicted powerhouses returning to form and the predicted also-rans regressing to the mean.
With that in mind, Roosters by 30+.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will have a huge game, but SBW will be man of the match. He is long overdue for a Sonny Bill-type game, and it should come on the fringes with four-plus offloads and even a try or two. It’s time.