Quit the conspiracy talk, North Queensland.
So a Sims got suspended. Big deal. For one, you have another Sims who, granted, has the hands of Ben Pomeroy, but he’s a Sims nonetheless. Second, try living in a world where your starting prop gets barked at all game by the referees, gets sin-binned for saying “bullshit” and charged for no other reason than the match review committee likes the spelling practice that comes with writing his name on a rap sheet. What you call a dodgy suspension, we call “life in support of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves”.
Third, try supporting a club that has given away more penalties than it has received for more than a decade despite five coaches and philosophies walking in and out the door. This is just fact, as irrefutable as gravity and evolution.
Finally, save the conspiracy talk for when there actually is one. For instance, the week after this one when the winner of this game potentially goes down to souffs — amid some dodgy wrestling that would make Vince McMahon blush while a bukkake party rages in the commentary box. Talking up a conspiracy when there isn’t one simply cheapens the argument when a conspiracy occurs.
Keep crying wolf and you’ll get ate.
You’re playing a club with said targeted prop, following said decade of the ref’s arm pointed away from them, and who just had a fair try disallowed in a game they lost by a God-damned point to Jamie Fucking Soward. But you don’t hear us bitching. Much. Well, not as much as we should. I think.
In the end, this game could and should be a pearler, with potentially the end of two eras at the Roosters signalling the start of a premiership run up North, or the prelude to the first finals game between the game’s two biggest rivals since the 1930s.
Just focus on that for an 80 minute period, please, rather than focussing on a non-existent conspiracy. Seriously, if a conspiracy exists to ensure the Roosters make it to the next week, then the NRL is doing a messed up job of playing it out.
TEAM: 1 Anthony Minichiello (c); 2 Daniel Tupou; 3 Michael Jennings; 4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall; 5 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; 6 James Maloney; 7 Mitchell Pearce; 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves; 9 Jake Friend; 10 Sam Moa; 11 Boyd Cordner; 12 Sonny Bill Williams; 13 Aidan Guerra.
Interchange: (From) 14 Mitchell Aubusson; 15 Frank-Paul Nuuausala; 16 Isaac Liu; 17 Rémi Casty; 18 Kane Evans.
Jake Friend has been named to return from injury, and not a week too soon. After being ruled out with internal bleeding and having to go under the knife, Jakey has made it back after missing just two games. Incredible. If John Sattler is a legend for playing with a busted jaw, shit, what the fuck are Shaun Kenny Dowall and Friend? He’s going straight back into a match where he’ll have to face the rampaging likes of tackle-bust fiend Jason Taumalolo and yardage king Matt Scott. And he’ll make 50 tackles.
I hope the media and fans realise what the fuck Jake has just gone through to make it back. Incredible.
The Roosters also welcome back Aidan Guerra, meaning the sudden shortage of players is now limited to the Roosters missing only Dylan Napa, who will be back next week if the Roosters make it through Friday night with a win. As has been the case for the past month or so, Sam Moa will likely drop back to the bench with either Kane Evans or Remi Casty to start — or maybe Robbo will roll the dice with Frank Paul up front to give the Roosters an extra nutter up front as well as some increased agility?
How they’ll play
Well, lets just hope not nearly the same as when they last played the Cowboys. The Roosters were destroyed 42-10 back in Round 10, in their worst loss in the Trent Robinson/SBW era. It left us fans with a weekend full of hangover recovery and just one highlight. This:
They were missing Mitchell Pearce then after the halfback was stood down just prior to Origin I for a well-documented incident at the Cross, but he’ll play in this one — and in the past five weeks MP7 has hit the most complete patch of form he’s displayed in his career. They will need every bit of what he can do this week, and what he’s done of late could be enough.
He’s hitting the line better than he ever has, and scored a scintillating solo effort last week that perfectly encapsulated everything he has become of late — a poised player who knows when to pass and kick, one that is picking the perfect time to hit the line or put one behind it for a repeat set (of which he has 12 this year).
He’s taking it to the line and in the Roosters most recent patch of hot form they have had runners to the left and right, and runners outside those. They are providing him with myriad options and he’s choosing the right one each and every time. Defensively he’s been enormous, chasing down a runaway GI train one week and stopping a line-bound Josh Mansour the next. This is the Pearce we have been hoping for ever since he came to grade.
And, he’s becoming CLUTCH, as his try to almost seal the game last week would attest. It’s just a shame that last week, his teammates weren’t as clutch as he was. The runners weren’t there in the same numbers and they dropped the ball more than an amputee juggler.
But a lot will come down to him and Friend — and to a lesser extent Maloney — and how they exploit the Cowboys’ left edge which leaked three tries in a row against the Broncos. Tautau Moga still looks a step slow, and if anyone knows him, it’s the Roosters. He missed four tackles last week and can be bamboozled with offloads around him, so someone like a roaming Sonny Bill could destroy him, in theory, with Jenko, Toops and Boyd Cordner running angles nearby. Failing that, hit up Kyle Feldt, either with some bombs or some RTS magic feet; the winger missed five tackles last week and can be known to drop a ball under pressure.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
TEAM: 1 Michael Morgan; 2 Kyle Feldt; 3 Tautau Moga; 4 Kane Linnett; 5 Antonio Winterstein; 6 Robert Lui; 7 Johnathan Thurston (c) ; 8 Matt Scott (c); 9 Rory Kostjasyn; 10 Ashton Sims; 11 Gavin Cooper; 12 Glenn Hall; 13 Jason Taumalolo.
Interchange: 14 Ray Thompson; 15 Scott Bolton; 16 Ethan Lowe; 17 James Tamou.
As mentioned already, the Cows have lost resident second row torpedo Tariq Sims for the rest of the year after the second rower received a five-match suspension for a shoulder charge. He’ll never play for the Cowboys again after signing a deal to shift to Newcastle in the offseason.
One gripe the Cows should have is that they were fined this week for what amounts to fuck all — Paul Green simply argued that they don’t have faith in the judiciary system. What’s wrong with that? No-one does, and the only people who do are apparently all on the panel. In light of what the Cows said last year — that the NRL was conspiring for an all-Sydney Grand Final — and they amazingly DIDN’T pay a fine then, surely what Green said was but a whisper by comparison, right?
Whatever. Glenn Hall moves into his spot with the Ghost Catcher, Ethan Lowe — seen hilariously in the Gif above — moving onto the bench.
The Cows have been in incredible form of late including a statement win away from home, a 22-10 win against the Bunnies to kick off their current four-game winning streak, which has seen them beat three top-eight sides and two from the top four. Regardless, they have typically struggled away from home this year which should give the Roosters some hope.
How they’ll play
Shaun Kenny-Dowall will be in for quite the night. He’s facing Jonathan Thurston who has hit career form of late, with much of the gravy he’s cooked up coming in combination with the left-side attack. He set up the first two tries down that edge last week and has 33 try assists for the year, but more than that, he’s picking the right time to go for the play or set up for the drop-out. The ball is on a string and he’s controlling it like Gentry Stein.
You know, the world Yo Yo Champion? No? Regardless, JT is playing with equivalent championship control right now, teaming up with former Grand Final Chook Kane Linnett and former Chook junior Antonio Winterstein out there.
SKD tends to come up early in defence to shut down the sweep plays, but the Cows have been playing a flatter attack and JT — much like MP7 — has two runners on either side actively attacking each time he has the ball out in front. Skiddzy has been among our best this year without question, but this will be by far his toughest test all year.
To compound it all, that prick in the number six jersey, Robert Lui, has been playing outstanding footy for them, with he and JT switching between first and second receiver. It’s kept defences guessing and Lui has picked some decent options of late. Fucker.
I’ve never seen Roosters fans as nervous as this week. Literally as little as a week ago, we were daydreaming of becoming the first team to go back-to-back since the ’90s Broncos after opening up a 20-point lead against the Rabbitohs without Jake Friend. Yet we put in our worst effort for more than a month, have a try disallowed and make some fundamental errors and lose by a solitary point and all of a sudden we’re worried about being out in straight sets?
Relax people. If we lose, we lose. It’s not the end of the world, after all: we’re still the 2013 premiers and we’ll always have that. But we can win this, and I think we will.
Up until last week the Roosters looked energised. They hit a speed hump, is all, and they get back the best player to navigate those speed humps in Jake. His service has been sorely missed, his short kicking game especially: it opens up so much around him and provides an unpredictable flair to what the Roosters can offer in attack.
The fact we lost last week was not shocking. The fact fans are so deflated is. This writer was one of them, but the naming of Friend combined with Pearcey’s form and the belief that we surely can’t play that bad two weeks in a row again, especially with the season and the Mini and SBW eras on the line, has that confidence boosted back to pre-Finals levels.
Roosters 1-12. Get to the game and watch it for yourself.
Man of the Match will be Pearce. I am loving every moment watching him recently. He’s becoming everything we ever hoped he would be, and a win here would just drive it home.