With the State of Origin decider looming just over the horizon, this weekend’s round of NRL action is limited to just four matches. With only two of those matches taking place in Sydney it is the perfect window for the AFL and the Sydney derby to take centre stage.
Over time Sydney’s AFL derby will surely become far closer than it is today. The Sydney Swans are obviously massive favourites in this round 16 clash – the first to be staged at the SCG – to the point where the price quoted by the TAB for victory over GWS Giants is $1.01. That’s right, to win just a single dollar betting on the Swans this weekend you need to stake one hundred.
Looking beyond the obviously one sided nature of the contest, fans can at least look forward to a potentially high scoring game. The Swans have scored at least 100 points in each of their three contests so far with GWS, while the Giants will be looking to get close to the 76 points they scored in the reverse fixture back in March.
Despite the low key nature of round 18 in the NRL there is still a Sydney derby and a Grand Final rematch to look forward to. Saturday night sees the Parramatta Eels taking on the Penrith Panthers in the ‘Battle of the West’ at Parramatta stadium. The Eels are desperate to restore some kind of pride into their season. Monday night saw them concede 50 points in a match for the second time this season – in fact they have now conceded 30 points or more in nine of their matches this season.
While the Eels have failed to deliver on the promise and optimism of pre-season and the introduction of new coach Ricky Stuart, the Panthers have arguably exceeded expectations by making their way to mid-table and finals contention. It has been a season of two halves up to now for Ivan Cleary’s side, winning six of their last eight games after a disappointing start.
Canterbury Bulldogs coach Des Hasler will make history on Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium when he becomes just the second man (after fellow Manly legend Bob Fulton) to play 250 first grade games and to coach in 250 as well. In a purely coincidental but highly ironic twist, his opponent on this momentous occasion is the Melbourne Storm – whom he has faced in all four of his Grand Final encounters as a coach.
The edge has certainly been taken off this Grand Final rematch by the impact of State of Origin selections. As a result we miss out on the prospect of James Graham and Billy Slater facing off for the first time since the biting scandal in last year’s decider. The Storm always struggle without the so called Big Three of Cronk, Slater and Smith, and with Ryan Hoffman now a part of the NSW side the Bulldogs should surely register what will be their first ever win against the Storm in a match played at ANZ Stadium.
Super Rugby fans get their own taste of NSW v QLD rivalry this weekend when the Waratahs take on the Reds at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. Six weeks have passed since the last Super Rugby fixture for the ‘Tahs, and both sides could be forgiven for being a bit rusty after the Lions test series. Interstate pride is all that is at stake in this final match of the regular season, with Michael Cheika’s side sadly out of contention for a finals spot and the Reds already confirmed as a wildcard. Fingers crossed the blues can finish their season on high and set up a great week of NSW triumph.
Team news and ticketing information for all of these matches are below, enjoy the action wherever you are this weekend.
Saturday 13th July
Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers, Parramatta Stadium 17:30
Ricky Stuart had little option but to make changes to his side after another thrashing last week, the headline move being the dropping of Chris Sandow to reserve grade. Ben Roberts and Luke Kelly are the new halves pairing, while Willie Tonga and Fuifui Moimoi make their returns. Jarryd Hayne is on the verge of recovering from his hamstring injury, but misses this week and the Origin decider at least. Mitchell Allgood misses the first of a two game suspension for punching Manly centre Steve Matai. Penrith have made just one change to their starting side with Lewis Brown taking the place of Clint Newton.
Tickets are available at the above link, and there is a meal deal available with general admission tickets that can be redeemed at Legend’s Lounge inside Parramatta Leagues Club prior to the NRL kick off. There is minimum $5.00 surcharge on all tickets bought at the venue on the day, so book now and save cash. Those arriving early can also take in the NSW Cup and Under 20’s games from 13.10, with the first grade kick off at 17:30.
Our tip – Time for the Eels to step up and give the fans reason to be proud of their team.
Sunday 14th July
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm, ANZ Stadium 15:00
The Bulldogs lose Josh Morris and Josh Reynolds to State of Origin duty, but they do welcome back Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood from injury. The Storm are the team who are perhaps most affected when Origin comes around, with their cluster of Queensland stalwarts in the key positions.
Our tip – The Bulldogs will be too strong for a Storm team missing so many vital players.
Other Sydney teams
Cronulla Sharks are away at Suncorp Stadium against the Brisbane Broncos, while the Manly Sea Eagles travel to Townsville to face the North Queensland Cowboys. The impact of Origin on both Queensland teams gives both Sydney teams a great chance to register victories in what are usually tough road trips. There are byes this week for the Roosters, Dragons, Tigers and Souths.
Sunday 14th July
Sydney Swans v GWS Giants, SCG 13:10
Sam Reid misses the first of what could be the next six week of football for the Swans after suffering a reoccurrence of his quadriceps injury. He joins the likes of Adam Goodes and Lewis Jetta on the sidelines. On a more positive note for the Swans midfielder Craig Bird is set to make his 100th appearance for the club. The Giants will be looking to build upon their solid performance last weekend in Canberra, where they fell just 4 points short of the Western Bulldogs.
Our Tip – A comfortable wins for the Swans, but the Giants to provide some entertainment.
Saturday 13th July
NSW Waratahs v QLD Reds, ANZ Stadium 19:40
James Horwill and Will Genia both returned from Wallabies duty with injuries and will not be risked by the Reds with a finals match just a week away. The hamstring injury suffered by Israel Folau against the Lions also keeps him out for the Waratahs, although he is expected to recover in time for the opening Bledisloe Cup encounter in August. All pre-purchased tickets include public transport to and from the stadium.
Our tip – Waratahs to finish their season on a high against a Reds team with more than half an eye on the finals.
Horse Racing at Warwick Farm, Saturday 13th July