There are two matches on Saturday that will go a long way to determining the NRL finals hopes of three Sydney clubs, and both games have the potential to be just as exciting as what we saw last night. In AFL action at ANZ Stadium the Sydney Swans were chased down by Hawthorn – who secured the Minor Premiership in the process, while in the NRL there was a classic at Allianz Stadium between Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The bunnies Minor Premiership hopes appeared in tatters until two tries late in the first half set them on track for a turnaround that was finished off in style by Luke Burgess scoring the very first try of his career. With Sam also scoring earlier in the game, it capped a great night for the Burgess brothers as all four played in the same game for the first time. The win for Souths has set up perfectly next Friday nights blockbuster against the Roosters as a decider for the Minor Premiership.
Saturdays NRL action in Sydney begins with Canterbury Bulldogs and Penrith Panthers meeting at ANZ Stadium in what is the first encounter between the two clubs since round 1 2012. The Bulldogs are missing some of their strength in the forward pack, with Frank Pritchard serving the first of a two match ban for a shoulder charge and Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood still injured. Ben Barba – who confirmed his switch to the Broncos earlier in the week – is also still sidelined, although Josh Morris has impressed at fullback since switching from the centres to cover Barba.
The Panthers have named an unchanged line up from last week’s victory over the Broncos. James Segeyaro is proving to be an extraordinary weapon from the bench – last week he managed a hat trick of tries and carried the ball just under 100 metres in just 55 minutes of action.
A win for the Bulldogs secures their place in the finals and a home game in the first week. Defeat for Penrith leaves their hopes hanging by a thread, and if certain results go against them later in the weekend they could be out of contention. Whatever the outcome, Penrith have exceeded expectations this year and coach Ivan Cleary was rewarded this week with a contract extension.
At the end of the game supporters are encouraged to stay behind for Fans on the Field. Other benefits for Members Appreciation Round include discounts on food and drink, merchandise and car parking for all ticketed members, and all match tickets include return rail travel for both sets of fans.
Later on Saturday is the next instalment of the fiercest rivalry in the modern game. Whenever Manly Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm face each other it is always a closely fought battle – sometimes literally as was the case in the ‘Battle of Brookvale’ in 2011. In round ten this year the two sides could not be separated after extra time, and this draw actually represents Manly’s best result this season against a top four side.
Brett Stewart is in line for a return from a niggling hamstring injury, but Anthony Watmough will have to rest his troublesome knee. Tom Symonds also returns from injury after seven weeks on the sidelines. Jorge Taufua is fit but is serving a two game suspension imposed by the club. Little is known about the offence in question other than it occurred during pre-season. It must be something quite serious for the club to impose such a strict sanction on their top try scorer at this stage of the season.
The Sea Eagles will need to be at the top of their game defensively against a team who have scored 60 points in a game twice this month. As always seems to be the case with the Storm, once the Origin period was out of the way they have got back to their clinical best. A win for Manly secures their place in the top four, and depending on the margin of victory they could leapfrog the Storm into third place heading into the final round.
Saturday 31st August, ANZ Stadium Homebush 17:30
Canterbury Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers
Saturday 31st August, Brookvale Oval 19:30
Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm