Round 20 in the NRL is Rivalry Round, and brings three Sydney derbies and plenty of former players coming up against their old clubs. It all gets underway on Friday night at ANZ Stadium where the Canterbury Bulldogs will be looking to complete the double over the Parramatta Eels. Tony Williams plays the 100th game of his NRL career, and it happens to be against the team for whom he debuted in 2008.
Josh Morris, Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano all return to add strength and size to the Bulldogs team sheet, while Mitch Allgood and Ken Sio are back for the Eels. Parramatta are now fully focussed on 2014, and the recruitment process stepped up another notch this week with the signing of Nathan Peats from Souths.
Eels fans should remember that this is a reciprocal home game for members, so all those with ticketed memberships gain entry to the stadium. The Eels merchandise stall will also be offering 30% of all items upon presentation of you membership card. These savings in the wallet might be all that Eels fans take away from this encounter as the Bulldogs – eight wins from the last eleven games – look to extend Parramatta’s losing streak to nine.
It’s all about Josh Dugan on Saturday night as the St George Illawarra Dragons fullback faces the club who sacked him earlier this year. There is a good chance that the ‘booze brothers’ will meet up again as, although the Canberra Raiders have not named Blake Ferguson to play, he is expected to take the field at WIN Stadium.
Dugan lit the fuse for this encounter on Monday by claiming he was unfairly treated by the Raiders. He was quoted as saying that he had been ‘thrown on the scrap heap’, and while not all will sympathise with someone who breached his clubs alcohol policy on a regular basis, it certainly has been an incredible turnaround for Dugan. After having his contract terminated at the start of the season and working as a labourer in Canberra, he is now in line for a big contract at the Dragons and has just come back from State of Origin duty for New South Wales. He can expect a feisty reception from the travelling fans, but that is only going to spur him on if anything.
The Dragons will be looking to build upon their huge upset win over table topping South Sydney on Monday night. Not such good news this week however was the season ending pectoral muscle injury suffered by Matt Cooper after an awkward fall in that match. The injury could in fact prove career ending as Cooper is off contract at the end of the year. Daniel Vidot steps in for this match, and a good performance there should see him keep his place for the remaining games. Those attending the match can look forward to a triple header, with the NSW Cup match kicking off at 13:10.
Sunday afternoon in the Shire sees Cronulla Sharks face off against the Penrith Panthers. The Sharks are well backed favourites for this encounter, although it’s difficult to see why. Last week they were demolished 40-0 by the Roosters, and the ASADA investigation into the use of supplements is back in the spotlight this week with player interviews now imminent. Wade Graham and Jeff Robson are the only players returning from a lengthy injury list that still contains the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Beau Ryan.
The Panthers will fancy their chances at Remondis Stadium, and will possibly be lifted by not having to face their former captain Lewis. Despite last week’s loss to Newcastle the Panthers have shown themselves to be a solid team this year, and not much is made of their injury list even though it is as long as any other club in the NRL. It speaks volumes for how coach Ivan Cleary has built a roster of team players all pulling in one direction.
With a family friendly afternoon kick off, Sunday is Family Fun Day for Sharks fans. There are plenty of activities in and around the stadium, as well as some discounted family tickets on offer. Now, more than any other time this season, the Sharks need their fans to stick by them and make sure that a promising season does not fall away under the mounting external pressure.
Rivalry Round concludes on Monday night at Campbelltown Stadium, with Wests Tiger facing the Manly Sea Eagles. There are plenty of reasons for Tigers fans to get sentimental for this clash. Skipper Robbie Farah plays his 200th game for the club, and Liam Fulton plays his 150th. Meanwhile, after making their final appearances at Leichardt Oval last week, departing Tigers Benji Marshall and Blake Ayshford farewell Campbelltown Stadium this time around. This match also represents Manly’s first visit to Campbelltown in 15 years.
The are some great offers for Tigers fans looking to get out to this match on Monday, with under 16’s getting free entry with a paying adult in general admission areas (one free entry per paying adult). There is also 10% of merchandise on the night, and check the Tigers website for player appearances at retail outlets this week where free match tickets are available with purchases over $50.00.
Aaron Woods joins Keith Galloway on the sidelines this week, although both are expected back very soon. Geoff Toovey brings his improving team over to Campbelltown, where he captained the Eagles on that day 15 years ago when they last visited. As always seems to be the case with Manly, their big players are coming into form at the right stage of the season, and they will look to strengthen their grip on a top four position.
On to AFL action and Sunday evening at the SCG sees the Sydney Swans taking on the Richmond Tigers. The Swans currently sit in fourth place on the ladder, just ahead of Fremantle and Richmond. At this stage of the season this is a game they really do not want to lose to a rival so close behind, while a win gives them some breathing space in the top four and means they can take on their remaining fixtures looking at teams above them rather than those hovering below. Already missing a number of key players, the Swans will be relieved that Ryan O’Keefe has been cleared to play after suffering a head knock last week.
The Swans are on a hot streak of four wins, and have also won the last six meetings between the two sides at the SCG. However, don’t expect a goal fest in this twilight fixture – these teams are two of the three best defensive teams this season. If you want to end your weekend on great note with a night out at the footy make sure you get in quick for tickets, general admission has sold out already but reserved seating is still available in all categories.
So Sydney has the pick of five big games across the football codes this week, and each has its own subplots running right through. With pretty fair weather on the horizon, and plenty of attractive ticket offers around too, make sure you get out to a game this weekend. Also, check out the links below for horse racing at Randwick and WWE wrestling at Allphones Arena – if that’s your thing!
Friday 26th July, ANZ Stadium 19:35
Canterbury Bulldogs V Parramatta Eels
The Bulldogs are looking to complete the season double over the Eels after a win in round two. Tony Williams plays the 100th game of his NRL career, against the team for whom he debuted in 2008. Josh Morris, Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano all return for the Bulldogs, while Mitch Allgood and Ken Sio are back for the Eels. Ticketed memberships for the away side are valid for this match at ANZ Stadium, and Eels members can also claim 30% off merchandise on the night.
Our tip – Every week you get the feeling that this could be the one where the Eels finally pull one out of the bag, but it just doesn’t happen. Expect more of the same against the in form Bulldogs.
Saturday 27th July, WIN Stadium 17:30
St George Illawarra Dragons v Canberra Raiders
Josh Dugan faces the club who sacked him earlier this year, and will likely come up against his ‘booze brother’ Blake Ferguson. The Raiders have an incredible record against the Dragons – they have won the last eight encounters between the two. Gates open at 13:00 for NSW Cup, Holden U20’s Cup and finally the NRL kick off at 17:30
Our tip – After Monday night’s heroics against Souths this could be the night for the Dragons to end Canberra’s dominance of this fixture.
Sunday 28th July, Remondis Stadium 14:00
Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers
The Sharks will be looking to rebound from the 40-0 hammering from the Roosters last week. Wade Graham and Jeff Robson return to alleviate some of their injury toll, but the likes of Gallen, Lewis and Ryan are still out. Get down early to Remondis Stadium for Family Fun Day activities and discounted family tickets.
Our tip – Penrith to keep the pressure on the Sharks.
Monday 29th July, Campbelltown Stadium 19:00
Wests Tigers v Manly Sea Eagles
Skipper Robbie Farah plays his 200th game for the Tigers, and Liam Fulton plays his 150th. After making their final appearances at Leichardt Oval last week, departing Tigers Benji Marshall and Blake Ayshford farewell Campbelltown Stadium on Monday night. Under 16’s get in free with a paying adult in general admission, and there is also 10% of merchandise on the night.
Our tip – Manly to emerge victorious, just as they did on their last visit to Campbelltown 15 years ago.
Other Sydney teams – South Sydney are away at Gold Coast, while the Roosters travel to Newcastle. Souths will be looking to silence those who are suggesting the injury to Greg Inglis will derail their Premiership bid, will the Roosters look like strong favourites to keep the pressure on their rivals with victory over the Knights.
Sunday 28th July, SCG 16:40
Sydney Swans v Richmond Tigers
Fourth plays sixth in this twilight fixture, with a home win the usual outcome when these two face off. There are no players returning from injury for the Swans, but at least Ryan O’Keefe avoided joining those currently ruled out of action. General admission tickets have already sold out but reserved seating is still available in all categories.
Our tip – The Swans to continue their current good form against a spirited Tigers side.
GWS Giants face the enormous task of overcoming Collingwood at the MCG this weekend. The Magpies are certain to come out all guns blazing after last week’s shock loss to The Gold Coast Suns.
Saturday 27th July, Allphones Arena
John Cena, Ryback, Kane and others take to the ring at Allphones Arena. Only a limited number of Bronze category tickets are still available priced around $50.00 each. As long as you don’t take things too seriously, this can be a fun and entertaining night out.
Saturday 27th July, Royal Randwick Racecourse
YPR Race Day