Jamie Anderson, NRL.com
Wests Tigers v Newcastle Knights
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, June 29
Summary: Exciting halfback Luke Brooks returns to the NSW Cup after a few weekends in the Holden Cup for the Wests Tigers and as a consequence, Eddie Paea shifts back to a utility role on Paul Fletcher’s bench. Inspirational Tigers Captain Sean Meaney also comes back to the VB NSW Cup from the NRL which pushes Jy Hitchcox back into the centres where he will face dual international Timana Tahu. Rick Stone’s Knights aren’t without their own key inclusions with Adam Cuthbertson, Korbin Sims and Josh Mantellato all being named for the TV game. For us, the Knights are the sleeping giant of the competition. We hear you say “but they are second on the table!” Hear us out. They have gone about their business quietly and are happy for the undefeated Sharks to take all the accolades but the Knights must be applauded for how well they are going considering how many team changes they have been going through of late. Should Rick Stone and his men get some consistency in key positions, then they will be a force to be reckoned with come finals time.
Talking Point: Representative selection – Both sides have players which feature heavily in VB NSW Cup Representative selection calculation. There is no better time to put your hand up for a rep jumper than live on national television. We can’t wait to see who will fire up.
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1
Prediction: The Tigers look better with Brooks in control but we think the beefed up Knights get the job done. Knights by eight points.
Mounties v Newtown Jets
Mt Pritchard Sports Ground, Saturday, June 29
Summary: Awful news during the week for Bluebags fans with Kane Evans facing a long stint on the sidelines due to a nasty leg injury. Evans has been a sensation throughout the first half of the season and he was almost a certainty to feature in the VB NSW Cup Representative side. The Jets look fortunate to be able to cover for Evans as recent NRL debutant Dylan Napa returns for them this week. Mounties have again named a strong side boasting plenty of NRL experience including Shaun Berrigan, Jake Foster and Sam Williams. The Raiders have also sent NYC star Jack Ahearn up to play some open age football which means David Furner has big plans for the Valley Dragons product. The Jets will welcome the inclusion of livewire hooker Nafe Seluini after he featured in the NRL last weekend. Greg Matterson seems to have reached the perfect equilibrium with Seluini and starting hooker Kurt Kara. Kara’s strong defensive game suits the early minutes and Seluini’s illusiveness is best served in the latter stages of the halves. Mounties have a monster forward pack and must pay special attention to Seluini when he trots onto Mt Pritchard Sports Ground.
Talking Point: The reinforcements have arrived – We are starting to enter what we call the silly season. It is the final days before the June 30 deadline and it is now when all the player movements start to get frantic. The Raiders/Mounties partnership has thrown their hat into the ring purchasing former Warrior Bill Tupou and former Western Force/Gold Coast Titan Jordan Rapana. Tupou may play his first game in Mounties colours if David Furner doesn’t thrust him straight into the NRL, while we hear Rapana is a definite starter for Steve Antonelli’s men.
Referee: Matt Noyen
Prediction: Evans is a big loss and we get the feeling Mounties are ready to make a charge up the VB NSW Cup ladder. Mounties by four points.
Manly Sea Eagles v Windsor Wolves
Brookvale Oval, Saturday, June 29
Summary: This column called for the shift of Manly player Dane Chisholm from fullback to five-eighth and that is exactly what happened last weekend. With the inclusion of NSW Under-20s fullback Clinton Gutherson, Chisholm moved into the No.6 jersey and it was the best the Manly side has looked all year. Despite playing in torrential rain, Manly completed set after set and outshone the Bulldogs in every facet of the game. Williamson has stuck with the same spine for this match so we will be interested to see how they go against one of the form teams in the competition, the Windsor Wolves. The Wolves will be out to revenge following their 22-20 Round 7 loss at the Windsor Sports Complex. Panthers winger Travis Robinson has been named on the wing for the Wolves after an outstanding stint in the NRL for Ivan Cleary. His sturdiness under the high ball and classy finishing will be exactly what Garth Brennan needs. Robinson’s inclusion also pushes George Jennings into his more preferred centre position where he will partner experienced operator, Geoff Daniela.
Talking Point: Murky waters – Plenty of people looking at the VB NSW Cup ladder will have written the Sea Eagles off already but this is unwise. Luke Williamson’s men sit 11th on the VB NSW Cup table but more importantly, they are only two points out of the top eight. Once the Origin period is over and team selections settle down somewhat, the Eagles can make a real run at the finals.
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au or on the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Prediction: The Sea Eagles will put up a good fight but the class of Windsor’s outside backs should reign supreme. Wolves by 10 points.
Auckland Vulcans v Cronulla Sharks
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday, June 30
Summary: The Vulcans’ recent rise up the VB NSW Cup ladder came to an abrupt end last Saturday when they had a player sent off late in proceedings and allowed the Tigers to score eight late unanswered points and claim the win in the process. Things don’t get any easier for them here either as they now have to face the unbeaten Sharks. The boys from Cronulla made it 15 wins from as many games played this year when they defeated the Jets at Henson Park last round. It now appears that the Sharks will be without Brett Finch for the rest of the year with the former NSW player set to permanently replace Gareth Widdop in the Storm side. The Sharks also look set to be without a number of other Melbourne regulars such as Slade Griffin, Junior Moors and Siosaia Vave with Craig Bellamy naming an extended NRL squad given the clubs Origin commitments. However despite the loss of some key personnel, the Sharks continue to field a very strong side and will like their chances of coming back across the Tasman with the two points. The Vulcans look set to be without Pita Godinet here as he copped a knock last week.
Talking Point: Good things come in threes – Our friends across the ditch are quickly become well known for being the triple-header specialists. How good is it waking up on a Sunday morning here in Australia, going for a walk to the corner store, grabbing a paper and a coffee, and then coming home just in time to flick on the TV at 10am and watch live VB NSW Cup action in what is the first of three big games. Sundays just don’t get much better than that.
Kick-off: 12pm (NZST); 10am (AEST)
Referee: Phil Henderson
Broadcast: LIVE on Sky Sports NZ and Fox Sports 1
Prediction: The Vulcs will be tough to toss at home but the Sharks should be too strong. Sharks by 10 points.
Wyong Roos v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Morry Breen Oval, Sunday, June 30
Summary: Things continued to go from bad to worse last weekend for the Dogs as they went down at home to Manly, meaning that they now sit outright last on the ladder and have little chance of being involved in this year’s finals series. The Roos sit one spot above the Dogs on the ladder by virtue of having had an extra bye but given the vast difference between the two organisations in terms of resources and experience at this level, one would have to say that the Roos’ accomplishments to this point far exceed those of the Bulldogs’. The Roos rattled home late last weekend against the Cutters down in Wollongong and will be looking for a faster start here at home. The Dogs’ forward pack continues to be the one shining light for Barry Ward, however it is his sides inability to convert field position into points that has ultimately cruelled them in 2013. Wyong will finally unleash its newest signing in Marvin Filipo this weekend after he signed with the club following his release from the Knights.
Talking Point: Time to put your best foot forward – The rest of the 2013 season is effectively a job interview for all of the current Wyong squad. It looks almost certain that a new head coach will be at the helm in 2014 and beyond, and generally with a new coach comes a new philosophy on playing personnel. So if these players would like to still be at the club next season, time to put on a show for the new boss, whoever that may be.
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au’s NSWRL Match Centre Scoreboard
Prediction: Impossible to tip either side with any confidence. Bulldogs by four points.
North Sydney Bears Vs Illawarra Cutters
North Sydney Oval, Sunday, June 30
Summary: The Bears are currently in uncharted territory having won only two games from their last six outings. With a number of players including Luke Keary, Dylan Walker, Josh Starling, Tom Burgess and Dylan Farrell all called upon to play for the Rabbitohs in recent weeks, the Bears have struggled to fill the void left by their more established stars. Coach Wayne Lambkin told NSWRL Media that he was confident in the players left at his disposal, but admitted it may take some time for the new combinations to gel. North Sydney still possess a talented squad and will continue to be threat for any opposition they face, but they look vulnerable at this stage and it will be interesting to see how they handle the distractions. The Cutters have looked good in their previous two encounters, with solid victories over Wyong and Mounties. The Cutters would be the first to admit that their results haven’t matched their potential this season, but they still sit in equal eighth-position on percentages with plenty of room for improvement. NSW Under-20s Origin player, Charly Runciman has been strong in recent weeks and the return of Bronx Goodwin has given the Cutters a new point of attack.
Talking Point: There’s no place like home – The Bears have been unable to grace the majestic North Sydney Oval in four weeks and will be itching to return to familiar surroundings where they have won three from five this season. When the chips are down it’s always nice to be welcomed home and the Bears faithful will be there, as always, to support the Red and Black.
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Prediction: The Bears have come back to the pack in recent weeks and the Cutters can come away with the points. Cutters by eight points.
*Wentworthville Magpies have the BYE
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