Jamie Anderson, NRL.com
Cronulla Sharks v Windsor Wolves
Summary: The Sharks will, for the first time in 2013, head into a VB NSW Cup match following a loss after their 18-16 defeat at the hands of the Vulcans last Sunday. They face a Wolves side that will be playing their third game in just seven days having knocked over Manly and the Bears during the last week. But despite their busy schedule, the Wolves appear to be fighting fit with minimal injury concerns and would no doubt like their chances of toppling the competition front-runners. The Wolves’ mix of youth and experience now seems to be paying dividends for Garth Brennan and his coaching staff, and with an uninterrupted run between now and the finals, the Wolves definitely look to be one of the teams to beat. The Sharks had to work hard to defeat the Wolves when they last met and they will once again know that they are in for a fight come Saturday. Former Newcastle Junior Representative star, and Queensland Under-20s rep, Kurt Mann will play his first match for the Sharks on the weekend while the Wolves will field a largely unchanged side from the one that defeated the Bears on Wednesday night.
Talking Point: ‘Je suis de retour bébé’ – Or ‘I’m back baby’ in English, is our little tribute to David Fifita, the identical twin brother of NSW Origin star, Andrew, who plays his first match for the club this weekend. No stranger to the VB NSW Cup, David has most recently been plying his trade over in the French domestic competition, and if David can apply himself to his football back here in Australia in a similar vein to the way his brother Andrew has over the past 12-18 months, then who knows what he is capable of.
Referee: Liam Nicholls.
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).
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au or on the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page).
Prediction: Has all of the makings to be a beauty. Sharks by four points.
Illawarra Cutters v Manly Sea Eagles
WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
Summary: Two sides do battle here that can’t afford to head home with anything less than the two competition points. The Cutters were unable to make up any ground on the sides in front of them last round when their match with the Bears was postponed until Monday week due to the big wet while Manly were valiant in defeat against Windsor, but unfortunately, valiancy does not bring with it any competition points. Some quick calculations suggest that 28 competition points is probably the number in terms of qualifying for the finals, meaning that Manly (12) and Illawarra (14) both have some work to do. Both sides do have a bye to come, but so to do most of the sides that they look to be competing with for a top-eight spot. Realistically Manly would need to win seven of their last eight clashes while Illawarra will probably need to win six of their last nine. Either way, a loss for either side here, probably just about ends their season for all intents and purposes. Peta Hiku returns for Manly after spending considerable time in the top grade of late, and this sees young Clinton Gutherson shift into the centres while for the Cutters there has been a host of positional changes, particularly in their backline.
Talking Point: Just wild about Harry – Harry Siejka stepped straight into the fold for the Cutters against Wyong a fortnight ago after his mid-season shift from the Vulcans, and while the club probably wouldn’t admit it publicly, their season largely sits on his young shoulders right now. With Josh Drinkwater’s form not up to scratch of late and few other halves options presenting themselves to the club, they were forced to move and move quickly to gain the services of the former NSW Under-20s representative. The Cutters look to have a fairly decent run coming up with a number of home games to come as well as some very winnable away games, and if Siejka can gel with his new teammates quickly, an unlikely finals spot is still not out of the question.
Referee: Daniel Olford.
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1.
Prediction: Leaning towards the home side but Manly are capable of the upset. Cutters by seven points.
Wests Tigers v Mounties
Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Summary: The seventh-placed Tigers host the eighth placed Mounties in what is a vitally important match for both of these clubs. The Tigers will still be smarting after they apparently thought that last week’s match against the Knights had been reduced to 40 minutes and forgot to come out in the second half while Mounties will be confident after they put together a thoroughly professional display against the Jets at Mt Pritchard. With the bottom half of the top eight looking so congested in relation to the fight for spots, Mounties in particular need to continue to win matches such as these ones. Despite the fact that they enter this round in eighth, their position is inflated somewhat given that they have had the luxury of their two byes already while most of the other sides in and around them have just had the one. For and against may also prove to be a deciding factor in working out who will play finals and who will head on holidays early, so any opportunity to win and win well must be capitalised on while losses must be kept to the smallest of margins where possible. Mounties will field a largely unchanged side from the one that accounted for Newtown however Dimi Pelo is expected to return to fullback replacing Jack Ahearn while for the Tigers, we are hearing there may yet be some late inclusions but they will not be confirmed until closer to kick-off.
Talking Point: Two Vaiotus are better than one – With a raft of injuries to a number of Raiders contracted outside backs, it has presented an opportunity for the Vaiotu brothers to play together for Mounties in the VB NSW Cup of late. Louis has now scored four tries in his last three outings while Francis also chimed in with a double last weekend against his former team, the Jets. Both of these boys know what it takes to be successful at this level of the game, and both look set to be pivotal in Mounties run towards the finals over the coming weeks.
Referee: Phil Henderson.
Prediction: Another tough match to tip with both sides realistic winning chances. Tigers by two points.
Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights
Belmore Sports Ground
Summary: The 2013 season went from bad to worse for the Dogs last weekend when for the second time this season, they lost to the Wyong Roos. Trailing 26-14 at halftime, the Dogs managed to keep Wyong scoreless in the second half; however despite having enough footy to win three games of footy, the Dogs just couldn’t get the job done. Things don’t get any easier for them here either as they welcome a Knights side to Belmore that has been going about their business nicely of late. While the Sharks continue to get most of the raps and deservedly so, the Knights have just been staying under the radar and racking up wins at will. In fact, the Knights have lost just the three matches in 2013, and if you exclude their Round 7 mauling at the hands of Cronulla, they could make a fair argument that they could have or in fact should have, won their other two games against Wenty and the Vulcans. Moses Mbye returns for Canterbury in the 9 jersey meaning Romelo will switch to halfback while for the Knights, their side looks as dangerous as ever and this is highlighted with the likes of Siuatonga Likiliki and Anthony Quinn both named to return from injury on an extended bench for this one.
Talking Point: Boys in blue (and red) – The Knights (NRL) had a big win against the Titans last weekend and confidence is high within the squad as a result. Things must be going well when you cast your eyes across their VB NSW Cup team list. Any side in our competition that can field two players with State of Origin experience must be going alright. Timana Tahu (11 games for NSW) and Anthony Quinn (two games for NSW) both also boast Premiership experience and their inclusion in this VB NSW Cup team gives you a better idea of the riches that Wayne Bennett currently has at his disposal in the outside backs at present.
Referee: Lawrence McDonnell.
Prediction: The Knights should continue their charge towards the finals. Knights by 14 points.
Newtown Jets v Wentworthville Magpies
Summary: The Jets will be looking to consolidate their position in the top eight when they take on the Magpies on Saturday. After a disappointing 34-16 loss to Mounties last weekend, the Jets will be looking forward to returning to their sacred Henson Park to get themselves back into form after winning six of their previous eight matches. Khalid Deeb returns to the front row with Ray Moujalli this weekend and his addition will add some much-needed spark to the Newtown pack. Wentworthville Coach Brett Cook will be looking for a much-improved effort from his side after winning only one of their previous five outings. The Magpies’ defence has been of particular concern, having conceded a total of 79 points in their last two matches in losses to Mounties and Cronulla. The addition of Luke Kelly to the VB NSW Cup side this weekend will add some much-needed spark to the Magpies attack and his partnership with Brendan Waters will be crucial to the outcome of the game. James Trotter replaces Michael Oldfield in the centres for Newtown after he injured his hamstring last weekend and looks set to be out until closer to the finals.
Talking Point: Jacks of all trades – A player that may not get all of the plaudits he deserves at times is Newtown halfback Ryley Jacks. Perhaps his level of anonymity off the park is somewhat due to the fact that he has had to step into the shoes of some pretty flashy halves. Daniel Mortimer endeared himself to the Henson faithful last season as he captained them to their Premiership. And even when Morts wasn’t there, they were able to call upon the likes of Kheirallah. It would be fair to say that both of those players set the VB NSW Cup alight at different times throughout the 2012 season, but with Mortimer now back in favour at Moore Park and Kheirallah plying his trade in the Newcastle competition, the Jets needed a new general and it fell upon the shoulders of young Jacks to lead this proud club. Jacks may not be the flashiest halfback in the competition, but he does all of the little things well. He tackles well, he kicks well, and if his forwards are laying the appropriate platform for him, he is a more than capable ball player either at or through the line. You know how people say when they haven’t noticed the referee, it means that he had a good game? Well much the same can be said for this kid… He may not always come up with the big play, but he seldom comes up with a bad one either.
Referee: Michael Laverty.
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page).
Prediction: Two sides down on confidence that both need the points. Jets by four points.
Wyong Roos v North Sydney Bears
Morry Breen Oval
Summary: The North Sydney Bears will back up from their midweek loss to Windsor, by travelling to Morry Breen Oval to take on the Roos this weekend. The Bears have had a disrupted month, with missing players and cancelled games disrupting their preparation to see them drop to fourth position on the VB NSW Cup ladder. Having only won one of their previous five games, the Bears will be looking to get their season back on track against a plucky Wyong side and will field their best side in recent weeks with Luke Keary, Josh Starling and Luke Burgess all back in action. Wyong will be looking to continue their recent patch of good form with victories over Manly and Canterbury, and an admirable performance against the Cutters, earning them a new found respect in the competition. Mitch Williams continues to be an inspirational leader for the Roos with his calculated play out of dummy-half keeping his side in the contest against their more fancied opponents.
Talking Point: Last shot at ANZ – The VB NSW Cup Representative side will play the Queensland Residents team in their annual clash prior to Game Three of the Holden State of Origin series at ANZ Stadium in a couple of weeks’ time, and there would be a few players involved in this clash that possibly have one last chance to impress the selectors prior to the side being finalised later that night. The likes of Mitch Williams and Magnus Stromquist from Wyong would certainly be in the mix while a host of Bears would also be there or thereabouts. The clash between Starling and Stromquist up front could almost be viewed as a one-on-one stoush for a rep jersey. Should be a great afternoon of football with more than just the two points on offer.
Referee: Adam Cassidy.
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au’s NSWRL Match Centre Scoreboard.}
Prediction: The Bears will be pushed all of the way but should pull away late. Bears by 10 points.
• Auckland Vulcans have the BYE
You can stay across all of the VB NSW Cup scores right throughout the weekend by following us on twitter @NSWRL or you can join in the conversation by using the #VBNSWCUP hashtag.