Two months after Parramatta belted the Gold Coast Titans to finish round two, we finally have live footy to look forward to: as great as the weekly classic matches on NRL.com and Fox League have been, it’s just not the same.
While it’s only rounds three and four of a twenty-game season, and venues are yet to be decided, it’s a start; and there’s some crackers to look forward to.
Thursday May 28
The Brisbane Broncos (Channel Nine’s favourite team) open round three with the Thursday night game against Parramatta. Both teams are 2-0 (Parra are top on for-and-against), though the quality of Brisbane’s opposition was slightly higher.
Friday May 29
It’s Rivalry Friday: North Queensland v Gold Coast at 6pm, and the Sydney Roosters v Souths at 8pm.
While the Cowboys will lap the poor old Titans, the Roosters v Rabbitohs game should be much closer. Nick Politis made a lot of noise about all teams re-starting on zero points (which was thankfully ignored) so, with that extra publicity, his winless Roosters will need results straight away if they want to entertain a premiership hat-trick.
Saturday May 30
The NZ Warriors (hailed as heroes for sacrificing their home life for the greater good) open their season against St George-Illawarra on Saturday afternoon. This game could be anything: the Dragons threw away winnable games against the Wests Tigers and Penrith, while the winless Warriors could continue being terrible, or – embiggened by their noble sacrifice – play some free-flowing, entertaining footy.
The Saturday night double header features Cronulla-Sutherland v Wests Tigers at 5:30pm (this is a real toss up) and Melbourne v Canberra at 7:35pm. The Storm v Raiders game holds the most interest: both sides are 2-0 and the Storm will be hungry after Canberra beat them twice at AAMI Park in the space of a month last year, including the qualifying final. Canberra will have Jordan Rapana and possibly John Bateman back, so they could make it three straight wins against the Storm.
Sunday May 31
The final two games are Penrith v Newcastle (3pm) and Manly-Warringah v Canterbury-Bankstown (6:30pm). Manly will be favourites against a dour Bulldogs team, while Penrith and Newcastle is another toss up.
Thursday June 4
Surprise, surprise, the Broncos have another prime time Channel Nine game, opening round four against the Roosters. Commercial cynicism aside, this should be a brilliant game. Will the Roosters still be winless, or will they be starting to warm up?
Friday June 5
Two games of differing quality: Penrith v the NZ Warriors (6pm) could be full of scintillating footy or embarrassing mistakes; and the Channel Nine game, Melbourne v Souths, will be a ripper, maybe an early contender for game of the season.
Saturday June 6
No Saturday afternoon game, instead the Saturday night double header features old rivals Parramatta v Manly (5:30), and North Queensland v Cronulla (7:30). The winner of Parra v Manly could set themselves up for a finals run in this shortened season, while Cowboys and Sharks game could shape who battles for the lower part of the eight.
Sunday June 7
Canberra play their first Channel Nine game since the grand final (insert your ‘six again’ jokes here…), and should fancy themselves against Newcastle. The Tigers should be too good for the Titans in the Sunday evening game.
Monday June 8
The NSW public holiday means Monday afternoon footy, with Canterbury-Bankstown against St George-Illawarra. Will the Bulldogs have rediscovered their late-2019 form, or will the Dragons finally convert a winning position into two competition points?