Rep League Takes Centre Stage

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week
Editor of Rugby League Week, Mitchell Dale, provides TattsBet with an exclusive Preview of this weekend Rugby League action.
Australia v New Zealand
Allianz Stadium
Friday 7.45pm (AEST)

On paper, this game looks like the biggest mismatch since the Washington Generals last took the court against the Harlem Globetrotters. The world champion Aussies, bursting at the seams with future Immortals, and a Kiwi side battered by injury.

There’s no Issac Luke, his place taken by a back-rower-cum-centre Ben Henry, with rising Warriors rookie Siliva Havili – a fine prospect, but with only three NRL games to his name – on the bench.

There’s no SBW, who, depending on who you listen to, either wasn’t available or simply wasn’t considered by selectors.

There’s no Kieran Foran. Or Thomas Leuluai. Or Josh Hoffman. So it’s fourth-choice five-eighth Isaac John, plucked from the backwaters of Penrith’s NSW Cup team. Not that picking someone out of reserve grade has ever worried the Kiwis – case in point, Olsen Filipaina in the 80s.

It is definitely not the strongest side the Kiwis have ever trotted out. In fact, many are calling it the weakest in years.

But beware the Kiwis with wounded pride. Coach Stephen Kearney is obviously ushering in a new era – he’s dumped Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Alex Glenn. In their place are young blokes like Marty Taupau, Peta Hiku, Tohu Harris, Havili and Henry. You reckon those rookies won’t be jumping out of their skins this Friday?

I can’t see anything but a comfortable Aussie win. But I also think New Zealand will give a much better account of themselves than many people think.

Aussies 13+ for me . . . but it won’t blow-out too much

NSW Under-20s v Queensland Under-20s
Penrith Stadium
Saturday 5.30pm (AEST)

It’s a massive disappointment the Tigers chose to yank Luke Brooks out of the NSW team, because watching him up against Raiders whiz Anthony Milford would have been a sensational spectacle.
But, it’ll still be good to see Milford up against another Tigers young gun, Mitchell Moses. The last time these two wonderkids met on the field was the 2012 SG Ball grand final – with Moses and Milford going play-for-play.

But they aren’t the only two stars of the future on show.

In the Maroons line-up, keep an eye on Valentine Holmes, Brenko Lee, John Folau (Izzy’s younger, but not-so-little, brother), Lloyd Perrett (Sam’s younger, but not-so-little, brother), Kierran Moseley and Corey Oates.
For the Blues, look out for Clinton Gutherson, Jake Mamo, Jake Trbojevic and Sione Mata’utia.

Among others, these kids are all potential stars. Remember, it was only two years ago that Boyd Cordner was the captain of the Under-20 NSW side in the inaugural fixture. Look where he is now!

Plenty of these kids will kick on other the next few years.

MY TIP: NSW 1-12

Samoa v Fiji 
Penrith Stadium
Saturday 7.30pm (AEST)

The Samoa-Tonga clash in this timeslot last year was a belter, as two proud island nations went to war.
Samoa’s opponents are different this year, but the intensity will be the same.

More than Island pride is on the line – a spot in the Four Nations is also up for grabs.

Samoa have the edge in NRL experience – 16 of their 18-man squad have played in the top-grade.

But with blokes like Ashton Sims, Kane Evans and Jayson Bukuya in the forwards and excitement machines Semi Radradra, and Marika Koroibete out wide, there’s plenty to like about the Fijians. 

Add in Lote Tuqiri, representing Fiji for the first time since the 2000 World Cup, and it’s a strong side.
But Samoa’s experience will shine through.

MY TIP: Samoa 1-12

City v Country
Apex Oval, Dubbo

With up to nine NSW players battling injury ahead of the series opener on May 28, this year’s City-Country clash takes on huge significance . . . even if clubs are pulling out their players left, right and centre.

The battle between five-eighths Josh Reynolds and Jarrod Mullen could decide who wears the NSW No.6 jersey.

Tony Williams, Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman and Wade Graham will also be trying to catch Laurie Daley’s eye and stake a claim for a back-row spot.

Daniel Tupou and Jorge Taufua will also fight it out to see who is on the opposite flank to Brett Morris.
It might not be the genuine NSW trial it once was, but the performances in Sunday’s game will still count for plenty when Daley and Co. sit down to pick their squad for Game One.

On top of that, Country boys hate the City slickers . . . and vice versa. They will never let slip the opportunity to put on over each other.

City have a bit more firepower in the forwards with NSW certainties Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita up front, and in-form Shark Graham and a resurgent T-Rex in the back-row.

That will be enough to get them home.

MY TIP: City 1-12

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week @LeagueWeek