Category Archives: The Crystal Ballboy

Don’t Draft That Guy!

dontdraft

Well it’s a new season, and for everyone who didn’t win their respective competitions last year, I’m certain you’re hoping for a new team.

Players have moved clubs, moved on from the game, or moved one step closer to jail and/or the loony bin. This means players who were highly valued last year, may not be so desirable this year – especially if they have had some extra curricular canine activities.

So without any further ado (or in-depth study, because lets face it a Crystal Steeden and a Magic 8 ball is all you need to make season predictions for NRLCEO!) here is The Crystal Ballboy’s list of who not to draft for 2016.

 

MITCHELL PEARCE

Avoid him because: Anyone who drafts Mitch this pre-season has either been living overseas without internet access, or is gunning for the spoon.

Recruit him only if: you think he’ll be cut by the Roosters and recruited by a crappier team desperate for a half. It’s a big (and probably stupid) gamble.

 

CHRIS LAWRENCE

Avoid him because: Several years ago Chris burst onto the NRL scene and was a solid fantasy centre. Over the last few years the Tigers have been on the decline, and so has Lawrence being pushed into the forwards where he no longer scores the tries he used to, nor is he getting through enough work to score a workhorse try.

Recruit him only if: all the other starting forwards, AND the quality bench players have been taken.

 

TONY WILLIAMS

Avoid him because: Similarly to Lawrence, Williams WAS a good player, but hasn’t been good (fantasy wise) for some time – if ever. These days, T-Rex is more likely to do something dumb and get sent to the bin than to score any points for your NRLCEO team. Seriously, avoid like the plague.

Recruit him only if: you need to fill some gaps over the Origin period.
While he was injured for part of 2015, in the 17 games he did manage to play, he scored ZERO tries, and ZERO workhorse tries.

 

JOHN SUTTON

Avoid him because: He’s not Souths’ best five-eight, and he’s not their best back rower, but somehow John Sutton is still the Rabbits’ team captain, and starts ahead of, what this Ballboy considers, more talented players. Throughout 2015 Sutto managed 2 tries and 2 workhorse tries, and that just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Recruit him only if: he is starting at five-eight.
His try assist, and line break assist stats aren’t bad, and he could be good for a few points.

 

BILLY SLATER

Avoid him because: Cameron Munster played way more games last year, and was far more impressive than Slater has been for a few years. It’s time for Billy to pass the torch, but not before he has at least one more year in the purple #1 jersey.

Expect Slater to start at fullback for the first half of the season (health pending), and expect Munster to step up as soon as he goes down with injury or called into the Queensland Origin side. Additionally, if Slater is 50/50, you can almost guarantee coach Bellamy will crank this song, and rest his star.

Recruit him only if: you have already recruited another fullback.
Preferably Munster. If you can snag Munster AND Slater – you’re golden. If you have Slater in a keeper league, see what you can get for him in a trade with one of the less informed teams in your league.

 

BEN CREAGH

Avoid him because: Unlike John Sutton who plays ahead of better players, this team Captain does so from the bench – or is at least expected to throughout 2016 by most experts. Ben Creagh started as a winger, spent some time in the centres, peaked (as far as fantasy football goes) in the back row, filled in at prop, and now looks forward to retirement from the Dragons bench.

Recruit him only if: you think he’ll be named in the starting 13.
He has the workrate to get a workhorse try, but from the bench, he may not have the minutes.

 

MATT BALLIN

Avoid him because: I feel dirty for telling people not to recruit Ballin as he has been an absolute stalwart in the NRLCEO ranks, and he is a quality player. I don’t want to remind Tigers fans of their teams’ current turmoil, so I’ll just say that it looks like coach Taylor has begrudgingly given Farah the number 9 jersey – at least for now. Which means poor Matty B will be suiting up in the NSW Cup, or at best, on the first grade bench.

Recruit him only if: you get wind of Robbie signing elsewhere.
Or if it looks like Ennis isn’t gonna play Origin.

EDIT: So I may have jumped the gun here. I started writing this article before Farah and Ballin both went down with knee injuries. It seems like Manaia Cherrington has pulled a Bradbury and skated on into the hooking role for round 1. Either way – avoid Ballin.

 

ALI LAUITITI

Avoid him because: Throughout his career, Lauititi has scored 33 tries for the Warriors. The problem is – he hasn’t played for the Warriors since 2004. This will be his EIGHTEENTH season in top grade football, returning to the NRL after 11 years in the English Super League. IF he makes the first grade team, don’t expect a high workrate from this second row senior citizen.

Recruit him only if: don’t.
Just don’t. There’s no good reason to pick Ali Lauititi. Not even over origin if there’s a ton of injuries at the Warriors. He’ll just be the next on their injury list.

 

ANTHONY WATMOUGH

Avoid him because: Choc is getting old, and his body is starting to go. He has picked up knee and shoulder injuries that will keep him out until at least round 2, and with young bucks Manu Ma’u and Tepai Moeroa gunning for starting spots, Watmough could be reduced to an impact bench player, or be sent to Wenty.

Recruit him only if: you think there’s still some fight in the old dog yet.
And there very well could be, so don’t completely disregard Watmough, but don’t recruit him with any great expectations.

 

GREG EASTWOOD

Avoid him because: Lets look at Greg’s 2015: 2 tries, 1 workhorse, 2 linebreaks, 1 linebreak assist. And that’s from 22 games, which averages out at 0.681 points per game. Do you REALLY think that there aren’t better scoring players out there?

Recruit him only if: you’ve lost a bet.
Or if you’re a dyed in the wool Bulldogs fan and the remaining options are just as tragic. Even with the increased minutes forwards are expected to get, it’s hard to see Eastwood making a NRLCEO impact.

 

I realise that this piece has leaned fairly heavily on the forwards, so to even things up, I’ll make some suggestions on which backs to avoid unless there’s no one else.

 

The Titans.

The Crystal Ballboy lined up in the centres a few times throughout his U/16’s career, and with all the injuries and lack of quality threequarters on the Coast, I am half expecting a phone call from Graham Annesley.

Spoiler alert – I am rubbish. And so is the rest of the Titan’s options. Steer clear unless ALL the other good players are taken.

 

The Bulldogs

This is an absolute speculator – but I think Hopoate and Perrett’s best days are behind them.

Should you recruit them? Absolutely, if they’re still on the board after round 7 or so, why not take a gamble. But my Crystal Steeden tells me that Canterbury Bankstown may be blooding some young pups in their backline midway through the 2016 season.

 

The Warriors

Manu Vatuvei is getting older, and should finally start to show some signs of slowing down, and it might be time to fumble the high ball on to someone else. The Nines and their preseason matches have shown that there’s plenty of quick talent (that is also questionable under a bomb) ready to step into the Beast’s shoes.

Manu is still a fan favourite and should start the season on the wing, so there’s no reason not to recruit him – but don’t expect him to hold down the spot for the whole year.

 

The Dragons

It’s not that there aren’t players who wont play or wont play well in the St George Illawarra backline, but those players seem likely to be reshuffled from week to week. Will Dugan play centre of fullback? Where will Mann play? Will Aitken start?

These questions and more will be asked before the Dragons settle on a combination – and it will be longer still before they can find a winning combination.

 

The Raiders

It’s the time of year that experts pull out a coin to flip, seeing wether or not the Green Machine will make an impact into the season.

My coin says that the Raiders’ patchwork backline actually has some NRLCEO value this year – but I encourage you to flip your own coin.

 

The Broncos

Injury will be the only thing hampering the Broncos’ season this year. It has already made a dent on Lachlan Maranta who isn’t expected to return until round 7. Jack Reed appears to be on the outer also.

Don’t bank on Brisbane’s backs to carry you through 2016, and just because someone isn’t in their top 18 in round 1, it doesn’t mean that they wont be by round 26.

 

The Panthers

Speaking of injuries, few teams seem to have copped it as bad as Penrith over the last few seasons. I have no idea what’s happening out west, but it’s messing up their team.

If they can stay injury free, there’s no reason why they cant make a run at the top 4. But are they likely to stay injury free? The Crystal Steeden says no.

 

There you have it virtual sportsfans! Let me know if you think I’m completely wrong at [email protected] or on Twitter @CrystalBallboy

New Season – New Ludicrous Predictions

Ballboy20152

The 2015 season is all but upon us, and by now you’ve probably already drafted your team. So this column may be of little use.

But why has it taken me so long to get around to writing my season preview column? Because, throughout the offseason, I have turned my hand to Fantasy NHL. Yup – Ice Hockey. Never before have I played fantasy NHL, but last weekend my team was the first in our comp to secure a guaranteed finals berth. Yay!

So now, I can afford to turn my concentration back to the greatest game of all – NRLCEO!

A few weeks ago I would’ve suggested that there were enough worrying signs at Souths that inner-club turmoil may have derailed their 2015 season. But after watching them dominate the World Club Challenge, there’s enough evidence to make the argument that the Bunnies could go back to back.

Other things to come out of the English matches suggest that the Dragons may not be the easy-beats everyone considers they may be, and that the Broncos will be meticulously methodical, back under Bennett.

Also to come out of the preseason – I think Cronulla have a lot of teams worried. We all know they were big players in the recruitment game last year, but unlike other years, it looks like the Sharkies may have worked out a way to actually gel. The big question is – do they have the halves to be a legitimate threat?

Anyway – you don’t come to me for a traditional season preview. There’s plenty of half-assed ‘journalists’ who each feel the need to write a more comprehensive preview than I ever could.

So I’ll stick to what I do best – peer into my mystical Crystal Steeden and make wild and ludicrous predictions! Lets rip in…

60% of the time, it's right EVERY time!
60% of the time, it’s right EVERY time!

 

THE TITANS WILL STUN TEAMS IN THE FIRST FEW ROUNDS

Sure, after their recent powdered shenanigans, everyone has them as favourites for the spoon, but beware backing a wild animal into a corner. The Gold Coast will be super fired up to come out and prove their detractors wrong.

Peering into my Crystal Steeden, I foresee that their forwards will tackle themselves to a standstill, and the Titans may get lucky with a few early wins. If you can pick up a few Gold Coast forwards cheaply, do so – and look to trade them with your competition’s resident sucker somewhere near round 3.

 

QUEENSLAND’S SUPERSTARS WILL UNDER-PERFORM

The Maroons have dominated the Origin scene for the best part of a decade. And not to suggest that they wont be a threat this rep season, but I foresee that Queensland’s stars will under-perform at a club level NRLCEO-wise.

Melbourne are always finals contenders, and I predict they will be again, and North Queensland are potential Grand Finalists this year – but statistically, I feel like the entire 2014 Queensland squad will fail to score as many NRLCEO points as they did last season.

Theyre all getting a bit long in the tooth, and the rep season is going to take a larger toll on the boys. Cam Smith is already sitting out the first few rounds because of injury.

That doesn’t mean I’m suggesting you should avoid recruiting them. Thurston will still be one of the higher scoring players in the league – but he wont reach last years totals.

Where you should be looking for value is at the players who are likely to cover the Origin stars’ absences. I know how hard recruitment goes at Origin time, but I’d recommend hitting the waiver wires a little earlier. The blokes who step in to cover, are likely to stick around longer than just the Origin period.

PENRITH WILL OUTSCORE NEARLY EVERYONE

There is an old maxim that ‘The best defence is a good offence.” And I believe that will ring very true at the foot of the Blue Mountains.

Penrith finished 4th last year, and the team is all but exactly the same as last year’s, and that familiarity will breed even more success.

If you can, recruit as many Panthers as possible, even the nuffy fringe guys. If you can afford to keep a fringe Panther in your 25, it may be well worth it. If there’s an injury, you could be sitting on a gold mine.

SEND SKD TO THE SCRAP HEAP

I say the Panthers will outscore “nearly” everyone – because I can’t rule out the Roosters.

From all reports, the club is spewing that their biggest rivals won the comp last year, and they have been training like a team possessed. The latte lads are missing a couple of big names from last year, but Coach Robinson is quality, and will have the team prepared so you don’t notice. Unless there are injuries, Sydney will be major contenders – and you should recruit as such.

My big prediction for the Roosters, is that SKD wont last the season in first grade. They have a lot of quality in the lower grades waiting for a start, and one or two poor games from ‘Skids’ will be enough for those guys to get their chance.

BRISBANE BACKS ARE WHERE IT’S AT!

Uncle Wayne has come back home, and he’ll be doing what he does best – getting the most out of lesser known Broncos’ backs. So often in Brisbane’s history, Bennett has promoted an unknown, or recruited another club’s sub-standard player only to turn them into a superstar.

My big bet is that Anthony Milford will be among the highest line-break assist, and try-assist scorer this season. He’ll be sending the likes of Maranta, Reed, Copely, Vidot, Hodges, and Boyd (when he’s back) across the stripe repeatedly.

Also, if you can avoid having Corey Parker as your kicker (especially in keeper leagues) I would recommend it. He will see more and more bench time, and only kick just over half of the Broncos’ goals.

STRUGGLE STREET 

Knights will suck. Tigers will suck. Dragons will suck. Titans will REALLY suck.

But there’s always one or two blokes on each team who keeps them competitive before throwing the game away in the last 20 minutes.

Robbie Rochow will tackle the house down. Whenever Adam Clydesdale playin in No. 9, he’ll get a workhorse try. If you’re after a smokey in the Newcastle backs, I’d suggest Sione Mata’utia.

The Tiges have a lot of young players, and if they play like they have nothing to lose – they could cause a lot of headaches. But they wont. Unless you’re a Wests supporter – then I’d recommend stocking up on Panadol.

Tedesco is a gamble, and Chris Lawrence is a liability. If there’s value in this team (other than Farah), I can’t see it. Steer clear.

The Dragons will be entrenched in the bottom third of the ladder all year, but they are likely to have a decent for and against. Frustratingly for fans, the Dragons will be competitive in most of their matches, and consistently lose by less than 10 points each time. Mitch Rein will be a defensive powerhouse, and should be a top recruit in your NRLCEO team. Widdop and Marshall will also score well in line-break assists, but the Dragons backs are likely to mess up the try at the death.

It’s hard to find any glimmer of NRLCEO hope in the Gold Coast, but Josh Hoffman, and Aiden Sezer may be worth grabbing if you can. If we’re looking for positives, I guess that there will probably be a lot of young guys who will get some good first grade experience this year, and that could put the Titans in good stead for years to come. Keeper leagues should keep a close eye on the Coast.

Neighbours, Everybody needs good neighbours.
Neighbours, Everybody needs good neighbours.

 

GRAB A RABBIT

Get all the Bunnies backs you can. They’re gonna score well. And if Glenn Stewart isn’t taken in the first two rounds, you’re kidding yourself. That man will loom large in try assists and line-break assists, putting the Bunnies’ backs through gaps and over the stripe.

My Crystal Steeden tells me to avoid Joel Reddy though. There’s nothing to suggest that he’s a long-term prospect on the Rabbitohs’ wing.

CAN CANBERRA?

Remember when Wests won the comp in 2005 and they had a team of nuffies? I’m not suggesting that the Green Machine is gonna win it all – but they do have a team of nuffies! There’s always something to be said about youthful exuberance, so they could be a legitimate threat to make the 8. If they can keep the same core team for this year and next, they could be a title threat.

That being said, if you’re in a keeper league, it may be worth investing in some Raiders. They will be the big surprise packet of 2015, so litter your squad with some Canberra players. Specifically, England Test hooker, Josh Hodgson. Jarrod Croker should be high on your recruitment list also, I predict that he will be high in the ranks of goal scorers this season. The Wighton-Austin-Cornish combo could be the NRL’s next Slater-Cronk-Smith (I know ones a hooker and ones a five-eighth – but you get the point!)

I said they ‘could’ be – because with Ricky Stuart at the helm, you just never know what might happen.

WILL WARRIORS?

New Zealand have the squad to take out the premiership, but who knows if they can get their shit together on the road?

Ryan Hoffman will be the best buy (at a club level) throughout 2015. If he’s available – you pick his ass up!

Shaun Johnson is a superstar at the Warriors – but you know that. So does everyone else in the NRL, so he’ll be closely marked. That’s why you should recruit Chad Townsend. Consider him NZ’s answer to Gareth Widdop (when he played outside Cronk at Melbourne).

ORIGIN WILL SCREW YOU

Or it will if you don’t prepare properly. I can guarantee that 90% of you could accurately select 15 of Queenslands 18 man squad. And you should also be able to pick most of the key players in the Blues squad.

So with that being said, when making your draft selections, try and limit the amount of certain Origin stars you recruit to 1 or 2. When you factor in the teams out on bye weeks, you may end up with a very patchy team throughout rep season.

MANLY WILL IMPLODE

This is probably a bold prediction that will sour many fans. Manly, despite their on-field success, have seemed to struggle as a club since Toovey took over the coaching reins.

When they have their heads screwed on, they can be among the best teams in the comp. But when the boat’s a rockin’ the team can play quite shockin’! Add that to the loss of Watmough and Stewart, not only do they lose some experienced muscle in the engine room, they lose one of their best ball players. The crystal Steeden suggests that it’s going to be a huge loss to the team, and they will struggle.

Then the finger pointing will begin. DCE’s impending move to a new club will have people questioning his commitment to the Sea Eagles 2015 campaign, with others suggesting that he has mentally checked out already. Then coach Toovey will be put to the coals. Fans will be calling for his head, and the board will be in utter turmoil.

Matt Ballin will be the NRL’s top tackler. If the Eagles are any hope this year, he’ll have to be. DCE and Foran will have to be in fine form to steer the team around the pitch, and if the forwards can get a roll on, the halves will set up many tries. But I have grave doubts about the Manly pack. They’re not ‘Dragons bad,’ but they’re pretty bad.

GOLDEN BOY GALLEN’S GLORY DAYS ARE GONE

I’m calling it now. Between Origin and injuries, Gal will see too much bench time to be an effective workhorse.

The Crystal Steeden tells me that because the Sharks have recruited so well, Gallen now has enough quality help around him that he wont need to shoulder the lion’s share of the Sharkies tackling. Sure he’ll come out of the blocks strongly, and you’ll all think I’m a raving lunatic – but it wont last.

Plus, with the key additions to the backline, Cronulla will do more in attack than they have in previous years – which will reduce the entire teams’ time spent tackling.

Trade Gallen away while he’s still worth something.

Gal will be missed. His tackles rarely were.
Gal will be missed. His tackles rarely were.

 

LETS GET READY TO RRRRUMBLEEEE!

I dunno about you, but I’m pumped for the footy season!

If you’d like to challenge my predictions, or ask me to foretell your players’ fortunes, hit me up at [email protected], or on Twitter @CrystalBallboy.

Where did we all go wrong?

Porky

It’s NRLCEO grand final week, and if you’ve made it this far, you’ve done far better than me, and certainly don’t need my advice and predictions.

So instead of looking towards this weekends proceedings, I thought we could take a look back over NRLCEO and see where our ‘experts’ got it right, and where we failed miserably.

The Season In Review.

I had planned to go over my season preview and look at what I picked correctly and what I got wrong, and why that might have been. But now that I look back over my columns for the season, I realised that I had forgotten that I didn’t join the NRLCEO writing ranks until round 2. I just jumped right in with wacky week-to-week predictions, and completely bypassed an entire season preview.

Which, to be honest, is probably for the best.

I can tell you that I bought right into Wayne Bennett’s three-year plan for Newcastle and thought that they would be serious title contenders this year. They certainly had the side to do it, but somehow it capitulated. Even after the very rocky start to the season, and the career ending injury to Alex McKinnon, the team bounced back in a big way and throttled the hapless Sharks in the #RiseForAlex match. I thought that his injury would be exactly the tonic to kick-start their season, and inspire them for the rest of the year. I WAS VERY WRONG!

I was, however, entirely right about the Roosters. They are still an outside chance of taking the minor premiership, and this season I drafted several of their players into my side, so score one for the Ballboy!

I don’t think anyone could have expected the clusterfuck that the Sharks produced on and off the field this year. While I expected Gallen would be a reliable workhorse (when he plays) I put too much stock into the rest of the team, and yielded very little in return.

Brisbane have performed pretty much exactly as I thought they would this season, or they will if they just miss out on the top 8.

The Dragons have outperformed my expectations, but that is probably due in large part to getting rid of Steve Price. With him at the helm, they would be languishing down with Ricky’s Raiders.

Speaking of which, the Raiders have bucked their trend of making the finals one year, then missing out the next. They were due to make the top 8 this year, but unless Ricky Stuart can walk into a team full of premiership contenders, he cant coach a team to success. So I picked that one I guess.

I’m not sure what to make of the Bulldogs. History led me to believe that a Hasler coached team should do well. And they kinda are. But I expected them to be doing slightly better than they are. Same with Melbourne.

At the start of the season, I didn’t have any doubt that the Sea Eagles would be contenders, but I don’t get Manly right now. With their injuries and club upheaval, they should be doing their best not to slip out of the top 8. Any other team would’ve capitulated by now. Penrith are much the same.

While I think the Panthers have a solid club base, ever since I wrote a column suggesting that their success is attributed to their ability to stay uninjured, they have had injury after injury. Despite that, they are still on track to finish in the top 4, where I predicted they’d finish at the start of the year. Hopefully they do, because I have $10 riding on Penrith finishing in the top 4.

So yeah, I drafted according to where I predicted teams would finish. I got several very right, and others incredibly wrong.

Around the NRLCEO Traps. 

Geoff ‘Workhorse Watcher’ Adams predicted that Ben Creagh may have a big 2014. In the absence of Prior, Weyman, and Miller, Captain Creagh somehow also went missing, and it could help explain why the Dragons had a sub-standard season.

Geoff correctly predicted that Nathan Peats would be a big scorer, and he was until his unfortunate injury. However, the Workhorse Watch may need corrective glasses though, after suggesting that Jason Bukuya would be a stand out at the Warriors.

While you try and remember who Joel Reithmuller is (and who he plays for), just be glad you didn’t follow Adams’ advice when he suggested that the North Queensland forward would “be the perfect replacement” for legendary workhorse, Dallas Johnson.

What Geoff got exactly right, was that Elijah Taylor would have a much better season than 2013’s WHT haul of 13 and go closer to 2012’s tally of 19. Before his injury in round 21, Taylor had registered 17. Two of which were doubles.

More impressive is when he suggested that James Graham would improve on his 15 WHT’s from last season. I mean, I’d be stoked if I could guarantee a player would get 15 WHT’s in a year, but Graham performed immaculately scoring 28 thus far. That equated to one per week, six weeks where he scored doubles, and on top of that he’s managed to score 3 tries. The only complaint you’d have against Graham, is that surely there is no way he is ever going to be able to replicate this next season! But I’m certain he’ll go down trying.

In addition, Geoff made other predictions that were all good picks but not exactly surprising, i.e. Mannah, Paulo, Rochow, McGuire, Parker, Thaiday, McCullough, Gillett, Jackson, G. Burgess, Ballin, Myles, Harrison, Douglas, Blair, Woods, and Fulton.

So overall, The Workhorse Watch season preview was very helpful indeed. I’ll certainly be paying close attention to Geoff’s preseason coverage next year!

On the other end of the spectrum, Wacko Jacko certainly lived up to his name on occasion over at Hot or Not.

After Round 1, he implored everyone to drop Adam Blair for a first up lacklustre performance. He also suggested at the same time, that Adam Docker would “be a big player for your CEO side.” This season Docker has only managed to rack up 32 points, while Blair has 42.

Unfortunately, it seemed like Jacko’s NRLCEO team was out of finals contention after 12 rounds, because his Hot or Not column suddenly stopped appearing. I know ever since I dropped out of our comp, I couldn’t give a stuff about CEO!

It might be for the best anyway. That round Tyrone Peachy, Dale Copely and Chad Townsend were all “Hot” and Benji Marshall, Cooper Cronk, and the Eels were all “Not.”  Things sure have changed since then…

NRLCEO commish, JB, didn’t really do preseason predictions. Well he did – the NRL 2014 Season Guide – but it was fairly impartial, and he barely talked up his Raiders at all! So he gets a pass. Plus I don’t really want to bad-mouth him, or I wont be back for 2015.

Then there was the Tantasy crew. Firstly they introduced their ‘audio’ podcast as “Tantasy TV.” That’s backward Kiwis for you! And it really tells you all you need to know about taking advice from them…

Inu?! One of the lads shortlisted Inu. Thankfully one of the other boys had the sense to suggest he’d be “rocks and diamonds.” And if you had Inu between rounds 14 and 19, he would’ve scored you 12 points. For the rest of the season: 0.

They also had big wraps on Albert Kelly. And for the first 10 rounds, they would be doing ok. Not so much for the rest of the year.

Travis Robertson?! A first five round draft pick? Boys, in the famous words of Gus Gould “No no no no no.” God I hope you didn’t waste your pick on this Storm centre. I don’t believe he even played a match for Melbourne this year.

They did also make some good calls with players like Gidley and Thurston predicting their 2014 form, and they’re always entertaining – so I’ll certainly be tuning in to hear what they have to say next season (though I’ll be taking their opinions with a grain of salt!)

Farewell

So Long. Farewell. Auf Wiedersehen. Good Night.

I’d now like to take some time to honour those players who are hanging up their boots, and leaving many of us lamenting their retirement, wondering where our fantasy points will come from next year.

Jharal Yow Yeh was an early casualty this year. He played 60 games for the Broncos and crossed the stripe 33 times.

Raiders Captain, Brett White has called time, and will leave a hole in the Canberra pack. He was always good for several WHT’s each year, and will be sorely missed by many CEOs.

Krisnan Inu is off to French Rugby next year, but I doubt anyone will care about his departure fantasy-wise.

Beau Ryan was fairly handy to NRL CEO’s throughout his career (53 tries in 124 games), but his Sharkie’s teammate John Morris was, at times, worth his weight in gold. Morris scored 49 tries (as well as many WHT’s) over his 300 matches for the Knights, Eels, Tigers and Sharks.

No NRL team will be depleted of more workhorses than the Titans this year. Luke Bailey, and Ashley Harrison are retiring, and Mark Minichiello is heading to Hull. All three have been exceptional fantasy forwards throughout their career, and many CEO’s will be torn up at their departure.

Storm pair, Junior Moors and Ben Roberts, are leaving Melbourne for Castleford, but they should be fairly replaceable I’d imagine.

Jerome ‘Throwa” Ropati retired mid season, and was a loss to both the Warriors and CEO’s everywhere. He was an absolute fantasy champion throughout the years. Kevin Locke is also leaving NZ, and his 26 tries in 89 appearances will be missed.

The Knights are losing three players to England in the offseason, Cuthbertson, Dobson, and Mantellato to the Rhinos, Devils and Rovers respectively. CEO’s should miss Cuthbo’s workrates, but since the other two were fringe first graders, they shouldn’t be missed much at all.

Ashton Sims is off to Warrington, and will leave holes in fantasy teams everywhere, though I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a return to the NRL in the future. And Brent Tate has finally succumbed to injury and retired – amazingly NOT because of his neck!

There are plenty of losses at the Eels. Willie Tonga is finally leaving the NRL. After 12 years, 181 matches, and 78 tries, the former Dally M Centre of the Year is off to England. Ben Smith has been a fantasy tease. Smith went close to a WHT more often than actually registering one, on top of that, (disregarding his 14 tries in 2005) he only scored 23 times in the other 9 years of his NRL career.

Parra’s Liam Foran and Daniel Harrison are leaving for the London Broncos (but wont be missed by CEO’s) though Ken Sio (who leaves for the Hull KR) will be.

Penrith Captain, Kevin Kingston will be a big loss to many CEO’s teams this offseason, but not half as big as the Rabbitoh’s powerhouse workhorse Sam Burgess. Ben Te’o is also leaving Souths, but due to his up and down form, I would imagine his loss to be more of a blessing than a curse to CEO’s who can never pick the right week to name him and the right week to bench him.

The Dragon’s Matt Groat heads to Salford and will be missed only by those who enjoy saying his name. Heh heh heh “Groat!”

Of all the players retiring/leaving at the end of the season, few more deserve to go out with a grand final win than Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello. Sure there are the Origin-time haters, but it’s difficult to say a bad word against the fullback. Sonny Bill Williams is also leaving, and his loss is a big one for CEO’s.

Braith Anasta is finally retiring (and going by this years form, he should have last year!) Liam Fulton was an absolute workhorse machine throughout his career, and is a big loss to fantasy teams everywhere. Cory Patterson less so.

To be honest, I’m kinda happy and sad that NRL fantasy football season is coming to a close. I’m in the thick of EPL fantasy season, and NFL fantasy season kicks off this Friday. It’s my first EPL fantasy season since 2002, and in the NFL, I’m hoping to go one better and actually win this year’s final. I’ve managed to lose the grand final for the last two years in our NFL fantasy comp. On top of that, I have my NHL draft at the end of the month!

Europe

Meanwhile – I feel like I should make some predictions for this round and the finals.

I’m picking Roosters, Storm, Tigers, Raiders, Cowboys, Dragons, Bulldogs, and Panthers.

That should mean the Roosters win the minor premiership, Sea Eagles slip to 3rd, Panthers secure 4th, and I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that the Warriors finish above the Broncos on the ladder.

I’m uncertain about the Eels. They’re so up and down. If they win, they make the 8, if they don’t, they finish 11th.

As far as the finals go, I can’t see anyone outside of the Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, or Roosters winning it, with the outside chance of the Storm actually qualifying for the game, but not actually being able to win it.

As far as who is likely to win the whole kit and caboodle, I’m the ol’ Crystal Steeden says that the Roosters will be the first team to go back-to-back since the Broncos in 1992-1993.

 

Well there you have it. That’s enough from me for one season. Thanks to JB for allowing my babbling nonsense to feature on NRLCEO, thanks to everyone else who posts (semi) informative articles on the site and give me a good read in between fantasy matches, and thanks to both of my readers. I appreciate you guys.

Have a great off-season!

Wish I Weren’t Here

wish

Last weekend my team was convincingly bundled out of the finals series and my NRLCEO season has come to a close. And with my fantasy team’s virtual Mad Monday out of the way, I’m now on my virtual end of season trip.

At the moment, I couldn’t care less about NRLCEO and the NRL outside of my club, and I’m sure there’s plenty of you who can sympathise.

Hopefully that should explain why this week’s column is brief, and why (for this week) my column reflects my ongoing concern for your continued success, i.e. Minimally.

But with my season over, what does that mean for me (and for those of you who are also no longer in contention?)

1)   Tuesday afternoons are no longer spent hitting the F5 refresh button every three minutes to see who has been named in the NRL’s first grade team.
2)   Friday evenings (Thursdays now) are no longer spent fretting over last minute line-up changes to your 17.
3)   You only have to watch your NRL team’s match with any sort of vested interest.
4)   You don’t have to tune into the Tantasy Podcast hoping for some sort of exclusive insight (with a funny accent.)
5)   You don’t have to watch the Sharks v Raiders this weekend and worry about how many tackles some nuffy back rower has.
6)   When the missus wants to go out for dinner on the weekend, you no longer need to only suggest places that might have the footy on the telly so you can keep an eye on your players.
7)  You no longer need to check twitter, the hour before kickoff of each match, to confirm the finalised team sheets.
8) That smartarse mate in your league no longer has a reason to send you messages bagging out your team.
9)   You don’t have to cheer for NRL clubs that have become your ‘second team’ because you own their goal kicker and two or three other players in their side.
10) You no longer sweat over blokes, who have been put on report, being suspended the following week.
11) There’s no more getting frustrated at blokes who end up in The Workhorse Watch’s ‘Close But No Cigar Club.’
12) Ricky Stuart’s wacky decisions no longer factor into your life (unless you support Canberra.)
13) You don’t care as much when random players receive serious injuries.
14) You no longer have to read this sub-par column hoping to glean some exclusive inside running – or whatever it is I claim to do.
15) You can focus on your English Premier League fantasy team.

Apologies for the lack of effort and interest. Hopefully a week off will renew my interest, and next weeks column will be the best of the year – but don’t hold me to that!

Line me up some shots Toddy, my season's over too!
Line me up some shots Toddy, my season’s over too!

 ROUND 24

Bulldogs v Tigers

It was last night. I didn’t tweet or anything in regards to this match – but come on. Who couldn’t have seen a convincing Doggies victory? The Crystal Steeden wasn’t needed on that one!

Eels v Sea Eagles

I say Eels. They have more to play for, and the team on the field is in less turmoil. I no longer rate the Sea Eagles as a premiership threat. They’re playing average at best, and any serious top 8 contender will certainly push Manly to their limit.

Broncos v Knights 

You’d expect Brisbane to win this one, but with the renewed vigour at Newcastle, they could very well lengthen their streak and get the money. This stands to be one of the most error-riddled matches of the year. Whichever team makes the least mistakes should win. I say Knights.

Rabbitohs v Cowboys

I’ve said it all year, and I’ll say it again. Cowboys on the road? Cowboys loss.

Warriors v Roosters

All year I’ve said ‘Warriors at home, Warriors win.’ But this could mess me up a little. The Roosters are firing at the right time of year. I’m tipping the Roosters to win in a close one, though don’t be surprised if New Zealand get up.

Sharks v Raiders

Did I say error-riddled match of the year? I think I spoke too soon. This game could be fantastic to watch – if you make a drinking game out of it! I would suggest that Cronulla should run out winners in this one, but the ASADA nonsense could very well be enough to disrupt the club even further. I’m tipping the Sharks, but with 0% confidence.

Dragons v Titans

Dragons have more to play for at this time of year, and are actually going ok right now. They should get the win, but they are a terribly unreliable team. If the game was in Queensland, I’d give the Titans a shot, but its not – so I don’t.

Panthers v Storm

If Soward is in the same form as last Monday, the Storm are in trouble. It’s hard to not think Melbourne should win this, because their form throughout the last decade would suggest they’re the better team, but the times, they are a-changin’. Melbourne are no longer the dominant force they once were, and Penrith, despite injuries, are having one of their best years in recent memory. I’m going to go with Penrith, just – because they’re at home.

 

There it is. I’ve reluctantly fulfilled my contractual obligation to the NRLCEO. I hope your team fares better than mine last week, and you are able to stave off Mad Monday and your end of season trip for another week.

Home Improvement

FiFJr

This week, a prominent Sydney paper released an article written by a prominent Sydney tool entitled “Buzz Rothfield’s 50 ways to improve the NRL as the countdown to the 2014 Grand Final begins.”

Could it not have simply read “50 ways to improve the NRL”? The tool’s name is written (again) beneath the headline, and we all know that the footy is hurtling towards the finals series. And hands up if you know what year it is.

Well I figure I’m twice as smart as the previously mentioned tool, so therefore I only need half as many ways to improve things. So I present to you:

The Crystal Ballboy’s 25 really, really good ideas for making NRLCEO kinda better for fantasy football players who take things a little too seriously because they have little else going on in their lives, as the countdown to Round 24’s ‘Struggler’s Cup’ clash between the Sharks and Raiders begins.

  1. A live site/phone application that has realtime notifications of when your (and your opposition’s) players score, with realtime score updates.
  2. Fantasy football betting: Virtual money that everyone can use to bet on results of the Champions League. This will make it even more desirable/envious to be in the top comp, and will advertise it to the rest of the NRLCEO community.
  3. Making the top tier competitions viewable by the public.
  4. State of Origin round – where CEO’s can elect to play as NSW or QLD and select players (from their respective states) to play head to head against a random opponent during a regular round of NRL.
  5. Anzac Test (that follows the format above between Australian and NZ players)
  6. Pacific Island test (same as above with Fiji, Tonga, and Samoan players)
  7. A stats page for your NRLCEO team, including longest winning streak, longest losing streak, current streak.
  8. A system for legacy leagues to transfer over from year to year.
  9. Statistics for your team’s previous performances against other teams in your league throughout the years.
  10. A place to display your league’s/competition’s logo.
  11.  A page to upload a picture of the trophy your competition is vying for.
  12. Automatically generated flair/virtual trophy cabinet for teams who have won the competition before, have won the wooden spoon, or won the minor premiership.
  13. A monthly NRLCEO vodcast. The Tantasy and Moneyball guys are great. But a video of a regular NRLCEO panel discussion would be great to see.
  14. A notification sent to your phone an hour before kickoff, notifying you if there have been any changes to the NRL lineups.
  15. A private message system within your league.
  16. A tipping competition for all of NRLCEO, with a leader ladder that is customisable by overall, players in your league, people who support your team/state/country.
  17. A ‘home page’ for your team that is customisable for your team’s colours.
  18. A page to upload/design a team jersey/kit for your club, and the jersey is displayed on your team’s homepage.
  19. A message board for the entire NRLCEO.
  20. A nominated “18th Man” who is able to be substituted AFTER a game, if someone within your 17 does not play (they cannot be used if a player plays but doesn’t score.)
  21. A backup kicker, i.e. a nominated second string kicker who can be named as a backup, and who’s goal points count if the first choice kicker fail to land any goals.
  22. A page listing all the new-to-first-grade players freshly available to CEOs each week.
  23. A page listing the most recruited and most dropped players each week.
  24. A page listing the percentage of ownership of each player throughout ALL competitions.
  25. A public polling option where CEO’s can ask ALL other CEO’s “Who should I play, Player A or Player B” or, “Should I trade Player A for Player B: Yes or No?”

There you have it. Much better suggestions done in half the time! Let me know what you think of my suggestions. Tweet me at @CrystalBallboy, drop me an email at [email protected] or tell the Commish @Fantasy_NRLCEO


order

If you’ve read the weekly NRLCEO email that got sent out yesterday, you’ll know that the Crystal Steeden was quite wrong in it’s predictions. Sure it said Souths would win, but it stuffed up the margin. It said Hodges would play, but not score – wrong again. It said that Maranta would be the player dropped, not Granville.

So while I send the Crystal Steeden out for repairs, I’m going to employ my Magic 8 Ball. The Coin of Destiny was good for one week, so here’s hoping the 8 Ball has some tipping magic for us all.

EELS v BULLDOGS

Will the Eels win? DEFINITELY
Will the Bulldogs win? YES
So a draw? DEFINITELY

Dafuq? Well I wouldn’t have picked it. The good thing about tied games, is that when it goes into extra time, it gives those forwards who are ‘Close but no Cigar’ contenders, the extra time they need to get over the line and score a WHT. So the Magic 8 Ball suggests you

 

RAIDERS v DRAGONS

Will the Raiders win? YES
Will the Dragons win? NOT YET
Will the Raiders’ backline fire? IT’S FATE!

Ho-boy! Is there a longer standing hoodoo in the NRL than the Raiders over the Dragons? The Magic 8 Ball is predicting that the streak won’t be broken just yet. And with the Dragons performance last week against the Panthers, it’s easy to see why.
Edrick Lee is back in the Canberra lineup, and if they’re to fire like the 8 Ball predicts, it’s highly likely he will be amongst the point scorers.

STORM v SHARKS

Will the Storm win? PROBABLY
Will the Sharks win? IT’S FATE
Are you kidding me? YES

Damned smartarse 8 Ball! I’m going to stick with it’s original prediction of a probable Storm win. Makes sense too. Melbourne are back at home after a two week road trip, and they will be smarting from their last minute defeat by the Knights. Expect Melbourne to storm through Cronulla’s defence repeatedly. Gallen back in the pack will keep it from being a complete blow out, but yeah, I predict the Storm backs will run riot.
TIGERS v ROOSTERS

Will the Tigers win? MAYBE
Will the Roosters win? IT’S FATE

It seems like the Roosters will take this match, but the MAYBE suggests that Wests will be putting in a little more effort than last week. A bigger effort from the Tigers means one or two more WHT’s from their ranks.
Saturday night at Leichhardt will provide the Rooster backs with several tries, and one to their forwards. Is Chris Lawrence the most useless guy in NRLCEO this year? If not he certainly makes the top 3. I predict a try to Lulia though.
KNIGHTS v WARRIORS

Will the Knights win? DEFINITELY
Will the Warriors win? DOUBTFUL

Makes sense. Warriors away – Warriors loss. Newcastle will be buoyed by their last start win over the Storm, and will be looking to make it two in a row. There’s absolutely no reason why they cant do it either. With Boyd ruled out for the rest of the year, Gidley will be cemented at fullback, and wont get another WHT for the rest of the year. Clydesdale on the other hand will get one every week.
TITANS v SEA EAGLES

Will the Titans win? PERHAPS
Will the Sea Eagles win? NOT ADVISABLE

I’m willing to believe the Magic 8 Ball on this one. Manly have had their troubles this year, and I predicted their downfall weeks ago. They proved me wrong and kept up their winning ways. Last week they and Souths were equal favourites with the bookies. But Souths blew them out of the water, and I am predicting that Manly are in a freefall. Boom! This is my upset of the week. Manly forwards to tackle their asses off while the Titans outscore them.
PANTHERS v COWBOYS

Will the Panthers win? YES
Will the Cowboys win? PERHAPS

I’m predicting that the ‘PERHAPS’ means ‘NO.’ Though it also means that the game will be close. The Cowboys are terrible on the road, and a cold Monday night in the Blue Mountains wont suit the North Queensland team at all. Moylan and Mansour are killing it for Penrith, and I can’t see why they wont score again on Monday. With Sims suspended, Cooper should return to the starting lineup and get himself back on the WHT scoring list. In fact, several of the Cowboy forwards should notch up a WHT.

So fingers crossed the Magic 8 Ball is on the money for us all this week! Good luck in your finals.

Postponing Mad Monday

MADMONDAY

Here we are at the tail end of the NRLCEO season. Some of us are already on Virtual Mad Mondays (and have probably clocked off from NRLCEO and this wonderfully informative column), some of us are in the thick of finals, and some are about to start their play-off campaigns.

To those of you who are able to now kick back and watch the footy without having to sweat over ‘who got that try assist’ or ‘how many more tackles does he need’ – save me a beer – I’ll be right there with you in a week or so.

To those who are fretting in the midst of fantasy finals, there’s not much more I can do for you. Our fate’s are in the hands of the Footy Gods. Hopefully you have enough players in your squad to cover the likelihood of an injury or suspension.

But what should we be looking out for in the final weeks of the NRL?

There are a few things we can actually predict, and there’s also a few things that we think we can possibly predict. Lets go through the list…

1)  Bullshit upsets.

There will absolutely be some upsets where a rubbish team towards the bottom of the ladder will stand up and out-perform a top 8 certainty. It will make fans groan in frustration knowing that if they’d only played like this a few more times, they’d be in contention too.

My potential picks:
* Rd 23, Knights over Warriors.
* Rd 23, Eels over Bulldogs.
* Rd 24, Tigers over Bulldogs.

2)  Players sitting out entire matches.

A coach of a top 4 certainty will no doubt, rest some of their stars in the last two rounds. It’s not totally insane for them to do it, especially if it is an origin player under an injury cloud. Better safe than sorry right? Not if they’re your NRLCEO star!

My potential picks:
* Daly Cherry Evans has come back recently from a dodgy knee. If it starts to play up, Toovs may rest him.
* Depending on how assured Souths top 4 spot is, Inglis could get rested, and so too Sam Burgess.
* The Roosters have a few injury concerns at the moment, but with their finals position uncertain, they will be pushing hard to climb as high as possible, and NOT rest players.

I heard that Geoff Toovey is resting DCE, just to mess with your team.
I heard that Geoff Toovey is resting DCE, just to mess with your team.


3) 
  Coaches resting workhorse forwards late in the game.

Some teams still need to get their wins up to assure themselves a top 8 berth. But as soon as the win is assured, there is a high likelihood that coaches will pull their star forwards to give some of the benchies more time

My potential picks:
* Cam Smith. It’s happened before. With Smith’s workrate, he will probably register a WHT before he gets yanked, but if he does, it would mean Hinchcliffe slots into dummy half, and someone like Ken Bromwich would get some more gametime. It also means the goal kicking duties pass onto someone else…

I wish that Bellyache would just let me get my workhorse points. :(
I wish that Bellyache would just let me get my workhorse points. 🙁


4) 
  Teams completely clock out in the last round.

Come round 26 there will be some teams that cant make the finals come up against teams that are pushing for top 8 and top 4 contention. Those with nothing to gain from a win may just not bother playing at all.

My potential picks:
* Bulldogs to run riot over the Titans. At this stage, the Titans coach may not even be the coach for 2015 – so why would he care? Sunday arvo on the Gold Coast – yeah, I’d be thinking about the beers that night too.

 

5)   Teams with nothing to play for, playing their arse off.

Just because there’s nothing to gain from a win, won’t mean that teams won’t be racking up a score.

My potential picks:
* The Dragons. Watch for it – as soon as St George Illawarra are statistically eliminated, they will start throwing the ball round with reckless abandon and pull off some of the most outstanding plays of the year. This is Benji’s time to shine.
* The Eels could also be guilty of this. Someone like Chris Sandow is likely to shine once the pressure has been relieved completely.

R to L: Lara Pitt, Benji Marshall, Weight of Dragon's fans expectation on Benji's shoulder (not pictured)
R to L: Lara Pitt, Benji Marshall, Weight of Dragon’s fans expectation on Benji’s shoulder (not pictured)

 

6)   Beware the home ground send off.

The last game of the year at a teams’ home ground is the perfect time for a team to dig deep, put in an emotion-charged performance, and send their retiring hero off in style. Oh! And there’s a good chance that one of the retirees will be lining up for a shot at goal – taking points out of your kickers tally!

My potential picks:
* Round 26 Raiders v Eels – Brett White
* Round 26 Panthers v Warriors – Kevin Kingston
* Round 26 Roosters v Rabbitohs – Minichiello, Williams
(The Panthers and Roosters are likely to get home finals, so the emotional home game send off may occur during the finals)

Seriously, why would anyone want to stop playing footy?
Seriously, why would anyone want to stop playing footy?

With all that said and done. How am I predicting that the end of season ladder will stand? A little like this…

The Crystal Ballboy's 2014 Ladder
The Crystal Ballboy’s 2014 Ladder

 

We’re still only at Round 22 – so lets live in the here and now for a moment.

Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles

Drink every time the commentators mention this game as a potential Grand Final preview!

This stands to possibly be one of the games of the season. If it was at Brookvale, you’d give the win to Manly. But this game is at the SCG, and while it’s not exactly a “home” game (in the strictest sense) for Souths, it’s still certain to attract plenty of Bunnies faithful. This game could go either way, but I’m going to lean towards Manly in this one. With Sam Burgess potentially a bit gun-shy over his recent injury, the forwards should be evenly matched. Otherwise Souths have the better pack. Manly have the better halves, and arguably the better backs.

Broncos v Bulldogs

Has there been a bigger bust than Ben Barba? With Darius Boyd heading back to the Bronc’s, it may seem that Barba’s days are numbered. The Barba v Bulldogs matchup has been spoken about before, but it never really eventuated. I don’t believe its going to happen now.

With the salary cap scandal casting a shadow over Brisbane as well, it would seem that Canterbury are in the prime position to take the biscuits in this game.

The NSW halves should be the players to orchestrate several tries as well as the win. With Hodges missing, there should be enough gaps out wide for the Dog’s backline to score plenty.

Knights v Storm

The only thing preventing a total Storm whitewash in this game is the fact that Melbourne haven’t been in Melbourne for a fortnight and the game is at Newcastle.

Expect the Knights to struggle and Cam Smith to rack up a big tally.

Cowboys v Tigers 

Cowboys at home, Tigers in turmoil. Do I even need to consult the Crystal Steeden on this one?

Thurston will probably score 20 points in this game. Robbie Farah could score a double WHT – or go completely missing – It’s anyone’s guess.

Gavin Cooper is back for the ‘Boys (albeit on the bench) but will he get enough game time to register a WHT? I’m gonna say no. Tigers wont have enough ball for him to make enough tackles.

Man I wish I had more North Queensland backs in my team. They’re gonna score big.

Eels v Raiders

If Parramatta can’t dominate this game, they don’t deserve to be top 8 contenders.

If you cast your mind back to last week’s column, I expressed the importance on taking a chance on newly listed players. Jordan Rapana has had some (5 games) experience in the NRL, but here he is making his debut for the Raiders. He COULD be a great pick. If you can, why not roll the dice and pick him up and slot him on your bench?

I believe that Parra will come away with the 2 points in this match, and it will be on the back of the Eels forwards – so play them if you have them!

Warriors v Sharks

Warriors at home? Warriors to win.

Gallen is back, and he should score himself a WHT, but Cronulla REALLY struggle to put points on the board. It’s hard to see them doing it away from home against a team who can turn on the rock solid defence when they want.

Shaun Johnson is out again (which should be a delight to Chad Townsend owners!), and the Warriors have named Lolohea on their wing (despite only being listed as an NRLCEO five-eight). Lumpy and the Beast should dominate the scoring again for NZ, so I pity you if your opposition has them in their team.

Dragons v Panthers

Drink every time Gus Gould expresses his love of Sunday afternoon footy!

If St George Illawarra are to make the 8, they should be capable of winning this game in the ‘Gong. It’s certainly not impossible for the Dragons, though it wont be easy. Conversely, if the Panthers are serious title contenders this year, Sunday’s game shouldn’t prove too much of a hassle for them.

This shapes to be a corker of a match. Unless the Dragons bitch out, then Penrith will run away with it.

This game could go a number of ways, it is highly plausible that either team could win by a lot, or in a tight one. The smart money would be on the Panthers in a tight one, 4 or 5 tries to 3 or 4.

Play your Dragon forwards if you have them.

Roosters v Titans

Does anyone think that the Titans can be arsed sending their inaugural coach off in a winning fashion?

I wouldn’t have thought so, but Monday night matches are funny things; the weekend is all done with footy, so Monday often throws a curve ball. It was only a few weeks ago when the Titans beat the Rabbitohs on a Monday night.

I mean, you’d have to be a fool (or one-eyed Titans fan) to think that the Roosters, with SBW back on deck, would lose to the Titans at Allianz – but it wouldn’t be absurd to throw $5 or $10 on the Gold Coast. The Titans are currently paying $4.25 for the win.

Though to be honest, I foresee this match being a blow-out and the Roosters scoring in the high 30s/low 40s. This means plenty of scoring opportunities for the Sydney backs, and probably several of opportunities for the halves to set up said scoring opportunities.

If the Titans are going to make a game of this, their forwards will be working overtime – there are WHT’s on offer here!

 

Anyway – it’s Friday afternoon. I predict there will be beer in my near future! Best of luck kids.

Recruit of the Willennium

freshp

Have you made many changes to your squad this season? You should have. The next big things don’t always make their NRL debut in Round 1.

This week I recruited Penrith’s new five-eight, Will Smith, with the slight hope that he could be the best #6 since Darren Lockyer.

DJ Jazzy Geoff Adams was quick to point out that in my PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, I picked up one of the MEN IN BLACK from the WILD WILD WEST. Thanks for that one Geoff!

What he didn’t realise is that there is a HITCH. ALI thinks I do, is simply cut one guy to recruit another. Many of my recruitments this year prove I AM LEGEND, but recruiting players means I have to cut one of my BAD BOYS too.

Let me explain how it all went down…

Now, this is the story all about how
My team got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute, just so you know
I’ll tell you how I won a comp called NRLCEO

In West Newcastle, born and raised
For the Rosellas is where he played most of his days
Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool
And all kickin’ the footy outside of the school

When a couple of recruiters who knew he was good
Started watchin’ games in his neighbourhood
He signed one little contract and then forthwith
He said, “I’m movin’ to the team out west in Penrith”

I saw he was named: I didn’t know he existed.
But I recruited Will Smith, as soon as he was listed.
If anything I could say that this kid was rare
But I thought, nah forget it, recruit the Panther!

I put him straight into my team without any debate
And I yelled to Maranta, “Yo homes, smell you later”
Looked at my squad, I was all good to go
And sit on my throne as Prince of NRLCEO

How I’ll feel when Will Smith helps me win our comp.
How I’ll feel when Will Smith helps me win our comp.

Like I have stated in previous columns, in my squad, I have two or three fluid slots. That means, they are not an integral part of my core team, and on a whim, I will drop them for someone who is new to first grade, or is a last minute addition to their NRL team.

By checking the late mail right before round 11 Friday night kickoff, I managed to snag Nene MacDonald. Not only did he plug a hole left by Origin star Daniel Tupou for my team, he continues to cover the position due to injury. He only has 1 try, 1 try assist, 1 line break, and 1 line break assist – but it is better than nothing.

Charly Runciman was another Origin coverage player for me, and in 4 games, he has notched up 3 tries, and 5 line breaks. He is the epitome of why it helps to be a proactive recruiter throughout the mid-season. But, unless there is a major injury at the Dragons, I’m uncertain if he’ll play again this year.

Carlos Tuimavave was a round 1 recruit who scored me a try and managed a line break – though he hasn’t played first grade ever since.

Clint Gutherson has filled in out wide for Manly twice, racking up two tries, one try assist, and four line breaks. He has been a handy round 17 addition and is still sitting in my 25 – just in case.

Despite playing for all bar one game this year, it wasn’t until round 14 that I bit the bullet and nabbed Dylan Napa. That week he scored a workhorse try. He only has one other to his name, but whenever he is in the starting team – he goes rather close, and is worth the gamble.

Jack Littlejohn managed 3 try assists and 4 line break assists during his very limited time in first grade.

In his first three games, Jake Granville got 2 tries, 1 workhorse try, 1 try assist, and 2 line breaks.

Though not ALL of my fluid recruits have been as fruitful on the scoreboard. Some duds that have been through my ranks include Willis Meehan, Wellentony Tafua Satini, Tautau Moga, Sika Manu, Cody Nelson – and others who have done ok, but just not during their time with my club!

What’s my point?

My point is that no one gets through the entire season without some injuries, suspensions, or representative holes to their squad, and that you should always leave some spots in your 25 to accommodate an NRL newbie.

You never know what round the next Billy Slater, or Paul Gallen will get their start. Maybe they already have, and they’re still sitting on your league’s free list.

Go on – cut the deadweight in your team (you know you’re housing 2 or 3 rubbish players!) and take a chance on someone FRESH. You never know, they could become a fantasy football PRINCE.

Round 21 predictions? Too easy!
Round 21 predictions? Too easy!

Ok, time to get jiggy with Round 21

Sea Eagles v Broncos 

It seems like Manly have put to rest any uneasiness within the club – for now. I really thought it was going to make the club implode. But if they have truly put it all behind them, there’s no reason they wont win this game, the minor premiership, and potentially the entire competition.

I’d like to suggest ways that Brisbane can win this match, but I just don’t foresee any.

Manly are all but at full strength, so Brisbane will have to get though a MASSIVE workload. Play your Bronco forwards if you have them.

 

Bulldogs v Panthers

The Dogs will be stinging after losing at home last week. And the Panthers must be pissed after getting done by the Sharkies.

Reynolds is back in the blue and white, and you would think he should be enough to get Canterbury home, but you can never rule out Soward and Moylan. I predict this will be a corker of a match, and the score will be very close. On paper the Bulldogs are the stronger team, but Penrith love an upset. There’s a reason the mountain men are in third.

I’m predicting a close Dogs win with a potential Panther upset. I know it sounds like I’m hedging my bets – but that’s how even I think these two teams are.

 

Sharks v Eels

Parra broke a bit of an away drought, and the Sharks won their first game since their big back-to-back upsets. So which team will continue with their form, and which will slip back into their old ways?

You’d think the Eels should get the money (especially if Hayne is on song) but being at Shark Park, there’s always the chance they could come away with the points. Remember when the Sharks were unbeatable at home on a Saturday night? It seems like it was an age ago now.

Gallen is only an outside chance of playing this weekend, and if he was a certainty, I might suggest the Sharks were going to win. But he’s not, so they wont.

I’m thinking Chrissy Sandow may have a big game here. There’s huge potential for him to set up plenty of tries for the Parra outside backs, and for him to slot the extras. Tim Mannah will also be keen to rip right in and tackle the house down, so I’d name him in my forwards.

Lichaa is probably the only Shark that will register a workhorse try, though Heighington is a very up and down scorer. If his pattern sticks, he is due to get a WHT. Arona will only get one if he starts, otherwise he wont get the minutes necessary.

 

Cowboys v Titans

I don’t see the Titans winning this one. Cowboys at home on a Saturday night are as close to a sure thing as there is in the NRL. The Titans are only nuisance value at this stage of the competition. They are poised to get some players back next week. So I’ll give them a chance then.

If your opponent has Thurston in their team, I pity you this week. I’m predicting that JT will be this week’s top scorer. Expect WHT’s from Luke Douglas and Mark Minichiello, and Dave Taylor – but only if he gets shifted into the forwards.

 

Captain Americas v Iron Men

In what (to me) is the most awesome farce in the NRL, the Roosters and Dragons will be sporting superhero themed jerseys this week. I’m torn. On one hand, I love comics and think the jerseys look phenomenal. But on the other, I think it’s terrible that the NRL has allowed the teams to be pimped out, wearing whatever the marketing department wants us to buy this week.

Lets look at the Dragons. On any given year they have a Charity Shield jersey, a Home jersey, an Away jersey, Dragons heritage, Steelers heritage, Women In League jersey, Indigenous round jersey, Anzac Day jersey, and this year there was a Nines jersey, and now a Marvel Heroes jersey. The Warriors and Bulldogs are almost as bad. /rant

I think the Roosters will be so fired up after their shock loss to the Knights that they will blow the Dragons out of the water and shorten their odds to win the comp.

Prepare for Mini to score and for the commentators to waffle on with Club Captain-Captain America nonsense. The Dragons forwards will also have a mountain of work, and there should be a few WHT’s among them. Look for Rein to get a double.

I imagine that a few well placed cross kicks on the last will yield points for the Roosters outside backs, so it goes without saying that you should play them in your 17.

 

Hulk v Warriors

No, this is not Wrestlemania VI, this is CanberraSlam brother!

The Warriors are away this week, and without Johnson. My prediction: Hulk SMASH!

This will be a win that Ricky Stuart will use to secure his future at the club for at least the rest of the season. Sunday afternoon footy in the Capital can be glorious if the sun is out, and the home team is in form. I predict that the Green Machine’s backs will perform well. The Warrior forwards will get a few WHT’s, but then again, they usually do.

 

Rabbitohs v Knights

The Bunnies seemed to struggle with the Raiders in the first half, before they applied the blowtorch in the second. The Crystal Steeden tells me that the Rabbitohs big push has already begun.

After their HUGE upset last week, Newcastle will get steamrolled on Sunday with a Cardinal and Myrtle coloured reality check. When teams get big scores put up against them, their forwards usually manage to make a lot of tackles. Besides Clydesdale, I can’t see many Knights coming close to a WHT.

Though with Sammy Burgess out, there is a big hole to be filled. Brother George, and Dave Tyrrell look most likely to step up and plug it.

If JT doesn’t top the points tally this week, Adam Reynolds definitely will – provided he’s practiced his goal kicking!

 

Tigers v Melbourne

If Wests aren’t already embarrassed with the whole Farrah-Potter fiasco, a butt-whooping at the hands of Melbourne will certainly make the Tigers faithful blush.

And that’s exactly what I predict is going to happen. The fact that Melbourne are away will be Wests only saving grace. The Storm are currently sixth, and at the moment, very few would consider them a realistic title winner. The outcome of this match will show if they are contenders or pretenders.

The Crystal Steeden says that the Storm will win convincingly, but not by a blow-out.

Bromwich and Smith should get WHT’s, but the fringe guys like Hinchcliffe and Hoffman will miss out.

My big prediction for this week will be, that at some point in this match, Robbie Farrah will lose it and give his team an absolute mouthful in the Tigers in-goal after one of the Storm’s many tries.

 

The Raiders?!
The Raiders?!

Swaps and Trades

Swaps

It’s that time of the year again when trade and recruitment windows are closing and the 25 players in your squad are all you have for the impending finals campaign.

It’s time to jettison those players that served you well over the Origin and Bye period, but were never likely to retain their spot once the stars returned.

That is, unless you play in a Dynasty League.

Dynasty, or Keeper Leagues allow you to keep some or all of your players for the next season, giving players a team ‘identity’ within your league, and gives your fantasy team a closer resemblance to an actual club.

This means that in addition to you having to speculate as to which players will get you through the finals this year, you have to try and guess which players will star the following year.

Some of those random guys who filled in and did your team proud, are likely to shine at a different club next season – so do you take the risk and carry their deadweight throughout your finals series? Hard to say.

Hands up if your league has a bloke who makes seven changes to his squad every week, recklessly recruiting every newly named nuffy. I know I have about 2 or 3 transient spots in my squad where players are disposable.

Because I play in a Dynasty League, I have hung onto, and continue to hang onto players who have been ruled out for the season. In addition, our league limits the amount of player changes to 25. This means that I have to be somewhat cautious as to who I cut and keep. Somewhat – not entirely cautious. It averages out to be just over one change a week, so it allows you to gamble a little.

But now, it is the pointy end of the season, and we need to make some very important decisions, and ask ourselves some very important questions.

* Does Darius Boyd’s check-in to a mental health facility means that he has checked-out of footy for the year – or forever?
* Is Young Tonumaipea’s first grade career at the Storm over (pending injury)?
* Does Wayne Bennett’s move to the Broncos mean that Brisbane players should be more highly considered to retain for next year?
* Are the players injured for the rest of the year worth keeping in my squad for next year?
* Will the Brisbane players Reed, Oates, and Vidot redeem themselves and make it back into the starting squad?
* Are Penrith the real deal, and can they continue their success?
* Will Manly-Warringah’s in-fighting and uncertainty derail their season, and what does that mean for their players?
*Is Ben Barba deadweight?
*Sezer and Henry are close to a return for the Titans, will they be rushed back in, and whom will they replace?

There are players (especially front rowers) who start for their club, but because they don’t get big enough stats, languish on the free list. Now may just be the time to pick up one or two – just in case you need blokes to round out your squad. You never know when they might barge over for a try.

Then, there are fringe players that look like they could retain their spot in the first grade like, Nene MacDonald, Dylan Napa, Jake Granville, DWZ, Moses Mbye, Pat O’Hanlon, James Hasson, Sausao Sue, Adam Quinlan, Charly Runciman, and Matt Allwood. They are all potential starters – some even are. All they need is for that one key player to go down injured and they’re in. They get their shot and prove their worth and all of a sudden, they’re their club’s first choice starting player.

But whom do you gamble on…

Ladies and Gentlemen: it’s now Round 20. The finals are imminent. Time to place your bets.

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Round 20

Welp – the Coin of Destiny™ was apparently a one-round-deal. It tipped far more losers than winners last week, so to hell with the coin, the Crystal Ballboy is back on deck to foretell this week’s winners.

 

Knights v Roosters

Round 19’s #RiseForAlex round was a #FailForNewcastle as they couldn’t even beat an average Titans team IN NEWCASTLE. Does anyone actually think they can be competitive against a good team like the Roosters.

Sydney’s backs will run rampant, and Newcastle’s forwards will have to get through a Herculean-like work rate. Clydesdale is a lock for a workhorse try, and Willie Mason will go as close as he ever has this year. Beau Scott is a good chance as well.

I’m predicting a cricket score for the Roosters. No Darius, no Gidley, no chance.

If the Knights can win, this will dethrone any Cronulla win and will be the upset of the year. #ReRiseForAlex?

 

Broncos v Storm

Coach Griffin is gone at the end of the year, but there is no doubt the rest of this season will go towards his resume for his next club, so you can guarantee that he will be wanting the Bronc’s to be firing on all cylinders.

Melbourne were convincing, but unimpressive in their defeat of Canberra. The Storm give me no reason to assume they are legitimate contenders this year, and if Brisbane take it to them tonight, they can certainly win.

My Crystal Steeden tells me that Melbourne’s forwards will get through a lot of work, and several will score Workhorse Tries.

Hunt v Cronk will certainly be a major battle to this match, and they will be brilliant with the boot and ball. I’m finding it hard to separate both the teams. But because Griffin seems to be fairly well liked amongst his team, I’m predicting that the Queenslanders put in an emotional effort to get them across the line tonight.

 

Panthers v Sharks

Hey – the Sharkies have gained another new sponsor! Good for them. There’s a lot to like about Cronulla – for next year. They have some potential, but it is no avail until they gain some stability. Getting Gallen back will help, getting their coach back next year will help even further.

But that doesn’t help them this week.

Penrith will be smarting from last round’s defeat, and despite being the home team at Bathurst, they should beat the Sharks.

Michael Lichaa has been a find for NRLCEOs this year, and I foresee that he will get himself involved enough to score a Workhorse Try again. Moylan is an absolute superstar, and will again shine, and the return of Wallace to the Panthers’ halves will ensure that their backs score several tries.

 

Titans v Eels 

Despite the Titans being considered ‘battlers’ for 2014, they’re still a strong possibility of making the finals. However, if they are to be legitimate finals contenders, this is a must-win match against the Eels.

If Parramatta were playing at home, I’d predict that they would win easily. Because they’re at the Gold Coast, I’m predicting that they’ll win, but much much less easily.

The Titans will take the fight to them, and their forwards will get through a great deal of work. Play them if you have them! Earlier in the year I predicted that Paul Carter would be a NRLCEO star. At the moment he isn’t getting the minutes to get him over the Workhorse line, but as soon as he does, he will. So many in the Titans pack are tackling machines, meaning someone has to miss out. Bailey and Minichiello will have to retire some day (you’d assume!) and when they do, it will be blokes like Carter that will step up.

The Eels’ Moeroa will also be a future superstar. Though that could happen sooner rather than later.

Parra to win. Just.

 

Bulldogs v Cowboys 

The Cowboys FINALLY managed to get an away win last week, but that was against last placed Cronulla. So it’s hard to imagine that they can do it two weeks in a row, especially against third placed Canterbury-Bankstown.

North Queensland aren’t a terrible team, but the monkey remains firmly stuck to their back. It makes you wonder, that without the talent that is Thurston, would they be a spoon contender?

The Dogs were a last start shock loser to a Tigers team that blew them out of the park. There is no way in hell that the Dogs will let that happen two weeks in a row.

Jackson back in the pack should strengthen the forwards, and at least 3 of them will score workhorse tries, despite their backline scoring tries as well.

The Cowboys are starting to look a little ragged, and their forwards will have to perform out of their shells to stay in the match.

 

Warriors v Sea-Eagles

Manly are on the verge of disarray. The Crystal Steeden predicts that the Warriors will get the win on Sunday, and the Sea Eagles will snap. BAM!

For one, we have all seen how much more dominant NZ are at Mt Smart. Secondly, the Warriors are essentially at full strength. Thirdly, Manly are not. Their team is slowly coming back in dribs and drabs, but until Glenn Stewart is back, they’ll always be incomplete.

Shaun Johnson is going from strength to strength, and I see no reason for that trend not to continue. The NZ backs are really heating up, and the trys could come from anywhere – so play them if you have them.

 

Tigers v Dragons

Oooh… Benji is playing his old club! Who cares.

If the two teams from last week showed up again, the Tigers would thrash the Dragons – a complete reversal from Round 1.

Benji was very suspect in defence last week as the Sea Eagles ran in several tries on his side of the field. So I don’t foresee the match-up that promoters would be hoping for.

The Tigers’ backs have been a revelation of late (except Chris Lawrence who is just abysmal this season) and there is every chance that they can exploit Benji’s dodgy defence.

But, if Mary has had the boys watching the tape, they’ll see that their tackling was lax, and will tighten up out wide. This should be a relatively high scoring and close affair, but I’m predicting that while the focus is on Marshall, Widdop will be too much for the Tigers.

 

Raiders v Rabbitohs

As the Moneyball guys discussed earlier this week, the Rabbitohs are starting to look like big pretenders. Their arguments will be further strengthened by a loss the Raiders.

Sydney has been fairly cold lately, with the mercury dropping below 10 regularly.  This is in contrast to Canberra where it is actually cold, and the thermometer rarely gets above 13 in the middle of the day, and the nights are dipping down to -4! The Rabbits are [email protected]!

The Canberra forwards will lay a decent platform, but I’m yet to drink the Raiders backline kool-aid. For mine, Milford and Robinson have shown potential, and there is a lot of talk about them, but I’m yet to see any true consistent form from them.

Inglis is the real gamebreaker here. If he plays well, Souths win. If not, the Green Machine gets the points.

South Sydney are the better team. They have the better players, better coach, more ability, and more talent. But Canberra love to upset a team on a Monday night. Any other day, at any other time, at any other stadium, you give the win to the Rabbitohs without thinking. But I’m not so certain.

If I were a gambling man, I’d take the Raiders/Rabbitohs halftime/fulltime double.

We Don’t Need Another Hero

The big news in league this week is two-fold. The Rise For Alex round, and the release of Marvel Superhero themed jerseys for Round 21.

Being an equally huge NRL and Marvel fan, naturally, this news gave me a raging nerdgasm.

The hero-team alignments seem a little off to me (seriously – Manly in Eels colours!?), but I understand the need to pair up the A-list heroes with the teams who have jerseys supplied by the manufacturer that made the deal with Marvel.

Meanwhile, I am going to list who should be the most appropriate, in terms of matching team mascots, as well as which hero matches each team’s colours.

Broncos

Beta Ray Bill is a horse-like alien that somehow is able to lift Thor’s hammer, and for a time, took on Thor’s costume and abilities.

Batroc the Leaper is a Frenchman who has the power to jump long distances, and was briefly featured in the most recent Captain America film. In addition to his stereotypically evil moustache, he wears a maroony-pink and yellow costume that is the closest in colour to the Broncos colours of anyone in the Marvel universe.

MarvelBroncos

Bulldogs

The Inhumans are alien warriors living on Earth (from time to time). They travel around the universe by means of a super strong alien bulldog, named Lockjaw, who has the power to teleport people.

Surprisingly, there are very few Marvel heroes who wear just blue and white. The pick of them is probably one of the X-Men founding 5, Angel. Though his blue furred teammate, Beast, might be slightly more appropriate for the Canterbury Bankstown team.

MarvelBulldogs

Cowboys

Wolverine’s Weapon-X teammate, Maverick, would sound like he would be a Cowboy themed hero, but he is instead a German mutant who in the Wolverine: Origins film is played by an Asian (go figure!) Instead, I’m going with Phantom Rider, who was originally Marvel’s original Ghost Rider.

Colourwise, I’m going with the X-Men’s Cannonball, who in addition to wearing blue and yellow, speaks with a Kentucky hillbilly/yokel accent that seems somewhat appropriate for a North Queensland team.

MarvelCowboys

Dragons

Fin Fang Foom is a Alien/Chinese dragon who can fly and spit acid, and who is one of Iron Man’s greatest foes. IRONically (haha geddit?!) ISC has decided to make the Dragons wear an Iron Man jersey in Rd 21.

Vindicator (also known as Guardian or Weapon Alpha) is essentially the Canadian equivalent of Captain American, and is leader of Alpha Flight, the Canadian equivalent of the X-Men. Naturally, he wears a Canadian flag inspired red and white costume that would be a decent hero replacement for the Red V.

MarvelDragons

Eels

Eel is a lesser-known D-list villain, who occasionally threw down against Marvel’s B-List heroes. Parramatta aren’t THAT terrible, so I’m going to pair them with Constrictor – a somewhat cooler villain who occasionally is an anti-hero. Plus he wears an orangey-yellow and blue costume, and has a snake theme – so that’s kind of appropriate for an Eels team.

Colourwise, the majority of the X-Men (at one time or another) have worn a blue and yellow costume. But for Parramatta, I am picking the X-Men’s field leader Cyclops as the most appropriate in honour of the Parra fansite, 1 Eyed Eel.

MarvelEels

Knights

Avenger, and Defender, the Black Knight seems a no-brainer on this one. He wears blue and red armour that also has some yellow markings, making it not that dissimilar to Newcastle’s original jerseys that had yellow numbers.

If the Black Knight wasn’t perfect enough a choice, I suppose Newcastle could always settle for Marvel’s poster-boy Spider-Man. Despite several different costumes over the years, Spidey’s most iconic suit is coloured the same blue and red as the Knights. Spidey has, as yet, never worn a costume with the same colours as a coal miner’s hi-viz uniform.

Knights

Panthers

Penrith Panthers = Black Panther. Does any more need to be said about how perfect the Wakandan King is for the Mountain Men?

If we HAVE to pick a second colour-themed costume, I’d have to go with Wolverine, who wore a shitty brown costume throughout the bulk of the 1980’s – much like Penrith did.

MarvelPanthers

Rabbitohs

In sticking with the rodent themed powerhouses, Squirrel Girl is an apt match for South Sydney. Like the Bunnies, Squirrel Girl has a very passionate support base, and has taken down several of Marvel’s major supervillians.

As far as colours go, as far as I can tell, there are no red and green themed heroes or villians. They all include (at least) a third colour. In this instance, I’m picking Doc Samson. Despite being a good guy, the Doctor (who gained his powers in a gamma explosion similar to the Hulk) often battles the Hulk. Fun fact – pre explosion Dr Leonard Samson appeared in the Ed Norton Hulk film, played by Phil from ‘Modern Family.’   MarvelRabbitohs

 

Raiders

The Cowboys will be wearing the Thor themed jerseys, but I can’t help but think that the Norse God would be more appropriate on the Norse themed team.

There are plenty of green themed heroes/villians (Electro, Doc Octopus, Iron Fist, Banshee, Vision, Phoenix, Ronin, Vulture, Sandman, Mysterio, and so on) but the Green Machine are probably best represented by the wrecking machine that is the Hulk.MarvelRaiders

Roosters

The Captain America jersey looks pretty sweet, I must admit. And because there are no chicken themed Marvel heroes, the closest I could think of are villains Owl and Vulture. All three seem like birds no one would pick as first choice for a team mascot, so in that regard, I feel like they’re appropriate choices.

As far as colours go, red, white and blue is a fairly popular combination. But in this instance, I’m going to have to concede to ISC and admit that Captain America (with the little white wings on his helmet) is the perfect choice for the Sydney jersey.

MarvelRoosters

Sea Eagles

I want to make the argument that the Falcon (Captain America’s flying buddy) is an appropriate choice for the bird of prey themed Manly Warringah jersey, but in this instance, I feel like Hawkeye is a far superior choice.

Not only is there the Hawk-Eagle connection, but lately the Avenging archer has been donning a maroonish-purple and black themed costume.

There aren’t many (if any) Marvel characters that wear maroon, so I’m saying that Hawkeye is as close as we can get.

SeaEagles

Sharks

Like Cronulla-Sutherland, Tiger Shark is a B-list character that rarely gets the upper hand when battling heroes like Namor or the X-Men.

Both the Sharks and the Fantastic Four wear black, white, and blue, they have been around since the 60’s, and like Cronulla’s wins – there’s only 4 of them.

MarvelSharks

Storm

Like the Panthers – Black Panther match-up, the Storm – Storm pairing is equally a no brainer. Heck, even one of her many costumes throughout the years has a lightning bolt on it, like a Melbourne alternate jersey a few years back.

There is also an argument to be made for Ms. Marvel, who has worn a bolt emblazoned costume for longer, but Storm is just too good.

If we’re going to design a jersey based on colours, then it’s hard to look past Daredevil villain, the Purple Man. But I’m going to, because the Green Goblin is just so much cooler!

MarvelStorm

Tigers

My first thought is to pick the Avenger, Tigra for Wests. And it would seem a fine choice. But that is until you learn of a little known villain, Flying Tiger who is a perfect representation of the merged Tigers and Magpies club.

MarvelTigers

Titans

Due to the region’s laid back lifestyle and beach culture, the Silver Surfer seems like a good choice for the Gold Coast. Even more so when you consider that you never quite know if each week, the Surfer is going to be a good guy or a bad guy – much like the Titans performance on the field.

As far as colours, it’s hard to look past the Marvel Universe’s big bad guy, Thanos (who coincidentally was born on Titan).

MarvelTitans

Warriors

Warpath is an X-Men character who is a powerful Native American warrior. His X-Force costume is a perfect choice for the New Zealand Warriors when they decide not to wear one of their 17 non black and silver jerseys.

 

MarvelWarriors

Thanks to my fantastic Coin of Destiny, I was able to predict all of last weeks winners. Why not try and keep the streak alive and see how well it can tip this weeks games. Heads is the home team, tails the away. Heads is a thrashing, tails is a tight match.

Sharks v Cowboys

Heads! Oh boy. Straight outta the gate, the coin is tipping a huge upset, especially when you consider Captain Gallen is out.

By a lot?  Tails. Naturally, if they Sharks are going to win, it will be a close one.

Eels v Rabbitohs

Heads. Ok, it’s official – the coin has gone off the deep end. Souths are just about back to full strength, but maybe having Hayne back in the team will be enough to get the Eels home.

Tails. Another close one. Makes sense. I cant help but wonder how the Coin of Destiny thinks the Bunnies are gonna lose this one, but it’s hard to argue with last weeks perfect round.

Roosters v Panthers

Heads. Finally some sanity from the Coin! Although the Roosters have named backup wingers, Penrith’s backline has had to reshuffle to cover the cursed #6 jersey that seems to claim a new victim to injury each week.

Heads. The coin says that the Roosters will rack up quite a score. Makes sense when you consider how often the Monday night teams struggle to back up on Saturdays.

Storm v Raiders

Tails. Woah… I know that Canberra can occasionally be a bogey team for Melbourne, but I wouldn’t have expected the Raiders to win this week. The coin says otherwise.

By a lot? Tails. If the Raiders are to win, it wont be because they score a huge amount of points, it will be because Melbourne fail to score enough. It makes sense if you think about it…

Broncos v Warriors

Heads. The Broncos will be stinging after their narrow loss on Monday, and with the Warriors away from home, of course they’re gonna lose!

By heaps? Heads. Sounds like Brisbane were REALLY stinging from that loss. The Coin of Destiny says that Brisbane will score big!

Knights v Titans

Tails. Titans to spoil Newcastle’s Rise For Alex party. I am going to strongly disagree with this one, as the only convincing win the Knights had this year was immediately after Alex McKinnon’s injury. I believe the emotion will be enough to get them the win. The coin says otherwise.

By a lot? Heads. No way in hell are the Titans going to steamroll the Knights in Newcastle. The Coin is nuts!

Tigers v Bulldogs

Tails. Bulldogs should prove that they are deserving of their top 4 spot, and get over the top of the Tigers.

Heads. Yep, it’s gonna be a long day at ANZ for Wests fans, as the Bulldogs run in try after try.

Dragons v Sea Eagles

Heads. In yet another ridiculous upset tip, the coin is predicting the Dragons will get the 2 points over Manly and knock them from the top of the NRL ladder.

Heads. Apparently the Dragons are not only going to beat the Sea Eagles, but they’re going to flog the pants off them.

Just quietly – I think that if you’re going to have a wager, you may be better off going against everything the coin predicted…

Until next week, when I find an even more random way to tip – best of luck!

Choices determine character – and victories!

Choice

I can guarantee there is at least one CEO out there that at the start of this season drafted Ash Harrison, Liam Fulton, Todd Carney, Beau Ryan, and David Williams and thought “I’ve got the basis of a pretty good team here.” And lets be honest – going off last year’s form, they would be fairly correct in that assumption.

But assumption being the mother of all stuff-ups, it brings us to Round 19 where they have all been either forced to retire permanently or have been suspended for at least the rest of the year.

The trick with fantasy competitions like NRLCEO, is to not only recognise the quality in the existing crop of players, but to be able to speculate on the up and comers and take calculated risks in drafting them. Players’ form waxes and wanes. Not too long ago Nathan Merritt was the try-scoring golden boy of the NRL and fantasy comps everywhere. Now Semi Radradra has seemingly taken over his mantle. How long will his reign last, no one knows – but for this year, Radradra is as hot as that late night drunken kebab you get with too much chilli sauce when you’re trying to impress your (equally drunken) mates, and you want to look tough.

For years, Harrison and Fulton sat among the pantheon of the NRL’s workhorse gods, but now they have been relegated to legend. A story passed down amongst CEO’s who remember fondly their workhorse feats from days gone by.

If you play in a keeper league (like I do), you have to try and recruit the next big thing, the day before he looks like becoming the next big thing. It becomes a game where you have to keep watch and take note of the young guys who are scoring workhorse rates in the low 30’s, and then trying to predict the likelihood of them getting more time on the field to make up the difference to get them over the 40 mark.

That’s all well and good for forwards, but how do you predict backs?

I’ll admit, it’s a LOT harder.

You can try and judge the outside backs by the quality of their halves. Manly’s backs certainly reap the benefits of having a quality #6 and #7 in Foran and DCE. But on the other hand, there are quality players like Hayne, Tedesco, Mansour, and Croker have all managed to consistently cross the stripe through their own sheer brilliance.

Ben "expert" Ikin
Ben “expert” Ikin

And it’s not as simple as picking players from teams tipped to do well. In the Big League season preview, NRL expert Ben Ikin selected the Tigers to finish dead last. They’re currently in 10th, and it’s not impossible that they could finish holding the wooden spoon, but somehow Pat Richards is the NRL’s leading point scorer. Richards isn’t even in the top 10 try scorers, and Wests don’t even have a positive points differential. Go figure.

To further illustrate the crapshoot that is selecting top point-scoring backs based on “good” teams, lets take a look at the current top 20 leading try scorers for 2014.

Teams currently placed: 1-4: have 6 of the top 20 try scorers.
Teams ranked 5-8: have 4
Teams 9-12: have 6
And the bottom four teams ranked 12-16: have 4

So the top 8 teams have as many top try scorers as the bottom 8. Coincidentally, going by Ben Ikin’s pre-season predictions, the top 8 still have as many top try scorers as the bottom 8, so work that out…

The NRL is cruel, and the only smart bet in a cruel league is chance.
The NRL is cruel, and the only smart bet in a cruel league is chance.

ROUND 18

Speaking of crapshoots, my tipping has suffered quite a bit of late. Let’s chalk that up to my recent bout of World Cup fever. Thankfully the symptoms have almost completely cleared up. But just until they completely subside, I’m going to put my tips in the hands of the NRL Gods and resort to using a coin toss to determine my predictions, with Heads being the home team, and tails the visitors.

 

SEA EAGLES v TIGERS

Heads. Manly will win this match. It’s hard not to see them winning this, and my coin agrees. It’s such a sure thing that even David Williams is betting on it! Seriously though, now he’s NOT playing for the rest of the year, does that mean he CAN gamble?

But will it be by a large margin? Heads says yes, tails no.
Tails; Manly in a tight one. Both teams only have a couple backing up from Origin, but Wests always seem to lift with Farah in the side. He may just make the difference between a loss and a flogging.

Where will the majority of points come? Heads says forwards, tails backs.
Tails; You probably could’ve picked it, but the NRL Gods have confirmed it.

 

WARRIORS v EELS

Heads. Warriors will win. Why? Because the coin said, but more telling is by the fact that they’re playing at Mount Smart Stadium.

By a lot? Tails. This will also be a close game. Rumours have it that Chris Sandow is set to fill in for Jarryd Hayne at fullback. Anyone would think that Ricky Stuart is still coaching Parra with a wacky decision like that.

Majority of points? Heads. It seems that the Origin period has the NZ forwards well rested, and that they will roll the Eels through the middle of the field and that Friend and Mannering will lead the way for the Kiwis.

 

STORM v BULLDOGS

Tails. Bulldogs in an upset. And so begins Canterbury-Bankstown’s post Origin run towards the finals. For some reason, the Dogs are sitting in 3rd, and the Storm are 8th, but the bookies have the higher ranked side as long priced outsiders to win this match.

By a lot? Tails. Reynolds is out, and Morris may be sidelined, but neither played last week when they took down Manly at ‘Fortress Brookvale,’ so the Bulldogs won’t run away with the match, but they’ll get the 2 points.

Majority of points? Heads. With Jackson, Williams and Ennis all back in the pack, it seems the blue and whites will get the win through the forwards according to the NRL Gods, and my Coin of Destiny.™

 

TITANS v RAIDERS

Tails. Canberra, it seems, are to get their first win in 7 weeks, and keep the wooden spoon at bay for another week. The Titans, despite winning against the Rabbits on Monday have failed to notch a win for the previous 8 weeks, so they are in a similar boat.

By a lot? Heads. Oh boy! The Green Machine is gonna whoop some ass this weekend.

Majority of points? Heads. The forwards again! Apparently the Coin of Destiny™ is predicting a hell of a game with Canberra’s forwards muscling their way across the line repeatedly in this clash. Before, I would’ve written this game off as a nothing match, and probably skipped it, but you can bet I’ll be tuning in attentively to this one now!

 

SHARKS v KNIGHTS

Tails. The Knights will get this one, says the coin. After the disruption in the Sharks camp, it’s not surprising. Though after taking two big scalps in a row, this match would seem like a simple win by comparison. But I’m not gonna argue with the coin.

By a lot? Tails. It seems the boost from the recent gaining of major and sleeve sponsors will get the Sharkies close, but the coins says that Knights are finally going to put in and attempt to send coach Bennett by playing the way they should have all year.

Points? Tails. Yep the coin confirms that the Knights backs are FINALLY going to live up to the Crystal Ballboy’s preseason expectations. THIS will be the week that Leilua performs like I thought he would, that Boyd silences his critics, and the Knights curse me for dropping Gidley and Roberts.

 

PANTHERS v BRONCOS

Heads. The number 1 ranked team in the NRL is set to continue their winning ways this weekend.By a lot? Tails. Brisbane is usually a Friday night team, so the night game will suit them, and being so far out from Origin, their Maroon stars will have had time to recuperate. But it still won’t be enough for the win.

By a lot? Tails. Brisbane is usually a Friday night team, so the night game will suit them, and being so far out from Origin, their Maroon stars will have had time to recuperate. But it still won’t be enough for the win.

Points? Tails. Mansour and Co. are destined to put the Panthers’ points on the board this weekend via the backline, and should help warm up what will be a cold, cold night in the Blue Mountains.

 

There you have it. Round 18’s predictions courtesy of a coin toss. If it works, I am a genius, if not – blame the coin.