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Preview: Round 24 VB NSW Cup

Jamie Anderson from NSWRL Media previews Round 24 of the New South Wales VB Cup.
Preview: Round 24 VB NSW Cup

Jamie Anderson

Illawarra Cutters Vs Newcastle Knights
Sydney Cricket Ground, Saturday, August 24
Kick-off: 12.50pm
Referee: Liam Nichols
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1

Summary: The VB NSW Cup will proudly be on display at the Sydney Cricket Ground this weekend when a desperate Cutters outfit will look to knock off the high flying Knights and keep their season alive in the process. A two point loss to Mounties in Canberra last weekend means that the Cutters now sit one point behind both Mounties (8th) and Wenty (9th) and they would know that a loss here could all but end any hopes of playing finals football in 2013. The Knights on the other hand sit pretty in second place following a comprehensive win against the Jets last weekend, and with two very winnable home games to come over the concluding rounds, the Knights would appear to be in the box seat to secure second place on the ladder. In team news, the Cutters welcome back Josh Drinkwater for this pivotal clash but do look set to be without Craig Garvey as he has been named 18th man for the Dragons. The Knights have named a very strong side but don’t be surprised if there are one or two late changes given that the Knights NRL side is away in Townsville this weekend and will likely travel with an extended squad.

Talking Point: Master Chef - The old adage is that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ but in the case of Damien Cook, we are tipping that Paul McGregor wishes he had one or two more in his team at present. Cook was scintillating in the Cutters loss last weekend and he almost single handedly at times carried the Cutters to an improbable win. His blistering speed and ability to be in the right place at the right time was on show for all to see, and if the Cutters are to be any chance of knocking off the Knights, he will need to once again be at the forefront of everything good that they do.

Prediction: The Knights should be too strong for a desperate Cutters side. Knights by 8.

Cronulla Sharks Vs Manly Sea Eagles
Henson Park, Saturday, August 24
Kick-off: 1.00pm
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via the Broadcast page)

Summary: The Sharks will be looking to bounce back here after they suffered just their third loss of 2013 when they were knocked off by the bottom placed Bulldogs at Belmore last Friday night. Ironically enough, the Sea Eagles also lost last round by the exact same score line as the Sharks, going down 28-18 at home. It will be interesting to see just what the motivation for both of these sides is as it is actually one of very few games of late that have no real bearing on the overall ‘big’ picture. The Sharks have the Minor Premiership sewn up and are simply awaiting to find out who they will play in week one of the finals while Manly look almost certain to finish in 11th, the position they currently occupy, due to an extremely tough final few rounds (see Talking Point). Nathan Stapleton comes back into the Sharks line up at the expense of Daniel Moroko while for Manly, Ligi Sao returns to the fold while Dane Chisholm heads to the bench with Kayse Greer named to start in the six jersey.

Talking Point: Horror run home - It is probably a moot point given that the Sea Eagles can no longer qualify for the finals, but what about their run home. They face the Sharks (1st) this week followed by the Bears (3rd) in Round 25 and then finish the season with a trip north to face the Knights (2nd). Hopefully Manly can still find a way to fire up for the last three weeks without the potential lure of finals, because if they can’t, things could potentially get ugly for them over the coming weeks.

Prediction: The Sharks will be hoping that last weekend was just a minor blip on the radar. Sharks by 14.

Newtown Jets Vs Wyong Roos
Henson Park, Saturday, August 24
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via the Broadcast page)

Summary: The second part of what promises to be an exciting double header at Henson Park as the Jets will look to put themselves in the box seat for a top four finish when they host a Roos side that needs at least one more win to avoid the wooden spoon in their inaugural season. Despite still sitting two points ahead of the Bulldogs entering this round, the Dogs have the bye this round and with the two points that they will gain, the Dogs will leapfrog the Roos based on their superior for and against. The Roos will be up against it here though as the Jets are sure to be all fired up following one of their more disappointing displays of the season against the Knights in Round 23. When these two sides first met back in Round 14 at Morry Breen Oval, it was all one way traffic as the Jets won on that occasion 40-6. In further bad news for the Roos, Paul Rokolati has been named here and he had a day out against the Roos in Round 14, scoring three tries and kicking four goals for a personal point’s haul of 20 on the day. Some good news for the visitors is the inclusion of Allen ‘Pow Pow’ Malau who has been one of the finds of the 2013 VB NSW Cup season.

Talking Point: All on the line - The Jets should know that a win here combined with the bye next week means that they could finish on no less than 32 competition points. Both the Windsor Wolves and Auckland Vulcans currently sit on 27 points meaning that if either of those sides win out, they could potentially steal fourth spot from the Jets in the final round. Interestingly enough, if the Wolves can knock over Mounties this week and then the Bulldogs in Round 25, they would seemingly set up a mouth-watering clash against the Jets in Round 26 at the Windsor Sports Complex with a fourth place finish guaranteed to the winner. What a way to end the regular season that would be!

Prediction: A must win for the Jets if they are to finish in the top four. Jets by 10.

Mounties Vs Windsor Wolves
Mt Pritchard Sports Ground, Saturday, August 24
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Lawrence McDonell
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via or on the Broadcast page)

Summary: A huge clash here for both of these teams when Mounties will look to sure up their spot in the eight with a win against a Wolves team that knows they currently control their own top four destiny. As we touched on above in the Jets preview, the Wolves need to win their final three games to claim a top four finish and the all important second chance that comes with it while Mounties would know that a win here could mean that they may only have to win one of their remaining two games to secure an eighth placed finish. Mounties were good without being great last week in their two point win over the Cutters in Canberra and Coach Antonelli would know that his side will need to go up a gear or two against a Wolves team that ran riot against a very strong Bears side last weekend. Mounties appear to have lost both Bill Tupou and Sami Sauiluma for this clash with the Vaiotu brothers named as their replacements, although with a coaching change at the Raiders midweek, don’t be shocked to see some late changes on game day. The Wolves welcome back Matt Moylan to a team that already has eight other NRL experienced players in it.

Talking Point: Time to stand up and be counted - A loss for either side here has some serious ramifications. As previously mentioned, a loss for the Wolves would seemingly end their top four hopes (dependent on other results), while a loss for Mounties won’t end their top eight hopes but would realistically mean that they would need to defeat the Vulcans in Auckland next week and then also knock off the Tigers in Round 26. Both teams should be approaching this one like it is a mini elimination final and it is time for all players involved to stand up and be counted. Its games like this one where you really have to earn your match payment.

Prediction: Could see either side winning but fancy the home team to salute in a tight one. Mounties by 4.

Wests Tigers Vs North Sydney Bears
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, August 24
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Phil Henderson

Summary: The Tigers will head into this game confident of an upset as they host a North Sydney Bears side that is coming into this clash off the back of a loss. The Bears went down to Windsor last weekend 48-28 but actually trailed 48-6 at one stage in the second half and it was only a few late consolation tries that put some respectability back on to the scoreboard. The Tigers were good enough to get out of Brooky with the two points last weekend, and while it would be highly unlikely that they could fall out of the top eight, the Tigers will be looking for at least one more win to make sure of their spot. The Tigers will take a similar squad into this clash as the one that knocked over Manly although there are a few positional changes and Eddie Paea comes back into the team for Matt Mulcahy. For the Bears, there is likely to be a number of changes come game day with the Rabbitohs playing on Friday night and the likes of Matt King, Justin Hunt and Dave Tyrell currently sitting outside of the 17 there and some or all of them may end up at Campbelltown on Saturday while Michael Crocker also played for the Bears last week and may go around once again despite not being named.

Talking Point: Worst case scenario - As alluded to above, there is still a very slim possibility that the Tigers could relinquish their spot in the eight over the coming weeks if they are unable to secure any more competition points between now and the end of Round 26. For this to happen, the Tigers would have to lose to the Bears, Cutters and Mounties over the coming weeks while any two of three chasing sides in Mounties, the Cutters and Wenty would have to go through unbeaten. This is possible however albeit unlikely when you consider that Wenty face a tough task against the Vulcans this week and then play the Sharks next weekend. The good news for the Tigers is they very much control their own destiny as they face the Cutters and Mounties in the next two weeks and will know that just one win against either will be enough to see them hold on regardless of other results. Confused? Me too… Clear as mud, but hopefully we will have some more clarity by rounds end.

Prediction: Another toss of the coin job here. Bears by 2.

Wentworthville Magpies Vs Auckland Vulcans
Ringrose Park, Sunday, August 25
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Broadcast:’s NSWRL Match Centre Scoreboard

Summary: A really intriguing matchup awaits us here in what is the only Sunday VB NSW Cup game slated for Round 24. On one hand we have a home side in Wenty who are playing to stay alive in this year’s competition while on the other hand, we have a Vulcans side that will be in the finals but will also be keen to work on their form away from Mt Smart as they know that all roads to ANZ Stadium in October go through Sydney in September. The Vulcans ran out 38-20 winners against Wyong last weekend in a game that they always had in their keeping while Wenty should be refreshed after they had a bye last weekend following their good win against the Wolves in Round 22. After starting the year well at home with three early wins, Wenty have won just two of their last six home fixtures however they do host a side here that historically has not travelled well with the Vulcans winning just one of their last four away games. Atelea Nafetalai comes back into the Vulcans side on the wing meaning that Tangi Ropati shifts back to fullback with Carlos Tuimavave not named and Steve Waetford returning to number six. A host of changes for the home side although this means a number of their very good Ron Massey Cup players will get a chance to impress over the final rounds.

Talking Point: It all comes down to this - Some 23 rounds of play has come and gone in season 2013, but for the Wentworthville Magpies, it all comes down to this one game. A loss here would almost certainly end their season given that they look to have the toughest draw of the three sides currently locked in a battle for eighth place. The best chance Wenty have of making the top eight is by knocking off the Vulcans at home this round and then winning a potential play off for eighth in Round 26 down in Wollongong. That is not to say that they are not capable of defeating the Sharks next weekend, but you would not want your season to rely on it either. A win this weekend should definitely keep the finals dream alive for another week at least.

Prediction: Wenty’s season is on the line and they should play accordingly. Wenty by 7.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have the BYE


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