by Warren Boland
State of Origin selections are only a few days away so you can bet all of those players fighting for places in the Blues and Maroons will have big games this weekend.
It also means Round Eleven will be the last NRL round for two months that won’t be disrupted in some way by the regular absence of at least 34 of the competition’s best players (unless they’re Kiwis).
Origin is great but it’s a built-in handicap for NRL clubs with the best rosters.
Injuries and the wear and tear will turn some polished players into damaged goods on delivery back to their clubs. The letdown alone can take the shine off them.
So it’s important for NRL teams and coaches to make the most of this round while they’re close to full strength and have a full week to prepare.
By the time the Origin series and its after-shocks have settled, and we re-focus on the NRL, it will be late July and Round 20. The ladder will have been shuffled and some clubs’ fate for 2017 will be all but sealed.
It might mean they have no hope of making the top eight or top four.
With the Origin handbrake applied, teams now at the top and boasting a bunch of Origin stars like Melbourne, Cronulla, the Roosters, Broncos and Cowboys are at risk of coming back to the field.
Even teams like the Tigers or Dragons with only two or three Origin prospects can be hard hit because they rely heavily on those key players.
Other clubs with fewer big Origin names can take advantage to clamber up the ladder. Clubs like the Warriors, Souths, and possibly Canberra and Penrith have the chance to gain momentum.
Last weekend Round Ten was remarkable for huge second-half comebacks and upset results. Will the pattern continue?
Here are my tips for Round Eleven (winners in capitals):
- SHARKS v Cowboys
- WARRIORS v Dragons
- BRONCOS v Tigers
- TITANS v Sea Eagles
- Eels v RAIDERS
- Knights v PANTHERS
- Bulldogs v ROOSTERS
- Rabbitohs v STORM
Last week: 4/8 Total 51/80