Match of the round: Panthers v Warriors 2
Make or break time for the Warriors against a Penrith side missing Luke Lewis, Tim Grant and Michael Jennings. If they lose this one you can just about put a line through the Warriors this season. That said, winning won't be easy. Having endured a five-match losing streak, the Panthers have hit form, beating the Sea Eagles and Dragons and losing to the Cowboys by just two points in their past three outings. A Warriors side that will be boosted by the return of Kevin Locke has won just once on the road this season.
Cleary's Kiwi fetish
Having been tasked by Phil Gould with engineering a Penrith revolution, Ivan Cleary hasn't taken long to figure out what has been wrong with the Panthers in recent times - not enough Kiwis. This week Cleary, who spent nearly a decade as a player and coach in the land of the big brown back rower, snared Wellingtonian bopper Sika Manu from the Storm to go alongside the recent signatures of Dean Whare and Lewis Brown. The club also boasts former Warriors prospects Nafe Seluini and Matt Robinson, with the latter set to face his former club on Monday night.
David was dudded...
The man who preceded him as NRL chief executive, former NZRU boss David Moffett, has come out swinging over David Gallop's shock axing. Moffett alleges former News Ltd lawyer Gallop was put to the sword by forces aligned with the ARL (namely Phil Gould and ARLC chairman John Grant) for being on the wrong side during the Superleague war. "People have got a capacity to hate in rugby league that lasts over one lifetime," Moffett said. "That will never be forgiven, never be forgotten."
...But he'll always be my mate
Support for Gallop came from the most unlikely of sources (okay, not Brett Stewart, so maybe second-most unlikely), with Todd Carney backing the man who banned him from the game for a year for being a boozy halfwit. "[There was] the good and the bad with me and David in meetings [but] I have built a friendship with him," Carney said. "He genuinely cared about me and he said it to my face. I don't have a grudge. It's his job. Like anything, it's a decision someone has to make. At the end of the day I have always put my hand up and said I did the wrong thing. As I have tattooed on me 'everything happens for a reason'."
The most disingenuous quote of the year comes to you from Storm football manager Frank Ponissi, who revealed in the wake of Sika Manu's departure how the club has become used to dealing with challenges posed by the salary cap. "It's part and parcel of the game and the salary cap and how it works - it's something that we're unfortunately very used to at the Melbourne Storm, losing some very good players at the end of each season."
With the Big Three away on Origin duty, $1.50 (NZ TAB) on a Tigers team that has won six straight and is without only Robbie Farah seems like silly money. The rapidly improving Gold Coast Titans also seem good value at $2.05 to tip over a Sharks side that will be without key playmaker Todd Carney and talismanic skipper Paul Gallen. The latest from the futures market from Aussie betting agency Tabcorp has the Warriors paying $1.80 to make the top eight. Those who still fancy them for the title can get $17 with the Aussie bookie compared to just $9 at the NZ TAB.