There is very little separating the NRL teams on a weekly basis – as we have seen with the number of unexpected results this year.
And, as always, it’s the capability of teams that can win close games which has a huge influence on a successful season.
The Tigers are one of those teams currently sitting in the top four – which have won three games by less than six points and lost one game by one point in controversial circumstances against the Broncos.
This year’s results are being driven less by talent and more by the consistent effort they are prepared to give each week.
They don’ t have some of the marquee signings of other clubs – but they have assembled a team under the leadership of Ivan Cleary - that is prepared to compete for 80 minutes and are working very hard for each other in the defensive line – conceding an average of less than 12 points per game.
The other secret weapon of the Tigers has been the recruitment of two of the game’s best high performance managers. Current Kangaroos strength and conditioning coach Steve Hooper was head hunted from the Broncos to run their high performance program and he has been joined by Ron Palmer who has been involved with successful teams including the Eels in 2017 and before that with the Panthers and the Roosters.
However, I am sure their unassuming, no nonsense coach would not be welcoming the unwanted media attention – which has brought his team into the spotlight.
Suddenly they are being compared to the Tigers premiership winning team of 2005, Luke Brooks is being touted as a NSW Origin halfback and ironically this week is the first time they have been installed as favourites to win their game against the Knights.
I recall the Knights being favourites against the Tigers at Hunter Stadium last year and their team didn’t handle the expectation and pressure all that well – getting well beaten by 33 – 12.
This week’s game in Tamworth gives the Tigers the opportunity to reinforce their semi-final aspirations while for the Knights it provides the perfect chance to “ambush” their opponents, especially if they have been reading and believing all of their new found media billing.
The Knights’ away form has been ordinary and they must improve their defensive effort – conceding an average of 34 points per game this year on the road – if they hope to return to the winner’s list.
My tips this week:
Roosters, Warriors, Storm, Rabbits, Tigers, Cowboys, Eels, Panthers
The inconsistent Roosters kick off Rd 7 tonight against the Bulldogs who are coming off their best win of the season against the Cowboys.
The Rooster’s middle third was exposed badly by the powerful South Sydney forward pack and they will be tested again tonight by Test front rowers David Klemmer and Aaron Woods along with their captain Josh Jackson.
Boyd Cordner was a stand out in a beaten team and I am tipping him to rally his troops – alongside their champion halfback Cooper Cronk – to put their season back on track.
Meanwhile, Parramatta (0-6) and Manly - two of the game’s long time rivals have been dealing with a huge level of adversity (on and off the field) as they face off on Sunday afternoon.
Brad Arthur has been copping plenty of flak as his team searches for their first win of the season and I do like their chances this week with the return of their 2017 player of the year Clint Gutherson at fullback and Jarryd Hayne on the wing.
And I am tipping the high flying Dragons’ winning run could end against the Warriors who suffered their first loss of the season and I doubt they will give up back to back losses at Mt Smart Stadium.