Date: Sunday, 29th September, 2019
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Kick off: 3pm
Live Broadcast: Channel 9
Odds: Newtown $1.67 Wenty $2.20
Encounters This Season:
Magpies 42 Jets 10 Ringrose Park Round 4 2019
Jets 22 Magpies 10 Henson Park Round 13 2019
The Warm Up
What a way to wrap up the Eels joint venture with the Wenty Magpies!
Last week I tweeted about the partnership potentially coming full circle. The Magpies had inherited the 2007 premiership winning Eels NSW Cup team when they took over the reigns in 2008. They also inherited the coach.
The opportunity now exists for Wenty to hand back a premiership winning team, as well as the coach. Incredibly the coach is the same person – Rip Taylor. With Rip returning to the club in 2019, it was as if the script was already being written.
Just a few weeks ago, a grand final was close to mission impossible for the Magpies.
In Round 21, Wenty were humbled 12 to 6 by the Knights, a team sitting 11th in a 12 team competition. In fact, if the Sea Eagles had not played out a draw in one of their matches, the Knights would have won the spoon.
With only three rounds remaining, the Magpies sat outside the 8, with the prospect of facing competition’s high flyers – the Rabbits and the Bulldogs – in the final two rounds.
The bookies certainly didn’t rate their chances – they offered up to 150-1 for Wenty to take the title.
Victory in each of the final three rounds saw the Magpies scrape into the finals in 8th place. Their path to the grand final has seen them lower the colours of both Souths and the Bulldogs twice in five weeks.
Newtown, the feeder team to the Sharks, finished the regular season in seventh place, just one competition point above Wenty. They too have hit their best form in the finals series, delivering an unlikely 7th vs 8th decider.
The bragging rights have been split this season. Wenty absolutely shredded the Jets defence in their Round 4 encounter. The Jets exacted some revenge with a comfortable Round 13 victory.
The winner will play for the NRL State Championship on Grand Final day.
No matter the result, a fairytale finish is guaranteed.
Having A Punt
Unlike most weeks in the Canterbury Cup, there’s 27 betting markets available on the NSW TAB for this match.
The head to head/over under market looks really delicious. If you take Wenty to win, together with over 44.5 points you’ll get an amazing return of $4.20.
There is also a first try market and the favourites are listed below:
Wenty – Leleisiuao $9 Schaafhausen $11
Newtown – Katoa $8 Phillips $9
Magpies: 1 Josh Hoffman 2 Charlton Schaafhausen 3 Ethan Parry 4 George Jennings 5 Greg Leleisiuao 6 Jaeman Salmon 7 Rhys Davies 8 Tim Mannah 9 Matt McIlwrick 10 Stefano Utoikamanu 11 Andrew Davey 12 David Gower 13 Peni Terepo
Interchange: 14 Haze Dunster 15 Oregon Kaufusi 16 Mitchell Butfield 17 Haimona Hiroti 18 Salesi Fainga’a 20 James Porter
Jets: 1 William Kennedy 2 Sione Katoa 3 Aaron Gray 4 Ronaldo Mulitalo 5 Tyrone Phillips 6 Jack A Williams 7 Braydon Trindall 8 Toby Rudolf 9 Blayke Brailey 10 Jaimin Jolliffe 11 Scott Sorensen 12 Jayson Bukuya 13 Billy Magoulias
Interchange: 14 Teig Wilton 15 Jackson Ferris 16 Siosifa Talakai 17 Daniel Vasquez 18 Luke Polselli 19 Matt Evans 21 Wesley Lolo 23 Grant Garvey 24 Josh Carr 25 Greg Eastwood
With nine players boasting top grade experience, the Magpies have plenty of big game players in their ranks. It’s a good balance of young players and hard heads, exactly what you’d look for in a reggies team.
From a futures perspective, big men Stefano Utoikamanu and Oregon Kaufusi are likely to feature in the 2020 Eels pack. They are very different players. Kaufusi is a powerful unit with good leg drive and speed. He has NRL experience and brings impact from the bench.
As a starting prop, Utoikamanu generally plays longer minutes than Kaufusi. He’s tall, awkward to tackle and carries a decent offload in his kit bag.
You know you’re fielding a strong team when the pack contains Tim Mannah, David Gower and Peni Terepo. The Eels stalwarts have brought class and composure to the middle. They join Queenslander and 2019 Wenty Players’ Player Award winner, Andrew Davey in providing maturity to the side.
Backline young gun, Ethan Parry will be looking to continue his push for a 2020 NRL spot. Those at the ground will certainly hear him – the big utility back is a renowned talker. His centre partner, George Jennings, has had an injury hampered 2019 but racked up 20 NRL appearances in 2018.
Charlton Schaafhausen is an interesting wing selection. The Wenty RM Cup player and former Wests Tigers NYC star caught the eye with strong carries in the preliminary grand final and has kept the promising Haze Dunster on the bench. Dunster can cover wing or fullback if required.
The spine of Hoffman, Salmon, Davies and McIlwrick look to be in their best form of the season. Hoffman has taken over from Bevan French as custodian following the speedster’s departure to the ESL. Salmon was outstanding at 5/8 last week, and appeared more comfortable closer to the action.
Rhys Davies has stepped up to the mark as chief play-maker following the injury to Will Smith. The young half has justified his elevation to a development contract in 2019.
Matt McIlwrick seems to have found his groove in the latter part of the season. His service has been excellent and his runs more judicious.
Wenty contracted players Mitch Butfield and Haimona Hiroti have done well to keep the talented Eels contracted Salesi Fainga’a on the reserves list. Being middle forwards as opposed to a back rower obviously helped the cause. Butfield was a former team mate of Fainga’a in the Eels 20s team. The other reserve, James Porter, is an Eels Flegg regular.
You would have noticed that I skipped a player. I wanted to leave this bloke to last because he brings the greatest impact to the team. Because, if you’re talking impact, none comes close to the power-packed winger, Greg Leleisiuao.
He might have a deficiency or two which has hampered his progress to the top grade, but he provides a spectacular highlights reel with his carries.
In the Canterbury Cup, his attack statistics paint him as an absolute freak. A competition leading 4378 running metres (1500 post contact metres) is backed up by 192 tackle breaks. The closest in that metric is Jets fullback William Kennedy with 97!
The Magpies like to use him through the middle off the second or third carry following kicks, or though angled runs in the opposition quarter.
He may not feature in man of the match discussions, but if there is a major moment in this grand final, it might just come from “GL”.
Jets Danger Players:
For mine, the back three are a genuine threat. Kennedy, Katoa and Phillips have the potential to open the game up. If you afford them too much space, they’ll make you pay.
Billy Magoulias joins Ronaldo Mulitalo as two of the best monikered rugby league players. When I hear Magoulias’ name my mind flashes back to the 1970s and the great Greek-Australian George Peponis. And Ronaldo Mulitalo creates images of a superstar in the round ball game.
But don’t be distracted by the names. Both are talents and both have tasted first grade with the Sharks in 2019. They are young players with big futures ahead of them.
And the Jets player with the most promising future is the bloke who will handle the ball more than any other player, Blayke Brailey. The gifted Cronulla rake notched up 15 NRL appearances this year and has a long first grade career ahead of him. He reads the game well and enjoys the physicality of rugby league – he’s a very tough footballer for someone who only weighs in at 84kg.
If the Jets win, expect him to have played a prominent role.
The Winner Is:
The Magpies are riding a massive wave of momentum. I spoke to coach Rip Taylor at training last week and he puts their late season surge down to improved combinations. Put simply, they are playing as a unit not as individuals.
It’s never easy for any reggies team. They are subject to frequent change, be it related to injury or form of the top team they feed into.
And here’s the major factor for Wenty. Coming into the finals, the Eels full time squad was completely intact. Coming through the finals, only Will Smith (injury) and Kane Evans (suspension) became unavailable for selection. And Wenty was able to cover for Smith with the talented Jaeman Salmon.
Furthermore, all but three of the 17 have spent the last 10 months together in full time training with Brad Arthur and the entire football department coaching team.
Compare this to the 2018 season when the Magpies used a total of 52 players! You cannot build any team unity with those numbers.
You can’t write off the Newtown Jets. Not only do they feed into the strong Cronulla system, they carry the type of tradition that makes players proud to pull on a “Bluebags” jersey and join their rich history. They also go into this game as favourites because of the quality in their 17.
Expect Wenty to play Rugby League 101. It will involve a simple power running game to get field position, with second phase play and shifts in the opposition half. Rip Taylor has been to this big dance often enough. His forty years of coaching has returned 25 grand finals and 12 titles – including the 2007/2008 double.
Bankwest Stadium could be a significant factor. The Magpies have played a number of matches at the venue this year. The Jets are running out there for the first time.
And Tim Mannah? The legend deserves to wrap up his career with a title. It won’t hurt the team’s motivation, and hopefully a big crowd turns up to cheer him on.
Victory will mean one more game on NRL Grand Final day.
Sounds good to me.
Wenty by Plenty!
Magpies 34 Jets 18