Welcome to the Shute Shield Round 17 predictions.
Round 17 is the penultimate round for 2019 and the minor premiership and finals places are still up for grabs.
The big news in Shute Shield land this week is the confirmation that the 2019 Grand Final will be played at the new Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta. The move away from North Sydney Oval, which has hosted the Grand Final for the past 3 years, has attracted criticism for several reasons. Firstly, it is a seen as a move away from the traditional heartland of rugby in Sydney, which many would argue is on the North Shore/Northern Beaches and in the Eastern Suburbs. Secondly, supporters and members of clubs likely to be featuring in the Shute Shield Grand Final have been quick to point out that traveling to Parramatta is likely to discourage fans from attending. Another criticism has focussed on the fact that Bankwest Stadium has a capacity of 30,000 and the attendance is likely to be considerably less than this figure, which is not a great look on television. This contrasts with North Sydney Oval which seats somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 and has been close to full for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 grand finals. On the flipside, Bankwest is much closer to the geographical centre of Sydney. It also offers much better corporate facilities and more food/beverage outlets, as well as toilet facilities. Although North Sydney Oval retains great tradition and many fans enjoy the sense of nostalgia that the grass hill, iconic Morton Bay Fig tree and historic grandstands evoke, it is undeniable that despite the great atmosphere that a large crowd creates, it’s not perfect and long queues for food, drinks and toilet facilities have been problematic. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it will certainly be interesting to see how many supporters turn up and how the new venue is received by all stakeholders.
In other news, Randwick, arguably the most famous and successful Shute Shield club, has secured what will be a blockbuster match against Argentina on the 7th of September. Argentina will be finalising their Rugby World Cup preparations and reportedly turned down an offer to play Fiji to instead take on the Galloping Greens. Club officials are yet to confirm a venue but are hopeful that the match will take place at their picturesque home ground, Coogee Oval. As the game will be played in the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot, fans will have the opportunity to watch Randwick and Argentina before the Wallabies take on Samoa at Bankwest Stadium at 7:45pm. This isn’t the first time Randwick has played a national side – in 1988 the Wicks hosted the All Blacks in a famous clash at a packed Coogee Oval. Randwick won 6 consecutive premierships during the late 80s and early 90s and boasted a plethora of stars including the Ella brothers, David Campese and Simon Poidevin. The 1988 All Blacks featured greats such as Buck Shelford, John Kirwan and Gary Whetton.
For those readers able to view 7 Two or access 7 Plus (https://7plus.com.au/shute-shield), the televised game this week is between Sydney University and Northern Suburbs.
Eastwood v Southern Districts at TG Milner Field
Eastwood remain in the hunt for the minor premiership following their 30-17 defeat of West Harbour last week. The Woodies have now won their last 4 games and will be looking to carry that form through the last 2 rounds and into the finals. Southern Districts went down to Sydney Uni by 23 points under the power lines at Forshaw last week. The Rebels will be disappointed that they’ve only managed 5 wins so far in 2019 and will be hoping to get at least 1 more big scalp before season’s end. Unfortunately for Souths, I can’t see Eastwood taking their foot off the gas this close the finals, especially with the minor premiership still up for grabs.
Hugh’s Prediction: Eastwood by 19
DrivingMaul Prediction: Eastwood by 15
Gordon v Eastern Suburbs at Chatswood Oval
Gordon gave their finals hopes a huge boost last week when they defeated arch rivals Northern Suburbs in the Battle of the North, despite conceding 3 yellow cards. In a huge boost for the Highlanders, Wallabies Karmichael Hunt and Jack Dempsey have both been named for Saturday’s clash with Eastern Suburbs. Jack Dempsey is a product of village club Lindfield and Gordon Colts, and will be keen to push his case for selection in the national side. Easts have slipped back outside the top 6 and with a tough game next week against Eastwood, must beat Gordon if they are to remain in the hunt for the finals. The Beasties will be looking to build on last week’s win over their local rivals, Randwick. This week is Back to Gordon day and with plenty of representative players on show, expect a large crowd at Chatswood Oval. Both sides have plenty to play for but I think the Hunt/Dempsey influence gives the Highlanders the edge.
Hugh’s Prediction: Gordon by 8
DrivingMaul Prediction: Gordon by 7
Manly v West Harbour at Manly Oval
Manly will be looking at this week’s game as a must win if they are to qualify for the finals after going down to Warringah in the Battle of the Beaches last week, despite a guaranteed 5 points next week thanks to the bye. The Marlins have only won 1 out of their last 4 games and will be looking for considerable improvement in a number of facets this week. West Harbour has also lacked form recently, their last win coming way back in Round 11 against Norths. The Pirates were competitive against Eastwood last week but will need an 80 minute performance if they are to overcome Manly and the partisan home crowd at the Village Green. I think Manly will be too good at home.
Hugh’s Prediction: Manly by 15
DrivingMaul Prediction: Manly by 10
Sydney University v Northern Suburbs at Sydney University Football Ground
Sydney University’s recent run of good form is continued last week with a 23 point demolition of Southern Districts. It’s a familiar pattern for the Students, who have traditionally been strengthened towards the back end of the season as Super Rugby contracted players like Nick Phipps start to filter back to their clubs. Northern Suburbs fought back hard against traditional rivals Gordon last week, but they left their run too late and went down by 8 points in a high scoring encounter. The Shoremen remain in 4th spot on the ladder, 2 points behind University. With Warringah and Eastwood likely to hold onto the top 2 positions, and Gordon and Manly well back in 5th and 6th positions respectively, this game is unlikely to have much impact on the final positions. However, both teams certainly have strong premiership ambitions and will be keen to make a statement this week. I’m predicting Sydney University to win a tough contest.
Hugh’s Prediction: Sydney University by 10
DrivingMaul Prediction: Sydney University by 10
Compete with Hugh & I in the DrivingMaul SuperBru picking league
Warringah v Western Sydney at Pittwater Rugby Park
Warringah continues to lead the competition after defeating Manly for the second time this year, this time in front of approximately 12,000 fans at Rat Park. The Rats will be working hard to avoid any complacency over the last 2 rounds against the Western Sydney Two Blues and Southern Districts and will certainly have their eyes on the minor premiership. The Two Blues had the bye last week and will be desperate to secure their second win of the season. It’s been a challenging season for the club formerly known as Parramatta and taking on the Rats at North Narrabeen has been tough for most clubs in recent years. Unfortunately for the Two Blues, Warringah should win handsomely.
Hugh’s Prediction: Warringah by 30
DrivingMaul Prediction: Warringah by 20
Hugh: 51 from 80
DrivingMaul: 51 from 80
It’s still neck and neck!!! With us both going for the same picks that’s not going to change this weekend again.
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