Sep 03, 2012 League Freak National Rugby League 8
The first week of the NRL Finals series kicks off this weekend and it is shaping up as the NRL marketers dream. There are so many big match ups in the first week of the finals and the new finals system should make things easier for fans to follow too.
The NRL captains call was held this morning and I felt like it was a shame the NRL didn’t allow all 28 of the South Sydney Rabbitohs captains to take part. I also found it strange that Terry Campese was there to represent the Canberra Raiders. Isn’t he retired these days?
Anyway lets have a look at the first four games of the NRL Finals series for season 2012:
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Manly Sea Eagles
What a way to kick off the NRL Finals series! This is currently the biggest grudge match in Rugby League. Both teams are in great form, in fact, both teams look a class above the rest of the competition.
At this stage I think one of these teams will win the Grand Final. Manly is in the better form and they have a battle hardened look about them too. They are carrying a few injuries, but they are just powering on regardless. By only worry about them at this point is that playing at such a high level for so long will eventually burn them out.
The Bulldogs are going to test them out, especially up front. This will be nothing short of a war between two great forward packs, but where the Bulldogs have a bit of an edge is the ball playing ability of nearly all their forwards. They will test Manly throught the entire game right up the middle of the field and as soon as they get a sniff that something may be on, that is where you will be Barba and Reynolds kick into action.
For Manly their strength relies on attacking on the edges. With Glenn Stewart and Tony Williams, the Sea Eagles are constantly asking questions of the opposition, getting a good roll on from winning the ruck and then destrying a defensive line that just doesn’t get the time to recover.
The big thing I see going into this match is the midnset of both clubs. Theres been a bit of a celebratory feel about the last few days for the Bulldogs. Manly meanwhile have been quiet, they have nothing to celebrate, and they 100% focused on winning their next game. I think we could see a Dogs side full of confidence running into a battle hardend Sea Eagles outfit that teaches them a bit of a lesson about finals football. My Tip: Sea Eagles by 14
Melbourne Storm vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
This is going to be a great test for both sides.
The Melbourne Storm have been winning games, but their form is not all that great. Billy Slater hasn’t been the same since coming back from injury and Cooper Cronk has played poorly since the State of Origin series ended. I feel like the Storm just haven’t got the forward pack to win the competition, especially when all their big guns aren’t firing.
Souths are in good form but over the course of the season they havent proven then can beat the best teams on a regular basis. Their problem in the finals is going to be their halves. When Souths come up against the good team, their halves are forced to play under pressure, and they simply don’t come up to the mark. You can forgive Adam Reynolds, he is only a rookie, but look for John Sutton to go MIA against the Storm.
The X Factor in this game is going to be Greg Inglis. With the form he has displayed this season he has the ability to drag South Sydney kicking and screaming to a win. To do that though, players like Reynolds, Luke and the like need to atleast play decent games. The problem is, I can’t see the Storm allowing that. My Tip: Storm by 8
North Queensland Cowboys vs Brisbane Broncos
I really believe that if they hit some peak form, the Cowboys could take out the Grand Final this year. You can look to Thurston and Bowen, but I think the Cowboys charge through the finals has to come from Matthew Scott and James Tamou. If they both step up and start tearing through opposition packs, the Cowboys will be extremely difficult to beat.
The will be facing a Broncos team that looks busted at this point of the season. For mine, the Broncos have a few too many utility players in their side. Sure they are good footballers and they can get the job done, but how many of these Broncos players are outstanding at one thing? When you throw that in with the fact that their halves are playing terrible football at the moment, I just can not see them winning this game.My Tip: Cowboys by 10
Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks
At one point this season the Sharks were one of the favorites to take out the Grand Final and the Canberra Raiders were dead ducks. Now we have the 6th placed finishing Raiders hosting the 7th placed finishing Sharks in what is going to be a fantastic test for both clubs.
The Sharks form earlier this year was fantastic. I tipped them to play in the Grand Final against the Storm a few months ago. The second half of the season saw the Sharks struggle though. Injuries took their toll and you got the sense that the constant lineup changes just knocked them out of their stride. On their day, they can stifle and attack and frustrate their opposition out of a game. There are some question marks over the Sharks ability to score points, but this is a team that wants to drags you down and grind you into the turf.
The Raiders turn around over the last few weeks has been aided by some very ordinary opposition. Few of the sides they have played over the last month and a half have aimed up at all, and full credit to the Raiders, they took full advantage of it. Now they are facing a side that is not in great form, but who is certainly more battle hardened than they are. The Sharks will lose games, but the Raiders have the ability to lose games by 40 out of no where.
I don’t think home field advantage helps the Raiders all that much in this game. The Sharks play on a cold, slippery surface at Sharks Park all the time and they seem like the type of team that will revel in the freezing Canberra night. My Tip: Sharks by 4
Why I Dont Like This Finals System
To me is feels wrong that the Minor Premiers play a tougher match in week one than the 8th placed team. All of the top four teams are basically on even footing right now. If they win, they get a week off and are straight through to week three of the finals. If they lose, they get a second chance. When you look at week one of the finals, the Bulldogs have the hardest game of the first round, and that just doesn’t sit right with me.
On the positive side, it is a much easier system to understand for casual fans.
So who do you think will win this weekends games? Log in and have your say!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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The only game I don’t agree with is Storm vs The Mighty Rabbitohs!
Storm have been struggling since Origin really and don’t look their imperious selves from early in the season.
Souths gave them a fright in round 2, at AAMI, and have been building in consistency all year.
Bunnies by 14…and I’ll be there to watch it, in all its glory!
And re: finals structure.
No system is perfect.
This is the best though. Remember in the old system only the top 2 teams were guaranteed a 2nd bite of the cherry & if you were a top 4 team & lost, you would then play away…which never made sense to me!
Yeah the playing away thing was a bit weird. I just liked the way under the old system that the top sides had easier games than the bottom sides and being a top two team gave you a big advantage if you managed to win the first round games.
As for the Bunnies, I really think the Storm are going to target their halves and that’s going to really hurt them. That is why I’d like to see Inglis play up in the line a little more and take pressure off them.
He has won a Clive Churchill Medal in the past playing at five-eighth. If he can take any pressure off Sutton and Reynolds it will be a bonus.
Nice write up.
Similar thoughts to what I had except the Storm V Rabbits.
I agree with what themadrabbit said.
I don’t think the Storm have it in them to hold off the Bunnies if they are firing on all cylinders. Storm have been off form since origin and I think they are just not quite there yet. I think being in the finals will inject the Bunnies with that confidence they need to make it to the GF.
As for the finals system, I like this current format. If you’re a top team you should have no dramas taking on a top team to prove you’re worthy. If you win you get a break. Bit of incentive for some great footy 😉
Mate I am with you on all tips here. Which if my tipping comp is anything to go by, you are screwed! Lol.
Most of the consensus is with the Eagles Storm and Cows. It’s amazing how varied the opinion is with the last game though. Personally I am bias so I am hoping the sharkies smash them.
As for the finals format it’s a lot better than we had. I think having a 2nd bite is much better than a home region knockout. Besides if you lose week 1 you get the home region advantage week 2. Last year was a joke. Warriors copped a massive advantage and was unwarranted.
Fantastic site plenty to read keep it up!
Keep in mind the Bunnies rarely beat any of the top 8 teams over the course of the year. I think someone told me last week they only beat teams in the top 8 five times this year. Not sure if thats is the exact number but it didn support how I felt about the Bunnies.
I felt like they played really well against the not so good teams, but the better sides really put them off their game plan.
As for having all of your tips match up to mine…..deadset, way to lose a tipping comp! 😀
Manly but it might be there last victory this season, Cowboys will ride roughshod over the Broncos, Rabitohs will be too much for the Storm to handle but they’ll need to play for the full 80, the Raiders are running along nicely and the Sharks rely in too few and hit the wall months ago.
Manly to get beaten in week three then huh? It would be interesting to see what the week off does to their form if they beat the Bulldogs.