Finally league fans can focus on the best and forget the rest. All year league analysts have said only the top 4 can win it but this is the NRL not the AFL. Criticism of Ray Warren & Phil Gould has been rampant so I am going to try and do their job for them. Here is what to look for in each team playing this weekend.
Every set they start in their own half the Roosters look to roll up field and then its bombs away to the wingers. It’s predictable but effective. When close to the line look for a Pearce step, he rarely scores but creates a quick play the ball.
·When Maloney gets isolated in defence he is as useful as Sandow.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Greg Inglis usually gets their sets rolling with big kick returns. A quick play the ball or a lazy marker and Luke will be off and running, creating momentum and plenty of time for Reynolds to place his kicks.
·All the Burgess Brothers have a silly mistake in them.
Regardless of whether the Storm forwards are dominating or getting smashed, Cronk looks like he has all the time in the world. His kicking game decides how well Melbourne plays. Also watch Smith organise his troops. He does not shut up the whole game.
·Sisa Waqa is Vatuvei the 2nd. Rocks or diamonds.
Manly Sea Eagles
Their line speed in defence puts opposition teams under a lot of pressure. The question is can they keep up the intensity for 80 minutes against the best? In attack the Stewart brothers often create overlaps to put the Wolfman over in the corner.
·George Rose’s play the ball is as fast as Luke Covell.
Todd Carney adds threat to a backline that lacks players who can create something for themselves. He drifts across field looking to hit players running at holes with crisp passing. An exception to this is Gordon who seems to be one of the hardest players to tackle.
·Gallen has a bad habit of slowing down the Sharks attack with too many touches.
Arguably the classiest forward pack in the competition and are hard to stop when they look to run before passing. Reynolds pressures the opposition by rushing out of the line (albeit often offside) and forces mistakes.
·Barba’s kick returns this year are ordinary. He has other things on his mind.
The most underrated backline in the competition with tons of potential. They also possess some very aggressive forwards in Scott, Mason & Smith.
·They don’t have the X-factor that every other team in the 8 has.
North Queensland Cowboys
Confidence is their biggest weapon. Unlike every other team they have been in must win mode for over a month. A massive bench with the Sims brothers and Taumalolo creates momentum when they come on.
·Thurston does the role of 9, 7 & 6 on this team. For most of the year it has been too much for him.
For the record I expect Souths to bounce back and beat the Storm, Manly to be too aggressive for Easts without JWH, Sharks to beat Cowboys in Sydney and Knights to beat the Dogs as it just isn’t their year.
If you’re looking for a coach’s view of the game then follow me on twitter: @BenjaminJWalsh