It’s a big call, but I’m making it now: this year’s NRL decider will be an all Sydney affair.
The balance of probabilities are on my side, being that five of the eight teams contesting the finals series are Sydney based, however I simply don’t see either the Broncos or Storm being a factor come early October.
In my eyes, the only threat to an all Sydney Grand Final comes in the form of the Johnathan Thurston led North Queensland Cowboys.
The Cowboys have beaten NRL heavyweights Manly and Souths in the past three weeks. In fact their only loss in their last games came at the hands of the Panthers by just a single point.
During their seven wins from eight games run, they’ve beaten the Bulldogs, Souths and Manly, and racked up a 64-6 win over the Tigers.
They’ve beaten South Sydney twice during the season, including the ultra-impressive 22-10 win in round 24.
There is a strong argument to be made that the Cowboys should be amongst the favourites to take out the title such has been there form in recent weeks.
However, and I realise this statement will go against all of the evidence above, I simply can’t see a side from outside the top four contesting the big dance come the first Sunday in October.
The advantage for finishing in the top four is now massive. A guaranteed second bite of the cherry should you fail to win in week one, and at least one guaranteed ‘home’ ground game during the finals.
Now I’ve touched on the validity of an Allianz hosted Sea Eagles final in the past, but that’s another argument for another day, but the fact remains that neither the Roosters, Eagles, Bunnies nor Panthers will have to leave Sydney for the final.
Whereas the ridiculous Macintyre System did not properly reward teams who finished in the top four, the current system means the top four sides come in with a big advantage.
A victory in week one for the top four teams means a valuable week off, and home town final, whereas a victory to either the Cowboys/Broncos or the Storm means a trip to Sydney to play a team seething from a big loss.
The Cowboys should do a number on the Broncos on Saturday Night, and will be full of confidence coming to Sydney to play the loser of the Roosters and the Panthers. They may even get through that game; their reward will be a fully rested Sea Eagles or Rabbits side.
Make no mistake about it, the Cowboys have the side to prove those, like myself, who believe it’s near impossible to win from outside the top four, wrong … They just won’t.