League Freaks NRL Semi Finals Preview

So here we are, the last weekend of big NRL games for the season. I say the last weekend of big games for a reason. Next week, next week is more than a big game. Next week will be life changing.

We are now down to four teams and I have to say, I liked all four of these sides coming into the finals.

If any combination of these teams makes the Grand Final, we will end up with a great Grand Final. There is always talk, usually from outside of Sydney, that the NRL will want a Sydney based team in the Grand Final.

Thats rubbish.

No one in Sydney likes the Manly Sea Eagles anyway, and their fans don’t travel. On top of that, Grand Finals involving the Melbourne Storm have rated their arses off and the Melbourne vs Brisbane Grand Final of 2006 was one of the highest rated Grand Finals of all time!

With that fresh in your melon, lets looks at the Grand Final qualifiers.

The Manly Sea Eagles vs The Brisbane Broncos
It will be very interesting to see what the crowd figure is for this game. Manly fans refuse to travel and the rest of Sydney, rightfully, can’t stand the Sean Eagles and their constant whinging.

Of course, the big story this week has revolved around Darren Lockyer. I’m writing this on Friday afternoon and honestly, I’m waiting to hear that he is going to play.

The Broncos have had to play without Lockyer in the past when he has been injured, rested or just on State Of Origin duty, so they know the drill. We wont see the Broncos fall apart like some teams would if you took a superstar play maker out of their lineup.

Manly have had the week off and I think that will do them the world of good. They have he zero media attention (Mostly because the wider public just doesn’t give a stuff about them) and that will have played into Des Haslers hands.

Manly is a very physical side and they beat down on a number of teams. What will sway this contest is how the young Broncos side reacts to the onslaught. I’ve got a feeling that this young Broncos side is ready to throw down and do everything they can to get Darren Lockyer into the Grand Final.

If the Bronco’s can still be effective on Sam Thaiday’s side of the field, that will be a good indicator as too if they are clicking on the night.

Another interesting thing to watch will be the performance of the Manly halves. They are both young players and they have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders tonight. Its not out of the question to think that the pressure will get to them.

I’m tipping the upset in this game. I think the Broncos will beat the Sea Eagles by a scoreline of 24-14.

The Melbourne Storm vs The New Zealand Warriors
This is the game I’m looking forward to most.

The New Zealand Warriors have an edge over the Storm, and no other team in the NRL can say that. Sure the Warriors some times get blown apart by the Storm but they beat the Storm on a more regular basis than any other clubs could ever hope to.

For me, the Warriors are at their most dangerous when they are trying their best to play boring football. The Warriors biggest and best wins come when they just get through their sets and play controlled football for 60 minutes, and then having worn down the opposition, they turn it on.

Melbourne is going to try and grind out this game with a full 80 minute performance. If the Warriors don’t match that grind, they will lose.

There is talk that bigger sides are an issue for the Storm, but I don’t believe that is the case at all. This is a team that has a very structured defense. They work hard, they don’t panic and they don’t try and over play their hand.

I think for the Warriors to win they need to go back to their best attacking game plan. Challenge the Storm up front, and then get your faster players getting into dummy half and pressuring the Storms defense around the ruck. It is tried and tested, and when the Warriors play that game, they roll up the field with ease.

The Strom have a major issue out wide with Beau Champions defense. This is a major area for the Warriors to target. even the biggest Storm fans cringe when the ball goes to Champions side of the field.

For the Storm, its really simple. They just have to play out their tests, not give away cheap ball and let Smith, Cronk and Slater do their thing. I also have a feeling Gareth Widdop will have a big say in the outcome of this game. Widdop vs Johnson, what a match up that is!

I will not tip against the Melbourne Storm but I seriously think the Warriors are more than capable of winning this game. Still, I think the Storm will be 22-18.

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