Titans flying above the Storm
The Titans and Storm are both flying under the radar, but they seem to be going in different directions. With most of the rugby league community in Australia entranced by the battle for the top eight, the fortunes of two sides who have been entrenched in there from early in the season seems to be avoiding the media glare.
The battle for the minor premiership has long been seen as a battle between the Dragons and Bulldogs, yet the Titans may yet claim the top spot from the regular season.
The Titans must be doing something right to have won 10 from 11 games at home this season and it will no doubt be a daunting trip for their opponents in week one of the finals.
Coach John Cartwright is probably enjoying letting the other sides deal with the pressure of favouritism, it is not a mantle teams normally readily embrace, but I’m positive they are building a battle plan for September.
Their final two games should give us a good indication of the sort of impact they may make on the finals.
A desperate Wests Tigers side should give their home ground record a real shake, while Brookvale Oval on the final weekend is as good a test as any of one’s ability to win on the road.
But these tests can be embraced with the knowledge that regardless of the results the Titans will be playing finals football.
The same can’t be said of the Melbourne Storm.
The Storm’s woes are not completely the fault of Greg Inglis’ absence. They have looked pretty patchy all season and a shadow of their former selves.
The salary cap enforced departures have really bitten this season and the loss of Inglis was just the final hammer blow to a fighter already on the ropes.
If the finals were to be played tomorrow, the Storm would probably be the team opponents would pick to play.
But just what state they are in when the finals actually do start is the real question.
They obviously need Inglis back, but also need their swagger, their mojo…whatever the stuff of attacking confidence is called these days.
Coaches normally prefer to steer clear of the whipping boys in the run up to the finals, preferring for tough hit outs to prepare their teams for the intensity of the battle to come.
But a hit out in which they can put on some points might be the thing the Storm really needs.
Of course, if they lose either of them then any debate about the impact it may have on their premiership desires is probably academic, they won’t be there when the whips are cracking.