BROWNIE: My money is on the Sea Eagles
107 Have your say
While all the attention, rightly so, is on the Bulldogs at the moment, and their hot streak doesn’t look like ending anytime soon, I still like the look of a fully fit Manly side to take out the title again.
Don’t get me wrong: the Bulldogs are playing really well, but remember, they did beat Manly without the Stuart boys playing, which is an important loss for them.
And the way Manly beat Souths on the weekend, coupled with the mix of talent they have and the experience the players got from their premiership win last season, they’ll be very hard to beat come finals time.
That said, I don’t make that call with a great degree of confidence, especially as Manly don’t have the same depth as they’ve had in previous seasons.
And the Bulldogs are playing very smart footy under Dessie’s direction, using their big players as halfbacks and their halfbacks as support players.
Throw in the punch and power of the likes of Pritchard, Morris, and Inu on the edges and the unpredictability of Ben Barba, who has been able to get them out of a fix several times this season, and they’re a pretty powerful unit.
The style of their play actually reminds me of how they played back in the 90s, when they had guys like Dean Pay, Jim Dymock, Darren Britt, and Jason Smith creating the play and using the same 3 pass move that Dessie has adopted this season.
Back then, too, they Craig Polla Mounter at halfback, who was a runner, not a ballplayer, and Rod Silva at fullback, another lethal broken field runner.
So there are parrallels to be drawn between the two eras.
One thing I am confident about, though is that under the new finals rules, a team will have to finish in the Top 4 at the end of the regular season to be in with real chance.
I base that on the past experience with the AFL, which the NRL finals system is modelled on, and where I don’t think a team has ever won the flag from outside the Top Four.
So if things remain pretty much as they are now, it’ll be Canterbury, Manly, Souths and Melbourne all fighting it out for the title.
And what will make even more fascinating to watch is that each of those teams play a very distinct style of football. It’s not like it was 4 or 5 years ago when most teams were mimicking the Storm’s style of play.
Instead, there will be four totally different approaches on show, which is a sign of good coaching and is great for the game.
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