Ghost Crayfish’s foolhardy finals predictions
The regular season is over. The Warriors flopped and the Tigers continued to underachieve under the guidance of the most over-rated coach in the game.
The Knights struggled so much that Willie Mason genuinely stood out as one of their best and most committed players.
It’s been a strange year in the NRL and now, to further illustrate that point, we are left with a finals series that will feature South Sydney, Cronulla and Canberra, with commentary from Ray Hadley!
But those are the cards we have been dealt, so let us move on. Given I have previously tipped Newcastle to win the minor premiership and the New Zealand Warriors to come up trumps on grand final day, this may not mean much, but here it is anyway: my preview of Week one of the NRL finals.
All you collectors out there be sure to take note, because this is it: another piece in the Ghost Crayfish portfolio of tipping incompetence.
Manly v Canterbury
Though Des Hasler spends so much time attempting to fly under the radar he should be arrested for contravention of National Air Safety conventions, there is no denying the high profile nature of this grudge match.
The story’s been told ad nauseam, so peer pressure surely dictates I must tell it too: Des Hasler used to coach Manly and now coaches Canterbury.
He also, from what I can gather, inserted clauses into the contracts of a number of Manly stars allowing them to leave the club if he did so. Hasler then proceeded to try and sign them all for Canterbury.
Even though he has only eventually managed to pick up Tony Williams, it was still a pretty underhanded move that deserves the vitriol it attracts from Manly fans.
Unfortunately for Manly though, the cold, calculating psychopath (Hasler) has been replaced in the coach’s box by a dangerously unhinged lunatic (Geoff Toovey).
What this means for their long term NRL ambitions remains unclear. Toovey’s true coaching credentials are yet to be tested.
For now, the lunatic is riding the trail blazed by the psychopath and, in the short term at least, Manly seems well placed.
The Bulldogs are a fine side, but unless Hasler has managed to poach Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran mid-week, Manly should have too much class for them in this one. I’m tipping the Sea Eagles to win by eight points.
Melbourne v Souths
Imagine the mismatch this would be if Greg Inglis was still at Melbourne! Happily for South Sydney fans this is not the case and in GI, it’s safe to say they have the best rugby league player in the world wearing the number one jersey.
For so long a sleeping giant roused only for the biggest games, these days Inglis finally has the consistency and ferocity to match his incomparable physical assets. All three of Melbourne’s big guns could have had a crack at Uate on Friday night and not prevented that try.
As Andrew Johns must surely mumble in his sleep, Inglis is a freak! But while he has been a huge factor in their rise, Inglis is not the only reason South Sydney have such a good chance in this game.
In the forward battle, Sam Burgess, Roy Asotasi and Dave Taylor give Souths ammunition Craig Bellamy can only dream about.
Jason Ryles v Sam Burgess? Please! To use today’s modern slang, ROFL!
However, Bellamy does not spend half of the side’s salary cap on three players for nothing. As freakish a talent as Inglis is, he does not yet play with the intelligence and control that Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater offer Melbourne.
This will be a contest between the brain of Melbourne and the brawn of South Sydney. I’m tipping Melbourne to prevail, but with no confidence at all.
North Queensland v Brisbane
What a shame to see these two great clubs clashing in such an early elimination final! As a staunch Queenslander first and Broncos supporter second, I am veering towards hoping the Cowboys win this one.
In North Queensland I see a team with the aggressive forwards and attacking firepower to be a genuine title threat; in the Broncos, I see a team of second-rowers whose only variety in attack comes from trying to predict the awful fifth tackle options Andrew McCullough will take.
They do not look like a genuine premiership threat. If the Cowboys have an off night, the Broncos could well bustle them into an error-riddled defeat, but if the Cowboys perform to their potential they should win easily.
I love the Broncos, but the glory years of flowing attacking football are long gone. It pains me to say it, but as a true Queenslander I can’t help but hope the Cowboys win: they are the only premiership hope out of these two.
Canberra v Cronulla
The charge of the Raiders into this year’s finals series has been almost as emphatic as the Sharks’ fade out of it. Sharks fans will be angry to read it (or perhaps heartened, given how often I’ve been proven wrong this season), but I see nothing but despair coming up this Sunday.
The Raiders finally have the attitude to match the talent. Despite the threat of a fired up Paul Gallen (his performance last start in the nation’s capital was the greatest display by a lock forward since Bradley Clyde galloped around making Ricky Stuart’s tackles in the early 90s), the Raiders should win comfortably.
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