Here it is. Kevin Walters Queensland team for State of Origin Game 1 in Brisbane. The changing of the Queensland guard is now complete.
The 2014 NRL finals have proved entertaining and extraordinarily close. As such, we have Ryan O’Connell, for one, stumped this week.
Throughout the series The Roar‘s NRL expert tipping panel will provide you with their tips and predictions for the weekend’s games. But knowing how closely matched all the sides are from here, it’s going to be tough!
We’ve also got full previews of both games, and Roar expert Tim Gore has run the statistical rule over both games, so you can get his extended thoughts on the two games this weekend here.
So let’s read what the experts have got to say about all the games.
MORE NRL Finals:
» Full NRL Finals team lists, match information
» GURU: Finals are entertaining, but a tipster’s nightmare
» Tim Gore: NRL preliminary finals by the stats
» South Sydney vs Sydney Roosters full preview
» PRENTICE: Prowling Panthers to defy the odds again
Sat 19, 7.30pm AEST
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Last meeting: Cowboys 42-10 Roosters
History: Cowboys 9, Roosters 21
TV: Live Channel Nine
Betting: Roosters $1.47, Cowboys $2.75
Kris Swales says: The Roosters pack looked absolutely busted in the back end of last week’s epic against the Cowboys. Sonny Bill and Co. are ripe for the plucking, but are the Rabbitohs feeling the pressure of a premiership drought weighing down on them?
If a rampaging Sam Burgess and his Bunnies brethren can’t get past the prelims this time round, Souths should be relocated to Perth.
Rabbitohs by 8.
Dane Eldridge says: Fair dinkum, this is the biggest thing since new Coke. It’s too close to predict with any conviction, but what I do know is whoever wins this game will be limping in to the big one, because this is going to pack more horrific collisions than a demolition derby for learner drivers.
Rabbitohs by 2.
Ryan O’Connell says: I’ve got no idea. Zero. Zilch. None.
The Chooks looked great coming into the finals series, highlighted by their win over the Bunnies in the final round to capture the minor premiership, which also cemented their status as favourites to once again win the whole competition. However, they’ve looked vulnerable in the finals, losing to Penrith, before letting the Cowboys come back from 30-0 deficit.
Meanwhile, Souths have some mental demons to overcome to win a prelim final, which will ensure that both teams enter the game with some baggage.
In a coin toss, I’ll pick the Roosters, because I trust them more in tight games, and this will definitely be one.
Chooks by 2.
Steve Turner says: This shapes as another gripping finals contest with names producing heroics all over the park, but big game experience is well and truly favouring the Roosters. They’ll find a way to build a lead and have the smarts to lock Souths out in the last, desperate minutes.
Roosters by 6.
Tim Gore says: I really hope the myrtle and cardinal can break the 43 year drought but I reckon the Roosters had a huge scare last week. Roosters by 2
Saturday 20th September, 7.45pm AEST
Venue: Centrebet Stadium, Penrith
Last Meeting: Penrith 22 – 16 Bulldogs, Round 21 2014
Head-to-Head: Panthers 34, Bulldogs 48, Draw 3
Betting: Panthers $2.20, Bulldogs $1.67
Kris Swales says: Just when we all thought no team was capable of making a run this year, along come the Bulldogs, finally remembering how to win football games when it matters. They limped over the line against Manly, though, and are the team most likely to look bereft of ideas when the grind sets in.
Penrith, on the other hand, have forgotten how to lose tight games. And rugby league needs a fairy tale, so I hope Jamie Soward’s had his glass slippers fitted.
Panthers by 7.
Dane Eldridge says: I’ll admit it – I’m one of the fools out there who hasn’t given them a dime of respect this year, but now I’ve finally come to realise after 26 rounds and a qualifying final that Penrith are the new black. With the Milkman Soward rivalling Eddie McGuire as media’s everywhere man in the lead-up, they’ve got me convinced- or possibly just brainwashed.
Panthers by 4.
Ryan O’Connell says: Dogs to win. For no other reason than the fact I’m a Doggies fan. Plus, I haven’t believed in the Panthers all year, so why would I start now?
Canterbury by 7.
Steve Turner says: At the right end of the season, the Dogs are showing the desire, technique and mental toughness needed to go all the way. They’ll snuff out the exciting challenge mounted by the Panthers.
I have loved Penrith’s brilliant surge to the comp’s penultimate round but I feel their best years are ahead and that they will be overpowered by the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Bulldogs by 10.
Tim Gore says: The Bulldogs can’t afford to lapse like they did last week against the Panthers or they’ll get done. While I’d love the Panther rags-to-riches story to continue, I reckon it’ll end this weekend. Bulldogs 1-12
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