The Canberra Raiders have pulled off a dramatic late escape to avoid another horrendous defeat, scoring late to avert disaster against the Newcastle Knights.
In the words of an angel, Mr. Doc Neeson: “This is it folks, over the top!” Oh rugby league, you dirty old shagger. You’re ugly, nasty and often brutal but you’re still the most beautiful thing in the world.
Welcome to The Roar‘s NRL Expert tips for Week 3 of the finals.
It is hard to believe we’re on the doorstep of another grand final. It feels like only yesterday Michael Morgan was scheming across ANZ Stadium looking for his winger. It feels like yesterday Kyle Feldt was sending a kick-off into outer space on a collision course with Ben Hunt’s bumbling hands. Yet here we are, as four teams are about to become two. Hearts will be broken, dreams will come true and only the strongest will survive.
Four amazing clubs with four amazing stories to tell.
Representing Queensland’s north, the defending premiers North Queensland who are looking to become the first team since the Brisbane Broncos in the 1990s to go back-to-back. Not only do they boast Johnathan Thurston but a man who deserves to be put on the same main event billing, Jason Taumalolo.
Their opponents on Friday, Cronulla-Sutherland are yet to taste the glory of a premiership. In a long and frustrating journey that began in 1967, the Sharks will never get a better chance to make their own history in the first weekend of October.
Then there’s the Melbourne Storm. Two legends are leading their charge and behind them is a squad of fearless warriors.
And Canberra. The underdogs. The dark horses. The absolutely, positively, most exciting team to watch by a country mile this year. What they have isn’t just momentum, it’s a runaway road train without breaks and a confidence as high as Snoop Dogg’s entourage.
I’ll be calling the Intrust Super Premiership grand final between Mounties and Illawarra this Sunday on steelesports.com.au with kick-off at 4.15pm!
“We’ve got the best four sides from 2016 remaining. Any one of them is a deserving premier. So who is going to fight it out next weekend?
“I’m going the Sharks over the Cowboys on Friday night. Why? Because Matt Scott is playing injured, because 90 minutes in the heat is sapping and the Cowboys are playing a rested side. Because Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior are in career-best form. Because JT always gets robbed in Sydney.
“Who actually thinks the Raiders can do this? The Storm will be hell-bent on revenge, in front of their purple horde and with a game plan that almost can’t be bested. Further, they are led by two of the very best players of the last decade.
“There are two principles that could see the Raiders win: The Bradbury Principle or the Kryptonite Principle.
“The Bradbury Principle is based on the Olympic speed skater who won gold when every other competitor fell in front of him. The Storm could choke.
More likely is the Kryptonite Principle: that the Raiders’ style of play actually exposes the Storm’s weakness: poor one on one tackling out wide. Set the line deep. Shift the ball and then take advantage.
“The Storm’s gang tackling, play-the-ball slowing, strangling game plan can get exposed. But don’t drop the ball or they’ll put you away. They feed on your errors and gain strength from them.
“The passes will stick and the Raiders will win.”
“Two stodgy, tough as overcooked Christmas pudding teams versus two teams as light and breezy as a well-cooked sponge.
“Not quite, but close enough.
“Anyway, I’m backing the teams with a bit more pizazz, a few more points, and a bit more danger about them. They also happen to be the two teams that lost in Week 1 of the finals. Raiders and Cowboys, just because I think the Sharks aren’t that great and the Storm will cave to the Raiders’ incessant bending the line.
“Should be a couple of blinders though. Flip a coin.”
“The Sharks have the home city, if not the home ground advantage, have enjoyed a week off and have a full-strength side to choose from. The Cowboys meanwhile are on the road, played in an absolute brawl last weekend and have lost two regulars in Ethan Lowe and Antonio Winterstein.
“But I’m still taking the Queenslanders. Paul Gallen may be back but there’s a superior version of him playing for the opposition and Taumalolo and the other Cowboys forwards should give the Cowboys playmakers all the time they need to do the job
“The Storm are a methodical, professional football machine. Everything about the way they play is carefully scripted, practiced and executed and it all hangs on two all-timers in Smith and Cronk.
“Canberra meanwhile are old school. They play tackle-break, ruck speed football. They may not have the precision of the Storm but if you give them an inch they can and will take a mile.
“So it comes as no surprise that this one will be decided in the ruck. If the Storm can control the roll up field from players like Paulo, Papalii, Leilua and Rapana they should be able to strangle the Raiders. But if those players get loose then Hodgson and Austin can rip the football machine to pieces.
“In more heart than head I’ll take them to do just that.”
Tips: Sharks, Raiders
“I was tempted to tip North Queensland on the back of Johnathan Thurston and the monster Jason Taumalolo but I just can’t do it. Cronulla is a serious rugby league team and should be hungry as hell to do a number on the wounded Cowboys. The Cowboys have done more miles than Mo Farah recently and they surely don’t have the legs to go with the Sharks for 80 minutes in a preliminary final.
“If Canberra are to beat Melbourne at AAMI Park, they will need to shoot out of the box and take an early lead. But they can never defend it. They have to keep playing their style of footy. Take the lead, trust their instincts and never shy away from what got them this far.”
|WEEK 3||Tim||Lachlan||Pat||Curtis||The Crowd|
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