The Roar
The Roar


The NRL crystal ball: Finals edition

Could Ivan be heading back out west? (Photo: Matt King/Getty Images)
Roar Rookie
10th August, 2018

This is the inaugural ‘Crystal Ball’, which will focus on the run in to the rugby league finals matches in September.

Emphasis will be placed on the sides that have the man in the street talking this week, the big cats of Penrith and Balmain origin that is.

As an aside, we will not be focusing any attention on the Storm or Roosters simply because they always bend the rules beyond the breaking point and nobody cares about them in rugby league heartland, to be frank.

Round 21 sees the Tigers move to within two competition points of eight after the Broncos and Warriors both falter.

The Panthers show up on the Gold Coast in a bus driven by Phil Gould. Cameron Ciraldo unloads the team’s bags from the undercarriage and walks them all upstairs to flight 65 of the Q1. Gus concludes that Cameron should have asked for some assistance from his staffers.

Matchday comes, and Gold Coast flog the Panthers on the back of a brilliant display by their hooker Mitch Rein. The mercurial Bryce Cartwright tells reporters that he owes all his success and wonderful reputation to Phil Gould.

Fast forward to Round 25 and the Tigers show up to an encounter with South Sydney on a Thursday night and Ivan Cleary has dyed his hair black and gold. Souths field a reserve grade side featuring a number of Robbie Farah protégés and are lapped by 40 by the Tigers.

The Tigers finish in sixth on differential. Minor premiers are Souths but Greg Inglis is having difficulty working out where they finished.

Penrith lose their last four matches on the bounce and it now impossible to tell the difference between Gorden Tallis and Phil Gould. Unfortunately, Gould lost all his hair in August and that facelift has really taken effect too. The Panthers sneak into the playoffs in seventh.


Week one of the finals arrives, and the fifth-placed Sharks outlast the eight placed Warriors. Wayne Bennett is sacked by the Broncos after missing the eight from a strong mid-season position and becomes the 42nd coach to turn down the Panthers coaching job for 2019, citing ‘coaching philosophy’ as a major contributor.

To all fans’ delight, the big game of the weekend is moved to Leichhardt Oval by the NRL and the injured Robbie Farah and Ivan Cleary watch the match from the scoreboard as the Tigers romp home by 30. Nathan Cleary can be heard singing the Wests Tigers victory song as he gets a lift home with his dad.

Remarkably, NRL records are broken as nobody shows up to watch the Storm beat the Roosters in the other finals match played in week one. Even the touch judges fail to show due to their industrial action citing complicated working arrangements and too many rules.

The Dragons do not show up for their ‘one versus four’ match against the Rabbitohs as Mary McGregor informs them it is no longer April or May and their season finished donkey’s years ago. Gareth Widdop’s late-season efforts to inspire his side with a Gus Gould style combover are shattered by Gus’s sudden follicle issues.

Earlier in the week, the Dragons’ CEO is spotted having an XXXX with Anthony Griffin at Pepe’s bar in North Gong. Mary is there too, and he’s overheard speaking to his cousin Connor on the phone about things that can be done to buses. Much later that night he drives home.

Next week on the Crystal Ball, we take a look at the run in to the big dance.