The war of words is starting early this year!
If Friday night’s qualifying final was any indication of how good this 2018 NRL finals series is going to be, we are in for an absolute cracker. Lack of momentum, from both teams in the lead up, went out the window in a final that will be remembered for a long time.
Both Storm and Rabbitohs fans should be massively proud of their team’s performance. Only a wobbly field goal from Cameron Munster proved the difference in the end.
However, the ramifications of the Storm’s one-point victory are enormous. For the Storm, a preliminary final in Melbourne in a fortnight. For the Rabbits, a long hard road back.
Now, I’ve got good and bad news for Rabbits fans. The good news is that the notion that teams need the week’s break to make a grand final is not quite the reality.
In fact, over the past five years, two teams have got to the grand final after losing the qualifying final.
Manly made the grand final in 2013 before losing to the Roosters. North Queensland won the grand final in 2015 after losing their qualifying final to the eventual runners-up, Brisbane.
The Bulldogs and the Cowboys also made the grand final, from outside the top four, over the last five years. Neither went on to win. So, there is hope.
Unfortunately, there is also bad news. Melbourne have won three qualifying finals in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The losers of those matches, the Roosters, Cowboys and the Eels, all missed out on a grand final berth.
The path of these teams makes for some uneasy reading for Souths fans. The Roosters, minor premiers in 2015, bounced back against Canterbury before being trounced by Broncos in the prelim.
In 2016, the Cowboys beat Brisbane in a 26-20 classic before losing by 12 points to the Sharks. But for three late tries, the result would have been a lot worse.
Parramatta went out in straight sets, losing to the Cowboys the weekend after.
From this, you can only draw the conclusion that the Storm physically hurt their opposition. While the Roosters and Cowboys survived the next week, they were soundly beaten in the prelim. The Eels never made it that far.
There were symptoms of this on Friday night. Adam Reynolds will be having nightmares all week of getting the kick away knowing that he was going to end up on his backside. Greg Inglis’ ribcage will be receiving plenty of treatment this week. Felise Kaufusi was also in a mood, putting two big hits on Sam Burgess before Christian Welch got in on the act. Sam Burgess did not have one of his best nights.
Perhaps this is why the Shark’s record against the Storm is so good. They hurt the Storm as much as the Storm hurt them.
For the Rabbitohs, they will meet the winner of the Broncos vs Dragons game, most likely at ANZ Stadium, next weekend.
From there, the Roosters or Sharks await in the prelim.
You would have to say that the Rabbitohs would be a good chance in both games. Can they buck the trend? We will just need to wait and see.