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The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Qualifying and elimination finals

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Eight teams are left, and they will soon become six as the NRL finals get underway with the biggest games of the season upon us. Here to tell you who is winning what and living to see another day are The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel.

With the Sharks clinching the final spot in the top eight on a thrilling afternoon at Leichhardt last weekend, the top eight is set and those teams making up the numbers, including three out of four of us on the panel, are now out of contention.

The eight remaining teams will now put on more of those thrilling games, with high stakes riding every contest between now and the end of the season.

The finals will get underway on Friday evening (Wait, what do we do with our lives on Thursday?) as the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs write their second instalment of the book of feuds in as many weeks.

The Rabbitohs have been successful in both episodes so far this year, but last week didn’t mean much to the Roosters, and the other was way back in the opening round with the Roosters only just travelling home from the World Club Challenge, so read into previous results what you will.

Saturday takes us to Mex… Wait on, Melbourne, as the Storm look to serve some cold hard revenge on a Green Machine who threw them to the wolves just a couple of weeks ago, coming back to win from 18-0 down.

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Then there is the elimination games, kicking off at Brookvale, which was only cleared to host the game on Monday evening.

The Manly Sea Eagles are without their Turbo, and without their Taupau, but still have their grit, determination and Des Hasler leading the way. They will need plenty of it though as Paul Gallen attempts to keep his career going for another week.

Sunday brings us the battle of inconsistent Parramatta against wobbly Brisbane at Bankwest Stadium, which should be absolutely rocking and will almost certainly provide one of the best atmosphere’s we have seen all year long.

In terms of tipping, the phenomenal recovery of AJ continues. He is running out of time, but after another six last week, is back to just a single tip behind The Barry and myself, and just three behind Stuart.

That was aided by Stuart only getting four last week, while The Barry had six and I came away with five out of eight on a weekend where tips were split across the board.

Don’t forget to join in with your tips at the bottom of the article to try and beat the experts in 2019 as The Crowd and try your luck in our Roar NRL tipping comp. Crowd tips will close at approximately 6pm (AEST) on Friday evening.

AJ Mithen

Tips: Roosters, Raiders, Sharks, Eels

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Finals time! Time to run with the favourites and ensure I don’t come last… Pfff – no! I’ve been courageous all year in my selections and that does not end now.

Finals mode Roosters will destroy the Bunnies at the SCG like Brian Lara destroyed the Aussies in 1993. Sure, Souths have beaten them twice and have Uncle Wayne is in the coaches box, but finals mode Roosters is a machine that sees two games then a grand final.

Their backline is the best in the world and their coach is the world’s best as well. Finals time means no more messing about – the Roosters will come out hard and serve the Bunnies a big reality check.

In Melbourne, my beautiful full-strength Raiders will put one right on the nose of the Melbourne Storm.

Notwithstanding Melbourne are the season’s best team, breaking their own scoring and defensive records and showing they are a class above, the Raiders will throw every kitchen appliance and fitting at them to get that week off. Am I tipping this with the heart? You betcha. Raiders by a minimum of 29.

Jordan Rapana celebrates a try.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Poor, poor Manly. Gutted again by injuries to key players at the worst moment. Des Hasler must be wondering which ladder he walked under because a team that was a genuine shot at the title is now a shell and likely to be picked off by finals mode Cronulla, a proven finals performer who lives for a postseason grinding. Sharks to win by as much as they need to.

Parramatta might be a sleeper in the finals but if they’re serious about achieving anything they’ll mop the floor with a Brisbane side that has no business playing a final.

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If it wasn’t for the millennials throwing the toys out of the cot at Newcastle and Ivan Cleary arriving at Penrith, Anthony Seibold’s team would be four spots lower where they belong. NRL finals can throw up some quality upsets, but this won’t be one of those. Eels by plenty in their new cubby house.

Stuart McLennan

Tips: Roosters, Storm, Sea Eagles, Eels

Once it gets to finals, results tend to go the way they are supposed to. In saying that I have still picked an underdog, though they are at home.

While the Rabbitohs got one over the Roosters last week I am expecting that situation to be reversed at the SCG this weekend. Robinson’s boys know how to play finals and with Sam Burgess sitting it out yet again it’s Easts for the victory.

Daniel Tupou on the burst

(AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

I would love to tip the Raiders and I know that Canberra staged a comeback win in Melbourne recently. However, I just can’t go past the Storm in this situation.

I should be tipping the Sharks here based on form and personnel but I have a gut feeling about Des inspiring an against all odds performance at Brookvale and the Manly boys will get home.

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The Eels are no grand final contender but they will be too good for the Broncos who are finals pretenders.

The Barry

Tips: Roosters, Storm, Sharks, Broncos

September. That glorious time of year when fans of top eight teams have grand final visions dancing in their mind and the rest of us are dreaming of better times next year and hoping it’s not us caught up in the annual Mad Monday “atrocities.”

Game 1 of Week 1 brings us another mouth-watering Easts against Souths clash. The bunnies have had the wood on the Roosters so far this season including last week’s encounter.

It’s hard to know exactly how much to read into that clash as both teams will lineup markedly different to how they did last Thursday. The Roosters have Morris, Keary, Aubusson and Taukeiaho back while for Souths the return of Roberts and the Burgess twins is offset by the loss of Gagai and big bro Sam.

I’ve tipped the Roosters twice against the Rabbitohs this year for no wins and I’m going to back up a third time. They weren’t far off last week, seemed to be in cruise mode for a lot of the game and have more upside with the players returning.

Normally a September trip to Melbourne is semi-final suicide but Ricky Stuart doesn’t seem concerned in the slightest. The Raiders beat the Storm down there just a month ago, after giving up an early 12-point lead no less. The Raiders attack has been among the best in the comp for years but this year their defence is up there too. Attack wins you games. Defence wins you premierships.

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Semi-final time is Storm BAU. Munster will be freshened up after a rest. Smith is Mr September. It’s so hard to beat these guys… If you stop the middle third go forward of Finucane, Jesse Bromwich and Asofa-Solomona, then you have to worry about Smith’s scheming.

If you stop that, you’ve got the hard, wide running threats of Kenny Bromich and Kaufusi – I love how these guys’ charges in their opponents 30-metre zone sets up the ext play on the opposite side of the field.

If you can contain them you’ve got the strike power of Munster, Papenhuyzen, Addo-Carr and Vunivalu. They just have some many ways to win. Because of that and the Raiders semi-final inexperience I’m going for the Storm.

The Sharks are starting to circle. They have plenty of quality players used to playing at this time of year, the challenge has been getting them on the park at the same time. I think they’re the team most likely of the bottom four to run deep.

Meanwhile, Manly are busted at exactly the wrong time of year with, among others, Tom Trbojevic, the criminally and chronically underrated Joel Thompson and Curtis Sironen riding the pine. A Manly victory isn’t impossible but it will be a heroic effort if they get up.

Broncos struggling. Away from home. The game at Fortress Bankwest. Everything points to a comfortable Eels victory. I’m not so sure. After a great season, Moses has been MIA for a while. Their forwards can be dominated by aggressive packs – which definitely suits the Broncos. The Eels haven’t beaten anyone of note for a while.

Alex Glenn

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

I’m sensing an ambush. These games have a habit of throwing up upsets. Think Dragons over Broncos last year. Cowboys over the Sharks in 2017. My main concern is whether Anthony Seibold has the coaching nous to lead the Broncs to victory.

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Scott Pryde

Tips: Roosters, Storm, Sharks, Eels
Give me all of the favourites. I just can’t see any game going any other way, as much as an upset would make the finals interesting.

We are at that point in the year where anything can happen, but often, it doesn’t.

The Roosters are just too good. They might have lost to Souths twice this year, but at the moment, we are on a crash course for repeat grand final of last year. I can’t see Souths getting anywhere near them up the middle third without Sam Burgess, and even if they did have him it’d be a struggle.

For the second year in a row, the battered Rabbitohs will have to play semi-final footy in Week 2.

The Storm are going to be too good as well. While I don’t want to underestimate the Raiders or tip against my bandwagon side (there really isn’t very much room left, by the way), they have had their win in Melbourne. There is approximately no chance of them getting another, particularly if they start the same they did last year.

The only way Ricky’s men win this is with a ridiculously good start and basically, an ambush.

Onto the elimination finals, and you have to feel for Manly. Busted and broken now without Tom Trbojevic, while Martin Taupau joins him on the sideline with suspension. They needed Taupau on the park if they were going to challenge the Sharks.

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I still tend to think this will be a low-scoring grind early on, but the Sharks have one of the best benches in the competition and should do the job on the back of that.

Paul Gallen

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

I’ll take the Eels in the final game, purely because it’s at Bankwest. Anywhere else and you’d be sceptical, but the boys from Brisbane should have their season ended at exactly the same time as last year. And I mean down to the minute. 6pm, Sunday night, Week 1 of the finals.

Do you remember that day Brisbane fans? Oh how glorious it was.

Anyway, Eels. Comfortably.

Be sure to leave your tips on the form below by 6pm (AEST) on Thursday evening and we will publish results before the opening game of the round.

Finals Wk 1 AJ Stuart The Barry Scott Crowd
ROO v RAB ROO ROO ROO ROO ROO
STO v RAI RAI STO STO STO STO
SEA v SHA SHA SEA SHA SHA SHA
EEL v BRO EEL EEL BRO EEL EEL
Last week 6 4 6 5 5
Total 111 114 112 112 126
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