Three matches remain in the 2019 NRL season, but they will be three of the most exciting contests, with the somewhat ordinary finals series thus far set to go to another gear in the preliminary finals. Here to talk you through this weekend’s two matches are The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel.
As always seems to be the case at this point in the season, there has been a side earmarked as the bandwagon favourite, generally the feel-good story of the four sides who remain.
This year, there is no question they are the Canberra Raiders.
The Green Machine, who were written off far and wide before the season started, have been a force to be reckoned with, and proved it again a fortnight ago when they booked a week off with a stunning road victory against the Melbourne Storm.
Defeating the minor premiers away from home was one thing, but backing it up with the nervous energy of 28,000 fans riding them home will be another level again as they look to qualify for their first grand final in decades.
The other team who had the week off are the Sydney Roosters. They play in Saturday night’s final, and there are few questions surrounding their status as favourites.
It’s unprecedented to win back-to-back premierships in this modern era, but the Roosters look like a side who are going to do just that, albeit with 160 minutes of high-intensity footy still to come.
The Raiders take on the Rabbitohs in their preliminary final, and while South Sydney put up big points last week over the Sea Eagles, they still don’t look at their best.
On the other hand, they keep winning, and know how to get the job done, so it’d take a brave man to write off Wayne Bennett’s side completely.
The Storm are the other side, taking on the Roosters in a grand final rematch. This is going to be intriguing, and while they can’t play the decider again, a much closer match than that one can be expected in this year’s qualifier.
Both of their games this year have been decided at the death, and the Storm aren’t just going to roll over.
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.
Tips: Raiders, Roosters
Preliminary final week is one of my favourite times of the season. So much to play for, so much nervous hope for the supporters. We’ve seen massive upsets, clinical executions and everything in between, so what’s in store for 2019? Let me tell you.
After a week off and some seriously ominous form, you could be forgiven for expecting the Roosters will come out and blow Melbourne clean off the SCG. They’ve got it all.
The attacking weapons, the rock-solid defence, the game planning of Trent Robinson. It’s going to be bloody tough for the Storm to summon the energy they’ll need for 80 relentless minutes, even after their training run last Saturday against Parramatta. I’ll take the Roosters and it might get a touch ugly late in the game.
My beautiful Raiders are set up for the biggest rugby league game ever played at Bruce Stadium.
The Raiders are rested, have no injuries, needed no selection changes and host an opponent that has leaked 56 points in two finals games. It all seems too good to be true.
Most Raiders fans would be too scared to even dream of talking about winning on Friday night, but not me – I’m well and truly a ‘lid off’ type of thinker.
The Raiders, the people’s team, are going to win and win handsomely and I’ll be booking my flights to Sydney before the 60th minute.
Tips: Raiders, Roosters
We are at the big end of rugby league premiership town now with grand final berths on the line this weekend. I am glad we won’t see a repeat Roosters vs Storm GF, just quietly.
Like 99.9 per cent of the rugby league fan world, I’ve jumped on the packed Canberra Raiders bandwagon. I said it earlier in the year in an article and I will say it again, the Green Machine are good enough in 2019 to be premiers.
In front one of the ACT’s biggest ever sporting attendances, we will see a tough physical encounter with Canberra’s boys from up north showing their class and proving the difference. James Roberts is in doubt. Canberra to win.
The other match is truly an each-way bet. I am tipping the Roosters based on the game being in Sydney and the result I would slightly prefer. Both games during the season between these two clubs were close encounters. I expect the same on Saturday. Jake Friend is a chance to play. Easts.
Tips: Raiders, Roosters
Two from six for me in this finals series so far.
There’s a good argument that there have only been two or maybe three really good games in this series. But they’ve all raised plenty of questions.
The Rabbitohs travel to Canberra to try and topple the daring-to-dream Raiders. Souths have shown numerous times this season and again last week that they can score points even when they’re not playing well. The Raiders defence – their Achilles heel over the past few seasons – has gotten stingier as the season’s progressed. It’s a great clash of irresistible force meets immovable object.
For mine, the Raiders will get more opportunities and will take them better. Souths need a massive improvement from the last couple of weeks to be competitive against the Raiders. Unforced errors are their worst enemy. I think the Green Machine – if they can hold their nerve – will win comfortably.
Then the big one on Saturday night. The game a lot of us expected to be – and are relieved that it’s not – the grand final. The Roosters’ first 40 minutes in most of their recent games has been exhilaratingly clinical. Maybe one concern is that it’s been a while since they’ve been pushed to churn out a full 80-minute performance.
The Storm’s attack has looked clunky and a bit disjointed until last week. How much can we read into that performance? Was it a flat track bully dismantling a below-average opponent or was it an out-of-form great hitting their way back into good nick?
Really looking forward to this game. I think the Roosters will get them.
Tips: Raiders, Roosters
To me, one game looks fairly clear cut, and the other doesn’t, but this is Week 3 of the NRL finals and absolutely anything can happen as the four remaining sides look to play desperation footy.
The Rabbitohs, for mine, just haven’t had it all year. They finished in the top four, and had that demanding victory over the Manly Sea Eagles last weekend, but they still looked clunky, despite what the scoreboard might tell you.
The biggest factor for Souths here will be in the forwards. Get it right there and square up well in the middle, and they might have a solid chance of beating the Green Machine.
However, it’s the Raiders forwards – on the back of guys like Josh Papalii and John Bateman who have set the tempo all year – and their work allows Josh Hodgson to run the team alongside Aidan Sezer.
Their formula is a great one, and it’s been proven to work in high-stakes contests throughout the year.
Now with 28,000 roaring them on, they should make the decider.
The other game is a lot less clear for mine.
The Roosters have had the week off, and that’ll help them, as will the advantage of playing at the oval-shaped Sydney Cricket Ground, which they have turned into a fortress this year.
As it turns out, playing their home game against the Storm in Adelaide earlier this year was the smartest decision they could have made, and if they are at their best, then I expect the tri-colours to win.
But the Storm, with Craig Bellamy are Cameron Smith at the helm, aren’t what you’d describe as silly.
They have been training on the Collingwood Magpies’ home ground – you know, one of those oval-shaped venues – to work around the dimensions of the SCG, and they looked good last week.
However, they have been clunky, and I’m still not convinced by the spine changes this late in the season. Beating Parramatta doesn’t prove a heap, although basically having nothing more than a training run can’t be a bad thing.
Still, lock in a Roosters-Raiders grand final.
Be sure to leave your tips on the form below by 6pm (AEST) on Friday evening and we will publish results before the opening game of the weekend.
|Finals Wk 3||AJ||Stuart||The Barry||Scott||Crowd|
|RAI v RAB||RAI||RAI||RAI||RAI||?|
|ROO v STO||ROO||ROO||ROO||ROO||?|