Criticism of referees used to be about the inaccuracy of their decisions, but during the NRL grand final the referees came under spotlight because they arrived at the correct decision.
This is it. The decider. Two teams enter, and one leaves with the premiership. Will it be the green bandwagon for the Canberra Raiders in their first grand final for 25 years, or the Roosters becoming the first team in that long to go back to back? The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel will have their final say of the season.
Of course, being grand final day – the biggest club rugby league game on the calendar – we couldn’t just give you a tip.
Oh no. We are going the full hog. Tip, margin, Clive Churchill and first try-scorer, all of which you’ll be able to vote on at the bottom of this article – but more on that later.
The Raiders go into the match as the outsider, there is no doubt about it.
But they have been the outsider so many times this season, and with a travelling army to support them from the nation’s capital, there is no reason they won’t be able to pull off another upset – just ask AJ.
As for the Roosters, they have set the benchmark again.
They may not have won the minor premiership at the end of the regular season, but knocked over the Melbourne Storm on home turf in commanding fashion last weekend and know exactly what it takes to get the job done in the decider, having done exactly that 12 months ago.
With no difference across the entire panel on last week’s tips, it means everyone claimed two points.
That being said, The Crowd have well and truly beaten the experts for the year, while we can congratulate Stuart, who is on 121, as the best of the experts, tipping-wise. He leads AJ by three points, me by four and The Barry by five.
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 Sunday evening.
Margin: By at least 23
Usually, my grand final tip is full of flippant, not overly serious analysis.
But 2019 is different.
This is serious, serious stuff because my team is playing. My beautiful Canberra Raiders have laid waste to all pretenders in season 2019 and now have one more simple step to conclude their inevitable journey to the NRL premiership.
Am I excited? No – I am perfectly calm, safe in the knowledge that Canberra are primed for this game, primed for this moment.
They got the nerves out of the way last week after an iffy first 40 against Souths and now the green machine are ready to erect the great green wall and decimate any Rooster invaders.
Their opponents may be the reigning premier, they may have the best backline in the world anchored by a rugby league icon playing his last ever game, they may be on the threshold of the NRL’s first title defence since the Brisbane Broncos of 1992-9, they may have beaten Canberra twice this year, building leads of 30-6 and 22-12 before easing off, but they don’t have destiny on their side nor do they carry the hopes and dreams of an entire Territory.
The Raiders, the people’s team, are the clear choice of the neutral rugby league fan this Sunday.
Everyone wants to get involved in a Viking clap. Everyone wants to feed off the unbridled joy and pride that comes with making a grand final after 25 long, long, heartbreaking years.
Ricky Stuart’s crew have teased their abilities for too long. Anyone who knows a thing about rugby league knew Canberra could be anything if they just got themselves together.
Now they’ve worked out how to harness their talents for good, they will be unstoppable. Embrace that warm green glow!
First try-scorer: Joey Leilua
Clive Churchill: Elliot Whitehead
So here it is. Head vs heart, princes vs battlers, Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs vs ACT and it’s Northern English extension. Or is it plain Evil vs Good? (Nah, that’s carrying it too far).
Like most people, I will be hoping for a Raiders win to set the rugby league world spinning but I just can’t see it. Believe me I am trying!
The experience of Cronk and Keary in the halves coupled with gun centres Mitchell and Manu, then two tall wingers to capitalise on the kicks, spells danger for the Green Machine.
To top it off, you have a fullback that is arguably the best rugby league player in the world providing real danger every time he gets his hands on the ball. If the Roosters forwards can stand up in the middle, it could be a tough night for the Raiders.
Canberra are good team, full of grit and resilience and their own brand of attacking flair, although they looked a bit clunky last week against Souths. They have achieved a great deal to make a grand final after a 25 year hiatus.
We all like fairy tales and this would be a genuinely good one for Stuart and the Raiders but I can’t see it happening. The Roosters are experienced finalists who will take a clinical approach to victory under clever coach Trent Robinson.
First try-scorer: Jarrod Croker
Clive Churchill: James Tedesco
Grand final day. Second best day of the year.
Sometimes the neutral support in a grand final is split pretty evenly. When the Bulldogs played Souths in 2014 I reckon a conservative estimate would put 95 per cent of neutrals on the bunnies. This grand final has that sort of feel to it.
With the Raiders title-less since 1994 (let’s not talk about that day) and the Roosters trophy cabinet bursting at the seams lately, it’s safe to say if you’re a neutral and not a temporary member of the green machine you have no soul.
This result of this grand final is really about the Raiders. We know what we’re going to get from the Roosters. In attack, they have threats across the park. No team in the competition plays both sides of the field as well as the Roosters. It’s really about what the Raiders can do in attack and defence to thwart them.
The Roosters come out in the first half and try and blow the Raiders off the park. They’ve done a lot of that over the past eight weeks or so.
The Raiders defence has been their Achilles heel over the past few seasons but this year it’s been brilliant. It will need to be again or the game could be all over by 30 minutes.
At the other end of the park, I worry where the Raiders points are going to come from.
The Roosters have the best goal-line defence in the comp. They were remarkable last week.
Several times the Storm had the Roosters defence shot with an overlap.The Roosters defence never panicked. No one rushed out, no one crossed behind another defender. They stayed back, didn’t engage, slide, slide, slide and re-align. All of a sudden the overlap was gone before the ball could get there.
The Raiders attack hasn’t looked too smooth over the past month or so. It’s an interesting turnaround that the Raiders are relying on their defence to win games rather than scoring 30 and hoping their opposition don’t score 31.
So while my heart is saying Raiders for this one. My head is saying Roosters.
Their two games this year have been close with the Roosters winning by margins of six and four. I think this one won’t be as close. The Roosters have too many big-game players.
I’m going for Daniel Tupou as first try scorer. I’d love to go with the romance of Cooper Cronk winning the Churchill but while he’s still a massive influence on the result he doesn’t tend to put in MotM style performances these days. I’ll play it safe and go with James Tedesco.
First try-scorer: Daniel Tupou
Clive Churchill: James Tedesco
Well, this is it. Grand final day, and unlike last year, there is a bandwagon you can actually get behind.
Those men in green. Raiders fans will laugh at me tipping them for the bottom portion of the table at the start of the year, and frankly, I look back and laugh at it as well.
What on Earth was I thinking?
Oh, that’s right. Untested half, unproven fullback, and a hooker who was going to have to steer the ship on the back of a coach who hasn’t made a grand final in 15 years.
Turns out them Raiders know a thing or two about proving people utterly and hopelessly wrong though.
They have beaten the Storm twice in Melbourne, won games all year, made the top four, won a week off, then Viking clapped their way to the decider.
But one team they haven’t beaten is the Roosters, and there are few reasons to tip against them this weekend.
In fact, the only real reason I can find is that no team has won a national competition back-to-back since the Broncos of 1992 and 1993. Turns out I’d like to stop using that as a reference as well, as a Dragons fan.
But on more serious reasons why the Roosters will win the grand final – they have the best attacking line in the world, led by the best player in the world in James Tedesco, and one of the most experienced players to lace up a boot in Cooper Cronk.
Then there is Luke Keary feeding off him and a forward pack who haven’t been beaten all that often in 2019.
The Raiders will have to be at their best to stand a chance, and I think they will keep it close, but it’s hard to see the green machine completing the fairy tale this time around.
Cronk, in his final game, to win the Clive Churchill, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Raiders on the board first.
First try-scorer: Jordan Rapana
Clive Churchill: Cooper Cronk
Be sure to leave your tips on the form below by 6pm (AEST) on Sunday evening and we will publish results before the opening game of the weekend.
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