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The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Preliminary finals

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Expert
14th October, 2020
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Spots in the NRL grand final at the end of the craziest season in history go on the line this weekend. Here to tell you who is going to the big dance and why are The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel.

With the Roosters and Eels dropping out of the premiership race after losses to the Raiders and Rabbitohs respectively, the competition arrives at its final four, with just three games remaining in the season.

It’s a case of two battle-hardened teams who had to overcome a war last weekend up against two teams who will be refreshed, but possibly also lacking the edge and intensity given they have only been able to sit in their covid bubbles throughout the last two weeks.

It creates an intriguing dynamic, and while they will tell you the week off is the way you want to spend your finals series, the proof will be in the pudding on Friday and Saturday.

First, we head to Brisbane for the Storm to play the Raiders, aiming to make their second grand final in a row, before we head to Homebush – yep, that’s right – Homebush – for the Panthers to host the Rabbitohs on the home ground of the Redfern-based side.

Ah rugby league, never change.

In the tipping war last week, mixed tips and the Raiders winning meant everyone got one, apart from Mary, who missed out completely on registering a point.

It leaves AJ still trailing The Crowd by three points, with David another three back, now ahead of Mary by one in second.

Remember to get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEDT) on Friday to join The Roar’s NRL tipping competition for 2020 and be featured as part of the Crowd’s tips for the preliminary finals.

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AJ Mithen

Tips: Raiders, Panthers

What a weekend! The mighty Canberra Raiders, the people’s team, score an expected win over the exhausted Roosters and Souths stroll to victory in the end against Clint Gutherson. I’ll be honest though – I was getting pretty smug with my tipping when Clint got the score to 18-8 before Wayne and Souths took over and put the Clints to the sword.

I even texted Scotty Pryde to go an early crow that I’d brought it back to one point against ‘The Crowd’. Anyway, we all know what happened next. So what happens this weekend?

Jordan Rapana of the Raiders scores a try, which was then disallowed by the video referee during the NRL Semi Final

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The mighty Canberra Raiders are 3-1 in the last four games against the evil purple empire and it would have been 4-0 if not for a shameful sin-binning of a completely innocent Bailey Simonsson having a game-changing impact. This week is on neutral turf up in Brisbane, where the green machine carry a lot of support from both refugees from the cold and those who remember the Queensland origin teams packed to the gills with men in green.

This wave of support will see the Canberra Raiders post 56 on the purple team, who have injury concerns about Cam Munster and Dale Finucane. Munster will probably play, and Finucane is a huge gap up against Joe Tapine, John Bateman, Hudson Young and the rest of the crew.

A rested Penrith welcome the Bunnies in the other matchup. Both these teams score points for fun but the Panthers have the better defence, conceding 114 less points across the regular season. I didn’t tip the Bunnies against Parra because I didn’t think they were consistent enough, but Wayne is a marvel of a coach and Souths are a fun team on a mission. It would be an incredible effort to knock over Penrith and I would love to see it, but when reality sets in I can’t go past the Panthers moving on to the last weekend of the season.

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Mary Konstantopoulos

Tips: Storm, Panthers

South Sydney have been impressive in recent weeks, but they come up against a red-hot Panthers team this weekend. The Panthers have been the standout team all year and I expect that to continue with a win against Souths. The only question I have about the Panthers is how they have handled the week off.

Additionally, Penrith will be without one of their main strike weapons in Viliame Kikau, but with Stephen Crichton, Jarome Laui and Nathan Cleary still in red-hot form, I’m confident they have enough points in them.

The Raiders have also had an exceptional year, particularly considering how heavily they have been hit with injuries. Unfortunately, I think their season comes to an end this weekend against a Melbourne Storm who has demonstrated that they have the ability to take their attack to another level. The Storm are very hard to beat in Brisbane and I think it will simply be too hard for Canberra.

David Holden

Tips: Storm, Panthers

Unfortunately, I didn’t put a dent into AJ’s three-point margin this week. However, with a whopping five points on offer in the grand final, it’s still anyone’s race… Well, almost.

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Those supporters of the Raiders and the Rabbits can take some heart from a little fun fact I discovered last weekend. You’ve all heard the no one has ever won it from outside the top-four spiel, right? Well, what they are not telling you is that since the existing top 8 system was introduced in 2012, we have never had two bottom four teams make the preliminary final weekend. So, history has already been made. What’s to stop a little more history in this crazy season? Two better teams in my opinion.

These two finals are really difficult to get a read on.

First up on Friday night, we head to Brisvegas for the Storm and Raiders.The Storm will be hoping some of their new supporters from the Sunshine Coast rock up. Any Raiders supporters who attended the SCG last weekend are barred entrance by Annastacia, so it will be interesting to see what type of crowd we get. The Raiders were impressive against the Roosters.

Jahrome Hughes of the Storm

Jahrome Hughes from the Storm. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Their forward pack won the middle and the Roosters seemed to be on the back foot from the start. But, they have to back up against a rested Storm side who now see another premiership within their grasp. I’d be happy to see the Raiders win, but the Storm will progress to the grand final.

On Saturday night, the Panthers take on the Rabbits at Souths’ home ground. This type of weird stuff in the NRL doesn’t even surprise me anymore. Viliame Kikau is a big out for the Panthers and an upset is really on the cards. Although the Rabbits attack has been close to perfect at times, they have had flat spots through both their finals so far.

If they can’t stop that, they will get done. The Eels pack got on top of the Rabbits at various stages last weekend and James Fisher-Harris will be looking to repeat the dose with his teammates. There’s literally nothing in this but I’m tipping the Panthers to pounce on a few Rabbits mistakes and make their first grand final since 2003.

The Barry

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Tips: Raiders, Panthers

One of the great features of grand final week is reliving memorable big game clashes between the two combatants in days of yore.

To that end, I really can’t recall any big end of season games between the Panthers and Storm. The Nine and Foxtel promo directors will definitely have their work cut out for them and we – the poor punters – will be doomed to spend the week watching Joel Clinton and Robbie Kearns battling it out from Round 14, 2003.

It gets worse for Rabbitohs versus Storm. Despite a couple of nondescript early-round semi-final clashes in the 2010s the highlight that springs to mind between these two is Sam Burgess’ reach around and loving squeeze of Will Chambers’ wheels.

The editors probably have a few more options here – maybe an ahooga horn or a Benny Hill style Boi-oi-oi-oi-oing. Maybe a bit of Barry White if they’re feeling particularly frisky… But it’s going to be a long week.

Steve Mavin will be dreading the idea of a Raiders vs Souths match up which will no doubt see replay after replay of the fateful 1987 semi-final when Mavo’s butterfingers saw him hooked at halftime and watching the second half in Waterloo’s Cauliflower Hotel. Not fair, no thanks.

Aaaah, but Panthers versus Raiders… What a week of highlights packages that would be! Back-to-back grand finals in 1990-91 for one win apiece. Royce Simmons’ two-try heroics and promise to have a beer with everyone in Penrith. Peak Mal Meninga, Brandy Alexander and Chicka Ferguson.

The emergence of names like Daley, Fittler, Clyde, Lazarus and Geyer. Phil Gould and Ricky Stuart’s duelling mullets. Graeme Hughes losing his mind in the commentary box. Halcyon days indeed.

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Yep. That’s the package I want to watch in grand final week and why I’m tipping the Raiders and the Panthers.

Scott Pryde

Tips: Storm, Panthers

I’d love to find some upsets here, but the two best teams all season are going to the grand final, and frankly, that is the way it should be.

There will be some questions regarding the Storm. Canberra did the underdog run all the way to the decider last year, and are somewhat doing it again here despite all the injuries.

Their win against the Roosters last week will have them fit, firing and ready to go, but will it leave them a little on the fatigued side? The argument could be made yes, but in saying that, the Storm were slow out of the gates in the first week of the finals against Parramatta after resting all their stars the week before.

Penrith Panthers celebrate

How good are the Panthers really? (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Give up a lead to the Raiders, and it won’t be quite as easy to mow down. Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton carry the keys, but I’m convinced Craig Bellamy will have his side ready to go. Cameron Smith to lead the men in purple into the decider.

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In the second game, the Rabbitohs will look to continue their run of ridiculous form. It hasn’t been consistent, but when they are on, as they were last week, they are an absolute joy to watch. Fast-paced, free-flowing rugby league, through Cameron Murray, Damien Cook, Cody Walker and so on.

They have weapons all over the park, but their consistency, their ball-handling and defensive fragility may well be exposed by the Panthers, who have just rolled over the top of everyone this year.

The men from the foot of the mountains to make it 17 straight.

Finals W2 AJ Mary David The Barry Scott Crowd
MEL v CAN CAN MEL MEL CAN MEL MEL
PEN v SOU PEN PEN PEN PEN PEN PEN
Last week 1 0 1 1 1 1
Total 119 115 116 109 109 122

Be sure to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm (AEDT) on Friday, and we will publish the results of the Crowd’s tips before the first semi-final kicks off.

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