This is Part 5 of my series speaking with fans from all NRL teams to see what it’s really like to support their team.
We can almost taste the finals so here are my predictions of what will take place during this weekend of finals footy.
Storm vs Sea Eagles
The reigning premiers Melbourne Storm will be taking on the Manly Sea Eagles at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Friday night to open up the 2021 finals series. The well-known battle at Brookvale will take place once again but this time it’s a top four, Week 1 finals battle.
Manly at the moment seem to be fully fit and prepared to head into Friday’s match-up, however Melbourne star winger Josh Addo-Carr has been ruled out and Cameron Munster has described himself as a 50-50 chance to play. The possibility of these two absences certainly causes an effect when trying to pick a winner. This game could go either way as when my Dally M winner, Tommy Turbo, is at his best, that’s when Manly is at their best.
Despite the Sea Eagles coming into this match flying high, I still believe that Melbourne will take this one and head to Week 3 as they are so precise and unstoppable in the finals. However, this Sea Eagles team can undoubtably do some damage and is what I expect.
Storm by 2.
Roosters vs Titans
The fifth versus eighth place match-up will be the first half of Townsville’s double header on Saturday as the Sydney Roosters meet the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans were able to slickly make their way into the top eight on Sunday as they absolutely thrashed the Warriors by 44 points to zip on Sunday. They needed to win by 12 points or more to secure their place in the finals. This caused the Cronulla Sharks – who many thought would be the Week 1 match-up for the Roosters – to be sent out of finals contention.
Despite the Chooks looking like a hospital with all those injuries, they have somehow found their way to a spot one place out of the top four. This remarkable effort has not just been from the players, but credit must go to their outstanding coach Trent Robinson, who is my coach of the year.
We all know how good the Gold Coast can be when they’re at their best and I’m excited to see young halfback Jaydon Campbell in this first taste of finals footy. Jaydon could have a lot to prove on the big stage as well as this whole Titans team. Despite this, I believe that the red, white and blue army proceed to Week 2 as the Roosters have come this far with this team and they don’t look like stopping.
Roosters by 14.
Panthers vs Rabbitohs
The Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs will feature in our second top-four match-up of the week. South Sydney defeated the Dragons by four points last week, however, many of their crucial players were rested. All of them will be back for their Week 1 finals match, besides arguably their most important player, Latrell Mitchell.
Latrell’s absence due to suspension has put a major dint in South’s premiership host and Mitchell’s replacement is young Blake Taaffe who will have big shoes to fill.
On the other hand, the Penrith Panthers are beginning their finals campaign after crushing a depleted Parramatta Eels side last Friday night. At the beginning of the year, I predicted the Rabbitohs to win the premiership and that thought had left the minds of many people after the first few weeks, however lately after each week went by the more I thought they actually had a great chance.
This was until the season-ending suspension of Latrell Mitchell. I think that they possibly could still go deep into the finals, but I don’t think that they will take down a hot Penrith side who will book a spot in Week 3.
Penrith by 8.
Eels vs Knights
The Parramatta Eels and the Newcastle Knights will tussle in an elimination game to round out Week 1 of the finals on Sunday afternoon.
The Newcastle Knights have had a rollercoaster season and at the end of all of that found themselves in the seventh seed.
On the other hand, the Eels still find themselves in a premiership drought that has now lasted 35 years. Their starts to seasons have been outstanding, like the beginning of this season. Once again, though, when starting to enter finals time, they began losing games that they’re expected to win.
I would not be surprised if they get knocked out by the underdog this weekend after looking at their past in the finals. I do believe, however, that the Eels will overcome this first test and just get past Adam O’Brien’s side at Mackay on Sunday.