The Roosters have lost Billy Smith to a minor hamstring injury for the Broncos clash on Sunday in Las Vegas. Joseph Suaalii will move…
It’s finals time baby! The best of the best are battling it out to book their ticket for the first Sunday in October.
But before we jump into week one of the finals, we better have a look at what happened last week to get us here.
In a match with unfamiliar team lists, the Storm continued their dominance over the Broncos with a 32-22 win on Thursday night. With both teams resting their big names before the finals, it was a chance for a few of the lesser-known players to showcase their talent.
The Sea Eagles made sure it was a party on Friday night for Jurbo’s 200th NRL game, thrashing the Tigers 54-12 in front of a packed Brookie crowd. The man of the moment even grabbed himself a meat pie thanks to his very generous skipper DCE passing him the ball instead of scoring himself. And as per the children’s nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle – the Tigers walked away with the spoon.
Not quite as explosive as last year’s epic battle, but equally as important. The Roosters knocked out the arch-enemies the Rabbitohs from finals contention with a 26-12, sending the Bunnies to a very early and unexpected Mad Monday. What a return to form for the Chooks, and who would have tipped Souths to not make the Top 8?
The Dolphins finished their inaugural season on a high, with a solid 34-10 win over an understrength Warriors side on Saturday. With many tipping that they weren’t going to win any games at all this season, finishing in 13th spot wasn’t too bad at all.
You would never have known the Cowboys were clinging to hope of still playing finals footy, after their less-than-impressive performance against the Panthers. A 44-12 win to the premiers ensured a surprisingly early end to the Cowboys season and ensured the J.J. Giltinan Shield stayed for another year at the foot of the mountains.
Say it with me – nine in a row! The Knights continued their winning streak with a 32-12 victory over the Dragons at Kogarah. While the Knights roll on into the finals, I think the Red V are very happy to see the back end of the 2023 season. And a special mention to the crazy acrobatic athletics of Dom Young!
In the only other game with no bearing on the Top 8, the Titans held on for a close 34-30 win over the Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon. Both teams can now enjoy the off-season and work out where it all went wrong.
And to finish off the regular season the Sharks took out a 24-6 win over the Raiders. The match locked in the final spots of the Top 8, but will be remembered for the terrible tackle made by Green Machine winger Seb Kris on Sione Katoa – which he thankfully walked away from – but will see Kriss now miss the finals after receiving a lengthy suspension.
Paul and Stuart topped the round with seven. with Marym Mike and I right behind with six. You legends in The Crod tipped five, and AJ had just as much fun as his Raidfers tipping four. Stuart has caught up to Mike and shares the lead on 134, with Mary not far off the pace on 131. Paul sits in fourth spot on 129, AJ is fifth on 122, and yours truly is not last anymore on 115, but unfortunately, that means you lot are on 114.
And then there were eight. Ok, onto Finals Week 1!
After the understudies did their best last round, most will now make way for the superstars tomorrow night as the Broncos host the Storm at Suncorp Stadium at 7:50pm. The Broncos are back in finals contention for the first time since 2018, while it’s business as usual for the Storm who are regulars in September footy.
So much talent in one program: Reynolds, Carrigan, Walsh, Mam and Haas. Munster, Hughes, Grants, NAS and Welch. With both teams back to full strength and a ticket straight to the prelims up for grabs, this could be one for the ages.
On Saturday the reining premiers will take it up a notch as they begin their quest for a three-peat. The Panthers host the Warriors at BlueBet Stadium at 4:05pm, with so much more on the line than a week off. The Panthers are trying to create NRL history, while the Warriors are out to make up for years of heartache thanks to runners-up trophies and Covid.
We are in for some marvellous matchups – Cleary vs Johnson. JFH vs AFB. Yeo vs Harris. Edwards vs CNK. And not just on the park – it’s a case of Master vs Apprentice as superstar coach Ivan Cleary is up against his former assistant Andrew Webster.
On Saturday night we have the first of the elimination matches, as around 57 fans cram into Pointsbet Stadium at 7:50pm to watch the Sharks and the Roosters fight for survival. Throughout the season many thought that neither side would be playing finals footy, but they both dug deep and proved them all wrong.
It’s a battle of the beaches as Teddy, Keary, Walker and the rest of the Bondi Crew take on Hynes, Graham, Mulitalo and the remainder of the Shire Boys. And we have another teacher vs student battle on our hands, as Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon goes toe-to-toe with former Sensai Trent Robinson.
Then on Sunday, we head up the M1 to McDonald Jones Stadium to watch the Knights and Raiders try to stay in the hunt for premiership glory at 4:05pm. One will keep their hat in the ring, the other will start planning for 2024. The Knights have been one of the surprise packets at the backend of the season, heading into this match with nine wins in a row. The Raiders have been laughed at for their terrible points differential, but have won enough and done enough to earn their spot in the finals.
Ponga, Young, Best, Frizell and Hastings are ready to ‘Defend the Kingdom’ against Wighton, Tapine, Whitehead, Rapana and Young who want to show everyone they aren’t just here to make up the numbers. And Ricky will have them fired up and ready to go.
Finals footy – BRING. IT. ON!
(I think I could give Matt Nable a run for his money after that!)
If you want to see how you go up against the Experts this round, remember to get your tips in below by 5:00pm tonight to be counted in The Crowd’s tips.
Happy tipping everyone!
Broncos, Panthers, Sharks, Knights
The stand-ins are out and the regulars back in, as the Broncos face the Storm for the second week running. Things will be different this time and a heaving Suncorp Stadium will be the valuable 18th man for the Broncos as they move within one match of a grand final appearance.
Despite all the noise around the Warriors and the continued absence of Jarome Luai, knocking off the Panthers at home is a tough ask. New Zealand to reload and be better the following week after the loss.
It is the Sharks’ moment to prove they are a real contender in 2023, with most feeling they are a step or two off the pace being set by those above them on the ladder. The Roosters have injury worries in the backline and a considerable out in Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Sharks to win in front of a disappointing yet sold-out crowd.
The stars return for the Knights and with momentum, the key factor heading into finals football and Canberra away from home, Newcastle, amazingly, will advance to next week in spite of very few seeing that scenario play out mid-way through the season. Jackson Hastings to be the key as the Knights hammer the Raiders on the edges.
Broncos, Panthers, Sharks, Knights
This may be a replay of the game last week where the Storm won but this week both teams have their key players back and it is going to be a different result. Brisbane have been the stand-out team all year and I’m looking forward to seeing Reece Walsh play in a finals series. I also think it’s rugby league folklore that if teams play each other in consecutive weeks, the winner of the first game inevitably loses the second.
The Panthers will beat the Warriors but this game should give us a good indication of what the Warriors can realistically achieve in the finals this year.
The pain of what happened in the finals last year will no doubt still be with the Sharks and they won’t want to lose again in front of a home crowd. Nicho Hynes has found form at the right end of the season and will put the Roosters season to an end.
Newcastle will beat the Raiders and the party will really get started in the Hunter.
Storm, Panthers, Sharks, Knights
Melbourne are the best streakers against Brisbane since Will Ferrell in Old School. Storm by 10.
Penrith would need as many misfortunes as Monty Burns’ softball team to lose to the Warriors although it won’t be a flogging. Panthers by 8.
Roosters have won five in a row but those teams were heading backwards. Sharks by 4.
Newcastle will make it 10 on the trot by putting Canberra out of their misery. Knights by 18.
Broncos, Panthers, Roosters, Knights
It’s a streak that would rival The Undertaker’s – or Ray Stevens – but it ends on Friday when the Bronx down the Storm at Suncorp.
Penrith will win out from here, starting with what will likely be a comfortable one over the Warriors.
The late game is a lot harder to judge…by my gut is that the Roosters have the form and will take this one out.
To round out the weekend, the Knights will waltz home against the Raiders. I doubt it’ll be close.
Storm, Panthers, Roosters, Raiders
Finals! Thank god. Get the rest of those loser clubs out of the way and give us the high-octane good stuff, please. A great weekend beckons – here’s what’s happening.
Storm over Brisbane buttony because I’m backing their defence and their battle-hardened finals squad.
Penrith over the Warriors in what might be a close game, but is just as likely to blow out late after the Panthers spend the first 60-70 minutes squeezing the fight our of New Zealand.
Roosters over Sharks in the ‘making up the numbers’ eliminator, mainly because Cronulla haven’t done one thing this year that impressed me enough to the point I think they’ll make any September noise.
Finally, on Sunday your presumptive champions, the people’s team, the Canberra Raiders will waltz into Newcastle and lay a casual 56 on the Knights, who have been a week away from a loss for nine weeks in a row. Here ends the season!
Storm, Warriors, Roosters, Knights
Far out, this game has to be one of the toughest to tip in a long time. The Broncos are one of the form teams in the competition and will have a full home crowd behind them, while the Storm are the Storm who love a challenge and have come good at the right time of year. Both are at full strength and ready for battle, but I’m tipping the visitors in golden point.
I am all for the Warriors here. If they can get in a few early kicks to mess with the Panthers’ hit-up system, and reduce as much space around Cleary as possible, they can fly into Penrith on their private jet and upset the Premiers. Up the Wahs!
Both teams had a very disappointing 2022 finals series, with the Chooks bowing out in the first week and the Sharks going out in straight sets. The Sharks seemed to kick into gear when the Raiders were reduced to 12 men last week, while The Roosters have really learnt to grind their way to a win. There is a real grit about the Roosters at the moment, and I think they will send the Sharks packing.
Hooley Dooley! My boys are in the finals, and they are playing some sensational footy. I could go on and on about my reasons for why we will smash AJ’s Raiders, but you all know there’s only one thing that needs to be said – as always, I’m tipping my Knights.
|Finals Wk 1
|BRI V MEL
|PEN V NZL
|CRO V SYD
|NEW V CAN