Almanac Rugby League – 2019 NRL and NRLW Grand Finals: Roosters to crow and Dragons to breathe fire




The 2019 rugby league season reaches its climax on Sunday with the NRLW and NRL Grand Finals in Sydney. They will be preceded by the NRL State Championship. Here’s the rundown of the schedule and how I think it will play out.


In the NRL State Championship, the respective Queensland and NSW Intrust Super Cup winners, the Burleigh Bears and the Newtown Jets get things underway at 1.35pm. In recent years, NSW sides have dominated their northern counterparts, often by commanding margins, suggesting that the Sydney-based competition is on a higher level. That’s not to say that Queensland teams have not been successful in the past but the trend seems to be in one direction. The Jets will start as favourites but let’s wait and see how this year’s battle works out.


In the NRLW Grand Final, the Brisbane Broncos meet the St George Illawarra Dragons at 4.05pm. In their round robin clash, the Broncos ran out comfortable winners and, on that basis, will go into this game as favourites. Last weekend, however, the Brisbane girls put in an uncharacteristically ordinary performance to experience their first loss in this competition. They’ll be keen to show that it was merely an aberration. On the other hand, the Dragons have hit form in their last two matches and will be quietly confident of their chances.


The Broncos will try to play to their strength in the forwards through the likes of Millie Boyle, Amber Hall and Rona Peters. They’ll hope to create time and opportunities for halves Ali Brigginshaw and Raecene McGregor to weave their magic and provide space for outside backs Julia Robinson, Meg Ward and Amber Pilley to exploit. It’s a simple game plan.


The Dragons boast their own impressive set of forwards in players like Maitua Feterika, Kezie Apps and Holli Wheeler. But it is their running game, especially through centres Jessica Sergis (the Dally M NRLW winner) and Tiana Penitani, that was impressive last week and I expect them to take an expansive game plan into this game. Livewire half-back Maddie Studdon is in good form and so her clash with Brigginshaw will be very important.


Brisbane may well start as slight favourites but I’m tipping the Dragons. Their forwards are underrated and I think they’ll be too mobile and too fast, especially out wide. Dragons by 6+. (But the heart says Brisbane.)


Good to see Kasey Badger appointed lead referee!


In the NRL decider to be played at 7.30pm, the Sydney Roosters will be strong favourites to defeat the Canberra Raiders. I’d love to see the Green Machine get up but I can’t see it happening. I’ve tipped the Roosters all season and I can’t see any reason to change my mind now. If anything, I’m more convinced than at any stage during the season. I don’t want to labour the point but the Roosters are a great team and simply have too many strike weapons against another very good team in the Raiders who will give everything and be incredibly brave but fall short of the big prize.


Where do you start with the Roosters? Dally M winner James Tedesco? Centre of the year Latrell Mitchell? Premiership halves Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk? Captain magnificent Boyd Cordner? JWH? Mr Energy Mitch Aubusson? Bench players Angus Crichton and Sio Siua Taukeiaho? And that’s probably being unfair on those I haven’t named. Where’s the weakness? They boast at least 10 internationals! Plus coach Trent Robinson, surely next in line to join Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett as current coaching legends. How can they lose?


Canberra has already won this year simply by making the Grand Final, not that that will be enough to placate coach Ricky Stuart. He will get his boys up again as he has throughout the season, and especially in the finals, but I think they have had to do too much in September to get here and will not be able to match it for the full 80 minutes. Expect them to be magnificent; watch the likes of Josh Papalii, Josh Hodgson and John Bateman give everything they have and more; observe Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad attempt to create opportunities; relish the kamikaze style of Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana. But it won’t be enough.


In the end, it’s a simple choice – Roosters by 10+ – but the heart hopes for the Raiders.


Please note: The times listed for these matches are Daylight Saving times. Please adjust according to your location.



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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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