Almanac Rugby League – 2019 NRL Finals Week 2 and NRLW Round 2: Total commitment

 

When footy fans pay their hard earned dollars to see top grade sides do battle, they expect and deserve nothing less than total commitment and effort from the teams they support. When the match they attend is a final, the level of expectation only goes up. In the case of  last weekend’s NRL and NRLW clashes, eleven out of the twelve teams involved fulfilled their part of this unwritten contract. The odd one out is in hell this week because of perceived dereliction of duty. Perhaps part of their penance might be to watch the other five matches to see how it should be done.

 

I doubt we’ll see any repeat of that situation this weekend. Rather, expect to see the proverbial 110% effort from all 136 players involved. This is how I think the four matches will play out.

 

In the 2019 NRL Finals Week 2, the South Sydney Rabbitohs meet the Manly Sea Eagles on Friday night. The Bunnies were cooped up and badly pecked by the Roosters last week and will be looking to avoid a straight sets exit from the finals. They’ll regain Sam Burgess and Dane Gagai, and have tweaked their backline. But the real question will be about what’s going on between their ears. Just how bad is their mental scarring after being so soundly beaten? Are they sufficiently resilient? Have they got the legs, physically speaking, to come back? By contrast, the Sea Eagles won against the odds in their game to show that ‘on paper’ superiority counts for little at this time of the year. They’ll be on an emotional high and regain Martin Taupau to strengthen their upfront power. But did they play their Grand Final last weekend? Can they possibly repeat the energy level they displayed in that game? The respective coaches only add intrigue to the situation. Wayne Bennett is a wily old fox with a second-to-none record. If he can’t get his players up for this one, who can? Des Hasler is your classic ‘under the radar’ man, as Adam Muyt pointed out the other day. He worked wonders last time. Who’s to say that he can’t/won’t do it again? As you can see, I’ve got more questions than answers. The only thing I do know is that there will be 34 totally drained players come full-time. Souths will start favourites but I’m going for an upset – Manly by less than 6.

 

On Saturday night, Melbourne Storm host the Parramatta Eels at AAMI Park in Melbourne. The Storm will be spitting chips for letting a game they mostly controlled get away from them last weekend. Coach Craig Bellamy will have let them know this in no uncertain terms all week. Melbourne seldom lose two games in a row. I half expect Bellamy to use the Des Hasler ‘everybody hates us’ strategy to motivate his team in this do-or-die game. Expect big things from Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster and the big brutes up front. On the other hand, Storm critics say that Melbourne are vulnerable because they don’t have a ‘Plan B’. Just defend like crazy and wait for a chink to appear or an error to come. It’s a strategy that has worked very well for both Canberra and Manly this year. Parramatta were the sensation of last weekend, refusing to take their collective feet off the pedal as they racked up a cricket score against Brisbane. What can they do against the methodical Storm? Can Mitchell Moses possibly repeat his form from Sunday? Will the Eels run around the Storm via Clinton Gutherson, Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson? Will the ‘not as strong on paper’ Eels ‘do a Manly’ on Storm? I think Hard Reality will make a comeback this week – the Eels will run with the Storm for up to 70 minutes but the structure and grind of the Storm will win out in the end. Storm by 7+, but irrespective of the result, Parramatta have been the big winners of 2019.

 

In the NRLW, the Brisbane Broncos take on the Sydney Roosters in a Grand Final replay. Brisbane has yet to lose a game in this competition and will be strengthened by the return of Julia Robinson and Chelsea Lenarduzzi. The Broncos girls put in an even team performance last week, displaying particular muscle up front to wear down their opponents. But don’t underestimate their solid backline where Chelsea Baker, Amber Pilley and Meg Ward put in some very hard years. Raecene McGregor looks a good prospect and I expect Ali Briggenshaw to inject herself into the game a bit more this week. The Broncos look good across the park but seemed to be a tad vulnerable against fast, wide play. The Roosters let themselves down a bit last week so I expect them to really put in this time around. Watch for Ruan Sims, Vanessa Foliaki, Hannah Southwell and Simaima Taufa as they attempt to get on top of their forward counterparts. This would give Kirra Dibb (a star in the making), Isabelle Kelly, Karina Brown and Corban McGregor time and space to make merry out wide. Form says the Broncos and I think it will be very tight. Broncos by <4.

 

In the other game, the Warriors take on the Dragons in Auckland on Sunday afternoon.The Warriors looked good last week as they displayed both grunt and finesse in their win over the Roosters. Charntay Poko is the key but she will rely on the likes of Annetta Nuuausala and Georgia Hale taking control of the ruck. Given a bit of room in which to move, the likes of Atawhai Tupaea and Apii Nicholls will be dangerous out wide. The Dragons looked a little off the pace last week and erred in some of their on-field choices. Expect them to be better for that outing. Forwards Teuila Fotu-Moala, Maitua Feterika and Holli Wheeler should be more settled to support the irrepressible Kezie Apps up front while Kimiora Nati, Jessica Sergis and Shakiah Tungai will thrive on good service from Maddie Studdon who is sure to rebound from a modest effort in her last start. This game holds the promise of being a fast, open, running contest if both sides play to their potential. I’ll go for the Warriors at home by <6.

 

Hopefully, this weekend’s headlines will be all about exciting, hard-fought contests. I think you can bet on it!

 

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

Comments

  1. Roger Lowrey says

    Ian,

    Notwithstanding my well credentialed lack of knowledge of NRL, I shall respectfully beg to differ from you about South Sydney even if just as a nod to my old housemaster Fr Arthur Moynihan, a 1949 Rabbitohs’ Grand Final player.

    In a similar sense of cowardly withdrawal to Mark 14/37-41, I am staying home on Friday night to watch the Cats with some friends but the TV in the spare room will be on the Rabbitohs.

    RDL

  2. Loyalty is a wonderful thing, Roger. Those of us who are Broncos supporters are certainly going through a test of our loyalty at the moment. I’m a bit torn about Friday night. I’m a big fan of South’s Dane Gagai and Ethan Lowe but also of Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans. At best, I’m lukewarm about the Rabbitohs but also a member of the ABM (Anyone But Manly) Club. Is that called ‘having a bob each way’, thereby appealing to that well-know Catholic love of the punt?

  3. Could never get interested in League or Union, probably because I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Speaking of tail, my late uncle Malcolm used to call the players “bum-sniffers”. I always thought that was a bit rude.

  4. Here’s one to make you think: In the NRLW, Dragons forward Teuila Fotu-Moala has been suspended for three weeks (i.e. the rest of the NRLW season) for a crusher tackle in last weekend’s Round 1 match against the Broncos. There are two ways to look at it: yes, it’s a crusher tackle and deserves a significant penalty. But a penalty that equates to three quarters of the entire season? (And, if the Dragons miss the Grand Final, the ban will possibly include an international match as well.) An equivalent penalty in the NRL equates to one eighth of the season. Time for a rethink of the processes, methinks.

  5. Peter Fuller says

    Ian,
    Since the AFL introduced the final eight system which is now also used by the NRL, the overwhelming pattern in the semi-final round has been for the qualifying final loser to prevail over the elimination final winner. From memory the counter-instances are something of the order of eight from almost 40 matches. This has often surprised seasoned watchers as occasionally the qualifying final loser has been very disappointing, and the elimination final winner quite impressive. GWS did provide another example of the lower-placed team winning the semi-final last week, albeit narrowly in a roll of the dice finish.
    I’m interested in whether you have statistics – or failing that, impressions – of the NRL experience. If it follows the AFL pattern, it might be expected that Storm and the Rabbitohs would win this week.

  6. Peter,
    I don’t have statistics about the NRL but my gut feeling is that we’d find similar patterns. What interests me is just how large the turnaround can be from impressive winners one week to losers (by whatever margin) the next and, conversely, soundly beaten losers one week to surviving winners the next.
    Maybe there’s a PhD in there for you somewhere!

  7. roger lowrey says

    Ian,

    With my Cats going down, at least there is some solace to my sporting wounds with the Rabbitohs’ rousing comeback tonight against the ABMs. My old mate Arthur would be proud of them.

    The child bride and I leave our shores for Ireland and other parts on Monday so I shall miss the finals in both codes. That said, I understand there may be a kindly public house keeper in where we’ll be at brekky time in Londonderry who can find a sporting channel for a few Oz ex pats.

    Sadly though, I shall miss the indomitable JTH’s Grand Final lunch. Phew! I only narrowly survived the recent ones.

    Much ahead of us so I’ll hang on to my hat and enjoy the ride.

    Give me a yell if you are down this way in November/December. Having said that, if my frequent flyer points (sic) enable me, I may even sneak away to see friends up north. As dad used to say though, “we’ll see”.

    Go Rabbitohs! Do it for Arthur and the old ’49 team!

    RDL

  8. Roger,

    The Rabbitohs were a tad fortunate last evening. The farcical sin-binning of Jake Trbojevic turned the match. Mind you, the Cody Walker yellow card was almost as bad. I thought Manly was the slightly better team for more of the game than Souths but a couple late errors muffed whatever chances the Sea Eagles had. Souths closed it out well.

    Cowboys supporters will be yelling “Karma!” after they were badly dudded twice in consecutive finals series not so long ago. What goes around…

    It was an entertaining, if error-prone, game. Good to see fast, open play instead of the often dour battles of finals.

    Canberra awaits the Bunnies and the likelihood of another expansive match – that’s good for the code.

    Happy and safe travels in the Emerald Isle. We’ll catch up sooner or later.

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