Almanac Rugby League – NRL 2020 Finals Week 1 + NRLW Round 1 preview: A great weekend in prospect

Finally we can get serious! Sixteen has become eight; by Sunday night we’ll be down to six. Entering the finals, most punters think there are only three real contenders for the premiership – the Panthers, Storm and Roosters. South Sydney’s effort last week might have shifted some of that sentiment, even if the Rabbitohs will have to do it from outside the top four.


We start on Friday night with the biggest clash for several weeks, the Panthers up against the Roosters in the First Qualifying Final. The Panthers have been the best team all year but are untested against quality opposition for the past three months. They go into this game at full strength with the year’s best player, Nathan Cleary, guiding them around the park. Fifteen on the trot – you’d have to be confident. The Roosters, admittedly somewhat understrength, got smashed last weekend in a most uncharacteristic performance and history is against them winning the comp this year. But they, too, go into this one with only Jake Friend missing. Mitch Aubusson and Nat Butcher can’t even make the 17; they have strike power across the field; they have one of the best coaches in the business. The head says the Panthers – too slick, too confident, too well organised, young and deadly keen. But you’d be brave to bet against the boys from Bondi – experienced, tough, finals hardened. I’ll go with the minor premiers by <6.


The Raiders and Sharks meet for the second week in a row in the First Elimination Final and one of them will exit the competition come Saturday evening. I think that will be the Sharks. The Raiders have found solid form at the right time of the season and, to me, have too much talent across the field compared to the Sharks who have fallen into the top eight almost by default after an indifferent season. I can’t see them racking up a winning score and the absence of Shaun Johnson is one significant loss of personnel too many. The Raiders by >10.


On Saturday night the Melbourne Storm take on the Parramatta Eels in Brisbane in the Second Qualifying Final.. Both appear to be at full strength. It’s hard to go past the Storm because they’ve been there, done that countless times before. They have the best coach, the best captain, the best system and they are simply formidable in their execution. I expect Parra to be very brave and try to use their solid forward pack to take on Melbourne in the middle. Good luck with that! Dylan Brown returns but can’t be match fit. Maybe he’s electric enough to not need full fitness. Late season inconsistency makes me wary of Parra and so I’ll go with the Storm by >10.


The weekend concludes with the Second Elimination Final between the Rabbitohs and the Knights. Souths were simply sensational last weekend and would have beaten anybody in that form. But just a week earlier they lost to the 15th placed Bulldogs! The Knights have been less than convincing in recent times. It all says Rabbitohs when it counts but is it or can it be that straight forward? Cody Walker is the key. If he fires, it’s all over. Even if he has just a solid game, I think that will be enough. As was the case with the Sharks, I can’t see the Knights compiling a winning score. The Rabbitohs by >12.


So my NRL winners are the Panthers, Raiders, Storm and Rabbitohs. (Bear in mind that I got 3/8 last week, so what do I know?)


The NRLW returns this weekend for its all too brief season. There has been significant player movement between teams this year making it hard to see the form.


We start with the Roosters v Dragons game late on Saturday morning in Canberra. A tough one to tip. The Roosters boast the likes of Corban McGregor, Charlotte Caslick, Zahara Temara, Vanessa Foliaki and Hannah Southwell. The Dragons reply with Jessica Sergis, Isabelle Kelly, Maddie Studdon, Stephanie Hancock and Kezie Apps. Sounds to me like a cracker to open the season! I’ll go with the Dragons by >6.


Then at 3.00pm, the back-to-back defending premiers, the Brisbane Broncos, meet the Warriors, also in Canberra. The Broncos have lost a few players from last season but still boast the likes of Tamika Upton, Meg Ward, Raecene McGregor, the great Ali Brigginshaw, Millie Boyle, Lavinia Gould and Chelsea Lenarduzzi. The Warriors boast the likes of Karina Brown, Kirra Dibb, Tamzin Gray and captain courageous Georgia Hale. I’ll go with the Broncos on the basis of past glories by about 10 points.


A fascinating and exciting weekend in prospect. Enjoy!


Friday October 2

NRL 1st Qualifying Final
Panthers v Roosters, Panthers Stadium, 7.50pm

Saturday October 3

NRLW Round 1
Roosters v Dragons, GIO Stadium, 11.30am

NRLW Round 1
Broncos v Warriors, GIO Stadium, 3.00pm

NRL 1st Elimination Final
Raiders v Sharks, GIO Stadium, 5.40pm

NRL 2nd Qualifying Final
Storm v Eels, Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

Sunday October 4

NRL 2nd Elimination Final
Rabbitohs v Knights, ANZ Stadium, 4.05pm

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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


  1. Peter Fuller says

    My fantasy that Newcastle might emulate Luke Beveridge’s 2016 Western Bulldogs and string together a series of brilliant performances culminating in an unlikely premiership died last Friday at CBUS Stadium. This from a self-confessed League ignoramus, as your are well aware.

  2. Fantasy indeed, Peter, as the Knights are merely making up the numbers. Their place in the finals comes courtesy of their good form in the first half of the season. There’s been little to enthuse about over the past 4-6 weeks, I’m afraid. The Doggies are a much better prospect but, even then, perhaps more bark than bite.

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