Almanac Rugby League – NRL 2020 Qualifying Finals and NRLW Round 3 preview: More of the same, please!

You’d have to be pretty hard to please if you think that the NRL’s 2020 finals series to date has been a bit ordinary. We’ve been treated to a series of entertaining and mostly free-flowing encounters with the odd unexpected outcome. I think we could be in for more this weekend. Meanwhile the NRLW offers us a Grand Final preview.

 

Tomorrow night the Storm host the Raiders in Brisbane. Melbourne are close to full strength although there are fitness doubts about Cameron Munster. Dale Finucane may also come back, probably at the expense of the dependable Tom Eisenhuth. Canberra has named an unchanged 17. Let’s face it, Canberra climbed quite a mountain last week when they eliminated the defending premiers, the Roosters. The Green men were out on their feet for the last ten minutes as the Tricolours surged but Roosters mistakes and pure determination saw Canberra home. My fear is that they used up a lot of petrol in that win and may find it difficult to get up against Melbourne. But they have Ricky Stuart driving them on, a force not to be underestimated. The Storm will be the Storm – hard, suffocating, relentless, lightning fast in sniping attacks and ruthlessly efficient. I like the way both teams go about their business; I admire the Storm for their consistent excellence over the years; I love Josh Papalii, and his pack of forwards are a mob of goers. I wish this could be the Grand Final. I’ll go with the Storm by >6.

 

You’ve got to admire the way the Rabbitohs have gone about their work in recent weeks. No-one expects a winner to emerge from outside the top four but Souths have turned that on its head with some exciting, attacking footy. They’re playing as if they have nothing to lose. There are, dare I suggest it, shades of the Broncos from the time of Alfie, Lazo, Kevvie, the Pearl and co. But they can’t afford to give the Panthers a head start and then play catch-up. The Panthers are too good to allow that to happen – you don’t win 16 on the trot otherwise. So Souths have to be solid in defence early, contain the scoreline and then unleash via Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker et al. As I said, they’ve got nothing to lose. This is a real danger game for the Panthers who, by comparison, have so much to lose. Raging favourites for some time, undefeated in four months, guided around the field by the likely Dally M Medallist, and a balanced, very capable, across the park outfit – but just one loss ends it all. No Kikau (suspended) but a handy replacement in Kurt Capewell. You’ve got to go with the favourite – Panthers by <6 – but I won’t be surprised if the Bunnies steal it at the death.

 

In the NRLW’s Round 3, the badly battered Dragons take on the always willing Warriors. The demolition derby against the Broncos last weekend has left the Dragons without Kezie Apps and Isabelle Kelly while Shaylee Bent is suspended. The Dragons are better than their two losses have suggested but it’s hard to see them holding on without two of their leading lights. The Warriors are comparatively settled and will want to finish their brief season with a win. I think they’ll do that, guided around the field by the talented Kirra Dibb and go on to take it out by >10.

 

The Roosters v Broncos game is a Clayton’s Grand Final preview – yes, they do meet again next week in the big one but their teams then will look quite different to the ones that take the field this weekend. The Roosters are resting at least three key players (Zahara Temara, Simaima Taufua and Hannah Southwell) while Charlotte Caslick is out injured for the remainder of the season; the Broncos’ Amber Hall is suspended and Lavinia Gould will be absent injured. But a psychological edge going into the Grand Final is up for grabs, so expect this to be a very solid clash, especially up front. At this stage I’ll go with the Broncos who showed a lot of grit last week when they saw out the last several minutes with only 12 players and pretty much controlled the game during that period. (There are some many things the NRL Broncos could learn from their NRLW counterparts!) Broncos by 6.

 

Just a word in parting about the Sydney Roosters, clearly the best team in 2018-19 and a continuing threat in 2020. They simply ran out of fuel last week and a last minute win would have been a travesty given Canberra’s dominance of the majority of the game. I’m interested to see what happens now at Bondi. Will Flanagan be shopped off to the Bulldogs? Can the Morris twins play on for yet another year? How long can Boyd Cordner’s head keep clear of further injuries? Is Luke Keary a half-back? If so, who plays five-eighth? Surely SBW is not a full season prospect. Can Trent Robinson, super coach in waiting, regroup, refocus, rejuvenate and release a new-look team in 2021? I’ll back them for top four right now!

 

Friday October 16

Storm v Raiders at Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

 

Saturday October 17

NRLW Dragons v Warriors, ANZ Stadium at 12.30pm

NRLW Roosters v Broncos, Bankwest Stadium at 4.00pm

Panthers v Rabbitohs, ANZ Stadium at 7.50pm

 

Due to daylight saving, match times vary from State to State, so please check your local guide.

 

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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

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