Almanac Rugby League – NRL 2020 Round 20 preview: Dragons, Dragons, wherefore art thou?

And so we come to the final Round of this most unusual 2020 NRL season. Although our finalists were determined a fortnight ago, two teams, the Eels and the Raiders, have a lot to play for this weekend. At the other end of the ladder, the Broncos need at least a draw or a win to avoid their first ever wooden spoon.

 

The boys from Brisbane won’t have to wait long to find out their fate as they take on the Cowboys in tonight’s opening fixture of the round. Remember those games just a few years ago when these two could only be separated by a field goal? It might happen again but the circumstances couldn’t be different. The match features the last appearance of Darius Boyd for the Broncos and Gavin Cooper for the Cowboys. The former has probably diminished his legacy by playing on for a year or two too long; the latter exits after a comparatively modest season curtailed by injury. Both, in their heyday, were top flight players – Boyd an exciting winger and fullback, Cooper a lethal, left-edge running forward and powerful defender. Good luck to them both! In a toss of the coin, I’m going for the Broncos for no reason I can explain.

 

The Titans took a big step forward last weekend with their away win against Manly. This weekend they get to test themselves against a top eight team in the Newcastle Knights who will want to be on their guard heading into the finals. I’ll pick the Knights for their greater across-the-park strength but I also expect the Gold Coast men to give a good account of themselves after an impressive final month of the season.

 

The Roosters certainly aren’t holding back as they have named a full strength team to take on the Rabbitohs on Friday night. There is only one possible outcome here, the only question being the margin. I can’t really see Souths getting past next week as they have been too flaky under pressure.

 

The Bulldogs got off the bottom of the ladder at last but it could be short lived. The Panthers will be just too good in this clash while the Bulldogs can think about next year – but I don’t think they deserve the wooden spoon. How good are the Panthers? They’ve played only one of the other top four sides in the last three months, the Eels a fortnight ago. Let’s see what happens when they meet real contenders in successive weeks in the finals.

 

The Raiders are still playing for a possible top four finish when they visit the Sharks on Saturday evening. That should be enough to see them win and keep the flame alive for at least a few hours longer. Canberra then have to rely on the Tigers to down the Eels in the night game, a result not out of the question. The Eels will be playing for top four safety and the double chance, so they’re not going to let that slip away without a fight. I’ll go with the Raiders and the Eels in those two games.

 

On Sunday, the brave and much-to-be-admired Warriors play the Sea Eagles. Both teams will be without their key player at fullback – RTS for the Warriors and ‘Turbo’ Tom for Manly. The loss of RTS will hurt more as he is the heart, soul and captain of his team. I’ll go for Manly but with little conviction. And I salute the Warriors for what they have done to sustain the competition this year – well played!

 

The Dragons v Storm game will tell us a lot about just where St George are at the moment. The Storm, with little to be gained or lost, has named a ‘Seconds’ team by resting up to a dozen first-choice players for this game. Their depth is incredible! The Dragons are a basket case, chopping and changing personnel but still losing consistently. What an insult it would be if they lost this one! Anthony Griffin, you are a brave man taking on this rabble! I’ll add insult to injury by going for the Storm.

 

So my NRL winners for the final round are the Broncos, Knights, Roosters, Panthers, Raiders, Eels, Sea Eagles and Storm.

 

The NSW CRL Group 9 Grand Final will be played at McDonald Park, Wagga Wagga on Sunday afternoon between fierce rivals the Tumut Blues and the Gundagai Tigers. They’ve met three times in this shortened season for a win, a loss and a draw each. The margins in each of those clashes has also been very small. This will be a ferocious contest across the park. Expect a cliffhanger, possibly even extra time golden point. Tumut are the defending premiers; Gundagai won in 2018. Gundagai by 2! It’s a pity the TV cameras won’t be there.

 

Thursday September 24

Broncos v Cowboys, Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

Friday September 25

Titans v Knights, Cbus Super Stadium, 6pm

Rabbitohs v Roosters, ANZ Stadium, 7.55pm

Saturday September 26

Bulldogs v Panthers, ANZ Stadium, 3pm

Sharks v Raiders, Jubilee Stadium, 5.30pm

Tigers v Eels, Bankwest Stadium, 7.35pm

Sunday September 27

Warriors v Sea Eagles, Central Coast Stadium, 2.00pm

Dragons v Storm, Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, 4.05pm

 

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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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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. Russel Hansen says

    Another great piece Ian.
    Sadly, I agree re my beloved Rabbitohs. It would be a miracle for Souths to play more than one finals match this year. In reality, this is a disappointment for a top 4 team for the past two seasons. Would not mind a dollar for every time Uncle Wayne has said “we are beating ourselves” in 2020. Sam Burgess is still a human headline, however the player Souths really miss is John Sutton. Kudos to Michael McGuire for challenging Sutton to be a leader of the club.

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