Almanac Rugby League – NRL and NRLW Grand Final previews

Finally, it comes to this! Grand Final Sunday and three great games await us. Three Sydney-based teams up against three interstate teams. An inaugural NRLW Grand Final. What’s not to like? Here’s what I think will happen.

 

The inaugural NRLW Grand Final will pit the Brisbane Broncos against the Sydney Roosters. Brisbane will go in as favourites having won all three of their preliminary matches reasonably comfortably. From the outset, they showed the benefit of a couple of warm-up matches before the competition commenced. The Roosters went into the competition as favourites but, by comparison, lacked cohesion in their first two losses before finally coming good last weekend. If forwards win matches, then the strong and agile Brisbane pack appears to have the advantage over its opponent on performances to date. The girls in maroon have been able to go both through and around their opponents while the Sydney ladies have been comparatively more one-dimensional in their play. The Broncos also boast Dally M Female Player of the Year Brittany Brearley, a scheming and dynamic No. 9.

 

Much will depend on the clash of the halfbacks, Ali Briggenshaw from Brisbane and Zahara Temara from the Roosters. Both have been in excellent form of late. Briggenshaw is a very good ball-runner as well as distributor while Temara has a great kicking game. The fullbacks, Chelsea Baker (Broncos) and Karina Brown (Roosters), have also been fine contributors and we should see them have an influence, too. The Broncos have been very well served by their bench players and they may have an edge there. Bear in mind, however, that the Roosters hit good form to qualify for this match and will be out to show that their pre-season favouritism was not a pipedream. It should be a great game! All the signs say that the Broncos will win, as do the bookies, but we know that the oval ball has a mind of its own. The game kicks off at 1.35pm on Sunday.

 

Sunday’s second match will see the clash for the Intrust Super Championship between the Queensland Cup winners, the Redcliffe Dolphins, and their New South Wales Cup counterparts, the Canterbury Bulldogs. Honours have been shared between the States over the duration of this competition but NSW has dominated for the last couple of years. It’s no easy task to offer an informed background to this game other than to say that both teams will be playing for State bragging rights. The southerners will start as warm favourites given the presence of NRL Bulldogs regulars Rhyse Martin and Greg Eastwood.  For Redcliffe, Kotoni Staggs, Tom Opacic, Jake Turpin and Nick Slyney have all made cameo NRL appearances but not as recently or to the same extent as the Bulldogs pair. I expect this to be an open, high-scoring affair. Kick-off at 3.40pm.

 

The NRL Grand Final sees a clash between the two teams which have dominated the latter part of the season, the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters. So we have the match-up we want to decide the title. This week has been dominated by contrasting issues surrounding Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. On Tuesday night, Slater was cleared of a shoulder charge which would have seen him rubbed out of a final NRL appearance. Think what you will of the process and the outcome, the fact is that Billy will play on Sunday and let’s deal with that. Cronk is at long odds to play given his severe shoulder injury but will be given until late on Sunday to make a call on his availability. The odds are against him at this stage.

 

I’m not sure that we will get the game we want on Sunday. Yes, we have the most deserving teams, but I’m not sure that we will get the style of game we hope for or expect from a Grand Final. Recent weeks have seen a lot of ugly play in the tackle and ruck with overly zealous group tackles and an inordinate amount of lost ball. Some see it as a contest for possession, others see it as a deliberate, brazen attempt to get away with stripping the ball. The referees seem unperturbed by it all, this week commenting that it’s all about the contest and, as such, should be welcomed by the fans. I’m not so comfortable about it given that it often seems to be a somewhat subjective call. I have no issue with a clean one-on-one strip (an even contest) but the doubts and uncertainties of losing the ball in questionable group tackles (an uneven contest) leave me cold. (Go back to Jim Young’s thoughts from late August for a discussion about promoting ‘the contest’ in rugby league.)

 

What I, and I think most fans, would like to see is a contest about football ability and skills. We want to see a tough, uncompromising clash between the forwards for physical, psychological and positional advantage. We want to see instinctive halves scheming, probing and directing their sides around the paddock. We want to see dynamic, fast and skilful backlines rushing forward in sweeping movements with fullbacks always ready and willing to chime in to stretch defensive lines. We want to see a combination of strength, skills and nous win out.

 

I expect a brutal opening to this game – JWH v Bromwich, Cordner v Kaufusi, Liu v Stimson and Radley v Finucane before Napa comes on to confront Asofa-Solomona. Feel the earth move! At the same time, watch Smith and Friend plot and scheme, aim for a gap in the defensive line or go for the odd spurt out of dummy-half. Then allow the likes of Munster and Keary to open their respective bags of tricks with darts, swivels and a variety of kicks. And, if we get an open game, behold the multitude of talent waiting to be unleashed out wider (Chambers, Vunivalu and Addo-Carr v Mitchell, Tupou and Manu). Then add the cream – the prospect of the Slater v Tedesco clash. Throw all of that together and you have a potentially great game awaiting us! Give it a chance please, refs!

 

The Storm (with Slater) will probably start as favourites over the Roosters (likely to be without Cronk) but don’t put your house on it. Each time I look at the team sheets I change my mind – there are too many potential match-winners on either side. And that includes the respective coaches. I don’t expect it to be pretty, and probably not high-scoring either. But you can bet your boots that it will be absorbing, rugged, tight, passionate and possibly even explosive. Extra time, anyone?

 

My tips for this week: the head says Brisbane, Canterbury and Melbourne; the heart says Brisbane, Redcliffe and Melbourne. We’ll check back on Monday to see how it all unfolded.

 

 

Ian Hauser got 4 out of 5 tips last weekend – not a bad percentage. But when, in his role as an editor, he offers writers tips about their work, he aims for a perfect result. You can check out his editing services here.

 

 

 

About Ian Hauser

A happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I appreciate those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

Comments

  1. Enticing preview of the women’s final – hope they get a proper season with more than four teams and four bloody rounds next time. As for the men’s, Melbourne and Easts is a hard one to be excited about, even allowing for my viewing the scenario with biased eyes. Neither side has been a joy to watch – the beneficiaries of a somewhat weakened field this year. Would be a better game with Cronk in it but that seems less likely by the hour. I’m not exactly #talkingthegameup here but hey. Enjoyed this piece though!

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