Almanac Rugby League – NRL Finals Week 1 and NRLW Round 1: Let’s get down to business

After six months of preliminaries, the NRL finals commence this weekend with four intriguing matches ahead of us. Additionally, the compressed NRLW season gets underway, the two games to be played as curtain-raisers to the mens’ matches.

 

In the NRL, we kick-off with a re-match of last weekend’s clash between Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs showed a lot of courage to get the points last week but I think we might see something different this Friday night. Boosted by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ escape at the judiciary last night and a full strength backline, I think the Roosters will be too strong physically this time around. I imagine that coach Trent Robinson gave his big Bondi boppers some frank words about going missing in the second half when confronted by a more determined Bunnies team. After a poor effort last week, expect big things from the somewhat enigmatic Latrell Mitchell. The Bunnies were amazingly strong last week and deserved their win but I think it will have drained too much from them and they’ll struggle to match the effort this week. Isn’t Cameron Murray something? He plays way above his weight and has it between the ears as well – key ingredients in the recipe for success. But Souths need another half a dozen of him – which they don’t have. Not even Wayne Bennett will get them up this time around. The Roosters by 10+.

 

Just a few weeks ago, Canberra Raiders beat Melbourne Storm in Melbourne. Now they have to do it again on Saturday evening, but I can’t see that happening. Storm regain Cameron Munster and Josh Addo-Carr in the backs and seem, to me at least, to have too much firepower up front. Plus they have Cameron Smith, the cleverest and most influential on-field player in the competition. Did you see big Nelson Asofa-Solomona last weekend? Monstrous! Imagine running into that in a back alley. Canberra will be whole-hearted (think Josh Papalii) and, at times, creatively flashy (think Aidan Sezer and Jarrod Croker). But this is finals footy and Melbourne will simply grind them down over the full 80 minutes. Storm by 7+.

 

The Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks elimination final sees the teams at contrasting points in their season. Manly have gone off the boil lately and will dearly miss the brilliance of Tom Trbojevic (injured) and the pow! of Marty Tapau (suspended). Their best asset is their scheming coach Des Hasler (arguably coach of the year) who just might be able to get into their heads sufficiently to wind them up for an heroic effort at Brookie. By contrast, the Sharks might be coming good at just the right time, buoyed by an almost full list from which to choose. They can be a bit flakey at times but if Cronulla come north with their ‘on’ game, they’ll end Manly’s season. This could be the game of the weekend if both play to potential. I’ll go with the Sharks by 10.

 

Sunday’s elimination game pits Parramatta Eels against Brisbane Broncos. The season surprise packet, the Eels, should run away with this, literally. Junior Paulo will run over them like a steam-roller, Blake Ferguson will run around them and Maika Sivo will run through them. At the start of the season I predicted big things for Sivo and he hasn’t let me down, finishing the regular season as top try-scorer. Brisbane doesn’t have the quality of halves necessary to win finals. They have the forwards (Haas, Fifita, Ofahengaue) and some class in the backs (Staggs, Oates, Isaako) but not enough glue and strength in the spine to match it with the better teams. Eels by 12+ and Mad Monday for the Broncos.

 

The NRLW gets underway and it’s a tougher challenge to pick winners here without any form by which to choose. There have been significant changes to the four squads with the Dragons in particular cannibalising last season’s premiers, the Broncos. I’ll simply comment briefly and see what intel I can gain from this first round.

 

The Roosters meet the Warriors in Melbourne as a curtain-raiser to the Storm v Raiders clash. The Roosters boast the likes of Karina Brown, Isabelle Kelly, Hannah Southwell and the veteran Ruan Sims while the Warriors feature Apii Nicholls, Annetta Nuuausala and Georgia Hale. I just like the look of the Roosters squad and will go with them this week.

 

On Sunday, the Dragons v Broncos game will be most interesting, not least because of the five former Broncos now on the Dragons’ books. The Dragons look very strong on paper with the likes of Jessica Stergis, Kimiora Nati and Maddie Studdon in the backs and Brittany Breayley, Maitua Feterika and Kezie Apps up front. Most impressive! Brisbane, missing a couple through injury, will rely on Chelsea Baker, Meg Ward and Ali Briggenshaw in the backs and Lavinia Gould, Tazmin Gray and Rona Peters in the forwards. The Dragons for me, inflicting Brisbane’s first ever loss in the competition.

 

Quite a weekend in prospect – enjoy!

 

Just one quibble: While it’s good to see that Belinda Sharpe and Kasey Badger will run the line in NRL finals matches, why aren’t they on-field referees for the NRLW clashes?

 

 

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 happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV - although I do share the never-to-be-beaten record for the tenth wicket for the long-defunct Unley Lutheran Cricket Club - a partnership of 62 with Craig Hartmann in 1973! A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I'm a firm believer in the notion that there is a fine line between winning and losing in sport. 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 footyalmanac.com.au's online editors, I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

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