Almanac Rugby League – NRL Finals Week 3 + NRLW Round 3: Preview

I once had a hockey coach who said that it was better to lose a Preliminary Final than a Grand Final as the latter was a greater disappointment than the former. I wasn’t sure then and I’m not convinced now. Yes, losing a Grand Final is pretty hard to take but not everyone gets a chance to play in the Big One, and surely just to have the opportunity to be there on that last day of the season is something special in itself. Why settle for bronze when you have the chance to win gold? The worst case scenario is silver. When was the last time you heard of someone who wanted to swap their silver medal for a bronze?

 

But I digress.

 

Round 3 of the NRLW will clarify our inaugural Grand Finalists. The Brisbane Broncos are in pole position to grab one spot with two wins from as many starts and a big for and against differential. There’d have to be some highly unusual results this weekend to deny them a place on September 30. This week they take on the NZ Warriors who have a win and a loss to date. Form suggests the Broncos who have impressed in both attack and defence. They’d do well to emulate the Dragons from last week when they defended like crazy in the middle and then ran through and around the Warriors. There’s no doubt that the northern girls have the wherewithal to do just that. On the other hand, the Warriors have the incentive of making the GF with a second win, so watch them give it a red hot go. This game also sees several Brisbane-based Kiwis up against their domestic compatriots – it could be a recipe for some enthusiastic exchanges!

 

In the other game, the Sydney and Roosters meet the St George Illawarra Dragons. The Roosters have been disappointing to date and will be looking to make a belated statement, even if their prospects of making the Grand Final are slim. They’ll need to win and win big to give themselves any chance. The Dragons will be looking to build on their fine effort last week with a GF spot well within range. Their flair in attack and solid defence should stand them in good stead.

 

At this stage, my tips are the Broncos and the Dragons.

 

In the NRL, Friday night’s Storm v Sharks clash is the classic rock versus hard place scenario. The Sharks don’t fear going to Melbourne, having won there on their last appearance south of the Murray. The big question here revolves around the availability and fitness for Cronulla of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Josh Dugan. Gallen can’t be fit but won’t shirk the challenge unless his shoulder is hopeless; Lewis will do well to recover from a calf injury in a week – that just doesn’t happen very often; Dugan looks the most likely to be fit. I expect that all three will play – but in doing so, the Sharks are taking a huge risk.* Fifita, Prior and Woods will have to be huge! By contrast, the Storm have Will Chambers returning from suspension and big Nelson Asofa-Solomona back from ankle problems. Up front, the Bromwich boys, Glasby, Kaufusi and Finucane are not necessarily pretty but very effective. Throw in big game players like Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Cameron Munster and I think the Storm will have to start favourites – the bookies certainly see it that way. A highlight will be the clash between The Master, Billy Slater, and The Apprentice, Valentine Holmes.

 

On Saturday night, the Roosters host the Rabbitohs. All the talk is about how much the Roosters will miss Latrell Mitchell and/or the capacity of Cooper Cronk to mastermind a Chooks win. Mitch Aubusson is an underrated player and won’t let the Roosters down as he takes the place of Mitchell out wide on the left. But big games are won in the forwards and, in that regard, we have a mighty clash in prospect. The Bunnies big men have not been at their best in the finals so far and are overdue to fire in spite of off-field distractions in the last week or so. If they do, and it’s a big ‘if’, then watch Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker set the likes of Inglis, Gagai and Johnston alight. The Roosters have plenty to offer up front through JWH, Cordner, Liu and the impressive Victor Radley. Throw in Cronk, Keary and, just for extras, the irrepressible James Tedesco down the back – plenty of smarts there to cause Souths’ defence a headache or two. My head and heart go in different directions on this one: the heart says Souths, the head says Roosters.

 

In the end, you have to stick your neck out so I’ll go for the Storm and the Roosters.

 

Let’s just hope that the crowds are better this weekend!

 

  • Friday morning update: Confirmation this morning that Paul Gallen has been ruled out of tonight’s match is quite a blow to the Sharks, but not necessarily fatal. No doubt they’ll lose some capacity. (Groan!) What intrigues me is that Dugan is listed on an extended bench only. Surely he must play. As mentioned above, the likes of Fifita, Prior and Woods will now have to play the match of their lives to keep the Sharks circling the premiership.

 

 

Ian Hauser never created a Storm on the footy field, nor did he possess the skills as a hooker to Shark the ball. He was too timid to be a cock-a-hoop Rooster, instead looking more like a Bunny caught in the headlights. But put a page of words in front of him and he’s all competence and confidence. 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!

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