Almanac Rugby League – NRL Preliminary Finals and NRLW Round 3: Simplicity and Complexity

The Grand Finalists in both the NRLW and the NRL will be decided this weekend. In the mens’ clashes, you simply need to win to get there. In the womens’ competition, where points differential may well decide the finalists, every single point will count for more than usual – it’s complicated. Here’s how it all works.


In the NRL, the Canberra Raiders host the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Canberra on Friday night while the Sydney Roosters take on the Melbourne Storm in Sydney on Saturday night. Both games are full of intrigue.


Of the many confrontations when the Raiders take on South Sydney, one will be the battle of the coaches, Ricky Stuart and Wayne Bennett. In the modern era, Bennett has a record second to none while Stuart boasts an enviable CV as both player and coach. Both have the ability to inspire and lift their teams to greater heights. A split screen to show both of them in their coach’s box would make for fascinating viewing in its own right. On the field, both sides are quite settled. Canberra will be confident given their solid home record and their impressive form which has included two wins over the Melbourne Storm in recent times. The only concern for Souths is a thumb injury to James Roberts but he is expected to play. Form favours Canberra whose main challenge will be a lack of finals experience. Will they cope with the occasion? Conversely, as one commentator remarked the other day, Souths just won’t go away. Their win over Manly gives credence to this observation – they should not have won that game but did after good defence saw them survive a prolonged period of Manly attack. Like many others, I feel that the Rabbitohs have had too many demanding games of late (Roosters, Roosters and Manly in the last three weeks alone) and will run out of gas towards the last 20 minutes of the game. Raiders by 7+ for me.


The Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm game was expected to be the Grand Final before Melbourne lost to Canberra in Week 1 of the finals. On paper, this shapes as an epic encounter. I’ve heard the phrase ‘not a struck match between them’ several times, and so it appears on a player-by-player examination. The Roosters appear to have more potential game-breakers, especially in their star-studded backline; their attacking set-up boasts multiple mobile strike weapons; they have a strong spine; and they have the direction of Cooper Cronk and the creativity of Luke Keary in the halves. Simply irresistible. Melbourne have a great defence as shown last week when they held out Parramatta comfortably when down to 12 men. And they have Camerons Smith and Munster. The battle of the forwards should be huge and, as is often the case in such big games, will go a long way to settling the issue. I keep changing my mind about who will win this one. All year long I’ve said that the Roosters will win the comp.; the bookies have them as the clear favourites; they have the form, talent and class to prevail. But you have to be brave to tip against the Storm. There’s a line of thought that says that you should look at the weakest six players in each squad and then go with the team whose weakest links are better than their counterparts in the opposition. On that basis, it’s the Roosters to win by 6+.


In the NRLW, the Brisbane Broncos take on the Warriors on Saturday evening while the Dragons and the Roosters clash in a stand alone fixture on Sunday afternoon. The permutations and combinations of possible results makes for fascinating contemplation.


At its most simple, wins to the Broncos and Dragons win will see them go on to contest the Grand Final. However, if the Warriors beat Brisbane and the Dragons defeat the Roosters, all three of the Broncos, Warriors and Dragons will be level on premiership points with points differential deciding the finalists. If Brisbane win, the Dragons could still make it through with a narrow loss to the Roosters but the margin would be very slim indeed. The Roosters have to beat the Dragons by a very large margin and rely on the Warriors losing to Brisbane to have any chance of progressing. Mathematically speaking, it is possible for the third and fourth placed Warriors and Roosters to play off in the Grand Final – but very unlikely.


Confusing enough?


I doubt it will come down to any of these complexities as I believe that Brisbane and the Dragons will win to secure a straight passage to the Grand Final. I’ve extolled the strengths of Brisbane previously and so won’t labour the point. I think they’re just too good across the park and on the bench. They can even afford to go into this game without Meg Ward in the named 17! The Warriors have standouts in Charntay Poko, Apii Nicholls, Annetta Nuuausala and Georgia Hale but haven’t got the same class of players as Brisbane at the next level. The Warriors are game and might match it with the Broncos for a while but class and depth of talent will win out in the end. Broncos by 10+.


The Dragons found form and confidence on Sunday and should be able to run away from a Roosters side that has had very little to celebrate in their two games to date. The Dragons boast the likes of Jessica Sergis, Maddie Studdon, Brittany Breayley, Kezie Apps, Holli Wheeler and a good supporting cast. The Roosters rely too heavily on Isabelle Kelly, Kirra Dibb, Hannah Southwell and Nita Maynard. Their next level is the problem. Dragons by 12+.


If things go this way (and just remember that my tipping record is suspect at best), we have a very good Grand Final in prospect. I think the Dragons, on paper, have the potential to trouble the Broncos if their full squad plays smart, strong, fast and wide for the full 60 minutes. That’s a big ask but not impossible. Brisbane will be strong favourites and you’d be brave to bet against them.


But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The phrases ‘egg all over my face’ and ‘eating humble pie’ lurk in the dark recesses of my mind. For now, let’s enjoy this weekend’s 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 relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.




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