And we made it. It’s last the tips post for 2018. I plan to do a finals preview, once the top eight is actually decided, and maybe one more recap and then that’s it for a while.
Let’s not delay then and get into it.
Canberra at New Zealand
What is it about the Raiders that means they end up in these previews in what feels like every week? It’s exhausting. Thank Christ we’re at the end of the season. Anyway, idiotic suggestions over wild cards aside, the Raiders are still a flawed team that has managed to string some wins together. There are no other fresh takes. It’s terrible trying to come up with anything else, not unlike:
The Warriors are playing finals footy for the first time since 2011 and for only the eighth time in the NRL era. Their lineup – Blake Green aside – is healthy and presumably motivated? They should be because it’s the best chance they’re ever going to get to win a premiership. But no pressure guys. I mean it. Given the win rate of the All Blacks, there’s never going to be the nation’s pride riding on the shoulders of the Warriors. Maybe that’s been their problem. Maybe they just need someone at home to care. Just someone to love them.
Anyway, Warriors to win.
North Queensland at Gold Coast
It’s Johnathan Thurston’s last game and if my Twitter timeline is anything to go by, most of the Blues fans will be glad to see the back of him, or more to the point, his farewell tour. To be fair, we had to listen to how good 1.5 premiership-winner Andrew Johns was for what felt like a decade or more, so you can indulge Queenslanders a few months of JT fawning.
Thurston’s last game is on the Gold Coast and it’s probably the first time Robina has sold out since the Warriors came over in August 2016. Based on last week alone, you’d have to think that the Cowboys, fresh off a 38 point whipping of the Eels, would take the Titans to the cleaners, themselves having been narrowly beaten by the Storm.
There’s also hotheaded Keegan Hipgrave suiting up for the Titans. I wryly observed that he is the anti-Taumalolo on the weekend (he comes on and loses the game for his team). Interestingly, he’ll go head to head with the other JT so we can see if my theory is correct. When one tackles the other they should cancel out and convert to energy, destroying the stadium and leaving a large smoking crater in the Gold Coast (not that anyone will be able to tell). In the extremely unlikely event that doesn’t happen, the Cowboys will probably win.
Cronulla at Canterbury
As of writing, Cronulla are under investigation for “alleged” salary cap breaches, possibly on the order of $250,000 and possibly going back a few years. Normally when Sydney clubs breach the salary cap, like Manly and Parramatta, they’re a disaster, so that bodes well going into the finals for one of the premiership contenders. Normal clubs breach the salary cap and they just make the finals eighteen of the last twenty years. Who would think that the only club that got caught doping would also get caught cheating the cap? It’s almost as if the old management was grossly incompetent, with no brains and smelt bad or something.
Meanwhile, Canterbury are putting their own salary cap disaster behind them, having offloaded most of the useless and expensive names on their roster like Aaron Woods. That leaves it neat and tidy, allowing young talents like Lachlan Lewis, Adam Elliott and everyone’s new favourite jet, Reimis Smith, to come through and play first grade. The result has been a noticeable uptick in form.
That said, both teams play pretty similar styles of footy with an emphasis on low and slow grinds towards each end with the occasional spark provided by the likes of Val Holmes. Cronulla have a great ability to drag teams down into the gutter and beat them on experience, so off-field distractions aside, I expect the Sharks to win.
Wests at South Sydney – Are Souths out of sorts enough to lose to the Tigers? I mean, again? No. Well, probably not. The Tigers cannot contain the Rabbitohs (if they turn up).
Penrith at Melbourne – It’s amazing that Penrith haven’t even started their finals and yet their season is somehow already over. Crazy times. Anyway, Melbourne will win the only top 8 clash this week.
St George Illawarra at Newcastle – Boy, what’s happened to the Dragons? Exhausted, maybe, but also the target of their fans’ abuse, which is pretty funny when it involves hurling scarves at international rep forwards. Anyway, Dragons are due and what better team to towel up before the finals than the worst one in the NRL?
Sydney at Parramatta – Parramatta’s only hope to avoid the spoon relies on them beating the Roosters. While that would be great on all sorts of levels, especially if the Eels went hard enough to push the Sea Eagles into last, I don’t see it happening. Sydney should be too good.
Manly at Brisbane – I think the Broncos can win this and they really should after the display putting away the Roosters last week. That said, they are a massive risk of being blown off the park by Manly as they were in the double header earlier in the year. The Broncos’ best hope is that no one gives a shit at the Sea Eagles and they don’t turn up.
Ipswich at Townsville – The TV game this week is the first elimination final. The Blackhawks come in having finished in third while the Jets only just managed to sneak into the top six with a last minute victory over Norths resulting in the Hunters being pushed out. On form lines, both the Jets and Blackhawks took a win in their previous meetings. The Ipswich line up doesn’t scream quality, although Townsville is missing a couple of names, including Carlin Anderson but I don’t trust the Jets and am still inclined to go Blackhawks.
Easts at Northern Pride – These two have split their previous games one a-piece. Easts charged into the finals off the back of the Storm’s reserve players coming and hanging out in Coorparoo for a while. A couple of those guys will be flying to Cairns. Brandon Smith and Brodie Croft will not. The Pride more or less have their usual line-up and their home ground. I’m going for the Pride.