I can finally put a woefully inadequate season of tipping behind me. For a guy that had an Elo rating system that could practically see the future last year (up around 67%), Euclid did let us all down really badly this year.
But how good has the football been? This weekend sees the fairy tale-esque giant-slaying North Queensland Cowboys take on the machine-like Terminators of the Melbourne Storm to decide which side gets to take home the 2017 premiership.
Melbourne (20-4) vs North Queensland (13-11)
The Cowboys have ridden an improbably large share of possession to starve their opponents of the ball coupled with an improbably well-timed run in form, particularly for star players like Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo, to get through to what the media insists on referring to as the “Big Dance”. Why? Who knows? Wendell Sailor hasn’t done his jig on a football field in over a decade and there hasn’t been much in the way of successors.
We’re down to the final four. There’s the impossibly good expansion team from Melbourne, the pretty good expansion team from Brisbane, the grit-sucking, giant-slaying fairy tale machine from regional Queensland and there’s the 109 year old club of gronks that no one in their city wants to support.
The NRL could not have set it up better with the four major TV markets represented. I’m assuming that the twenty or so in Melbourne that will watch this weekend would have out-numbered the theoretical audience in Auckland should the Warriors ever get their act together.
In the meantime, and with my tipping record now falling behind people who haven’t bothered to tip since July, here’s my preliminary final tips.
Brisbane (16-8) @ Melbourne (20-4)
I think everyone in Brisbane wanted to avoid this scenario but here we are. In fact, had the Broncos done a better job in their qualifying final, they wouldn’t be here and would instead be facing a Cowboys outfit that, while good, is not once-in-a-generation good. The good news is that Oates and Boyd are back and Brisbane are as close to full strength as they’re going to get in a year where just about every player has had some time off. If only Adam Blair would pull a hamstring, we could get him on a plane to New Zealand by half time and he’d stop being a deadweight. That is unless he scores the winning try in which case I never doubted him but that’s about as likely as Brisbane being in the position to score a winning try. I guess what I’m saying is, anything’s possible.
Here’s some fun facts: Melbourne have won 64% of their games since their founding in 1998. They’ve led the NRL all-time winning percentage since 2007. The previous decade saw four clubs top that list at one point or another. At home, Melbourne have won 75% of their games and their record at home against Brisbane is 68%. That’s before we even get into the stats about this year’s team, like they’re the first NRL team to get to 44 points without breaching the salary cap. Yet.
I could go on about the Storm and while I hold out a little hope for the Broncos, it’s going to be a Melbourne win.
I was right at least that my bracket was destroyed within fifteen minutes of the first game as the Roosters went to an early lead against the Broncos that they only briefly gave up. I finished the round one tip from four, meaning that the only thing I got right was that I got my bracket wrong.
Fortunately, a new week of finals brings new opportunities to get things wrong.
Penrith (13-11) @ Brisbane (16-8)
The Panthers rode Nathan Cleary like Hannibal crossing the Alps (sixteen of them riding one elephant somehow) through yet another game that somehow resulted in victory. I just looked up the team list to see if he had any teammates and the only name I recognised was Josh Mansour and that’s only because he looks like he should be robbing stagecoaches in 1890s Ballarat. Penrith did a good job of turning around the fixture that they lost only a week before, particularly having to come from behind in the last ten minutes, which is roughly the amount of time that the Panthers’ premiership chances have left.
Brisbane and Sydney played their usual roles on the stage of rugby league, the Broncos as Brisbane and the Roosters playing the role of Sydney. It was practically a spec script: the Broncos went behind early, the Roosters lifted their foot off the pedal too early and Brisbane stormed back to take an unlikely lead with ten minutes to go, capitalising on the unlikeliest of Roosters’ errors. Painfully weak Broncos defence saw the Roosters’ superstar-in-the-making Latrell Mitchell get through for the game winning try. It was a fun time while it lasted, even if it was only five minutes, which is roughly the amount of time that the Broncos’ premiership chances have left.
I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the Panthers win it, just because Brisbane haven’t been that reliable, but I think that the Broncos are really itching to cop a hammering from the Storm.
If you haven’t checked out the deep dive in this year’s finals yet, I urge you to do so. I’ve sliced the finals every which way imaginable but for the record, here’s my bracket that will almost certainly be destroyed within fifteen minutes of the first game:
Here’s why I tipped the way I did.
Brisbane (16-8) @ Sydney City (17-7)
If you’re only going to tune into one final this weekend, not only would I question your presence on this blog (shit’s about to get a whole lot harder), but I would recommend it be this game because it’s the only one paper that might be close.
The Roosters come into this slight favourites, having finished higher on the ladder and playing at home. The regular season record was one win a piece, although the aggregate score of 48-24 is well in the Donkeys’ favour. It’s tighter than Sam Kasiano’s jersey.
One of the big question marks is whether Brisbane are any good without Darius Boyd. Kodi didn’t have a great game as his replacement in fullback but returns to the number 1 jersey this week but given Derrius’ performance against Parramatta, his absence may be more boon than bane.
I think Brisbane will get this. Despite everything they’ve done to me this year, I reckon they have it in them.
We did it, guys! We made it to the end of the season. If you’re like me, it’s been a slog. It’s certainly the most committed I’ve been to watching large, sweaty men smashing into each other for many years. Making it so far has not been aided by my truly terrible tipping performance but you’ve come this far, we may as well see it through.
Brisbane (15-8) @ North Queensland (13-10)
This is, without a doubt in my mind, the biggest rivalry in the NRL. You might have mistakenly thought it was Easts-Souths but that the two games earlier this year had an attendance of about half of those who turned up to Suncorp in round 3 tells a different story.
You, being a bit on the slow side, might have also mistakenly thought that copping a belting at the hands of the Eels would have dented the Broncos’ confidence in any meaningful way. Nothing could be further from the truth and I don’t say that because I’ve repressed any memory of last Thursday night with large quantities of liquor.
The Cowboys’ season is on the line, although they can still make the finals even if they lose and the Dragons win. This should provide additional motivation but North Queensland’s lineup is looking tender and bruised after a long, difficult season. If they do make the finals, they’ll need most of their current lineup to still be in one piece if they are to succeed.
I can’t go past the Broncos to settle this one and hopefully by more than one point.
This is a real headscratcher of a round. Enough crap teams have recently found some form in the bottom of the barrel so they can at least go into pre-season training with a semblance of self-esteem. It also means that they are playing better than the teams whose season is actually on the line. The top teams are starting to rest players (Storm rested Cronk last week, Kahu is off this week for the Donkeys) which makes it even harder to call. As if I haven’t suffered enough this year.
Parramatta (14-8) @ Brisbane (15-7)
As the old song says “Thursday night’s a mediocre night for football.” But the game’s in Brisbane which means about four Sydney games’ worth of people will turn up.
Parramatta won this fixture not that long ago. If I do my maths correctly, it was actually only five weeks ago but 89% of people on footytips.com.au are tipping Brisbane. Why? Because even nefarious and immoral teams like the Eels get lucky against brave and honest teams like the Broncos.
I may have been reading too much of the Courier Mail lately.
The Broncos have been playing out of their skin, scoring points like no one’s business. Their defence is less solid but it won’t matter because Parra’s attack isn’t that great (6th lowest ‘for’ and only put 30 past the Titans last week) and while their defence is good enough, it’s not good enough to stop the Boyd/Milford/Nikorima/Hunt show that’s been doing the rounds the last few weeks. Broncos to take the two. Read more
Only three games to go. There are a couple of finals places still up for grabs, as well as the all important wooden spoon battle, which is proving to be more inspirational than wondering which big market team is going to finish where in the top four.
Gold Coast (7-14) @ Parramatta (13-8)
While the Gold Coast melts down over whether they’ll keep their coach or their “star” fullback/centre or boot both or neither, Parramatta have had to spend a week of soul searching after a devastating loss to Newcastle – probably the worst side to play this decade – brought their six game winning streak to a grinding halt.
The question is: Will Parramatta recover? I almost think it’s irrelevant what the Eels do. The real question is: do the Titans even bother to show up or will they follow their erstwhile leader’s example and half ass it? I’m expecting three-quarter ass tops, so the Eels should be able to recover and get their finals campaign on track.