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.
Wests Tigers have won one premiership. The year was 2005 and a young Benji Marshall side-stepped an entire league to lead his team to an extremely unlikely victory over grand final debutants, the North Queensland Cowboys. The Tigers had finished the regular season in fourth, behind the Eels, Broncos and Dragons.
The Tigers were formed in 2000 from a merger of the Western Suburbs Magpies, a team the NSWRL had been trying to get rid of for years, and the Balmain Tigers. The resulting joint venture has struggled for success beyond their fairytale year but never have hit the rock bottom of receiving a wooden spoon. It’s been six years since the Tigers featured in the finals and a year or two of re-building is ahead before they may make another appearance.
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.
What a team the Canberra Raiders were in the early 1990s. As one of the NSWRL’s first expansion teams in 1982, the Raiders made five grand finals between 1987 and 1994 (that’s seven years!). Of those five grand finals, Canberra won three of them in 1989, 1990 and 1994. Jason Croker, Mal Meninga, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Brett Mullins, Gary Belcher, Glenn Lazarus, Craig Bellamy, Tim Sheens – the list of top players in those premiership winning sides is almost endless.
Since then, it’s been a whole lot of nothing. The Raiders have been poor but not so bad that they even find themselves at the bottom of the ladder. 2016 was a year of redemption, finishing second on the ladder, the momentum of which they have blown throughout the 2017 season and they will be lucky to make the finals.
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
Cronulla won a premiership. You might have heard about it. It was last year. It was also their first since joining the NSWRL premiership in 1967.
The Sharks are also the only team stupid enough to recently get caught in a doping scandal. In the NRL, you’d basically have to leave a box of used syringes with a note saying what was in them on the front doorstep of NRL House and I’m still not sure the authorities would put two and two together. To get pinged for peptide use while not even being good enough to make the finals in 2013 and 2014 is a level of dumbassery unsurpassed in the sport of rugby league.
That aside, prior to those incidents, Cronulla were a journeyman’s team. They were never terrible (only three wooden spoons to their name, two from the early days and one in 2014) but never great (refer lack of premierships, 1967-2015). The Sharks were the home of some top class individuals, including Andrew Ettinghausen, Steve Rogers, Brett Kimmorley and David Peachey. Their current line-up features stars, including Valentine Holmes, and also features some guys that have contributed to multiple Origin losses, like Paul Gallen, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita.
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.