Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for Week 1 of the finals. The favourites should do it comfortably now that things are getting serious.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Sydney Cricket Ground
|James Tedesco||1||Adam Doueihi|
|Daniel Tupou||2||Alex Johnston|
|Latrell Mitchell||3||James Roberts|
|Joseph Manu||4||Campbell Graham|
|Brett Morris||5||Corey Allan|
|Luke Keary||6||Cody Walker|
|Cooper Cronk||7||Adam Reynolds|
|Jared Waerea-Hargreaves||8||Tevita Tatola|
|Sam Verrills||9||Damien Cook|
|Isaac Liu||10||Liam Knight|
|Boyd Cordner||11||John Sutton|
|Mitchell Aubusson||12||Jaydn Su’a|
|Victor Radley||13||Cameron Murray|
|Angus Crichton||14||Ethan Lowe|
|Zane Tetevano||15||Dean Britt|
|Nat Butcher||16||Thomas Burgess|
|Siosiua Taukeiaho||17||Mark Nicholls|
History: Played 243, Roosters 111, Rabbitohs 126
Last Meeting: Round 25, 2019: Rabbitohs 16 def. Roosters 10
Final Thoughts: The Match Review Committee and Judiciary have already played a significant role in this one. Sam Burgess will miss the match after the MRC nabbed him for hair pulling while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been found not guilty for collecting Liam Knight’s head and is free to play. If it wasn’t already, advantage: Roosters.
It seems as though the Chooks have been cruising up until this point – even last week when losing to the Rabbitohs. Trent Robinson and his men had nothing to play for and the loss won’t have impacted their confidence in the slightest. This is when the Roosters really kick on, and the Rabbitohs are unlikely to stop them.
Burgess is a considerable loss, and while he’s not in great form, he’s their leader. Without him, it’s difficult to see the Bunnies doing enough in the middle to trouble the Roosters line often enough to produce the points required to win. The Roosters have the best attack in the NRL and the Rabbitohs edges are vulnerable. It’s going to take an impressive defensive effort for the underdogs to keep this one close.
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders @ AAMI Park
|Ryan Papenhuyzen||1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad|
|Suliasi Vunivalu||2||Nick Cotric|
|Will Chambers||3||Jarrod Croker|
|Justin Olam||4||Joseph Leilua|
|Josh Addo-Carr||5||Jordan Rapana|
|Cameron Munster||6||Jack Wighton|
|Jahrome Hughes||7||Aidan Sezer|
|Jesse Bromwich||8||Josh Papalii|
|Cameron Smith||9||Josh Hodgson|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||10||Iosia Soliola|
|Felise Kaufusi||11||John Bateman|
|Kenneath Bromwich||12||Elliott Whitehead|
|Dale Finucane||13||Joseph Tapine|
|Brandon Smith||14||Bailey Simonsson|
|Tui Kamikamica||15||Dunamis Lui|
|Max King||16||Corey Horsburgh|
|Joe Stimson||17||Ryan Sutton|
History: Played 43, Storm 31, Raiders 12
Last Meeting: Round 22, 2019: Raiders 22 def. Storm 18
Final Thoughts: We’ve got a rematch of the Round 22 thriller here. The Storm built an 18-0 lead on the back of two Raiders sin-bin’s before the Green Machine pulled off an all-time great comeback the last time these two met. The Storm had never lost from 18-0 ahead before that fateful day.
It’s a result that will stick in the minds of Craig Bellamy and the Storm, and one that is unlikely to be repeated. The Raiders can’t afford to start this one so poorly. A repeat of the lack of discipline shown to start their Round 22 clash is sure to end in defeat this time around. It’s an issue that has plagued the Raiders in recent weeks as they’ve struggled to navigate the last five weeks against tough opposition.
This is finals footy so we can expect the Storm to be at their best. They’ve named their best spine, are relatively healthy, and come into this one in decent form. Meanwhile, the Raiders have lost two of their last three since beating the Storm and were a Kyle Flanagan conversion away from losing the match they did win. Go with what we know and stick with the Storm.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @ Lottoland
|Brendan Elliot||1||Josh Dugan|
|Jorge Taufua||2||Sosaia Feki|
|Brad Parker||3||Bronson Xerri|
|Moses Suli||4||Josh Morris|
|Reuben Garrick||5||Aaron Gray|
|Dylan Walker||6||Shaun Johnson|
|Daly Cherry-Evans||7||Chad Townsend|
|Addin Fonua-Blake||8||Aaron Woods|
|Apisai Koroisau||9||Jayden Brailey|
|Sean Keppie||10||Matt Prior|
|Corey Waddell||11||Briton Nikora|
|Jack Gosiewski||12||Wade Graham|
|Jake Trbojevic||13||Paul Gallen|
|Manase Fainu||14||Kurt Capewell|
|Haumole Olakau’atu||15||Jack Williams|
|Lloyd Perrett||16||Andrew Fifita|
|Toafofoa Sipley||17||Braden Hamlin-Uele|
History: Played 101, Sea Eagles 72, Sharks 26
Last Meeting: Round 10, 2019: Sea Eagles 24 def. Sharks 14
Final Thoughts: Oh, what could have been? If the Sea Eagles could run out onto Lottoland with their full-strength squad, this game might have been the biggest and most difficult to tip of the weekend. Instead, it’s perhaps the most inevitable.
The Sharks run out as heavy favourites against a Sea Eagles side missing Tom Trbojevic, Curtis Sironen, Taniela Paseka and Marty Taupau. Brad Parker and Jack Gosiewski have been named but are under injury clouds early in the week. Des Hasler is so desperate for warm bodies that he has called Tony Williams up from reserve grade to fill-out the 21. This isn’t the Sea Eagles side that has exceeded expectations and played so well all year.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have always been capable of playing good footy but lacked the consistency. They’ve slowly started to find it as the finals approach, though. Under all sorts of pressure and in hostile territory, the Sharks beat the Tigers comfortably to get here. They won the battle in the middle, got into the grind, and piled on the points when the opportunity arose. They’ll look to do the same again this week. It may be a little slow to start as the Sea Eagles come out flying, but expect the Sharks to show their quality and pull away in the second half.
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos @ Bankwest Stadium
|Clinton Gutherson||1||Anthony Milford|
|Maika Sivo||2||Corey Oates|
|Michael Jennings||3||Kotoni Staggs|
|Waqa Blake||4||Alex Glenn|
|Blake Ferguson||5||Jamayne Isaako|
|Dylan Brown||6||Darius Boyd|
|Mitchell Moses||7||Jake Turpin|
|Kane Evans||8||Matthew Lodge|
|Reed Mahoney||9||Andrew McCullough|
|Junior Paulo||10||Payne Haas|
|Shaun Lane||11||David Fifita|
|Manu Ma’u||12||Matt Gillett|
|Nathan Brown||13||Joe Ofahengaue|
|Brad Takairangi||14||James Segeyaro|
|Daniel Alvaro||15||Thomas Flegler|
|Ray Stone||16||Gehamat Shibasaki|
|Marata Niukore||17||Patrick Carrigan|
History: Played 57, Eels 22, Broncos 34
Last Meeting: Round 24, 2019: Broncos 17 def. Eels 16
Final Thoughts: The Broncos will be kicking themselves after losing the Bulldogs in Round 25. A win would have put them against an injury-depleted Sea Eagles outfit – potentially as favourites. Instead, they face a plucky Eels at their Bankwest Stadium fortress as significant $2.55 and +4.5 underdogs.
It’s Parramatta’s ceiling in attack that makes things so difficult for the Broncos. With one of the most powerful and talented packs in the NRL, the Broncos can compete with any team in the competition. However, their lack of consistent faces in key playmaking position sees them average just 18 points per game – 11th in the NRL.
While the Eels can’t match the Broncos pack, they get plenty of yardage from their back-three. Blake Ferguson, in particular, can make up a lot of the difference when starting their sets. That should ensure the Eels compete through the middle of the field. From there, the far more trustworthy Eels attack should find enough points to take the chocolates. Although, they may not need many. These two played out a 17-16 nail-biter two weeks ago, and we can expect something similar on Sunday.