Twenty-six rounds have been played and we’ve reached the finals, my pre-season Grand Final prediction of a Raiders v Cowboys battle was way off, although the boys from the North could still make the big one, though its unlikely as they’ll have to come from 8th spot.
The Storm have dominated the season, finishing 6 points clear of anybody else, the Roosters, Broncos and Eels made up the top 4 with the Sharks, Manly, Panthers and Cowboys rounding out the 8. Lets look into each teams’ chances of winning it all heading into week 1 of the Finals.
The Melbourne Men finished the year with a 20-4 record, going 8-2 in their last 10 games, they had a point differential of 297, which is huge, and they’ve scored the most amount of tries (112), they are hot favorites to win it all and sending out Cooper Cronk a winner will add extra motivation.
By finishing 2nd they avoid going to Brisbane for their week one match-up, which could be a blessing considering a round 6 drubbing the Broncos gave the Bondi men. Regardless, the Roosters won the Round 13 clash 18-16, the winner of this one goes a long way to making the Grand Final.
Wayne Bennett’s boys have survived the Origin period to gain an all important top 4 spot. The fitness of Darius Boyd’s hamstring could determine how far they go, but he won’t play this week, Benji Marshall would you believe could be the key as he’ll team up with Anthony Milford in the halves.
The Eels are almost the forgotten team of the Finals, with the media last week focusing on who makes the top 8. They’ve done a great job finishing 4th, considering after 11 rounds they were running 10th on the ladder. They have a huge ask this weekend against an inform Storm in Melbourne.
The defending Champions have limped into the Finals, going 5-5 in their last 10 games. They were uninspired in an 8-point win last week against wooden spooners Newcastle. The absence of Ben Barba and Mick Ennis has been felt, if they’re to defend the title they’ll need more points than they’ve been scoring.
My Brookvale Boys have defied the doubters and won a crucial home game against the Panthers in round 26 to sneak in. Ironically its who they play on Saturday night in a 6th vs 7th showdown, if the Sea Eagles can fix the defensive woes they could make a run, especially if the Trbojevic brothers continue their form.
The Mountain Men have had a rollercoaster of a season, after 10 rounds they were running 14th then at one point they won 7 in a row, however they’ve limped into the Finals with two straight losses and Matt Moylan’s leave of absence won’t help.
North Queensland needed a Dragons loss to scrape into 8th and it happened with St George being upset by the Dogs in round 26. After the Jonathan Thurston injury nobody gave them a chance to get this far, they’ve exceeded expectations.
Don’t write them off against the Sharks this weekend; they’ve had the same 17 on the paddock for 3 weeks in a row, a rare moment of stability this season.
Finishing in the Top 4 is definitely an advantage as you get a second chance if you lose this weekend. Of the 5 thru 8 teams I see the Sharks with the experience and Manly the firepower to potentially make some noise. The Storm v Eels and Roosters v Broncos games are huge as the winners are only one game from the Grand Final.
The Storm have big match experience and the players to make another run but so do the Roosters, they both are betting favorites to reach the Grand Final at $1.90 and $5 respectively. As much as I’d love Manly to go all the way it will be a Storm v Roosters Grand Final, enjoy the Finals everyone, lets hope for some great games and for the refs to keep the ‘howlers’ to a minimum.