Fri, Sep 23, 5:34pm by Kevin Pitstock
The competition now comes down to just four sides with the National Rugby League certainly living up to its name with Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand all still having representation.
On Friday night at the Sydney Football Stadium the first booking to the grand final will be made with either the Manly Sea Eagles or the Brisbane Broncos securing that honour and then in Melbourne on Saturday night the Storm host the miracle workers, the New Zealand Warriors.
The odds for the respective games would indicate that Melbourne and Manly will be the pair meeting at the ‘big dance’ next Sunday for the 3rd time in five years (much to David Gallops satisfaction), but as we have learned with Rugby League, chickens should not be counted prior to hatching!
Manly v Brisbane Betting Preview & Tips
It’s been well documented this year that the Manly coach Des Hasler likes his team out of the spotlight and he is in his element when his team is “flying under the radar”. He gets his way again this week, all the hype has been directed the Broncos way with the big question being asked would Darren Lockyer play or wouldn’t he? On Wednesday he put that to bed and declared himself a scratching. Speaking of declarations, following the great field goal in Golden Point to sink Wayne Bennett’s season, the super coach stated without Lockyer, the Broncos season was over.
So with Lockyer gone for this one (He says he will be back for the Grand Final should they progress), perhaps it boils down to two season debutants in Broncos coach Anthony Griffin and Sea Eagles half back Daly Cherry-Evans. One will appear in a Grand Final in their first season. Griffin’s task will be to instil self-belief and confidence into his men and to temper the distractions which they have had this week surrounding Lockyer. The Brisbane leader will also rely on his staff to get his side ready physically.
The Broncos likened the Dragons victory to a State of Origin. Just how taxing will that be and they only have a 6 day turn around? The discrepancy in the relevant backups is significant with the Sea Eagles side having an additional 8 days to prepare for the Sydney game. They will be reliant on another big game from the talented 22 year old Cherry- Evans who once again will pilot the Sea Eagles. It’s Cherry’s kicking game and his support play along with Brett Stewart which makes this side so dangerous. Any line break which the Broncos concede on Friday night could be fatal for them.
The Lockyer omission is telling, but it is somewhat offset by the return of the Dally M second rower of the year Sam Thaiday. Thaiday returns from a two week suspension and will be nice and fresh for this clash where he will captain the side. The return of big ‘Slammin Sam’ will significantly improve the Broncos already very good second phase play with him to complement both Matt Gillett and Corey Parker who are both serial off loaders. Our traders are expecting a big defensive effort from both sides and an upset for the Broncos would not surprise, but the plus at the line looks the play.
Melbourne v New Zealand Betting Preview & Tips
The minor premiers, the Storm has done just about everything right this year and for that reason are rewarded with a home Preliminary Final. It’s a daunting task for any team to take on the Storm in Melbourne, but if there is one team who doesn’t mind the trek then it is the Warriors. The Warriors have a better record in Melbourne against the Storm than any other team in the NRL. For Melbourne, Coach Bellamy will expect the same again for his team, they commit to the contest for the entire 80 minutes, get to their kicks and pride themselves on their defensive line and wait for the individual brilliance of Smith, Slater and Cronk to pull them through.
For the Warriors they are not so patient, they tend to try their hand at the ‘get rich quick’ plays more often. The Storm is conservative, the Warriors everything but that and whilst this fire brand type of footy could backfire significantly, it is also the style which could unsettle the Storm’s front line. We witnessed that in the second half in the first week of the finals when the Newcastle Knights resorted to bolder tactics which produced dividends and in the end they just simply ran out of time.
The warriors have enough strike in their team to worry the Storm but they will need to have their fair share of field possession to be any chance of cashing in on the talents of Vatuvai, Locke, Johnson and Inu. Cooper Cronk will again be good with the boot and Slater’s kick reception will again be a highlight for the home side therefore the counterparts for the Warriors in James Maloney and Kevin Locke will need to be close to their equal to give the travellers any chance. Another big line on offer for a side that fear nothing, take the Warriors with the start.
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