It’s going to be Penrith vs Melbourne people. Down to the final four in this year’s NRL and I’m picking the top two seeds to meet in next Sundays Grand Final. Let’s have a look at both games then starting tonight with the Storm vs the Raiders.
Melbourne: The anti-Christ of the sport this lot. The demon team, the cloven hoofed beast of rugby league. All their past salary-cap rotting aside it’s their niggle I hate most. They grapple, they neck wrestle, they chicken wing, they twist your leg behind your back, they do anything and everything to bend and break every law in the book. Yet who can deny them their annual, rightful place at the finals top table. They’ve been the most consistent side in the comp for the last decade with an uncanny ability to maintain their standards and results at an elite level no matter who retires, leaves or is replaced. They demand begrudging respect simply because they’re so damn good and there’s every chance they’ll win it all again. If they don’t then behold one of the best losing faces in sport. Coach Craig Bellamy does the best impression of fried-bum-face since the old Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger. Here’s hoping we see it some time tonight!
Canberra: After bearing the Roosters in a GF rematch last weekend the fairytale story of this year’s comp would see Ricky Stuart’s side go one better this year and finish the job. Unpredictable, at times wildly unstructured, they’re both exhilarating and exhausting to watch combining both brilliant plays with an inate ability to also completely botch it. A real powder keg of a team, reflective of their coach who himself rides the finest line between being normal and/or nutting off every game he watches. Canberra k/o’d the Storm same time last year in what was considered a real upset. Tonight though I think Melbourne’s extra week off will prove the difference late in the game.
Penrith vs Souths Saturday night.
Panthers: I’m so hoping Penrith win it all this year mainly because of the Cleary’s, coach Ivan and son Nathan. These two feel very much like ours having spent years here with the Warriors, most of us still lamenting the day the club let Dad Ivan go. They haven’t made a GF since 2003 and only a couple of years ago propped up the whole comp. To go from worst to first would be an amazing achievement for Ivan Cleary and one he and his team would thoroughly deserve. They play great code, have lost just once all season and if they don’t win then why else would anyone even want to live that far out of Sydney anyway?
Rabbitohs: Described by many as the dark horse of these finals I can’t really agree with those sentiments given there’s nothing unknown or under the radar about their last two performances - massive second half efforts that’ve physically crushed both the Knights and Eels. Struggling for consistency throughout the year they now look capable of beating any team they face. Every year one team tends to find their best form at the exact right time and this year it looks like Souths. Plus in Damien Cook they’ve got an absolute gamebreaker. Can the wily, grumpy old master Wayne Bennett produce his coaching magic one more time? Don’t bet against this lot, they’re the one team no-one else wants to play.
So it’s a Penrith/Melbourne GF for me. One plays two, the two top seeds meeting to decide who rules this year’s roost. The finals format is designed to ensure, if at all possible, the top two teams make it. That’s why these two are my finals pick. They are the best teams and this weekend will prove it.