It’s down to four and as we speculated last week two teams from outside the top four have made it to the penultimate round with a shot at making the GF next week. What a story it would be if those two teams turned out to be the fifth-placed Raiders playing the sixth-placed South Sydney Rabbits. Bookies however think it will be a Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm Grand Final and there’s every chance they will be right but both Canberra and Souths have shown the kind of form in winning both their finals games to suggest they are up for the fight. Souths are flying while the Panthers have dropped just one game all year. Melbourne are finals toughened and Cameron Smith’s announcement he is retiring will lift them even more to send him out with a another GF a possibly the only award that has eluded him, the Clive Churchill medal for the best player on field in the GF. Whichever way you look at it four very good football teams have emerged from the past 22 weeks of battle to play off for the honour of being in the GF. It will come down to many things, bounce of the ball, rub of the green, referees calls, The Bunker and more, and there will no doubt be plenty of controversy, but that is what we love about rugby league. One thing that has emerged from this finals series is the importance of momentum. All the finals winners have ridden the momentum bus in their games, coming from significant deficits to win through with their class. This games come down to mental toughness and physicality and the ability to defend your mistakes. The teams which do that best will meet in the NRL Grand Final next week.
Place a 3+ Leg same game multi bet on this weeks games of the NRL and if 1 leg fails, you will get up to $50 back in bonus bets. Terms and conditions apply.
NRL Tipping – Friday, October 16
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane | 7:50 pm (AEST)
Melbourne Storm – Cameron Smith has upped the ante for this knockout final against the Raiders by announcing he will drop the curtain on his remarkable 429-game NRL career at the end of the 2020 season which means if the Storm lose, his great career is officially over. It’s perfect timing by Smith because had he gambled on delaying the announcement another week he may not have got the chance. What is means is his teammates will do everything humanly possible to make sure their inspirational leader gets another crack at the grand final and at winning the only award to elude him, the Clive Churchill Medal. Cameron Munster is back after overcoming a knee injury which is great news for Storm fans while Dale Finucane is also a chance of playing. Melbourne are among the most professional teams in the NRL and therefore come finals time they have all there plays and structures in place. They handle the pressure better than most teams under Smith’s guidance and have some electrifying speed men in Ryan Papenhuyzen and Josh “The Flash” Carr. The Storm enjoyed a week off last weekend as Canberra slogged it out with a 38-24 win over Parramatta. Sometimes a week off can help and sometimes it can also break your momentum. The one thing that is certain is coach Craig Bellamy has his players ready for the biggest game so far this year and of the season, because if they don’t win, they don’t play in the GF. This will be a hell of a battle up front between Bromwich and Papalii and while the foundations for victory will be set in the middle-third, this game will be won by the brilliance of the speed men and the respecrtive play-makers and Melbourne have some beauties. The Storm have a great bench. A few interesting stats include Canberra having won three of last four clashes against the Storm while the Storm are almost invincible at Suncorp having won their last 15 games in a row at the Brisbane venue.
Canberra Raiders – Last year’s Grand Finalists who upset the Roosters last weekend. Coach Ricky Stuart has built this side into a serious football team and while they stray from the game plan from time to time, they have the ability to get themselves back in the contest and the class to go on with it. They had a bruising battle with Parramatta last week but to be honest I thought they looked pretty strong at the end and sometimes it is an advantage ot keep playing tough football. Josh Papalii has been outstanding. His ability to break the first-line of defence, off-load and as we saw make desperate cover tackles makes him one of the best props in the game and Melbourne will feel his grunt and power in the middle and close to the try-line. We said it last week and he came up with a few tries but Joseph Tapine if playing his best running football and he will pose a big threat on the edges just like Canberra’s Englishmen Matthew Elliott and John Bateman who desperately want to take home an NRL premiership ring. Canberra have built something this season as a team and they are playing for each other which is a big concern for the Storm who will have to play for 80 minutes and not take a breather. Jack Wighton has been awesome in recent weeks in coming up with the big plays that have pulled the Raiders back into games. He did it again last week against the Roosters. His scrum base partner George Williams is always dangerous with his running and kicking game, fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has great footwork and can make a long-range break like all the good fullbacks in our game. Canberra’s bench while good does not looks as strong or as durable as Melbourne’s and this could come into play at some stage of the game. We tipped Canberra to beat the Roosters last week and while I think they will go close I am not as confident against the quality of the Storm. Too close to call this one with any confidence. Draw?
NRL Tipping – Saturday, October 17
Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
7:50 pm | ANZ Stadium, Sydney (AEST)
Penrith Panthers – What a phenomenal season the Panthers have had and their fans will be hoping it is not over just yet with two more games to win. Say what you like about them having had an easier draw but they have faced and conquered every mountain put in front of them and they are the team to beat. They will be without big man Villame Kikau but they can cover his absence even though they will miss his size and power. Halfback Nathan Cleary is one of the form players of the competition and he has stepped his running and kicking games up since the finals started a fortnight ago. He reads the play brilliantly and his short kicking game has improved out of sight. He runs the team so well out of the middle and rarely takes a bad option. But he has some great forwards to work with James Tamou and James Fisher-Harris ripping in with the powerful ball carries. The inclusion of Kurt Capewell for Kikau is a good one as Capewell has a try or two in him as well and let’s not forget the danger-man Liam Martin can pose with the speed and step on the fringes when the bigger forwards start to feel the pressure and fatigue. Penrith have delivered all year but this is definitely their biggest test against a team which is burning opposition sides with the pace and power. Defence will be the keyword for the Panthers and stopping the Rabbits running game will go a long way towards carrying them into the GF. You looks at their backline and it is chokers with strike from fullback Dylan Edwards and centre Stephen Crichton and under-rated winger Brian To’o. The battle in the halves between Cleary and Jarome Luai and Rabbits combo Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker will be intriguing and crucial as well. The Panthers have been the best team all year but they know they are facing a side in-form, on fire and full of points.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – How hot are the Rabbits? Well hot enough to have piled 144 points on their opposition in their last three games. That’s almost 50 points a game and two of them were finals. All this after being upset by the lowly Canterbury Bulldogs too! Why are they playing so well? One reason is their coach Wayne Bennett is so experienced in preparing teams for finals, it’s why he coaches and his record is pretty damn good. If Souths have an issue it is that they sometimes drift away from the game plan and they can sometimes get a little loose in defence which against a side like Penrith could prove costly. Cody Walker has been playing out his skin and when he is in that mood he can carve up any defence in the game. Containing him or at least cutting down his time and opportunities will be a priority for Penrith’s back-rowers. It’s not as easy at it seems especially if he drifts around like he can looking for holes and opportunities. Souths have a done well in covering for the injury to Latrell Mitchell, unearthing Corey Allen at fullback and he has delivered brilliantly. South Sydney have hard runners and heavy hitters in Tom Burgess, Jaydn Su’A and Tavita Tatola to take on the Green Machine in the engine room and they also have a couple of big units in Mark Nicolls and Liam Knight to inject into the game as middle-impact players. No.13 Cameron Murray is always looking to sniff out a try and will be hunting around the edges for a chance to get across the line. South Sydney have the side to end Penrith’s record run of wins and their dreams of a grand final but they will need to play out the 80 minutes and stay composed and patient at times and work for their chances.