The 2021 NRL home and away season has come to an end, and the battle for the top 8 went down to the final day, with 3 teams in with a shot to make it. The Sharks, Canberra and the Gold Coast Titans.
The Sharks went into the final round in the 8th position with a very simple task, Win and your in. A task made slightly more difficult as their final match was against the minor premiers the Melbourne Storm. Canberra new that anything but a win on the final day would see their season end, in many people’s eyes prematurely and that is exactly what happened. So, it came down to the Gold Coast Titans against the Warriors. The Titans task was simple, Win and win by more than 11 and they would be playing finals football again. And boy did they win. A resounding 44-0 win over the Warriors saw them through to the finals. All on the back of an amazing display by young Jayden Campbell.
Excitement on the final weekend aside, this finals series is anything but unpredictable. Everyone’s preseason favourites the Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers looking firmly in the box seat to have a repeat of the 2020 Grand final. The only other team outside of those two I could maybe see challenging would be Manly, who play Melbourne in the Qualifying final this weekend.
While teams like the Roosters and Souths are in amongst it, a suspension to arguably Souths most influential and best player in Latrell Mitchell, because of a bone headed tackle ironically against the Roosters. And the Roosters injury toll is almost laughable with key players Luke Keary and Joey Manu out for the season along with young superstar Joseph Suaali also ruled out for the rest of the season.
The one team outside of the top 8 that I can see doing something in the finals but not really a chance to win it would be the Gold Coast Titans. Coming up against an injury hit Roosters side in an elimination game in week 1 of the finals. You could say the Titans have been playing elimination football for the last few weeks and while not getting the results they would’ve have wanted, there play suggests they are seemingly hitting form at the right time of year. If you look the other way when it comes to the Souths 36-6 drubbing.
I really think with the way the Titans played against the Warriors on the weekend and the defensive performance they put in, they are every chance of beating the Rooster this weekend and moving into week 2 of the finals. In fact im going to go on record and say it WILL happen.
With the way Manly has been playing, and the form there star fullback Tom Trbojevic is in. Im definitely getting Parramatta in 09 vibes. On the back of a player in the form of his life, I really think if its not going to be a Storm Panthers Grand final, Manly is definitely a team I could see being in there place. They have a great halves combination who are very comfortable playing together and know each others games so well. This is the chemistry that teams need come finals time.
When I look at the other 2 teams involved in the finals. Both playing each other in the other elimination game, I can see it going either way.
Parramatta have not been good in the back end of the season. A big win against an emerging rivalry side in the Melbourne storm is realty the only highlight in recent times. The thumping at the hands of the Panthers on the final weekend can largely be ignored with the Eels resting a number of starting players. On their day I think they’re capable of beating anyone in the Top 8. The difference between their best rugby league and worst is huge and to go and win 4 games in a row to win the premiership is a task I just don’t think they’re capable of.
For the Knights, I don’t want to say they’re just making up the numbers. They finished a respectable 7th and are more than capable of beating the Eels this week. I just don’t think the quality in the squad is good enough to get to the Grand Finals let alone win it. I know a lot of the so called professional pundits will say “Anyone whose in the finals can win it” , I am not that generous, They can not win it, but if they do it would be one of the more amazing if not most amazing finals campaigns in the Leagues history.
My firm belief is that on Grand Final day we will be watching the same 2 teams run around, and if I’m to be honest with you all, I can’t see anyone else but Melbourne winning back-to-back premierships. But if its anyone else, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. All I can say is, for my father-in-Law, My Partner and our Boy…. Come on Parra!