Well, here we are the penultimate weekend of the season, the preliminary finals. This is what could be considered the most difficult game of the season to win. To say we have the best games of the season coming up is a massive understatement as we have the seasons top 4 on the ladder playing off for a spot in the game of the year, the Grand Final. So, join me as I give my preview/predictions for the games this weekend.
1st PRELIMINARY FINAL SOUTH SYDNEY vs MANLY
Rabbitohs team: 1. Blake Taaffe 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Mark Nicholls 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Benji Marshall 15. Jacob Host 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Jai Arrow 18. Taane Milne 19. Patrick Mago 20. Braidon Burns 21. Jed Cartwright
Sea Eagles team: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Josh Schuster 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Dylan Walker 15. Karl Lawton 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Toafofoa Sipley 19. Moses Suli 20. Curtis Sironen 21. Tevita Funa
In what shapes in my opinion as the game of the weekend in the first preliminary final we see South Sydney taking on the Manly Sea-Eagles in what I expect to be an absolute knock down drag them out encounter that could also possibly see whoever wins go in to the Grand Final battered and bruised.
These 2 teams have played each other just once this year with Souths coming out on top beating Manly 26-12 at 4 Pines Park (Brookvale Oval) in round 2. Despite poor early season form Manly were able to work themselves into a very competitive side once Tommy-Turbo returned and added a whole new level to their attack.
Souths on the other hand have been consistent all season and were very close to finishing 2nd if not for some big losses against the teams in the other preliminary final. They did however cause the big boil over in the first week of the finals by defeating Penrith in a tough encounter in which they showed they seem like a more complete team without Latrell Mitchell in their attack as they became less predictable with their ball movement. Could this possibly be the year Souths end the age old myth that if you concede 50 in any game throughout the season, you cant win a Premiership, I hope not, but we’ll wait and see
All in all, this is undoubtably the hardest game to pick out of the two preliminary finals but I feel could be the most enjoyable game to watch as a neutral in the way it is such an open game that either side can win if the other is off by even a half a percent. With that being said it is now time to upset one set of supporters from 2 of Sydney’s biggest teams and give my prediction.
Prediction South Sydney 17 – Manly 16
2nd PRELIMINARY FINAL MELBOURNE VS PENRITH
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Harry Grant 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Nicholas Hynes 18. Aaron Pene 19. Tom Eisenhuth 20. Chris Lewis 21. Isaac Lumelume
Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brent Naden 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Tevita Pangai Junior 17. Liam Martin 18. Izack Tago 19. Spencer Leniu 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Brian To’o
Wowie, in what almost everybody myself included predicted at the beginning of the season even before a ball had been kicked would be the second year in a row with the same Grand Finalists as last year. We have been caught off guard by the upset in week 1 of the finals and we seem to have the Grand Final the NRL and media wanted a week earlier than expected as the Melbourne storm take on the Penrith Panthers in the 2nd preliminary final.
The Storm come in to this game with the benefit of having the week off after putting Manly to the sword in week 1 of the finals and will enjoy the return of the FOX after he has been struggling with a hamstring injury that could also hamper him in this game by taking away the thing he is well known for in his pace down the wing. I know he wouldn’t have been named if they had any doubt in his fitness and ability to play a full 80 minutes and be a game changer but, is there a chance he could do further damage and risk missing a Grand Final or even worse succumb to the injury earl in to the game and leave the Storm a man short.
On the other side we have the Panthers who are coming in to the game after one of the most intense western derbies I can recall from recent seasons. The reason I say it was controversial and I’m sure everybody has heard about it and if not, how have you not heard about it? Is the way the Penrith trainer got the game stopped while Parramatta were on a roll and possibly about to score a match winning try but alas the trainer usurped the plans and got the Panthers a chance to somewhat avenge last season’s Grand Final loss against the same opposition in Melbourne.
But the panthers are also facing some uncertainty around their line up for the game by naming Brian To’o on an extended bench despite the fact he missed last week with an ankle injury. Now I’m not saying he played week 1 of the finals injured but he wasn’t himself in that loss to South Sydney and by not playing last week it has me even more intrigued by the idea that maybe the Panthers were planning to have beaten Souths in that first game not have to really train last week plus not play and rest up for this week to then go all out on grand final day.
Now after all that has happened the last couple of weeks it comes down to this game, yes, the Grand Final is next week but I personally believe whoever wins this game wins the Grand Final. So now onto the prediction, depending on who you support and what you believe coming out of the camps this may surprise you, but for me it is so clear it’s almost a pane of glass.
Prediction Melbourne 34 – Penrith 8