As Round 25 is completed; the Top 8 remaining NRL sides are reviewed and discussed by Ray and the Grubber and NRL News thanks them for their expert insight.
1. Melbourne Storm: Finished the NRL regular season in the best possible way, with a comprehensive victory against the Luke-Bailey-Less Titans. Showed power across the park, with classy backline movements and rock solid defence. It’s scary to think they can get even better.
Power Score: 9/10
Odds of Melbourne’s Herald Sun Newspaper giving any attention to the minor premier Storm team in their Sports pages: 1000-1
2. New Zealand Warriors: Have finally taken advantage of their league-best second phase play. May lack finesse in the halves when it counts, but the parochial Auckland crowd combined with the NZ power game may be enough to give them a victory in week 1 of the NRL finals. Should get the biggest boost of any home team in the finals.
Power Score: 8/10
Odds of a Warriors victory converting all the NZ Rugby fans should the All-Blacks lose the Rugby World Cup: 10,000-1
3. North Queensland Cowboys: Need to make it ‘de ja vu’ against the Bulldogs this Saturday night and will get some help if Sonny Bill Williams and Reni Maitua miss the match. The Jonathan Thurston and Matt Bowen combination is obviously the key to their fortunes and a big game by either of these guys will go along way to securing the win.
Power Score: 8/10
Odds of anymore than 20 Bulldogs Army supporters traveling to Townsville: 100-1
4. Parramatta Eels: Their Friday night match-up with the Warriors will be a fascinating clash. Both sides boasting powerful offensive units and can be hard to stop when either of them get on a roll. Both possess good second phase games, but the big test for the Eels will be to focus on playing ‘concentrated football’ rather than simply ‘ball-playing’ and throwing it round too much.
Set completion and building pressure gradually are the key areas for the Eels to down the Warriors.
Power Score: 7.5/10
Odds Kris Inu will become confused, switch teams and start playing for his Kiwi homeland: 5-1
5. Manly Sea Eagles: An average second half performance and the loss of Brent Kite against the Dragons yesterday has severely dented their lead-up to finals week 1. May just be lacking concentration and ball control at critical times and will need to be on their game for 80 minutes to shut out the grinding South Sydney machine. Have proved in 2007 they can win the close games and boast pure game breakers in Michael Monaghan, Anthony Watmough and Brett Stewart. Should have the skill and mental strength to beat Souths this week.
Power Score: 7/10
Odds that all the talk of Manly losing their Brookvale home final was just a ‘beat up’ by Manly faithful to fire-up their supporter base on the Northern Beaches: 15/1
6. Canterbury Bulldogs: Given current form, face a massive task of tackling the Cowboys again up north. Will be shattered by the loss of Sonny Bill Williams to suspension, but may have learned some lessons from their trip to Townsville in Round 25. Lack of foot speed and ruck control is costing them dearly, will obviously target Thurston and Bowen again – but saying and doing are two different things.
Power Score: 6.5/10
Odds of any other team getting such good odds for the premiership, despite playing from 6th spot and facing the Cowboys in North Queensland: 500-1
7. South Sydney Rabbitohs: Didn’t present themselves as a finals team this weekend after a shock loss to the Roosters. Hungry Roosters really caught them off guard, however the loss brings Souths back to earth and may be a good lesson prior to their Sudden Death game against Manly this week. With Kite missing for Manly, Souths big men in Roy Asotasi and Peter Cusack could hold the key to this clash. If they can dominate the ruck and are willing to chance their arm while in possession, they may be able to score enough points. This clash will pit two of the NRL’s most defence oriented and grinding teams against one another, one for the traditionalists – it should be a titanic encounter.
Power Score: 6/10
Chances of George Piggins suiting up in a ‘disguise’ so he can slip into Brookvale and watch his Bunnies anonymously: 2-1
8. Brisbane Broncos: Facing the Storm at the Graveyard will already have Brisbane players and their coach losing sleep. What can we say? Goooooooooone.
Power Score: 4/10
Odds that Wayne Bennett’s pre-game speech will contain the phrase: “Just go out there and have a go.” 2-1