Cronulla vs Storm
In what should a tough, physical match, the Storm now lose Cameron Smith their vital traffic cop from dummy half and team captain; however very little has been said about the fact that Paul Gallen has been struggling with niggling injuries and won’t be at 100% fitness for the clash. The Sharks do have an ideal opportunity to put the Storm to the sword, so long as the occasion doesn’t get the better of them.
Even without Cameron Smith, Jeremy Smith and Ryan Hoffman the Storm side still looks like a total representative outfit on the team sheet. But in terms of on-field desire and current form, the Sharks have been the benchmark all year.
Of most concern for Melbourne is the fact they donâ€™t have a specialist back up hooker for Cameron Smith, unlike other sides who rotate a hooker during a game – the Storm have never done this and it will surelyÂ prove troublesome. Regardless of whether Matt Geyer or Billy Slater take on the no.9 role, the fill in player will have little chance to make an impact over 80 minutes as the hooking role has become increasingly specialised and requires bucket loads of endurance, something that increases every year – you can’t just jump into the role for a big finals game and expect to pull it off.
If Paul Gallen wasnâ€™t in doubt with a corked thigh – it would be an easy choice to pick the Sharks in my books. But Gallenâ€™s fitness is a huge concern because he is the glue that holds the Sharks together. Heâ€™s just as important to the Sharks as Smith is to the Storm and his players need him out there.
Having been rested for a week, the Sharks should win this game in a much different affair to finals games we saw in Week 2. The game should be played at a decent pace, but expect to see exceptionally slow ruck speeds – with both the Storm and Sharks experts at stiffling their opponents.
Itâ€™s been a low scoring finals series and Friday night should be another low scoring affair. Defence will be the name of the game with the winning side probably going to score less than 20 points, and I think that team will be the Sharks.
They say never tip against a champion team like Melbourne, but I feel the Sharks have shown a new level of desire and commitment this season that will again get them home. Sharks to win and book a much deserved grand final berth … even if Smith plays for the Storm.
Sea Eagles v Warriors
It might not be of concern to Des Hasler, but the Warriors must be addressing their previous poor stats when playing the Eagles. With such an emotional charge at this years finals, I think the Warriors should overcome any fears this time – their uptempo attack and defence have been impressive.
I donâ€™t know how you can line up the form guide on this one? Iâ€™m tempted to say the Warriors are playing better than the Sea Eagles at the moment. The Kiwis have won 10 of their last 12 and most importantly are battle hardened.
The Sea Eagles on the other hand donâ€™t really have a finals-like hit out under their belts after what was a pedestrian win against the Dragons a fortnight ago. The Warriors have just beaten the defending premiers, a feat the Sea Eagles havenâ€™t looked like achieving, and I think that factor might play on Des Haslerâ€™s men.
Manly look vulnerable to me and I just think the Warriors are playing with too much passion and commitment to be stopped at this stage. Theyâ€™ve shown great resolve to come from behind twice in the last fortnight and I think the Warriors will again sneak home in a tough and bruising encounter.
So there you have it, Iâ€™m going for two upsets and picking the Warriors to meet the Sharks in the â€™08 decider on Sunday week