The stage is set for a thrilling preliminary final between the high flying Penrith Panthers and the red hot South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Penrith booked their spot with a thrilling one-point win over the Roosters in the first week of the finals.
Whilst the Rabbitohs continued on their winning ways dispatching Parramatta last weekend, despite trailing early.
There has been much to be excited about this year at the foot of the mountains.
The current stars such as Cleary, Luai, Kikau, and others have no doubt evoked memories of the dominant Panther sides of the early 90s when the likes of Alexander, Geyer, and Fittler propelled the Panthers to glory.
Penrith last tasted premiership success in 2003 in an upset against the Roosters.
The Panthers should be well-rested, fresh, and ready to go after their week off.
However, the loss of Kikau is significant. Whilst Capewell is a good player, he doesn’t possess the game-breaking ability of Kikau.
Finals time and its Wayne’s time! The Bart Cummings of the NRL has his troops firing at the right time of the year.
After a sluggish first half last week, the Rabbitohs roared home in the second half to completely demolish the Eels.
Whilst the Rabbitohs are very unpredictable in attack, they also have some excellent structures and set pieces.
Last week, Cook really clicked into gear and was dangerous every time he touched the ball. Their unheralded pack continues to get the job done.
For Penrith, they will look to capitalize on their fast play the balls provided by Fisher-Harris, Yeo, and co.
Look for some early shifts to try and unsettle the Rabbitohs defence.
The markers and A defenders for the Bunnies will need to on their toes as Koroisau can really damage the opposition around the ruck.
South’s will be hoping to get out of the blocks quickly. If they do, look for Reynolds to turn the screws with his kicking game.
Look for Walker to again bob up on both sides of the ruck or late in the half, slicing back through the middle looking to link with Cook.
The Bunnies will feel comfortable having to chase points if needed. Especially given their attack.
However, a strong start may create issues for the young Panthers, many of whom are inexperienced in NRL finals.
In saying that, many players in the squad have had decorated junior and lower grade careers.
Such a difficult game to pick. Penrith has been unbelievably dominant this season and are deserved favourites.
However, the Rabbitohs are such a dangerous side and restricting points will be a massive assignment for the young Panthers.
Tipping the Rabbitohs to sneak home, with no real confidence.
After missing out last week, for those that are punting – either team under 8.5 looks a great play, as does the Bunnies at the start.
Enjoy your finals footy!