As South Sydney and Brisbane crash and burn in Week 1 of the Finals; we take a look at the remaining NRL teams still in contention for this years NRL Premiership.
1. Melbourne Storm: It’s hard to keep coming up with unique words to favourably describe the Storm. Once again they put in a complete performance against a hapless challenger; revenge was achieved against last years nemesis the Broncos and the game was nothing more than a training run for the classy Melbourne side. With another home final in Week 3 – the Storm are virtually assured of a Grand Final birth again in 2007. Only tripping over their own shoes can prevent them from winning this year, surely?
Power Score: 9.5/10
Odds of Cooper Cronk getting tangled and injured as he runs through one of the Melbourne Storm’s promotional banners at Telstra Dome in Finals Week Three – 50/1
2. Manly Sea Eagles: Have been bridesmaids all year to the Storm; but again they proved their grit and skillset against the street fighting style of South Sydney. While it was a home game, Manly powered through injuries and the strong defence of the Bunnies to post a big win. Are really starting to believe they can consistently compete and win against the best in the NRL. Injuries are their main worry at present, but if they can get into the big one against the Storm – they are the only side that really trouble the Melbourne juggernaut. Showed a good mix of experience and talent in the win over the Bunnies.
Power Score: 8.5/10
Odds of Sydney finally getting behind Manly in the Grand Final should they face the Melbourne Storm or another out of town team? – 500/1
3. Parramatta Eels: Were able to get a win on the hardest NRL road-trip there is. While they went from scoring 68 points against the Broncos to only 12 against the Warriors – their often questioned defence won them this tight match. Braved an impressive and enthusiastic onslaught
from the Warriors to only let in 4 points all match. (Other 6 points came from penalty try). Did lack some cohesion at times when attacking, but adapted to finals defence style well and would be quietly confident after taking down a big scalp in their own backyard.
Power Score: 8/10
Chances of Bill Harrigan admitting he may have made the wrong call in awarding the penalty try during the Eels / Warriors game? 500,000/1
4. NZ Warriors: Didn’t do too much wrong in their opening game against Parramatta. Some in-experience probably cost them at crucial stages. The Logan Swan no-pass was their turning point, his failure to score did cost them the match. Are young enough to shrug off the early failure and I believe they will beat the Cowboys on Sunday. Ivan Cleary has them conditioned to the road-trips now and regardless of the Townsville heat during the day, they should be too big and strong for the limping Cowboys. A solid win will inject confidence that could see them sneak into the Grand Final.
Power Score: 8/10
Chances of Ivan Cleary and Warriors officials asking for Bill Harrigan to be re-instated as the on-field and video referee for future Warriors clashes? 15/1
5. North Queensland Cowboys: Flashes of brilliance combined with wafer thin defence. The home crowd again having a huge impact in their win; while their ‘off-the-cuff’ style offence does work well and is impossible to plan for, they simply can’t defend successfully for extended periods and their diminishing forward pack is really hurting them. Are a team that plays on confidence and I think they have used up their last remaining barrels.
Power Score: 7.5/10
Chances of Cowboys CEO Peter Parr wildly banging any more rubbish bins during post match team victory song? Getting slimmer by the week.
6. Canterbury Bulldogs: Got blown away in the first 25 minutes of their match against the Cowboys. Once they settled, they began to make line breaks but just couldn’t make the final pass. They are a side low on confidence after a month of losses – but they are now counting their blessings; a home final and Sonny Bill Williams returning could give them the launch pad they need to take down the Eels in Sydney this Saturday night. Their fanatical home supporters will be there in massive numbers and previous form over the Eels in big matches will have the Parra crew looking over their shoulder. While many talk of their dominating forwards, the lack of footspeed from the Bulldogs could be their undoing.
Power Score: 7.5/10
Odds that security at Telstra Stadium this Saturday Night will be tighter than that seen during recent APEC exercises? – 3/1