THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
NRL FINALS WEEK 1 PREVIEW
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Manly Sea Eagles
ANZ Stadium, 7:45pm (local).
BULLDOGS: Ben Barba, Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, Krisnan Inu, Jonathan Wright, Josh Reynolds, Kris Keating, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Josh Jackson, Greg Eastwood. Interchange (from): James Graham, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne, David Stagg, Dene Halatau, Martin Taupau
SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, Dean Whare, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jason King (c), Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams, Glenn Stewart. Interchange (from): Jamie Buhrer, Joe Galuvao, Darcy Lussick, Vic Mauro, George Rose
STRAP YOURSELF IN as the 2012 NRL Finals ride commences with arguably the two hottest teams in the competition facing off in a highly anticipated battle for a place in week 3’s preliminary finals. It’s the 3rd time this season the Bulldogs (1st) take on the Sea Eagles (4th) and many are hoping it will merely be a warm up for a 4th encounter in the Grand Final.
The Bulldogs have kept up their hot form throughout the final half of the regular season apart from a minor slip up when they lost to the Raiders in Round 25. Any confidence that may have dissipated following the hiccup in Canberra was quickly rediscovered last week when their free flowing and merciless style of attack was produced to send the Roosters into mad Monday on the back of a 42-10 drubbing.
Last week’s match for the Sea Eagles was more of an experimenting session after they shot out to an early 24-4 lead against the Titans and proceeded to try their hand at some set plays. There is no doubt the Sea Eagles will bring their A-game and show us the form that has seen them bring a 6 game winning streak into the finals and firm as competition favourites. The last time these two met Manly were sans Brett Stewart but to the fan’s delight he will take his place in the No. 1 jersey for a mouth watering match up against the recently crowned Dally M medallist Ben Barba.
Last 8 Matches Head to Head:
Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Sea Eagles, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles.
Chance of winning: Bulldogs 45%, Sea Eagles 54%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Sea Eagles
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Sea Eagles -2.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)
Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs
AAMI Park, 5:45pm (local).
STORM: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Justin O’Neill, Dane Nielsen, Anthony Quinn, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Jason Ryles, Sika Manu, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange (from): Rory Kostjasyn, Bryan Norrie, Jaiman Lowe, Kevin Proctor, Richie Fa’aoso, Siosaia Vave.
RABBBITOHS: Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt, Matt King, Dylan Farrell, Andrew Everingham, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Sam Burgess, Nathan Peats, Roy Asotasi, Eddy Pettybourne, Dave Taylor, Michael Crocker. Interchange (from): Jason Clark, Luke Burgess, Chris McQueen, Issac Luke, Ben Lowe, Dave Tyrrell, Justin Hunt
THE BATTLE OF THE FULLBACKS was my final thought for the Friday night final and this first instalment of the Saturday double header begins with another ripping battle between the number ones in Melbourne’s (2nd) Billy Slater and South’s (3rd) Greg Inglis.
Billy Slater was the NRL’s hottest piece of property in the first half of the season before succumbing to a nasty knee injury during a State of Origin match and although he may only be at 90-95% he has lost none of his tenacity or hunger for points.
Greg Inglis was moved from the centres to fullback earlier in the year in what was a pure master stroke by Coach Michael Maguire and the switch has yielded an abundance of rewards for the Rabbitohs, none better than a spot in the Top 4 on the ladder and a chance to progress straight to week 3 of the finals with a victory.
The Storm are taking a 5 game winning streak into this game and have had the wood over Souths for quite some time and out of the 19 clashes ever held between the two, the Storm have won 16. They will be throwing plenty at the Rabbitohs with their right hand side attack and set pieces will be the order of the day with Billy Slater trailing closely by.
Souths best bet will be to challenge the Storm’s forwards with their own huge pack and the middle corridor of the field is where they can best defeat the home side.
The Rabbitohs definitely have the braun to win the battle of the ground but the Storm have superior class and we should see the cream rise to the top.
Last 8 Matches Head to Head:
Storm, Storm, Storm, Rabbitohs, Storm, Storm, Storm, Storm.
Chance of winning: Storm 59%, Rabbitohs 40%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Storm -4.0 @ $1.97 (Centrebet)
North Queensland Cowboys v Brisbane Broncos
Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7:45pm (local).
COWBOYS: Matthew Bowen, Ashley Graham, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Dallas Johnson. Interchange (from): James Segeyaro, Jason Taumalolo, Ashton Sims, Scott Bolton, Joel Riethmuller, Anthony Mitchell
BRONCOS: Josh Hoffman, Gerard Beale, Jack Reed, Justin Hodges, Dale Copley, Corey Norman, Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Petero Civoniceva, Alex Glenn, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Ben Hunt, Josh McGuire, Ben Te’o, Matt Gillett
THE HOTTEST FAVOURITES OF THE ROUND are the Cowboys (5th) at $1.43 and their expected prey are the Broncos (8th) who have managed to fade their way from the top half of the finals to 8th position after their hot early season form seemingly left them after the State of Origin period. The results for the Broncos leading in to the finals reads 1 win from the last 7 matches and that lone win was against the 15th placed Panthers at home. Their 2012 season life goes on the line tonight and they need to beat the Cowboys who are on a 4 game winning streak and playing in front of their home crowd in Townsville.
The Cowboys have looked consistently potent throughout the last month and bear strengths on all parts of the field. Their forwards lay a solid platform every game for playmakers like Thurston and Bowen to capitalise on and the centre three-quarters can set up and finish tries with their eyes shut.
I certainly don’t want to destroy all hope for Broncos supporters out there but compared to the Cowboys over the last 4 weeks they simply have not been able to compete when it comes to point scoring, keeping out tries and they will likely struggle with the pace of the game come the final 20 minutes when the Cowboys become relentless in their efforts to chalk up more tries.
Last 8 Matches Head to Head:
Cowboys, Cowboys, Broncos, Cowboys, Broncos, Broncos, Broncos, Broncos.
Chance of winning: Cowboys 65%, Broncos 34%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Cowboys
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Cowboys -9.5 @ $2.12 (Centrebet)
Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks
Canberra Stadium, 4:00pm (local).
RAIDERS: Josh Dugan, Sandor Earl, Jarrod Croker, Blake Ferguson, Reece Robinson, Josh McCrone, Sam Williams, David Shillington, Glen Buttriss, Dane Tilse, Josh Papalii, Joel Thompson, Shaun Fensom. Interchange (from): Shaun Berrigan, Joe Picker, Mark Nicholls, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy, Travis Waddell, Dimitri Pelo
SHARKS: Matthew Wright, John Williams, Ben Pomeroy, Colin Best, Nathan Stapleton, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson, Bryce Gibbs, Isaac De Gois, Ben Ross, Jeremy Smith, Anthony Tupou, Paul Gallen. Interchange (from): Andrew Fifita, Mark Taufua, John Morris, Jayson Bukuya, Tyson Frizell, Sam Tagataese, Wade Graham
HALFWAY THROUGH THE SEASON and many were calling for the Raiders to sack Coach David Furner following a string of poor results from the Raiders (6th). Now we go into week 1 of the finals and they are hosting a home final against the Sharks (7th) thanks to 8 wins from the last 10 games of the regular season which includes 5 wins from their last 5.
Canberra have shown a great mix of speed combined with wide attacking raids and second phase plays that have kept most opposition on the back foot and given them a total of 57 tries in the second half of the season; the most by any side.
The Sharks have been able to beat the good teams but would be a bit disappointed with finishing 7th after such a promising start to the season. However despite finishing 7th they know, and other teams know that they certainly contain the ability to beat any team on their day and can never be taken lightly. Many times this year their form from week to week has been contrasting and you never know when Cronulla will lift their game all of a sudden and inflict pain on opponents. A lot of their inconsistency stems from the halves and their ultimate success really depends on how well Todd Carney is playing his running game.
Here we will get a fantastic demonstration of attack from the Raiders whilst the Sharks may show us how defence can win games. I’m expecting a high scoring, yet close finish to week 1 of the finals series.
Last 8 Matches Head to Head:
Raiders, Sharks, Sharks, Raiders, Raiders, Sharks, Raiders, Sharks.
Chance of winning: Raiders 49%, Sharks 49%, Draw 2%
Mike’s Tip: Sharks
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Sharks +2.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)