NRL FINALS WEEK 3 PREVIEW
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
ANZ, FRIDAY 7.45pm
RABBITOHS: Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt, Bryson Goodwin, Dylan Walker, Dylan Farrell, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Dave Tyrrell, Issac Luke, Luke Burgess, Sam Burgess, Ben Te’o, Jeff Lim. Interchange: Jason Clark, Roy Asotasi, Chris McQueen, George Burgess, Ben Lowe, Luke Keary, Matt King (three to omitted).
SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Jamie Lyon (capt), Steve Matai, David Williams, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Brenton Lawrence, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Justin Horo, Glenn Stewar. Interchange: Richie Faaoso, Jamie Buhrer, Tom Symonds, George Rose, Peta Hiku, James Hasson, David Gower (three to be omitted).
The Rabbitohs have been sitting quietly for the last two weeks (in their burrows perhaps?), watching the NRL world tick by. There have been controversies and conspiracies, ignominy and injury, and if it were not for Johnathan ‘I won a grand final with a Sydney team but I hate Sydney’ Thurston mentioning the Rabbitohs and Roosters in his conspiracy, the Bunnies would have gone through the last fortnight largely unnoticed.
The ‘under the radar’ technique always worked well for Des Hasler when he was at the helm of the Sea Eagles, and if you don’t agree that the Rabbitohs have been unnoticed, I’m sure you’ll agree that the lion’s share of attention has been on the Sea Eagles.
The Manly Warringah side have had what could almost be described as an epic two weeks of finals footy. Their week 1 final against the Roosters was a gladiatorial slug fest that resulted in a tight 4-0 loss. In the following match the Sea Eagles were clearly showing the effects of the Roosters clash and as the match against the Sharks wound to a close, the Sea Eagles were running out of puff. The players managed to band together and just hold out the Sharks by 6 points but they were blowing like Melbourne Cup winners.
Now they meet the Rabbitohs, the team they certainly had the wood over for the previous 3 seasons, but in 2013, have found the South Sydney players to be more than worthy opponents. The Rabbitohs won both encounters this year by 8 and 12 points respectively in what were tough, hard fought games. Now comes the 3rd match up for 2013 and the Rabbitohs have had time to freshen up whilst the Sea Eagles may still be licking their wounds. Manly are good enough to beat anyone on their day, but I don’t think they’d like their day to come on the back of a preparation such as this.
The Rabbitohs opened the week in betting at around the $1.40 mark and I know it didn’t take long for one bookmaker to take a bet on them head to head for $20,000, with another soon following for $10,000.
The Sea Eagles like to start their games fast and have proven they can get on the scoreboard early so it probably won’t hurt the Rabbitohs to put the onus on the opening 15 minutes of the game and shut out their opponents early. If they believe they can last longer in the match thanks to the Sea Eagles’ tough previous fortnight, why not get on top early and put a bit extra in to the opening stanza? It’s not to say they should underestimate Manly and how well they could finish. Nor is it to suggest they would underestimate the Sea Eagles, who are highly experienced in any finals match, but they need to back themselves and I’m sure they will.
This game is a scenario that would see the Rabbitohs win 3 out of 4 times and for that reason I must tips them. But with all of the Sea Eagles experience I certainly won’t rule them out, especially with Brett Stewart returning to the fullback role.
I can’t wait for this one!
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Rabbitohs Head to Head @ $1.42 (Centrebet)
Mike’s Best Bet: None
SYDNEY ROOSTERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Allianz Stadium, SATURDAY 7.45pm
ROOSTERS: Anthony Minichiello, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Aidan Guerra, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Mitchell Aubusson, Isaac Liu, Luke O’Donnell, Dylan Napa, Martin Kennedy (two to be omitted).
KNIGHTS: Darius Boyd, James McManus, Dane Gagai, Joey Leilua, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen (capt), Tyrone Roberts, David Fa’alogo, Danny Buderus, Willie Mason, Robbie Rochow, Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Matt Hilder, Chris Houston, Neville Costigan, Alex McKinnon.
Each year in the NRL a lot of fans and observers of the game look for a fairytale story to come out of the finals series. The Newcastle Knights have taken up that role following a convincing win last Saturday night that saw them send the reigning premiers the Melbourne Storm out of the 2013 competition.
The Knights took the fight to the heavily fancied Storm side in the opening 15 minutes of the match and set the tone throughout. Their intense defence and rapid fire attack had the Storm defensive line burning fuel sliding from side to side. Coach Wayne Bennett will be well aware that his opponents the Roosters, have also been caught out a couple of times this year by some fast starting opponents and will look to employ similar tactics to those used last week that ultimately helped to topple the Storm. However, he will also be aware that sending the Roosters’ defence into lateral slides probably won’t work against a side that has covered their own on the flanks in defence all year. Afterall, they are the minor premiers and obviously defended well throughout the year to earn 1st place on the ladder.
To increase their chances of winning, the Newcastle troops will need to hit hard in the middle of the field and force the Roosters’ attack to the outer thirds of the field where they are less comfortable, and more importantly less effective.
It’s been interesting to note that at this point in time, when everyone has stood up to take notice of the Knights as serious contenders for the title, that Wayne Bennett’s contract has become a talking point. Bennett was asked through the week if there was a chance that he would put his hand up to take the coaching role at the Nth Qld Cowboys in 2014. Bennett responded by saying:
“I can’t give an iron-clad guarantee to anything in this game.”
But yesterday Bennett’s son-in-law Ben Ikin stated on NRL 360 that Bennett had in no way, shape or form, spoken to the Cowboys. Why the mystery now? Because Bennett wants to take the focus off his players now that he is aware they are fully in the spotlight as contenders for the title. Well played Mr Bennett.
But when it all boils down to making a selection I’m with the Roosters thanks to their one week break. This game is really going to be a huge fight between the forwards and I can’t wait to see some heavy clashes between some big names in the middle of the park as they all try to establish dominance.
Mike’s Tip: Roosters
Mike’s Suggested Bet: HalfTime/FullTime – Roosters/Roosters @ $1.62 (Sportingbet)
Mike’s Best Bet: None