Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
Sun 5 Oct, 6:30PM (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: 1. Greg Inglis 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dylan Walker 4. Kirisome Auva’a 5. Lote Tuqiri 6. Luke Keary 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Issac Luke 10. David Tyrrell 11. Ben Te’o 12. John Sutton 13. Sam Burgess
It’s all been said and done as far as the 2014 NRL season is concerned and of the sixteen teams that entered and contested the competition, just two remain.
The Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs will fight it out for top honours and the city of Sydney is abuzz with excitement.
If you haven’t heard it mentioned already, this is the first time the Rabbitohs have made a grand final since 1971 and it’s only natural that the players would be feeling some sort of pressure under the weight of expectation from fans that have waited for more than four decades to see their team fight it out on the big stage.
Some Rabbitohs fans simply haven’t seen their team play in a grand final at all.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler won’t be feeling as much pressure considering this is the 5th team he has coached to a grand final appearance in the last 8 years.
His players might have a different outlook and be feeling some sort of pressure although a lot of them were playing in the decider of 2012 and will be looking for redemption out of the ashes of that particular loss.
Speaking of losses, the headlines leading up to this year’s decider have been dominated by both teams’ hookers; Isaac Luke for Souths and Michael Ennis for Canterbury.
Luke copped a heartbreaking suspension after being found guilty of a lifting charge in last week’s preliminary final and will play the role of nothing more than a spectator from the sidelines on Sunday.
Michael Ennis on the other hand suffered a brace of breaks in his left foot and is about a 1 percent chance of taking the field for the match.
The juxtaposing loss of dummy halves for both sides is likely to be of greater detriment to the Bulldogs considering that the Rabbitohs’ understudy to Luke, Apisai Koroisau has already played 13 games this year and played them very well.
Who will take on the hooking role for the Bulldogs at this point in time is the question that remains unknown and in several press conferences during the week, coach Des Hasler, in his own trademark style, has given nothing away saying “We have two or three options available.”
Looking at the path travelled by the Bunnies to get through the finals series to the decider suggests, on the contrary to expectations, that they aren’t feeling much pressure at all.
Week 1 saw them get out to a 40 – 0 lead over the Sea Eagles as rapidly as possible, showing to their fans they had brought their A-game to this years’ finals series.
When the chips were down in last week’s preliminary final, the Rabbitohs were staring at an early 12-0 deficit before calmly sticking to their structures and dispatching the Roosters to the tune of 32-22.
Grand finals and preliminary finals can be like chalk and cheese in some regards and many will agree that by pointing out that particularly good form output by the Rabbitohs in their last two matches doesn’t necessarily suggest they are going to brush the 43 year old monkey off their proverbial back.
I for one disagree and subscribe to the notion that the Rabbitohs troops have a different aura surrounding them compared to last year and that pressure won’t be the greatest of their problems come kick off on Sunday evening.
The road taken by the Bulldogs towards the grand final has been fairly hectic and energy sapping for the Dogs. They started the finals series as massive underdogs against the Storm but mustered one of their best efforts of the season and rolled Melbourne comprehensively.
Week two saw them take on the Sea Eagles and after getting out to a 16-0 lead, the Bulldogs’ efforts dilapidated towards the back end of the contest, only to be saved by a Trent Hodkinson field goal in extra time.
Next came last week’s win over the Panthers with the Canterbury side taking the field in the second half sans hooker Michael Ennis. The Bulldogs looked ready to be swallowed up by a fast finishing Panthers crew but alas, held on with nothing but brute strength and successfully booked their berth in this week’s decider.
Just thinking back on those three Bulldogs’ matches leaves me gasping for air and it’s going to take an almighty effort for them to get up and play hard for a 4th week in a row, especially without hooker and captain Michael Ennis.
My last tip of the year has to be the Rabbitohs. A lot of signs and current form point towards celebrations in Redfern at the conclusion of the match and I can see the Rabbitohs getting out to a 20 odd point lead before putting on the afterburners in the final 10 minutes of the game.
8 points or more should be the margin but I’m happy to exercise a bit of safety and revert the best bet to the tri-bet option of the Rabbitohs to win by more than 6.5 points.
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Best Bet: Rabbitohs over 6.5 points @ $1.72 (Sportsbet)