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Penrith Panther’s half Nathan Cleary seeks support during his team’s 25th NRL game against the Parramatta Eels at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast earlier this month. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
While the sports world is dominated by Covid-19 again, the NRL has kept going despite some hiccups. That included more bubbles than at a kid’s birthday party and a new venue for Grand Final day, which saw the Suncorp Stadium announced as the host for the first time in history. Michael Minty looks to the finals starting tonight.
Some will argue that the NRL is a two-horse race between smaller Premier Melbourne and fellow heavyweight Penrith. Manly might just have one thing to say though – especially with star defender and Dally M winner Tom Trbojevic at his best.
Storm will sweat on Cameron Munster (knee) fitness but Craig Bellamy might be forced to Rolling the dice with Munster and playing against him – get the win and a week off to relax. Manly is in full strength and has an advantage with Reuben Garrick in the scoring department in the event of a penalty shoot-out.
Manly is in great shape, but the Storm are masters of knocking out key players. The Storm ranks one point in the pre-finals.
Storm: Defeat the Rabbitohs in the preliminary finals before the Panthers take revenge by beating the Storm in the grand finale.
When Trent Robinson has doubts about his coaching ability with an already stacked team, they have certainly been silenced as the Roosters refused to cut their season short with a terrible number of injuries after just missing the top four.
They face one Team of the Titans, which may be a bit of Jekyll and Hyde, and ends the season with an important but vicious blow to the Warriors to play in the finals for the first time in five years. Young full-back Jayden Campbell, son of former NRL star Preston, was a shining light. In a unique twist, Roosters veteran Josh Morris takes on Jayden 14 years after his game against Preston in his rookie season.
Despite the horror series of injuries, you just can’t get past the Roosters. The Titans have a lot of potential but look another year away from worrying the glamor teams in Sudden Death. But it could be tight.
Hahn: Just one step too far and won’t make it against the rabbits in week two. A huge hassle in 2022.
Three months ago the Panthers were unbeatable, and although they hit rock bottom during the Origin period, they seem to be back on track and peaking at the right time. They face a Rabbitohs squad that many believe can challenge the top two, but that’s controversial.
The Bunnies have shown vulnerability this year, over 50 points against the top two in three weeks Teams cashed. You’d put them in the « Best of the Rest » category, but it will take a lot of strength to overthrow the Panthers, led by the best half of the game, Nathan Cleary.
Penrith – just too much firepower and leading further, who sets the platform. Your hit rate in the red area is unsurpassed.
Penrith: Defeat Manly in the pre-finals to force a new edition of last year’s finals. This time around, a Nathan Cleary-inspired performance seals the Premiership in a Nail Biter Against the Storm.
The Eels stunned the small premiere a fortnight ago, only to make the competition known after a few lackluster weeks of what they ultimately got a place in the top 4 cost. The Knights … let’s face it, they make numbers like most of the bottom four finalists.
The eels have already put themselves on the label of flat-track tyrants and should win this game, but they did in the Second half of the season lost a few games and the Knights will feel like they have a chance if their big names – Ponga, Pearce, Frizell and the Saifiti Brothers – lead the way.
They have to support the Eels, solely due to the inferiority of their opponents and the fact that some of their stars got rested last week.
Eels: Will master a whipping against Manly in week two who aches from losing to the storm.
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