Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Brent Naden 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Kurt Capewell 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Dean Whare 20. Matt Burton 21. Spencer Leniu
This will be the Panthers biggest test of their season and although the Roosters had 60 points put on them by Souths last week, the minor premiers can’t afford to be overconfident or complacent against the reigning premiers. They look to be a very close-knit team that is riding a huge wave of momentum, but a lot has been said about their lack of finals experience and it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of finals football, especially if the Roosters get off to a fast start and they have to chase points.
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Freddy Lussick 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Isaac Liu 14. Lachlan Lam 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Angus Crichton 17. Sonny Bill Williams 18. Nat Butcher 19. Mitchell Aubusson 20. Poasa Faamausili 21. Matt Ikuvalu
I think the Roosters 52-point thrashing last week was a one-off anomaly and this club is too professional to allow something like that happen again. The statistic that no team in history that has conceded 50-points in a game has gone on to win the competition in the same season, is such an irrelevant statistic. They say a wounded animal is the most dangerous animal, and I expect this champion side to bounce back emphatically and break the winning streak of the young Panthers.
Roosters by 4
Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Semi Valemi 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Jordan Rapana 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Tom Starling 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Iosia Soliola 16. Hudson Young 17. Corey Harawira-Naera 18. Sam Williams 19. Kai O’Donnell 20. Michael Oldfield 21. Matthew Timoko
The Raiders are the one club who I believe can win the competition from outside the top four, but they’re another side that can ill afford to be complacent against the struggling Sharks, which their B-team comfortably defeated last week. With all their bug guns returning, I expect them to comfortably cruise past Cronulla but only if they show up with a desire to be dominant and ruthless.
Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Connor Tracey 7. Chad Townsend 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Siosifa Talakai 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Andrew Fifita 17. Jack Williams 18. Teig Wilton 19. Braydon Trindall 20. Mawene Hiroti 21. Bryson Goodwin
The Sharks are a side playing with nothing to lose. They have key players missing to injury, they haven’t beaten a top eight side all year and they’re out of form. The return of Chad Townsend to the halves is a huge boost but their crippled defence will be their biggest issue against a dangerous Raiders attack. Perhaps not all hope is lost if they look to what the Cowboys did from their position in 2017, but it’s highly unlikely they will be able to replicate it.
Raiders by 16
Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Brenko Lee 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Nicholas Hynes 18. Darryn Schonig 19. Isaac Lumelume 20. Albert Vete 21. Ryley Jacks
The Storm’s record at Suncorp Stadium is close to invincible and with all their big name players returning from a week’s rest, they’ll be fresh and ready to deliver the struggling Eels a finals lesson. I still believe they’re the premiership favourites led by Cam Smith and Cam Munster and if Papenhuyzen and Hughes can keep up their career-best form, they should comfortably dispose of Parramatta.
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Will Smith 15. Andrew Davey 16. Kane Evans 17. Marata Niukore 18. Ray Stone 19. Brad Takairangi 20. Oregon Kaufusi 21. Daniel Alvaro
The Eels may have found some form over the last two weeks but I’m still not convinced with their erratic attack and some flaws that has creeped into their defence. Dylan Brown is a huge inclusion because he will straighten-up their attack and take a lot of pressure off Moses, but based on current form and having to fly to Queensland, I don’t think the Eels will match the Storm’s finals intensity.
Storm by 10
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Newcastle Knights
Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allan 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Liam Knight 16. Jed Cartwright 17. Keaon Koloamatangi 18. Steven Marsters 19. Hame Sele 20. Troy Dargan 21. Patrick Mago
The Rabbitohs 60-8 flogging of the reigning back-to-back premiers was something to behold and will give them plenty of confidence going into their elimination final against the Knights. But the concern is their lack of consistency as it shouldn’t be forgotten that they were soundly beaten by the then last-placed Bulldogs the week before. Like the Raiders, Souths can also make the grand final from outside the top four, but that will depend on which Souths team shows up on game day. That said, I think the Rabbitohs will have too many points in them and should end the Knights season.
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Chris Randall 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Sione Mata’utia 18. Josh King 19. Gehamat Shibasaki 20. Tex Hoy 21. Brodie Jones
Speaking of inconsistent, the Knights have continuously backed up a great performance with a terrible performance. The good news for them is, they’re due for a great performance after their terrible performance against the Titans last week. Unfortunately the gap between their best and their worst is far too big and some of their players looked cooked. Poor attitude cost them a home final and they now have to bus it all the way to western Sydney on game day. I think they’re simply making up the numbers this finals series and I can’t see their defence being able to withstand a Cody Walker – Adam Reynolds assault.
Rabbitohs by 8