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Gazing into the NRL finals crystal ball

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Berkeley_Eagle, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan

    +2,125 /14

    At the beginning of the year, I made five fearless predictions for the 2011 NRL season. Before we discuss this weekend’s finals, it’s time to review those predictions and determine whether I have egg all over my face, or whether I can be labelled a rugby league Nostradamus.

    Prediction 1: The Roosters won’t make the finals

    In 2011, the Roosters were coming off a grand final appearance and were deemed to have the best player in the competition, courtesy of Todd Carney’s Dally M medal. It therefore seemed a little silly to suggest they wouldn’t even make the finals the following season.

    However, there was method in my madness.

    Carney was a repeat offender, and it was only a matter of time before he became a distraction and a liability to the team.

    I also think the Chooks overachieved in 2010, raising unrealistic expectations for this season. Compounding that issue was the fact the Roosters didn’t improve their playing list substantially from 2010 to 2011, yet many other teams did.

    It meant that they were always going to be hard pressed to finish in the top eight, and they didn’t.

    Prediction 2: The NSW Blues will win the State of Origin series

    Depending on your point of view, and which side of the border you live on, I either got this one horribly wrong, or was very unlucky.

    NSW should have won Game 1, which would have brought this prediction a lot closer to coming true. Or would it?

    NSW’s Game 1 loss set-up a Game 2 ambush of the Maroons by the Blues, with a surprise change of tactics and personnel by Ricky Stuart. However, that ambush only ensured the Maroons were better prepared for Game 3 and they responded accordingly.

    So there is every indication that even if the Blues had won Game 1, the Maroons would have responded in Game 2 in much the same fashion as they did in Game 3, when they belted the Blues.

    There is no such thing as a close prediction. Facts are facts. Queensland won, NSW lost.

    Prediction 3: The Canberra Raiders will make the grand final


    I could’ve hardly have gotten this one any worse. The Raiders, far from playing in the grand final, actually finished equal last on the ladder on points. They were only saved from the inglorious wooden spoon because their for-and-against was marginally better than the Titans.

    It was a wretched season for the boys from the nation’s capital. The Matt Orford experiment was a failure, they suffered injuries to key players, including David Shillington, Terry Campese and Josh Dugan, and they were on the receiving end of some serious punishment from other teams.

    I got this pick so horribly wrong, it should almost count as two wrong predictions.

    Jog along. Nothing to see here.

    Prediction 4: Cooper Cronk will win the Dally M

    If only he didn’t get injured…

    With over 300 first grade players in the NRL, picking the one player to win the Dally M was always going to be ambitious, but I believed the Storm were going to bounce back from their 2010 season with a vengeance, and their halfback would be the catalyst.

    Unfortunately, Cronk’s fullback is no slouch either, and Billy Slater pipped his teammate by 4 points to claim rugby league’s highest individual honour.

    Cronk ended up finishing third in the Dally M voting with 25 points, but after a man-of-the-match performance in round 23, he then missed the next two rounds with an injured ankle, not just robbing him of a chance to win the award, but me of a prediction.

    Do I get half a point?

    Prediction 5: The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will fire their coach, but make the finals

    I went extremely close to pulling off this two-in-one prediction.

    The Bulldogs hierarchy did their part by giving coach Kevin Moore his marching orders after a sustained period of poor play by the Dogs. Sadly, the players couldn’t complete the double by making the top eight.

    They only missed by a whisker, finishing equal with the Knights on points, but with their inferior for-and-against costing them a finals berth.

    Half a point.

    Overall, even allowing for the extremely generous decision to give myself half a point for the Cooper Cronk guess, the tally stands at just 2 out of 5. “Coulda, shoulda, woulda” is the general summation of my predictions, but I think I just survived without the metaphorical egg on my face.

    Whilst we’re in mood for predictions, let’s continue the theme and discuss this weekend’s games of finals footy.

    Wests Tigers vs New Zealand Warriors

    The Warriors looked a little shell-shocked on Saturday night. I’m not sure whether the occasion overawed them, or if it was just one of those bad games that clubs cans have, but whatever the reason, the Kiwi’s were never really in the match.

    Their defence has always been inconsistent, and against elite attacking teams, the Warriors can leak tries. Unfortunately for the Warriors, this weekend they come up against one of the best attacking teams in the competition.

    The Tigers didn’t play very well on Friday night, but it’s a sign of a good team that can win even when they are below their best. The Tigers are playing with great self-belief, and even better chemistry.

    Their camaraderie is simply amazing. Even when a player makes a mistake, several teammates are there for an encouraging pat on the back. This team clearly enjoys playing with one another.

    The Tigers are on a roll, with their confidence sky high. Their dream match-up this week would be a team with finals nerves, prone to defensive lapses. And that’s the Warriors. This could get ugly.

    Prediction: Tigers 28 Warriors 8

    Brisbane Broncos vs St George Illawarra Dragons

    The defending premiers looked solid and steady in the first half against the Tigers. It seemed like they were going to execute their game plan to perfection, and grind Wests down.

    But St George were nothing short of dreadful in the second half, and completely fell apart.

    You can always excuse a team that simply plays bad, but the Dragons capitulation was extremely worrying for fans of the Big Red V. Compared to the Tigers chemistry, the Dragons looked like a bunch of players that introduced themselves to each other at half time.

    Dropped ball, bad communication, dumb plays, errant passes, whinging to the refs, and most shockingly of all, yelling at each other.

    It was all bad for Bennett and his boys, and something is definitely not right with the Dragons.

    Meanwhile, I believe Brisbane earmarked themselves as the 2011 NRL premiership favourites after their demolition of the Warriors.

    It cannot be overstated how impressive the Broncos were, such was the clinical manner in which they dismantled New Zealand.

    Lockyer and Wallace continued their brilliant decision-making with the ball in hand. Justin Hodges reminded everyone of the influence he can have on a game in both attack and defence. And the Brisbane production line of developing good young players illustrates the depth the club has across the park.

    As lost as the Dragons appear, their defence is still quite tight, and Brisbane won’t run up a big score on them. But the mental frailties on show last Friday night would indicate it won’t be a close game either.

    Prediction: Broncos 19 Dragons 8

    You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanOak

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