Finals week three

Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium

Cameron Smith knows what he's doing next year, but do his team-mates? If this season is his last (and that seems to the way the wind is blowing), you would expect the purple machine will move heaven and earth to give the most important player in the history of their club a fitting swansong. Not everyone appreciates the way the Storm go about their business, but it's hard not to be impressed by their results. They've been in camp for months now, more than 1800 kilometres from home, and they've turned their temporary accommodation into a fortress. Should they win on Friday night they rack up their 20th consecutive victory in Queensland. It's an astonishing record, and it's not easy to tip against them. That said, the Raiders can win this, and they have a better record against the Storm than any other club in the competition. They've already met twice this season for one win each, and the Raiders famously beat the Storm in the finals last season. These sides last met in round 9 where the Storm won 20-14. Notably it was three tries apiece, and one of the Storm tries occured while the Raiders were down to 12 men. On Friday night the Raiders will have a stronger forward pack than they did in round 9, with the inclusions of Bateman, Soliola and Harawira-Naera. It's an awesome pack, and it could prove the difference. In round 9 the Storm were without Munster, Kaufusi and Addo-Carr and won anyway. They are such a difficult team to overcome, but there's a little big of magic about this Raiders side, and Ricky Stuart has them all believing in themselves. I think they have every right to.

Verdict – Raiders by 4

Result – Storm 30 defeated Raiders 10

Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium

Given recent results, one can assume there will be plenty of points scored on Saturday night. The Rabbitohs have piled on 144 points in their last three outings, and all against top eight teams. Since round 15 they've been averaging 37 points a game, and you don't lose very often if you score 37 points. The Panthers haven't had issues finding the stripe either, scoring 103 points in their last three outings and averaging 31 points a page since round 15. It's scintillating form, from both sides. The Bunnies have been particularly impressive, and they've been scoring most of these points without two of their most potent attacking players (Mitchell and Roberts) available. The players brought into the Bunnies backline to plug the gaps have been a revelation...and a joy to watch. The Panthers have next to no injury concerns - young flyer Charlie Staines isn't available, but I'm not sure he'd be selected in front of Mansour or To'o anyway. They have lost Kikau to suspension though, and he is a big loss. That left edge (Luai, Kikau, Crichton, Mansour) is the Panthers most damaging in attack and Kikau is a vital cog in those combinations. His involvement created two of the Panthers tries against the Roosters, and without him they are an easier side to defend. They're still amazing, but less so. Note that these sides met in round 7 this season, with the Panthers prevailing 20-12. The Rabbitohs were far from their best with an error-riddled display, and frustration led to two of their players getting sin-binned. They're a better side now than they were then, but they need to be. The master coach at the Bunnies knows a thing or two about finals football, and he'll have his red and greens primed.

Verdict – Rabbitohs by 2

Result – Panthers 20 defeated Rabbitohs 16

Wally Lewis - finals week three selections (in bold)

Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning

  • STORM vs Raiders
  • PANTHERS vs Rabbitohs


mark ashford's picture

Goodness me, I thought the regular rounds were hard to tip but this is surely just as hard. I've gone Storm and Panthers as both have had an extra week to recover. Raiders and Bunnies both had hard games and maybe just a little sore after their efforts. Apart from that I'd love to see a Storm/Panthers GF and may the best team win.

Dragons-fanboy's picture

Hey everyone, my tips for this week are:

Storm by 4 – This one will be a cracker. We’ve got the Storm up against the Raiders. Both sides are in some rich vain of form heading into the preliminary final. Cameron Smith may possibly be playing his final game, so the Storm will want to be sending him out on a high by winning this one and then the grand final next week, that’s if they know that Cameron is retiring come season’s end. The Raiders on the other hand, has Ricky Stuart really believing in them and it has showed in their performances, particularly that game last week against the Roosters. They were brilliant and thoroughly deserved the win. They stopped the possibility of a threepeat and stopped the Roosters’ run which is very impressive. Huge credit to the Raiders and they come into this one with a huge array of confidence and as we all know, confidence can come a long way in rugby league. But, it’s not like their opposition aren’t confident because they are and plus with the week off, the Storm will be ready to go and freshened up as well and that will be the difference on Friday night. Not to mention as well, the Storm have an impeccable record at Suncorp and playing there on Friday, expect them to play well and hard there and I think they’ll just do well enough to win, JUST! It’ll be a great game to watch and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the “true” grand final. Storm would want to get revenge on the Raiders after what the Raiders did to them last time these two met in finals last season. The Storm will want to avenge that for sure. Halves battle looks good, fullback battle mouth-watering, both teams have some amazing backlines and the forwards battle… finger lickin good! Get excited on Friday night y’all because this is going to get good.

And finally… Panthers by 8 – This one will be a cracker as well. My gosh these two have been in some top attacking form over recent weeks. The Rabbitohs just amazing! 144 points in the last three weeks! My god they have really peaked at the right time. Wayne has them firing! I can sense a high-scoring game but at the same time, maybe just maybe the Panthers can frustrate the Rabbits with their brilliant defence, they are the best defensive team this season after all. Yes Kikau is out and he plays a huge role in both the Panthers’ attack and defence but still, they have a great looking side and although he is a huge blow, the replacement is handy in Kurt Capewell who has been great for the Panthers this season. The Rabbitohs halves, just unbelievable. The Rabbits backs, splendid! The Rabbitohs forwards, real tough and mean! This one will be good! So also get excited for Saturday night y’all. These prelims look great! I think that the week off for the Panthers will prove the difference here as well plus, they are immensely confident those Panthers players with the side currently on a 16-game winning streak eyeing a equal record in the NRL era of 17-straight. By gee wouldn’t that be an amazing feat for the Panthers in itself. I think they can get it done. Panthers to end the Rabbitohs’ run in either a high-scoring game with plenty of entertainment, twists and tries scored or a gritty like low scoring game with the Rabbitohs struggling and the Panthers gritting their way to victory, though Rabbitohs defending well in the process, either one of these types of games I can see. We’ll see! I would honestly love to see a dramatic high-scoring game between these two. Like a 40-32, 36-28 or 32-24 type of game. Cleary-Luai to just edge out the halves battle over Walker-Reynolds but thinking about it, that halves battle is going to be really good. The two form halves of the comp going at it. It’ll get good! Panthers to prowl their way to 17 straight and to their first grand final in 17 years.

Awesome! Good luck with those whose teams is playing this week and with everyone’s tips for this week. Cheers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guru Craig's picture

Melbourne - The Covid Stormers, The pride of QLD will have the home ground advantage with something like 20 wins in a row in QLD. Cap'n Cameron it would seem is going to retire and going out with a GF would be the hope. Canberra impressed last week with their first game in recent memory where they didn't make a thousand unforced errors. It was a win, although the high tackle on Morris should have been a penalty if not a penalty try as he scores without the high contact.

The Guru cant see Canberra winning this game. Suncorp Stadium and Mr Smith have some magic and The Stormers are a very good team, much better than what Ricky's boys faced last week. Bellyache will have instructed his men to wrap up Papali to mitigate those offloads and the Storm forwards are capable of controlling the Raiders. Melbourne have more points in them and better defence. Guru is pretty confident Mel finish off what should be a close game.

Mel 26 v Can 14

Souths - This is a hard game to pick. Everything has been going Penrith's way all season. They have had a terrific run on and off the field. The loss of their hardman this week might just be enough for Souths. Walker will be all over little Ivan The G expects and WB will have identified the soft defence in the Pennies outside backs. Souths average more points per game, a converted try to be exact but the flip side is they also let in more trys. The Panthers are a real confidence side and once they get going they have not been stopped, one loss all season says to beat this team you can not allow them to get that confidence, it has to be shut down.

The Guru feels Souths have been building, getting better and better. WB's men can score 30pts without breaking a sweat but this game will be won on defence and the Bunnies ability to shut down the Panthers confidence inspired play style.

Souths to win the forward battle, keep pressure on Cleary and score through the outside backs with short kicks and running over the younger centre/wing Choc soldiers.

Souths 26 v Penrith 18

mark ashford's picture

Hey DFB & Guru
Great opinions on this weekends games. You guys are better than me as I have no idea who will win.
As the weekend approaches I notice Coach is a bit quiet. Maybe he is waiting to see who he will challenge on their predictions, no doubt coming soon.

Guru Craig's picture

Thanks Mark.

I dont know if Mr Potato ever writes a tip or preview? he just bags out the people who didn't get it right.

The Guru doesn't know who wins exactly lol, just write the tips up with why i think those things will matter, or just to have a laugh with a bit of sarcasm.

Dragons-fanboy's picture

Thanks Mark,

Yeah interesting match ups for the Preliminary. It could go either way. I wouldn't even be surprised of we see a Raiders-Rabbitohs grand final. But I think that the favourites will win it, Storm and Panthers. The week off has been a premium in recent seasons. Except 2017 in memory.


newbie from perth's picture

Finals Week 3:

Sa-wat-dee krup,

I was gonna share some thoughts on the Roosters’ bowing out of the finals race but thought better of it. Not really the place to wallow in self pity 😉. Just kiddin’, they weren’t good enough for whatever reason(s). Let’s just look forward to some hopefully epic battles this weekend eh? OK, let’s do this thing …

Storm vs. Raiders 60-40 @ Suncorp
Bookies Favourite = Storm

The Eels surprised the Storm 2 weeks ago and raced to a 12-0 lead after just 22 minutes and limited the Storm for most of that period but the Storm got back in it with 2 tries in 3 minutes and it was 12-12 at the break. After scoring 4 tries to 2 in the second half the Storm ran out 36-24 winners and got themselves the extra week off. Of those 4 tries scored in the second half, 3 of them came in a 7 minute period. It got them a lead that the Eels just couldn’t peg back. It was a pretty even contest for 75% of the match but the Storm’s class showed up when it was needed. As has happened so often this year, the Storm weren’t at their clinical best but with a little help from Ryan Papenhuyzen (2 tries, 2 try assists, 2 line breaks, 1 tackle break and 265 metres run) the Storm did enough. It seems that Cameron Munster will be playing this weekend and interested to see if his knee holds up. Some stats possibly worth a mention from the Eels clash:

Possession - 57%
All Run Metres - 1929
Line Breaks - 11
Tackle Breaks - 34
Dummy Passes - 19
Ineffective Tackles - 17
Errors - 14
Ruck Infringements - 5

The Raiders started very well last week against the Roosters and led 16-0 after 23 minutes and even after a late try to the Roosters, the Raiders went into half-time leading 16-6. The second half saw the Roosters mount a comeback (of sorts) but on balance, the Raiders showed more desire, control and attacking pressure and as much as I hate to say it, they deserved their 22-18 win. They played with a huge amount of self-belief for most of, if not all of, the entire 80 minutes. Their attack was first-rate and those two try saving tackles from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad were insane. By “insane” I mean sensational. I’d go so far as to say it was possibly the difference in the Raiders winning or losing. As usual, great contributions from Wighton, Croker, Rapana & Papalii (and CNK of course). The Roosters tried but were ultimately beaten by a side that were hungrier than their opposition. The Raiders live to fight another day after their deserved 22-18 win. Some stats possibly worth a mention from the Roosters clash:

Possession - 53%
Completion Rate - 90%
Tackle Breaks - 42
Grubbers - 7
Ineffective Tackles - 29
Ruck Infringements - 5

Verdict: Man this is a tough one. Yeah, Munster is more than likely back but how long will he last? Is he fully fit? Call the Raiders “butter” ‘cos they’re on a roll and I would not be surprised in the slightest if they knocked off the Storm. Did I mention this was a tough one? OK, I have to pick someone so I’ll tip the Raiders because I’m sensing there’s some real hunger being displayed from them. Whether or not it comes to fruition this week is the big question.

Panthers vs. Rabbitohs 60-40 @ ANZ
Bookies Favourite = Panthers

The Panthers guaranteed themselves a week’s rest when they got home in a 29-28 thriller against the Roosters 2 weeks ago. Once again, impressive efforts from the “dynamic duo” (Cleary and Luai) made all the difference. The Panthers fell behind 10-0 after just 9 minutes but then clicked into gear scoring 5 unanswered tries as well as kicking a penalty goal to set up a commanding 28-10 lead at the 50 minute mark. They clearly won the first half but were outscored 18-7 in the second half and after withstanding a Roosters fight-back late in the game, held on to get home by the slimmest of margins. The extra week off is undoubtedly a huge bonus coming into this game. Some stats possibly worth a mention from the Roosters clash:

Possession - 49%
Completion Rate - 95% (insane!)
Tackle Breaks - 25
Kicking Metres - 660
Errors Panthers - 5
Penalties Conceded - 7

After the Eels led 18-8 at the break last week you could’ve been excused for thinking the Rabbitohs’ finals run was possibly going to end but just like they’ve done in recent weeks, the Bunnies surged back in a strong second half performance to run out 38-24 winners. The Rabbitohs grabbed 2 quick tries in the second 40 and worked their way to get back in front. There were moments where the momentum swung back and forth but the turning point (for me at least) was when Moses took that penalty shot and hit the post and the ball bounced back into play. Jaxon Paulo gathered and took off down the sideline. Next thing you know Sironen scores off a grubber from Cook. The Bunnies were superb in the second half scoring 5 tries to one. Pretty sure most times a side scores 5 second half tries it usually leads to them winning the footy match. Not sure whether the Eels dropped off their defensive effort or whether the Bunnies simply moved up a gear. One worrying point to show itself in the Rabbitohs’ game was once again their slow start. Mind you, they have overcome those slow starts so much so that they have racked up 84 points in their 2 finals games so far. The Rabbitohs were just so entertaining to watch and except for a complete and utter form reversal, they are going to be a handful for the Panthers. Some stats possibly worth a mention from the Eels clash:

Possession - 55%
Line Breaks - 8
Tackle Breaks - 29
Missed Tackles - 22
Ineffective Tackles - 27
Errors - 16

Verdict: Again, this is another tough one. I can see reasons for both these sides winning this weekend. Panthers because they’re clearly the best side this year and they’ve had a week off. The Bunnies because of the brilliant attacking form they’ve played themselves into at just the right time. I know I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the Panthers are “due” for a loss but got a funny feeling it won’t be this weekend. Or will it? Nah, Panthers for me.

Let’s finish off with another “Song of the Week”…

Don’t watch if bad earrings, cigarette smoking and a gay man kissing a woman offends 😉.

OK kids, good luck with your tipping and may your team win by 40 points! One more week until Grand Final time. It’s getting exciting isn’t it? Cheers.

mark ashford's picture

Always enjoy your offerings NRL that is but have zero interest in George Michael guess I'm heterosexual from birth to death.

Bronco Legend's picture

Hi Thinker,
Too much to think about and read about with these 2 close games so toss a coin and i pick storm 19 to defeat raiders 18. And Rabbits 16 to defeat panthers 12.
Good luck with this round 3 week final all.

Christine's picture

Thinker please leave the tweet feed open in the off season for me...

Christine's picture

Cambell graham has been ruled out for Souths this week due to a groin injury ...

Christine's picture

I am going with panthers ,storm but I am really hoping for an upset ...

MGM's picture

Sorry Thinker , I cant see a link for entering my tips this week.
Can you take them from here please ....
i'd like to take the Storm tonight and the Rabbitohs for tomorrow.


newbie from perth's picture

Storm 30 Raiders 10

Yeah, looks like Newbie got sucked in by all the “hype” surrounding the Raiders in their showdown with the Storm. Last night’s Preliminary was a case of class vs. enthusiasm and obviously the “class” won out this time. At least I’ve learned a valuable lesson 🤔.

I reckon the Storm did to the Raiders what the Raiders did to the Chooks the week before. Raiders not having any ball and being 24 down after the same amount of minutes was their undoing. Seriously, in the first half an hour the Raiders were bordering on pathetic. They looked like under 12s at times. Where was their defence? Where did it go? Gee it’s a funny ol’ game sometimes. But hey, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. OK, now onto Panthers and Bunnies. Bring it on! 💪 💪 💪

@ Mr Ashford
Yeah, I too am hetero from “birth to death” as you mentioned 😉 but for me it’s not whether you swing left or right. For me it’s all about the music. But everyone here knows that about me already. All I’m interested in is what the song brings to my soul, what journey it takes me on and how it makes me feel. “Father Figure” is a good story and the melody and voice combination just gladdens my heart. Not having a crack bud, just trying to explain why I like it and hence why I put it up. I hear what you’re saying though. Again, taste is subjective and I’m glad that it is. Have a good weekend bro’ and make sure you watch tonight’s game. Should be a cracker. Cheers…

mark ashford's picture

Hi All
Missed last nights game as I was back on the Gold Coast delivering a push bike to my daughter. We had an excellent pizza and watched "Lawless" over a nice bottle of Sauv Blanc. If you haven't seen the movie it's well worth a look on Netflix.
Congratulations to the Covid Stormers as the Guru likes to call them.
Showed their class but must say I feel for Ricky and his boys who came so far. Penrith, if they win tonight, must be a little nervous after that Storm display.

mark ashford's picture

Hey Newbie
I'm surprised you didn't see my tongue in cheek all the way over there in WA's capitol. Heterosexual, homosexual, letshavesomesexual or whateversexualyoucanget is all the same to me brother. GM's leanings are his business, just not rapt in his music. Hope I didn't offend in any way. Stormers way too good for Rickys boys. Tonight I'll be glued to the set to see if Ivans boys can gobble up a rabbit or two.
Enjoy the game mate as I will. Coach is unusually quiet?

Steel Panther's picture

Absolutely GOLD Mr Ashford. One of rocks greatest ever frontmen who sadly parted this life way too soon.

Last night it was men versus boys. Melbourne were clinical!!! With a performance like that first 20 minutes it's hard to seeing any other team beating them. Class all over the park.

Baggy_Gee's picture

1985 Live Aid
1986 Queen packed out Wembley all on their own, Two great live shows I missed out on.

Mary S's picture

Good choice Mark!

Liked the following comment that appeared underneath!
"The only man who was King and Queen at the same time. What an entertainer he was!'


mark ashford's picture

Mary S
I have always thought Queen were amazing even before I found out Freddie was gay. For mine he has the strongest male voice I have heard for ages. If ever I was going to turn a wink from Freddie would do it.
Just kidding, went on a cruise to NZ 2 years ago to catch up with my friend Steel and on board was a Freddie impersonator. Mate he was so good I renewed my love for Queen, even had the teeth down pat.

mark ashford's picture

Broncos Girls!!!!
How good are the Broncs Girls.
Well done ladies you are a force to deal with. Good luck next weekend when I believe you meet the Roosters again. Should be a walk in the park.

mark ashford's picture

Ok in an hour or two Rabbits take on the Panthers. Will be a great game. Just surprised Coach has had nothing to say. Are you worried Coach or just so confident you can remain silent? A comment would be nice.
If it helps I have tipped the Panthers to win.

Guru Craig's picture

Big game from the mighty Covid Stormers. I wouldn't be too hard on Canberra, that start from Mel....probably the best The Guru has ever seen. It was over by 16-0. It's clear that Melbourne are going to play for Smith and a GF win as his last game, they're going to be near impossible to beat.

Bronco's girls were brilliant as always, maybe an idea for a prize next season Thinker, W-NRL calendars.

Guru Craig's picture

Guru doesn't think he has ever seen a side so favoured by the ref. So many errors that favoured the Pennies. Just what the Guru suspected and why he didn't bet on this game.

ScottySeahawk's picture

Just don't understand how a 40/20 is ineligible if your foot is literally on the 40m line. Seems extremely bizarre to me..

Christine's picture

Mark anyone would think coach actually played the game himself & got the winning try with the way he Carries on over panthers, funny I didn't see coach potato on the team list not even as a reserve player ...

newbie from perth's picture

@ Mr Ashford
Nah, no offence taken buddy. Sorta got what you meant 😉. I remember watching that “Live Aid” concert on TV back in 1985. Thing was, I was backpacking through Ireland at the time. After consulting my records (yes i have a hand-written diary of my travels) I can advise me and a mate were in a place called Doolin and decided to do some bike riding for the day. Rocked up at this little restaurant place out the middle of nowhere and decided to have some drinks and a bite to eat. The Live Aid concert was on the TV at the time and I distinctly remember watching Freddie and Queen do their thing.

Having said all that and not wishing to upset all of you who love Queen, they’re not really my bag. Doubt I could fit one of their songs in my top 100 to be honest. Actually I’d be hard pressed to fit them into my top 200. See what I mean? It’s all subjective. Glad you (and others) like them though. It’s far better that a person can connect with music, whatever the style, than not. I just don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like music of any sort. Those people must be aliens from the 16th Dimension 😱.

Anyway, Panthers vs. Bunnies was a cracker as I had hoped. Thought the Panthers could’ve won by more but a pleasing thing was the Bunnies never gave up and made the Panthers work for it. Now for the GF next Sunday. Can hardly wait. Peace 💖 💖 💖

Rocket Ryan's picture

The trophy cabinet remains open Spud but have you used all your luck

a's picture

Coach I’m sorry but I’m not a fan of the song you’ve just showed

mark ashford's picture

Hey Guru
I see all 3 Penrith players placed on report have already been cleared by the match review committee. Why am I not surprised?

mark ashford's picture

I quite enjoyed your offering "meant to be" and didn't miss your meaning.
Being a QLDer I will be cheering for the Storm this weekend but must admit heaps of admiration for your Panthers and what they have achieved this difficult year. If they are successful then I will be happy for you and your team.

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