Finals week one

Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels – Friday night – BlueBet Stadium

The finals series gets underway out in Pantherland, which seems a sensible place to start given their dominance in recent times. That said, it's a bit of a shame this game isn't taking place in a much larger and much shinier stadium. The NRL are willing to sell a grand final to the highest bidder but won't move a game a few kilometres where they could sell up to 60,000 more tickets. Anyhoo, I'm not even the boss of Thinker Manor so I don't get a say in any of this. Penrith should be well rested after the entire starting thirteen were given a break from football and the travel to and from Townsville in round 25. Nathan Cleary in particular, should be well rested as he returns from suspension. Taylan May has been suspended, but not now, a decision that rankles me no end but, as mentioned earlier, I don't get a say in any of this. On the casualty front, Penrith don't have a single player out of action. They're naming their best side, and we all know how good their best side is. The Eels are near enough to full-strength themselves (with apologies to Ray Stone) and, for them at least, are in a rich vein of form given the time of year. Traditionally the Eels start a season strong, then taper and fall away at the business end. In 2022 they started strong, had a few wobbles here and there, and now are arguably going as well as they have all season. Timing is important (ask the Broncos). The Eels also know they've beaten the Panthers twice already this season. Just as importantly, the Panthers know that too. Parramatta also know they have beaten Penrith in Penrith, and they know they beat a full-strength Penrith at Penrith. In round 9, the Panthers named the same starting thirteen that are lining up on Friday night. The Eels side is actually a little stronger this time around, as their first choice wingers (Sivo and Blake) weren't available in round 9. People mock wingers (including me), but in the modern game they are more important than ever. Their yardage early in sets can make a world of difference, and in a game that's likely to be close, their ability to find the try line could be the difference between winning and losing. The Eels halves are red hot right now, and Dylan Brown is starting to show the rugby league world just how good he can be. I suspect Moses is playing with a busted finger, but it didn't stop him last week. For the Panthers, Cleary can control a game like few others, but he hasn't played for over a month, and the Eels are going to run bodies at him. In the back of Cleary's oddly-shaped head, there will be a voice telling him over and over:

"Don't lift in the tackle...Don't lift in the tackle". Could be enough to put him off his game a touch, and he has gone missing in big games before.

I can't believe how short the Panthers are to win this. I'm not even convinced they should be favourites at all. 

Verdict – Eels by 7

Result – Panthers 27 defeated Eels 8

Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – AAMI Park

The Raiders won't fear the trip to Melbourne - I'm all but certain they've won their last four games at AAMI Park, including a final way back in 2019. Their most recent outing was in round 18 where the Raiders won by 4 points (the game where Wighton inadvertently ended the season of Ryan Papenhuyzen). Earlier in the year they met at Wagga Wagga where the Storm Storm were comfortable 14-point winners. Comparing the team lists for Saturday night against that round 18 contest, the Storm add Coates and Smith while the Raiders add Cotric and Whitehead. Handy inclusions for both teams there. The Raiders have won 7 of their last 8 on their march into the top eight. That's a fine string of wins, but most of these games were against teams outside the top eight, and the one loss was at home to the Panthers who were without both their first choice halves. And they didn't just lose, they lost by 20. The Storm have lost their last two games heading into the finals, but they were competitive losses against what could be the most in-form teams (Roosters, Eels) right now. Even more importantly, they beat Penrith in Penrith 16-0. I'll bank on that Panthers form line to guide my tipping here, and a sizeable crowd in Melbourne to cheer the home side over the line. Whatever the result, I want to see Bellamy and Stuart having a drink and a chat in the sheds after the siren.

Verdict – Storm by 4

Result – Raiders 28 defeated Storm 20

Cronulla Sharks vs North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday night – Pointsbet Stadium

The two baldest coaches in the NRL face off at a half-finished suburban stadium because the Sharks need home ground advantage even though their opponent has to travel more than 2000km to get to Sydney. Just play the game at a bigger, shinier, finished stadium...seriously. The coaches may be bald but they are also the young guns in the coaching ranks coming through the coaching sausage machine. We'll be seeing those shiny noggins for quite some time. These sides met once in 2022, back in round 18 up in Townsville where the Sharks were dominant winners (26-12). Importantly, the Sharks named a full-strength outfit (almost identical to the team named here) while the Cowboys were missing Holmes, Taulagi, Deardon, Cotter and Nanai. Handy bunch of Origin players there. The Cowboys have won just half of their games against top eight opponents this season and are 2 from 5 in Sydney. Worrying statistics I grant you, but the Sharks have won just 4 from 9 against top eight opponents, and two of those wins were against Origin depleted opponents. Cronulla on a Saturday night is never easy, but I'm with the Cowboys in an upset.

Verdict – Cowboys by 1

​​​​​​​Result – Cowboys 32 defeated Sharks 30

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Sunday afternoon – Allianz Stadium

A repeat of the contest last week, where the Chooks were convincing winners 26-16. The Roosters didn't score a point after the 45th minute, but they were always going to win the contest. Much was made of the injury to Cameron Murray and it's impact on the result. I don't disagree, but it's worth noting that Waerea-Hargreaves went off after 13 minutes and never returned, and the Chooks were also without Manu for much of the second half. The Roosters have won 8 in a row heading into the finals - scoring 298 points and concending just 118. That includes wins against top eight teams in the last fortnight. I did say at the start of the season they had the roster to win the premiership. They could, but winning from 6th is a big ask. Manu is out this week (and perhaps all year) but the Chooks welcome back Radley, Tupou and Suaalii. For the Bunnies, Damian Cook is back and he makes a world of difference. Most of the teams in the top eight have quality number nines, and Cook is still up there with the best of them. Campbell Graham is another welcome and important return. Last week, the Chooks found a way to contain Latrell Mitchell while the Bunnies had no such luck against Tedesco. A lot can change in a week and this should be closer than the round 25 result, but Roosters for mine.

Verdict – Roosters by 4

​​​​​​​Result – Rabbitohs 30 defeated Roosters 14

Wally Lewis - finals week one (in bold)

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

  • PANTHERS (1st) vs Eels (4th)
  • STORM (5th) vs Raiders (8th)
  • Sharks (2nd) vs COWBOYS (3rd)
  • ROOSTERS (6th) vs Rabbitohs (7th)


tigerholic's picture

Evening All
Where did that season just go, unbelievable how fast it went by. From a Tigers point of view, I'm not too sad that is over.

Now for the finals, some interesting match ups that cause one to think hard, every finals match is 50/50.
Thinker, I believe that the tipping comp should officially end after the last round, the tipster on top at that stage is in my humble opinion the deserved winner and should be crowned the Champion Tipster.
Unsure what others think, but for me I would rather be able to now sit back and lick my wounds as poor old Rocket will be doing and enjoy the spectacle of finals footy.
Enjoy all


newbie from perth's picture

"Dia duit gach duine" i dteanga ní mo theanga féin,

OK, finals footy is here! At least my posts will be shorter now 🤪. Interesting to note that the Storm dropped out of the top four (and without the second chance) for the first time since 2014 when they went down 22-14 to the Eels last week. The pressure is on!

Things aren’t as bad as I thought with the Roosters’ injuries list and as at the time of posting this it seems JWH, Verrills, Radley, Tupou and Suaalii will all be playing. Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it 🤔.

Regarding Tiger’s comment with tipping competition … for what it’s worth and not trying to tell the Boss how to run his own website, but I tend to agree with the Tiger Man. Just my 2c worth.

OK, let’s do this thing …

Panthers vs. Eels @ Panthers Stadium
Probability @ 65-35
Ladder Position = Panthers
Bookies Favourite = Panthers

OK, the Panthers lost last week to the Cowboys but it’s totally and utterly irrelevant given they had a reserve grade side running around. The Eels have knocked off the Panthers twice this year but the Panthers will be at home, all their crew (including Nathan) will be back, they have a 10-2 record at home this year and Ivan would’ve come up with a plan to try and counter the Eels this week.

The Eels are absolutely capable of making it 3 wins over the Panthers this year but their Jekyll and Hyde performances of late have me wondering just a little. Having said that though, their current run of form is very encouraging and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if they got up in this one, especially if the “switched on” side turns up this week.

Either way, this should be a cracker but I keep thinking the Panthers finished on top for a reason. I don’t think they’ve peaked too early and you’d be hard pressed to take them lightly. Yeah, the Eels do seem to have gotten over their inconsistency issues but I’m thinking they might just fall a little short this week. I’m tipping the Panthers to get over the line but it won’t be easy. Panthers by 8.

Storm vs> Raiders @ AAMI
Probability @ 65-35
Ladder Position = Storm
Bookies Favourite = Storm

Middling performances from the Storm in the back half of the season have seen them miss the top four this year (first time since 2014) and it’s now do-or-die from here on in. They’ll need to fix whatever’s wrong if they’re going to be a chance against the in-form Raiders who are absolutely surging at the moment.

The Raiders will be full of confidence, knowing they have beaten the Storm in Melbourne before. I realise the Raiders have been in devastating form leading into the finals but they’ve only been beating the weaker teams and the rise in class might see them struggle a bit.

The way I look at it, all the pressure’s on the Storm but I know they’re a professional outfit and Bellyache will be reaching into his bag of tricks to get them up this week. Given their experience on the big stage, and the fact they’re at home, I’m thinking the Storm will lift here and get the job done. Storm by 12

Sharks vs. Cowboys @ Shark Park
Probability @ 55-45
Ladder Position = Sharks
Bookies Favourite = Sharks

The Sharks have won their last five against bottom eight sides. Not exactly the preparation to get you primed for finals footy. But hey, they’re travelling well and that’s why they finished in second spot this year. Even so, their contest against the Cowboys will be a step up from what they’ve encountered in the last 5 weeks.

The Cowboys on the other hand have lost 2 of their last 4 but those were against the Rabbitohs and the Roosters. Those losses would have been a better “workout” for the Cowboys leading into finals footy I would imagine. I’m not taking into account their win against a second grade Panthers last week, although it would’ve been a nice little hit-out to get themselves primed for the Sharks.

The Sharks have an impressive win record at home this year (10-2, same as the Panthers) so it won’t be an easy assignment for the Cowboys, especially given their away form. The Cowboys are a good side but I just think the Sharks at home should be able to do enough to scrape in here. Sharks by 6.

Roosters vs. Rabbitohs @ Allianz
Probability @ 55-45
Ladder Position = Roosters
Bookies Favourite = Roosters

We have a rematch of last week’s epic battle to round off the weekend and it promises to be a cracker. Both sides have struck form at the right time of year and it’s a shame one of them won’t live to fight another day. The Roosters were just too good last week and without any bias whatsoever, the final score line was a bit flattering to Souths.

Not so sure of the “home ground advantage” for the Roosters as there’s only been the one game played there so I’m not taking that into account. Considering the history between these two clubs and that the loser bows out of the race, this should be another brutal contest. The Rabbitohs were down on effort last week but the fact that they have some big name players returning should help them this weekend…

The Roosters were remarkable last week. They have been playing some really good footy lately and have now won 8 in a row. The pessimist in me is asking if they can make it 9 in a row. I’ve got a really bad feeling about this one but I’m gonna lead with my heart yet again and tip my BBB. Roosters by 10.

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

Sixto was hugely underrated in my opinion. Never got the recognition he so richly deserved. Always a fan…

OK kids, good luck with your tipping and may your team win by 40 points! Until next week. Cheers 🐔 🐔 🐔

RHEICH's picture

Please put the score margin as well

MGM's picture

THAT'S what I'm Talkin' About!
Thanks Newbie.

MGM's picture

Thinker -
Luv your description of Cleary's noggin !

Mary S's picture

Looked at side-on, always makes me think of drawings of "The Man in the Moon"!

MGM's picture

If the moon was an upright rectangle !

MGM's picture

Actually you're right Mary, I can see it now :)

BigPeteBx's picture

Morning ALL here at Thinkers NRL Tipping.
Good luck going into Finals Footy and may the overall tipper win.
She's a close tussle at the top, so you "guys" keep the consistency up.

NO update on my lot - they've had issues since the colour scheme change from the multi-colored guernsey they wore.
Keep Dezzie, because where on earth do you get someone with his experience. Unless of course Craig Bellamy wants to come North for a little while.
Des might be the coach and wear other titles as well - but he's not out there playing these days week in - week out. There are players I would have kept who would have given a better account of themselves. Suli should have remained compared to efforts of some in his playing position. Salary Cap isn't a nice topic for trying to keep one club players. Foz had a big heart and gave his all to Sea Eagles.

But Folks - main thing is:
Be good, keep well and be extra safe.
Big Pete in Bx Country - vroom vroom (V8's nearing).

Christine's picture

Big Pete I don't think Bellamy will cross the harbour Bridge...

BigPeteBx's picture

Neither do I Christine - it'd be a Bridge Too Far.

He'd be getting ready for a Qld move to retire - even though he came from around this way in NSW. The climate will be a big change for him - then its sun, surf and soda's.
Cheers and keep well or best you can.
Big Pete

Christine's picture


Christine's picture

Changing my tip to.penrith so my tips now read as

Christine's picture

Yes rocket just too upset you I changed two tips not one ...

ScottySeahawk's picture

Completely forgot about Tips tonight, shit. Panthers, Storm, Sharks, Roosters if Thinker counts them. Cheers

Baggy_Gee's picture

Well that sucked. Hard to believe that we hard 50% possession when we were completing so terribly. That said the 2 sets that really broke the game open was that awesome early kick to Edwards for the try and then the next set with the Chins break. we were beaten by a very good team and didn't help ourselves by not holding the ball.

Christine's picture

I am changing my tip to Cowboys that is the last change

MGM's picture

Hilarious Christine, but Rocket's not biting!

NuL1F3's picture

Looks like someone in the bunker has money on the Raiders.

NuL1F3's picture

That being said, Raiders played so well!! Can't take anything away from the game they played tonight.

Steel Panther's picture

Atkins was his usual useless self tonight. Two poor decisions led to both Canberra 2nd half tries but at the end of the day the Storm just not good enough in 2022. Certainly not the Storm we are used to seeing.

NuL1F3's picture

Agree 100% Steel!

NuL1F3's picture

Cowboys not looking to good in the second half.

NuL1F3's picture

What's even more upsetting, I should have been at a KISS concert here in Townsville tonight which was cancelled for a finals game that never was.

NuL1F3's picture

What.A.Game! That did not disappoint! Well, the first half of the second half was pretty uneventful but boy! Didn't it finish strong!

Mary S's picture

WOW - what a game!!
What a finish - great result for Cowboys!!!!!!


Christine's picture

rocket always bites ...

Christine's picture

What happened to butcher , like Spartan he has disappeared ...

a's picture

Yes go cowboys

Rocket Ryan's picture

I got to give it to Victor Newby was handy today

Rocket Ryan's picture

Going good just when the rabbits needed him to

The Thinker's picture

Both the Storm and the Roosters are out.

The last time the NRL had a finals series where one or both of these teams wasn't in the last four was 2005.

newbie from perth's picture

I had my laser surgery on my varicose veins Saturday morning and the pain I’m in right now doesn’t even compare to the pain I’m experiencing after my beloved Roosters were knocked out of finals footy this afternoon 😥.

Things weren’t helped when we lost Teddy, Daniel and Angus but on reflection I’d have to say I have no qualms with losing. That’s just how footy goes sometimes. Don’t get me started on the sin-bins though. A record 7 sin-bins showed how fiery the encounter was.

Was a bit disappointed we couldn’t get anything done when Souths were down to 11 men but that just shows the resolve that Souths had. Well done Bunnies but I’m hoping the Sharks can knock you off next week 💪. OK, I’m off to take some more Panadol. Cheers 🐔🐔🐔.

a's picture

Some of those sin binning were rediclous

BigPeteBx's picture

G'day Steely - Storm have certainly missed Papenhuizen chiming into the backline like he did and often instrumental in scoring.
Take care mate and keep well - like we try.
Big Pete (vroom vroom - V8's getting closer)

BigPeteBx's picture

I feel for you Newbie.
Certainly no love lost yesterday and has refuelled the fire.
Take it steady Old Son with the leg/s. My wife had hers (one only) stripped several years ago. Had it re-done in Sydney both times.
Were yours large or only small to have laser done?
Personally Newbie, taking Panadol is like eating jelly beans.
Speak to your GP about something stronger, if the throbbing/pain gets worse.
Hang in there and get well
Big Pete (vroom vroom - V8's are getting near).

Steel Panther's picture

Hey Big Pete,

Good to see you posting. Too few & far between these days. Agree about Papa but there are plenty of other good lads in that side who just didn't fire. You'll be glad to see the back of the season I guess after the debacle at Manly. A lot of unrest at the club. On a positive note your Red Devils have shown vast improvement since their season opener. My Rangers have had two 4-0 defeats in a row & an awful start to their Champions League campaign. Hard to see where their season is going.

I'm not a V8 fan, but I think we had the last supercars event at Pukekohe at the weekend. I understand they are redeveloping the land?? My motor sport interest is stock car racing which is different here to what is referred to as stock car racing in the US.

Take care mate!! Enjoy the finals.

BigPeteBx's picture

Yes Steely - happy with Red Devils since they've picked up from those first couple of losses. With Manly - they've been shockers and I cant wait to see what develops during off-season.
Some talk doing the rounds that Des' contract was renewed until 2024 when it expires. Manly Board might want change and if so, Jason Ryles might be their target. Jason R has done his time as he will come off contract as Trent's assistant at Easts - same time as Des. Has a pretty good profile having also been at Melbourne and did a stint with rugby union. One never knows what might eventuate. He has to cut his teeth in the top league sometime and I hope he goes well. Will also be interesting to see how Cameron Ciraldo goes at Dogs coming from Panthers. Looks the goods and leads well.

Remember Rangers are also my Scottish team. Have a nice dress tie of theirs that was brought back from Scotland for me several years ago. Also have an Ajax in Dutch League and a PSG one from French League. Still on lookout for one for Juve in Italian Serie A. Yes mate, I have my faves in most/all comps going. For the books Anderlecht in Belgium League and Bayern in German. How's that for an ethic mixture. Love it - I sure do!
Take care mate and keep well - Big Pete

MGM's picture

Hi Big Pete
Commiserations to you and the team.
My long range bet on the Eels has now been deleted from my Sportsbet Acc also!
Saw your comments on Des etc.
When you said the "Manly Board might want change" I suggest they look inwards as it's completely on them and the owner (is he on the board?) that Des was put in the position of having to navigate that rainbow debacle and the downhill spiral that ensued.
In my opinion he handled all that with the grace of an elder statesman and showed discretion and respect that very few others could have managed. Not sure if those fools deserve to have him actually.

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