Finals week one

Brisbane Broncos (2nd) vs Melbourne Storm (3rd) – Friday night – Suncorp Stadium

Last week, 43271 fans turned up to watch these sides go around on a Thursday night at the same venue, where the Storm continued their long reign of terror over the Broncos. That particular result, given the changes to the line-ups for this game, can't be used as much of a guide to the result on Friday, but it did reinforce this long running winning streak for the visitors. That's now 14 wins in a row, and it's been 14 years since the Broncos have beaten the Storm at Suncorp. A 14-match winning streak is a long one, but it almost goes back longer than that. In the 12 games prior to the 14 match winning streak, the Storm won 10. That's 24 of the last 26 matches - history isn't everything, but it's a handy guide. I still think back to a semi-final way back in 2008, again at this venue, as a pivotal moment in the history between these clubs. That result broke a few hearts, and the Broncos have been trying to rebuild the empire ever since. I should mention that the 2008 Storm team were in the middle of their salary cap scandal, so lets put an asterisk against that result. I've included a replay of that 2008 final on this page, and I've done so for a number of reasons. The atmosphere at the game was Origin-like, and if we get a close game on Friday night we are likely to get a repeat of that. Feel free to start that replay at around the 75th minute of the match if you are short of time. It's pretty epic, and you get to see Eels coach Brad Arthur when he had hair. I've mentioned in the comments that both Reynolds and Carrigan will return from injury for this game, and both are massive inclusions for the home team. The Storm look set to bring Hughes back from injury in the halves too, with Papenhuyzen offering utility value off the bench. Neither team would look out of place in the grand final this year, but only one can win this. I'm with the Broncos at home, defying the history between these clubs and creating a little bit of history for themselves. 

Verdict – Broncos by 4

Result – Broncos 26 defeated Storm 0

Penrith Panthers (1st) vs New Zealand Warriors (4th) – Saturday night – BlueBet Stadium

The Panthers are on the cusp of a three-peat, an all but impossible task in the NRL competition and something we haven't seen in nearly 40 years. It's hard because the NRL have an equalisation policy, which not everyone likes, but I certainly do. For some context, you could create a roster from players the Panthers have let go (or are about to let go) and they'd be a top eight contender - Koroisau, Kikau, Leniu, Capewell, Hopgood, Hetherington, Tamou, Salmon, Burton, Crichton, O'Sullivan, Laurie, Naden, Jennings, Staines. After all those departures, the players they still have just secured the minor premiership. That prize doesn't get the recognition it deserves, but I won't go on about that again. Congratulations Panthers. Warriors coach Andrew Webster is probably the coach of the year, and he takes on his old club coached by the bloke who coached the Warriors for six years. The Warriors made the finals in all but one of those seasons under coach Cleary, and 4th was their best finish. Webster has matched that in his debut year as a coach, and he has a whole country behind his side. They match up pretty well against the Panthers on Saturday night, but they'll need to be at their best to pull off this upset. It's not impossible at all, and I'd be less surprised than most should they win, but this is a big assignment. Of the top four clubs this year, the Panthers are the only team that didn't rest a whole bunch of players last week. They got through that game without injuries or suspension, and the Panthers have given key players a few breaks throughout the season. They will be fit, they have finals experience, and they have home ground advantage. I'm tipping them, but this is a contest.

Verdict – Panthers by 7

Result – Panthers 32 defeated Warriors 6

Cronulla Sharks (6th) vs Sydney Roosters (7th) – Saturday night – Pointsbet Stadium

There has been plenty of talk about the venue - a half-finished construction site in the Shire with a limited capacity. Well, rules are rules, and the Sharks get to play this game at home, until the rules get changed (and that may very well happen next year). The Sharks get home ground advantage because they earned it. And yes, that is strictly true. But this does give me another opportunity to pick on the Sharks and point out an issue with the NRL, which has an equalisation policy but isn't always equal. The broadcasters of this competition get a say in the NRL schedule, and in doing so create an unequal draw. This favours the Sharks almost every year, because the broadcasters aren't especially interested in the Sharks. To illustrate my point, the Sharks have played top four teams on five occasions this season. They lost all those games. They played the top three teams just once each, and in those three games they conceded 102 points and scored only 22. The also had the good fortune of playing the bottom three teams on five occasions, and they won them all. The other three teams in the bottom half of the top eight (Knights, Roosters, Raiders) all played top four teams on six occasions. The three teams that finished the season on 30 points (Rabbitohs, Eels, Cowboys) and just outside the top eight, had to play the top four teams on seven occasions. The Sharks also have a lighter representative load than most, with Nicho Hynes the only Shark playing Origin this year - in one game, off the bench, for 12 minutes. Sure they've earned the right to a home final, but they've had a leg up this season. It's not for the first time, and it won't be the last time. Anyhoo I'm ranting because (I'm allowed to dislike one team surely). The Roosters were in 14th place on the ladder not so long ago but have the wind in their sails. They've also won two games against top four teams this season, which tells me they are good enough to compete with the best. Last year the Sharks fell out of the finals series in straight sets because, as a rule, they are found short against the very best teams. I think they'll be found short again. I give the Sharks a hope if Manu can't play for the Chooks and Tedesco fails a HIA in the first 20 minutes. I don't want that - the NRL is much more enjoyable with Manu and Tedesco on the park.!  

Verdict – Roosters by 8

Result – Roosters 13 defeated Sharks 12

Newcastle Knights (5th) vs Canberra Raiders (8th) – Sunday afternoon – McDonald Jones Stadium

I think most of us, with the exception of Ricky Stuart, would accept that the Raiders are a little lucky to make the top eight. Their end of season differential is negative...really negative. The four teams just below them on the ladder all had a positive points differential. Even the 14th placed Titans have a better points differential. In any case, they got there and they got there by winning enough of those close contents. Their recent form however, is fair to middling, and I'm probably being kind. They've lost five of their last seven games, and the two games they did win were against the Bulldogs and the Tigers. The Knights beat the Bulldogs too, by 66 points to 0, and they haven't lost a game since that big win. They also get a packed home ground and their favourite timeslot...the Sunday afternoon. This is the only game this weekend that I'm confident about, and I think the Knights will win comfortably. And to think the world were calling for the Knights coach to be sacked this year.

Verdict – Knights by 22

Result – Knights 30 defeated Raiders 28

Wally Lewis - finals week one (in bold)

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

  • BRONCOS vs Storm
  • PANTHERS vs Warriors
  • Sharks vs ROOSTERS
  • KNIGHTS vs Raiders


The Thinker's picture

Greetings football fans

I have updated the NRL ladder for the season and updated the tipping comp after round 27. Quite a lot of you managed 8 from 8, and I wouldn't normally list you all, but it's the last round of the year, so congrats to BigPeteBX, Michael N, Wild Oscar, Tigers717, Chook_Dan, Newbie from Perth, Rick and Bulga. Hopefully I didn't leave anyone out.

As always, if anyone notices any issues with the scoring just let me know. I do make mistakes from time to time.

As you can see, we keep tipping all the way through the finals series. Our top five may have put enough of a gap on the rest of the rivals, but you never know. There will be prizes for our top three and a spot on the all-time honour board.

I'll have my previews and selections for week one of the finals published early Thursday (first final isn't until Friday night).

All the best

The Thinker

The Thinker's picture

For those that might be curious - at the Broncos session this morning Arthars trained on the wing. Oates likely to miss out unless something happens in the days that follow. Carrigan and Reynolds both trained and look set to return.

bradapple's picture

I think I'd rather see Arthars training on the wing thinker, hes super solid!

Bronco Legend's picture

Oates named in the reserves, he has been loyal and was a scoring machine last year, not sure if he will survive next year with the Broncs and may finish altogether or another club.I do really feel for him and wish him all the best.

The Thinker's picture

@Bronco Legend

I've heard that Oates has all but agreed to stay with the Broncos next season. A good outcome - one club throughout his NRL career.

All the best

The Thinker

BigPeteBx's picture

@Steel Panther - sorry mate for non reply that you previously posted around Rd 22. Yes, I've been a little more quiet here but get so involved with local stuff here on FB. Would like one day to catch up with a few of you (one day) and I notice u r going very strong on the tipping ladder like Mary S and Manyana who have certainly come out of their burrows this year.
I guess I'll have The Big Bash to follow come December, of course EPL which is in early stages/rounds at present, then A-League in October and DEFINITELY The Great Race - V8 Supercars 5th to 8th October. Keep well mate like I try - BIG PETE

newbie from perth's picture

8512121505225182515145 …

I initially put down my thoughts for Week 1 of the finals on Monday night. The situation regarding injuries and ins and outs has become clearer as the week has gone on but I’m still clueless on 2 of these 4 games. OK, let’s do this thing …

Broncos vs. Storm @ Suncorp
Probability @ 55-45
Ladder Position = Broncos
Bookies Favourite = Broncos

Verdict: Forget last week’s result when these two played each other. Both will be back to full strength and it will be “game on”. While the Storm excels in finals footy, the Broncos have been better overall this year and will be at home which will be a huge bonus. The only downside I can see with the Broncos might be the pressure that finals footy brings and whether they can handle it.

Given their class, the Storm won’t be easy to beat and I expect this could go either way. Will the Storm continue their dominance over the Broncos or will they become another scalp for the impressive Broncos? The Broncos definitely have the ability to put anyone away but can they contain the emotion and get the job done? There’s so many “ifs and buts” in this game. The Storm were not at their usual best at various times during the season (which worries me) but this is finals footy. The Broncos have been exceptional all year and are a class outfit. This is really hard to pick (the hardest of all the 4 games) and without any confidence whatsoever … Storm by 4.

Panthers vs. Warriors @ BlueBet
Probability @ 70-30
Ladder Position = Panthers
Bookies Favourite = Panthers

Verdict: Had the Panthers finished second they’d be playing the Storm this weekend but instead they have a much easier assignment in the Warriors. First impressions are that playing at home with their fans behind them, they will account for their opposition semi-comfortably. Then again, anything is possible in finals footy and the Warriors are capable enough to cause an “upset” if the cards fall their way.

The Warriors have played some inspiring footy this year and deserve a crack at the ultimate prize and this will, without doubt, test them. Big occasions demand big efforts so the Warriors will need to bring their A-game on Saturday. My question is will their best (without Shaun Johnson) be good enough to topple the best side in the competition? To be honest I don’t think it will be … Panthers by 10.

Sharks vs. Roosters @ Shark Park
Probability @ 50-50
Ladder Position = Sharks
Bookies Favourite = Sharks

Verdict: Without any bias 😉 I think this one is evenly balanced and could go either way. On one hand you have the Sharks who have been up and down most of the year and it was pretty evident they didn’t manage top 8 teams very well. On the other hand you have the Roosters who fell way below pre-season expectations but have gone on a mini-turnaround over the last 7 weeks or so and managed to scrape into the 8. So, how do I assess the chances here? The Sharks have a very good side and they’ll be at home but they were far from impressive last week in my opinion. They never looked home until Kris got sent off and that has me thinking.

Yes the Roosters have won 6 of their last 7 but for most of the year they were pretty ordinary. That has me thinking as well but in a hopeful way. It seems to me that the Roosters have finally ironed out whatever was causing their poor form and maybe, just maybe, they’re a chance in this one. In the first of the do-or-die encounters this weekend and without any confidence whatsoever I’m throwing logic out the window … Roosters by 8. Begurk! 🐔 Begurk! 🐔

Knights vs. Raiders @ McDonald Jones
Probability @ 65-35
Ladder Position = Knights
Bookies Favourite = Knights

Verdict: On paper this is a no-brainer and any half decent judge knows the outcome of this one. Or do they? As we all know, footy is a funny ol’ game sometimes but seriously, the Knights’ form is red hot and they’re playing with a ton of confidence at the moment. Playing at McDonald Jones is going to make it all that much harder for the Raiders to cause the upset on Sunday you would think. I suppose the Raiders are a chance in this but it’s a slim one. I just don’t think they’re good enough to beat a side who’ve won 9 in a row. I just can’t see where or how the Raiders can get to the level required to get the win this week … Knights by 10.

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

Not everyone’s “cup of tea” but I’m here to broaden your horizons 😂 Enjoy…

OK kids, good luck with your tipping and if your team is in the finals, may they win by 40 points! Cheers 🐔 🐔 🐔

TigerGirl's picture

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to comment each week. I enjoy reading them. I’m hoping my Tigers have a better year next year and get off the bottom. I’ll always support them. It’s very rare that I tip against them. Always hoping for a miracle. 🤩
Don’t laugh too much 🥹
Dreams are free.
Congratulations and best of luck to anyone whose team made the finals.

Steel Panther's picture

Absolutely gem of a track Newbie. An underrated classic from the 80s. Sure brought back a lot of memories.

Thank your sir!

Mary S's picture

Great to hear from you TigerGirl,
Your team's turn will come, so keep your hopes and dreams alive.
After all Broncos and Warriors were not looking so good last year!!


Steel Panther's picture

Hey Big Pete....yea was surprised not to hear back from you a few rounds ago but glad to hear you're well.

I started taking a few risks like MGM to try & bridge the gap but all my risks failed & I lost a bit of ground. Not a lot of upsets this season.

I caught up with my mate in Sydney last month & we went to see a couple of the womens soccer games. A great experience. I couldn't believe it when he handed me two tickets to the Grand Final so I'll be back over the ditch again in a few weeks!!

Early days in EPL & SPL. Rangers off to a bad start with a home defeat to Celtic already.

I'm settling in to watch the Broncos & Storm.

Take care mate!

Bronco Legend's picture

Great to see Thinker, loyalty doesnt happen much these days.

MGM's picture

Almost half time in the first Finals match and full credit to Brisbane's 14th man Grant Atkins.
Brisbane getting away with knock-ons, forward passes, holding down, second efforts , interfering with the play the ball ... while Storm gets the whistle and six again Ever Time !
I'm happy to see the Broncos beat the Storm , but Not this way.
F#K You Atkins , you're spoiling what shuold be an enjoyable contest (as usual!)

MGM's picture

Every Time

Steel Panther's picture

His performance didn't improve much in the second half either MGM....

MGM's picture

@Steel Panther
From memory you're a Warriors fan . Hope for your sake he's not involved with their match tomorrow.
I wouldn't be surprised if he was the one that sponsor got in trouble for complaining about early this season (I didn't think those comments from the sponsor were entirely without merit, I remember I was firing up too in the first quarter of that match.)

BigPeteBx's picture

I see another NRL Ref has "retired" this year. Bens Cummins supposedly did his last game Drags v Knights. I read somewhere that he recommended his son to be an AFL Umpire and not go near NRL/rugby league. All refs come under the microscope and often or not they then get hell ripped out of them. I know what gets said and how some decisions have cost tippers big time in tipping comps. But often the Video Ref can come in, but it depends how much KFC has slowed their reaction down. Keep well MGM - Big Pete in Bx

BigPeteBx's picture

Howdy Steely - u r in front of me this year mate. I try to model myself to come home in front of some old communicants I had here in
Mark A, Johnny A, Baggy Gee (who really fell off our radar this year) and of course The Thinker. I stuck with Manly, Souths and Cronulla too often and they lost games I really thought they'd have won.

Yes mate - Rangers for me but need to watch what former Liverpool manager Rodgers employs with Celtic. EPL break this week with Euro Champs Qualifiers on.

Me thinks its going close to you watching Panthers and Ponies G/Final. I predicted with a few locals here a couple of rounds ago. Both have some tall rangy players who can snap a ball out of the air like and eagle does a pigeon.

Take care good man - Big Pete in Bx

newbie from perth's picture

G’day Frens,

Wow! Weren’t the Broncos simply outstanding Friday night? Not taking anything away from their stellar performance but weren’t the Storm terrible? They were simply blundering awful, the complete opposite of the exhilarating Broncos. Watch out Panthers is all I can say 😁.

Yeah, it’s embarrassing to admit I got that tip completely and utterly wrong but hopefully I’ll learn from this 😂. All I have to worry about now is that IF my beloved Roosters win tonight then we’ll have to face an embarrassed Storm who might take it out on us. Why isn’t life easier?

@ Steely – glad you liked that 80s classic my friend. Yeah I agree, totally underrated. Strange how music can do different things to different people. Keep going back to that “subjective” thing I suppose. Cheers buddy.

OK, I’ve only got 10 mins left before the Panthers and Warriors go at it so I’m out of here. Be happy my friends. Cheers 🐔 🐔 🐔

Mary S's picture

Hi Newbie,
You got any fingernails left after that game!!!! What a finish! 😃😃😃


Bronco Legend's picture

Cant belive Sharks gave there season away tonight. With Roosters player Tedesco in the bin for 10 minutes.
Sharks did not throw the ball all the way to the right or to the left to create the overlap, instead they ran the ball out after first tackle or two, then went for 2 points while Roosters still down to 12 players.Sharks should have got it tonight if they used there nowse.

Gummy Sharks's picture

Congrats Newbie and other Roosters supporters here. To Bronco Legend, unfortunately the Sharks don't have much nowse to use at the best of times let alone in a finals game. Very hard watch last night but the Sharks got exactly what they earnt. Like all but the good sides, we have too many players who are marginal first grade standard. Could probably name 4 that if they came on the market nobody would be rushing them with offers. McInnes making 80 odd tackles a few weeks ago (what an effort, 1 per minute, unbelievable) asks the question of who's tackles he was making. Fitzy may be a good coach or he may not, but his reputation as a defensive coach has not transferred to this side in any way, shape or form. Anyway, that's the lot of a sharks fan, some good days but mostly disappointing. Good luck to all who still have sides alive in the finals. I'm tipping the Broncs to win the comp.

Steel Panther's picture

@ MGM....I'm not a Warriors supporter...more a Warriors sufferer. I gave up on them after their treatment of Clearly after he guided them to the GF in 2011. Within months he was back in Australia. Have never forgiven them for that. Look what Cleary has gone on to achieve while, until this season, the Warriors have spent years in the wilderness.

Great game tonight. Sad there had to be a loser.....

Bronco Legend's picture

Great news Thinker.
Thanks for the info.
Cheers Bronco Legend

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