Attract Plenty Of Punters Money

The New Zealand Warriors will start favourites with the New South Wales TAB for their preliminary National Rugby League (NRL) final against the Penrith Panthers in Sydney on Sunday.

Prices are not available until today, but a TAB spokesman said it could be taken as read the Warriors would start as favourites.

The Warriors are more favoured on the TAB's grand final betting than Penrith; their price $3.50 yesterday compared to Penrith's $5.25.

However, the Canterbury Bulldogs have vaulted past both of them, following their 30-0 semifinal win over the Melbourne Storm yesterday. They are at $3.25, compared to favourites the Sydney Roosters at $2.75.

The Warriors were second favourites before last weekend's semifinals, but remained at $3.50 after their 17-16 win over the Canberra Raiders.

Listed at $26 just two weeks before the finals series started, they came in for marked support on the TAB and with other bookmakers after their first semifinal 48-22 demolition of the Bulldogs on September 13, and some big bets dropped their price to $3.50.

One punter wagered $A10,000 ($NZ11,511) at $4 on them before the Raiders match.

"But I don't think we'll see too much movement on that ($3.50) price this week," the TAB spokesman told League Correspondent.

The Bulldogs' price reflects not just their comeback from the hiding inflicted by the Warriors to easily beat the Storm, but the weight of money for them all season.

They were favourites for much of the year, until a late season lapse saw last year's champions, the Roosters, take over.

Sydney's media were yesterday loath to make predictions about the grand final, saying any of the four teams could emerge as champions.

All had question marks hanging over them, Roy Masters wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

"Will the Roosters suffer a loss of momentum from the week off? Have the Bulldogs really returned to form? Can the Warriors' big men be exploited by the sweet-stepping Panthers?

Masters said the passion of fans would play a major role in the theatre ahead.

The Warriors' semifinal match against the Raiders at Aussie Stadium last Saturday night attracted a record crowd of 31.616 for a meeting on non-Sydney clubs.

"The Kiwi fans dominated, their tongues drooping ostentatiously like miniature flags from their mouths when a try was scored; eyes as big as pocket watches; black-and-white flags waved like an armada of Jolly Rogers; many stowed-away jumpers emblazoned with the logo of the club's inaugural sponsor; they cheered lustily for their heroes."

In the Daily Telegraph, rugby league editor Peter Frilingos disagreed with a correspondent that the Warriors had used up all their luck for the finals series.

"I don't think luck had much to do with their win over the Raiders even though Jason Bulgarelli failed to handle that grubber kick over the Warriors line towards the end of the game," Frilingos wrote.

"The Warriors proved that they could defend grimly on their own line for long periods which means they've got what it takes as this time of the year."

However, the newspaper's "stat-man" noted that Raiders fullback Clinton Schifcofske had stolen plenty of metres from the Warriors at dummy half.

"As the big Warriors forwards struggled to get back onside, Schifcofske ran eight times for 71 metres."

This would not be missed on rival teams, the stat-man said.