Grand Final Preview - Cowboys v
Tigers: Endgame

It?s Friday afternoon and things must be sinking in for the players by now. They?ve had their fan days. The Tigers enjoyed a training session where more people turned up than to most of their games last year. The Cowboys were fare-welled by thousands at Townsville airport in a jubilant frenzy of emotion.

They?ve had their Grand Final breakfast. They?ve had all their interviews. Every detail of every player and their family has been fleshed out by the daily?s so that we all understand just exactly what?s on the line. As if we needed to be reminded.

Right about now the players would be winding things down and searching for a place to spend by themselves. A place where they can reflect on the season thus far. A quiet place. Here they will come to grips with exactly what awaits them on Sunday evening.

All the distractions of the week will finally be behind them. They may be sitting on a bed in their hotel room when it hits. They may be brushing their teeth and then gaze up to see the person standing in front of the mirror. At some point today the reality of their situation will make itself very clear to the players.

Let?s start with the Tigers. What an intriguing side full of unlikely heroes. They have a wafer thin fullback who plays well above his weight, flanked by an enormous winger in Richards who has an ankle concern. Fitzhenry on the other wing applies a no-frills brand of footy. The centres in Elford and Whatuira wouldn?t be the first centre combination discussed at the pub but they managed to contain Cooper and Gasnier last week.

Then there?s the halves. Benji and Scott are two special little blokes. Between them they conjure more magic than a Harry Potter novel. Both versatile and skilled, they can hurt teams from anywhere on the field.

The forward pack is a mystery to most. People have been calling them small or inferior all season long yet they get their work done without claiming that it?s some sort of dark art. Skandalis and O?Neill are the old stagers with a bunch of green but bold youths performing at their peek each week. Off the bench they have another pride of young lions, ahem tigers, ready to mix it on the field without regard for reputations.

Moving onto the Cowboys. The have just as many trumps in their hand and you?d probably call Matt Bowen the joker. His electrifying speed and stepping is a feature that few possess and even fewer exploit as well as he does. Veterans Matt Sing and Paul Bowman bring a level head to an otherwise young backline. Williams looks set for a prolonged stay on the wing for Queensland and is Hannay at least a solid contributor.

Standing off the scrum is the 2005 Dally M Player of the Year Johnathon Thurston. He is joined by newcomer and journeyman Brett Firman. Firman came off the bench last week with Justin Smith helping out in the halves. We?ll have to wait and see if that one repeats itself.

The North Queensland forward pack is hulking. Rauhihi, Payne, Tronc, Southern, O?Donnell and Norton all have size, skill and creativity in abundance. If the Tigers aren?t careful they?ll start fires all over the park. The bench once again compliments the team as a whole with the notable omission being big Carl Webb through suspension.

So, when all these men take the field on Sunday night, greeted by 82,000 other people watching from the stands and millions on TV, how are they going to go? I?d reckon the little moment that happened to them this afternoon might feature. When they line up for the National Anthem and realise there?s only one game left maybe they?ll get butterflies, maybe they won?t. But one feeling they will all have is a voracious desire to win.

This game is harder to pick than a daisy in winter. But if the two preliminary finals taught us anything it?s that controlling the ball will win this game of footy. Both Parramatta and St George Illawarra fumbled about like drunken stooges last weekend whilst the Tigers and Cowboys picked up the ball, held it, ran with it and scored with it. They didn?t try cross-field kicks from their 10m line.

I hope that both teams can settle into a routine and begin to play the footy that they?re capable of. The Tigers humiliated the Cowboys in the first semi final but this game will be much different. The same thing happened in 1999 when the Storm beat the Dragons.

Based off current form it is hard to judge. Parramatta are no easy beats but they were poor last weekend. This makes me think that the Tigers might be more battle-hardened. They exposed the Dragons defence very well last week and did a real number on the Broncos the week before. I?ll pick the Tigers, but in the big one strange things can happen.

Below are all the player?s profiles:

Tigers

Brett Hodgson Age: 27 Height: 175cm Weight: 78kg Rep Honours ? Tests: Nil Origins: 3(NSW) NRL Career Games: 173 Tries: 80 Goals: 336 FG: 1 Points: 993 2005 Games: 27 Tries: 15 Goals: 119 Points: 298

Daniel Fitzhenry Age: 25 Height: 179cm Weight: 86kg Rep Honours ? Nil NRL Career Games: 79 Tries: 23 Points: 92 2005 Games: 25 Tries: 10 Points: 40

Shane Elford Age: 27 Height: 189cm Weight: 95kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 108 Tries: 36 Points: 144 2005 Games: 18 Tries: 4 Points: 16

Paul Whatuira Age: 24 Height: 183cm Weight: 91kg Rep Honours - Tests: 4 (NZ) NRL Career Games: 99 Tries: 41 Points: 164 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 18 Points: 72

Pat Richards Age: 23 Height: 191cm Weight: 100kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 75 Tries: 39 Goals: 4 Points: 164 2005 Games: 27 Tries: 19 Points: 76

Benji Marshall Age: 20 Height: 181cm Weight: 83kg Rep Honours - Tests: 1(NZ) NRL Career Games: 37 Tries: 18 Points: 72 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 15 Points: 60

Scott Prince Age: 25 Height: 177cm Weight: 81kg Rep Honours - Tests: Nil Origins: 3(Qld) NRL Career Games: 129 Tries: 26 Goals: 24 FG: 3 Points: 155 2005 Games: 27 Tries: 12 FG: 2 Points: 50

Anthony Laffranchi Age: 25 Height: 184cm Weight: 102kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 81 Tries: 13 Points: 52 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 4 Points: 16

Robbie Farah Age: 21 Height: 178cm Weight: 87kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 33 Tries: 8 Points: 32 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 8 Points: 32

John Skandalis Age: 29 Height: 190cm Weight: 107kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 205 Tries: 17 Points: 68 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 1 Points: 4

Ben Galea Age: 27 Height: 178cm Weight: 95cm Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 108 Tries: 24 Points: 96 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 4 Points: 16

Mark O'Neill Age: 30 Height: 185cm Weight: 101kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 222 Tries: 21 Points: 84 2005 Games: 15 Tries: 1 Points:4

Dene Halatau Age: 22 Height: 178cm Weight: 89kg Rep Honours - Tests: 2(NZ) NRL Career Games: 52 Tries: 11 Points: 44 2005 Games: 21 Tries: 4 Points: 16

Interchange (two to be omitted):

Laim Fulton Age: 21 Height: 186cm Weight: 90kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 31 Tries: 7 Points: 28 2005 Games: 27 Tries: 7 Points: 28

Chris Heighington Age: 23 Height: 187cm Weight: 101kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 40 Tries: 7 Points: 28 2005 Games: 23 Tries: 4 Points: 16

Bryce Gibbs Age: 21 Height: 188cm Weight: 104kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 40 Tries: 2 Points: 8 2005 Games: 21 Tries: 0 Points: 0

Todd Payten Age: 26 Height: 185cm Weight: 112kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 144 Tries: 12 Points: 48 2005 Games: 19 Tries: 1 Points: 4

John Wilson Age: 27 Height: 186cm Weight: 94kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 65 Tries: 30 Points: 120 2005 Games: 10 Tries: 3 Points: 12 Bronson Harrison Age: 21 Height: 183cm Weight: 103kg Rep Honours - Nil NRL Career Games: 31 Tries: 2 Points: 8 2005 Games: 19 Tries: 1 Points: 4

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Cowboys

Matthew Bowen Age: 23 Height: 175cm Weight: 78kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origin: 8 (Qld) NRL Career Games: 105 Tries: 57 Goals: 11 Points: 250 2005 Games: 24 Tries: 20 Points: 80

Ty Williams Age: 25 Height: 180cm Weight: 90kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 3 (Qld) NRL Career Games: 44 Tries: 3 Points: 12 2005 Games: 22 Tries: 18 Points: 72

Josh Hannay Age: 25 Height: 188cm Weight: 92kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 1 (Qld) NRL Career Games: 140 Tries: 47 Goals: 333 Points: 854 2005 Games: 20 Tries: 7 Goals: 60 Points: 148

Paul Bowman Age: 29 Height: 186cm Weight: 98kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 12 (Qld) NRL Career Games: 165 Tries: 54 Points: 216 2005 Games: 24 Tries: 9 Points: 36

Matt Sing Age: 30 Height: 183cm Weight: 86kg Rep Honours - Tests: 14 (Aus) Origins: 24 (Qld) NRL Career Games: 250 Tries: 145 Points: 580 2005 Games: 24 Tries: 15 Points: 60

Johnathon Thurston Age: 22 Height: 179cm Weight: 83kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 3 (Qld) NRL Career Games: 54 Tries: 15 Goals: 28 F/G: 2 Points: 118 2005 Games: 25 Tries: 5 Goals: 28 F/G 2 Points: 78

Brett Firman Age: 23 Height: 174cm. Weight: 89 Rep Honours - Tests 0 Origins 0. NRL Career Games: 36 Tries: 10 Goals: 11 Points: 62 2005 Games: 14 Tries: 3 Points 12

Paul Rauhihi Age: 32 Height: 190cm Weight: 117kg Rep Honours - Tests: 12 (NZ) NRL Career Games: 130 Tries: 11 Goals: 1 Points: 46 2005 Games: 25 Tries: 0 Goals: 1 Points: 2

Aaron Payne Age: 23 Height: 175cm Weight: 82kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 NRL Career Games: 61 Tries: 11 Points: 44 2005 Games: 27 Tries: 5 Points: 20

Shane Tronc Age: 23 Height: 193cm Weight: 115kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 NRL Career Games: 44 Tries: 3 Points: 12 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 1 Points: 4

Steve Southern Age: 23 Height: 180cm Weight: 98kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 NRL Career Games: 42 Tries: 5 Points: 20 2005 Games: 26 Tries: 3 Points: 12

Luke O'Donnell Age: 25 Height: 186cm Weight: 102kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 Career Games: 102 Tries: 7 Points: 28 2005 Games: 25 Tries: 2 Points: 8

Travis Norton Age: 29 Height: 180cm Weight: 98kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 5 (QLD) NRL Career Games: 187 Tries: 34 Goals: 14 Points: 164 2005 Games: 16 Tries: 1 Points: 4

Interchange:

Rod Jensen Age: 26 Height: 178cm Weight: 85kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 NRL Career Games: 84 Tries: 32 Points: 128 2005 Games: 22 Tries: 11 Points: 44

David Faiumu Age: 22 Height: 180cm Weight: 95kg Rep Honours - Tests 0. NRL Career Games: 33 Tries: 6 Points: 24 2005 Games: 20 Tries: 5 Points: 20

Justin Smith Age: 28 Height: 188cm Weight: 102kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 NRL Career Games: 84 Tries: 23 Goals: 63 Points: 218 2005 Games: 24 Tries: 5 Goals: 10 Points: 40

Mitchell Sargent Age: 26 Height: 187cm Weight: 107kg Rep Honours - Tests: 0 Origins: 0 NRL Career Games: 80 Tries: 5 Goals: 1 Points: 22 2005 Games: 18 Tries: 1 Points: 4

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