Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
10 hours ago
I would just like to start this week?s rant by thanking everyone for their well wishes following my appearance on the Footy Show last Thursday night. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Whilst nervous early as was quite obvious with the footage, it turned out to be a very great night and one which I won?t forget in a hurry. There are a number of people to thank so I won?t name them in case I leave anyone out, but they certainly know who they are.
The entire panel was fantastic. Fatty Vautin was very accommodating whilst Matty Johns was great before the show. Sterlo and Chief were terrific as well. Danny Weidler also made what seemed a daunting task much easier with a few encouraging words backstage. And the guru himself, David Middleton, was excellent and if any fellow leaguies are privileged enough to meet him you will definitely relish the experience.
But back to the footy and I must admit that I hit a massive low on Friday night after Melbourne snatched victory from the Bulldogs in the dying seconds. It was one of those games as a supporter that you just don?t want to talk about or listen to others speak about. Full credit to Melbourne though and for the impartial viewer this must have been an absolutely fantastic finish to an otherwise dour affair.
As we were speaking about last week, this is a different Melbourne side altogether. A few years back, they would have caved in under the Bulldogs? constant pressure in the forward department. They are unbeatable at Olympic Park and are cruising four points clear at the top of the ladder. Melbourne should now ascertain premiership favouritism with the Dragons a close second after a clinical display against a wavering Cowboys outfit.
Elsewhere, Cronulla have continued their recent dominance with a 26-16 win over Newcastle. The men from the shire are now sitting pretty in third position and their pre-season intentions to win their first competition in memory of club stalwart Steve Rogers may just come to fruition.
The season-ending injury to Wests Tigers five eighth Benji Marshall could have just eliminated the Tigers from the premiership race. It is an absolute tragedy for Marshall and he must feel as though someone upstairs is against him. A 6-month injury with a new shoulder reconstruction required?one can?t help but feel sorry for the young Tigers pivot.
And to round out the wrap of this weekend?s NRL action, what?s going on with the Roosters and Rabbits? Is it now time for Coach Ricky Stuart to bite the bullet and drop both Braith Anasta and Brett Finch to Premier League, and throw opportunities to a promising young pairing of Josh Lewis and Jamie Soward? Could it also be time for Roosters management to bite the bullet and give Ricky the tap on the shoulder? There?s generally only one person to blame when a side boasts potentially one of the best playing rosters in the competition but struggles to win a game?
The Warriors? strategy to hold a random training session in Australia on a Sunday afternoon was an intriguing one. It will be interesting to see how beneficial the exercise turns out to be when they meet an NRL opponent next weekend.
The State of Origin sides have been named for the third and final game and we can thankfully report that the pairing of Braith Anasta and Brett Finch will not be present for Game three. I am not a fan of Mark Gasnier at five eighth and this decision could backfire on NSW. A smarter move would have been to pick a specialist five eighth in Scott Hill to partner Penrith?s Craig Gower at halfback.
I also felt the omission of Brent Kite was quite harsh but all in all it?s a fairly strong side. It?s great to see Paul Gallen granted an opportunity off the bench. Other changes included the naming of Matt Cooper in the vacated centre position, while Gallen and Luke O?Donnell come in for Kite and Andrew Ryan. Ben Hornby will fill the utility role at the expense of an out-of-sorts Craig Wing.
For the Maroons, Clinton Schifcofske comes in for the injured Karmichael Hunt at fullback, as has Josh Hannay for Steven Bell in the centre position. In their only other change, Tonie Carroll comes in for Jacob Lillyman who has been omitted. Otherwise just forced changes for Queensland and they should be in good stead come Wednesday week.
That?s all for this week. Thanks again for all the help and well wishes following last Thursday night, it was a tremendous experience.
Next week I will preview the third and deciding State of Origin match in Melbourne, and review round 17 of the NRL premiership.
Until then, enjoy your footy!