The finals have really crept up on us! We're just a month away from the start of elimination footy!
We’re one month away from finals footy and I’m about as excited as a Sharks fan at Cronulla beach on Australia day (disclosure: I’m definitely not a Sharks fan). We’re at the business end of the season and there’s still much left to be confirmed in regards to who will be avoiding the early Mad Monday’s. The Titans, Warriors, Panthers, Tigers and Sea Eagles are all bang in the midst of a frenetic final few rounds. Cases could be made to include the Broncos given their poor form, and the Dragons given their miraculous points total, but we’ll exclude them for the time being.
The Sea Eagles:
I don’t think the Eagles will make the cut. The public is getting in a tizzy because the boys from Brookvale have won 3 on the trot. Who did they beat exactly? The Dragons, the Warriors (Not in New Zealand – keep reading you’ll see why) and the Rabbits. The win before those came against the Knights in round 8. I’m about as unimpressed as a vegetarian at a meat market. They’ll Finish 11th, Next!
The Tigers:> Before the Tigers v Eels game this chapter would’ve gone a little different. The Tigers lost Brooks who I think was really having a coming out party (not from the closet). I was already lukewarm on the Tigers given that their recent wins have been against the undermanned Eels, Dragons, Panthers and Rabbits. It’s hard to see this team making much noise in the finals. Letting this young spine of Brooks, Moses and Teddy, with a bit of leadership from Woods, have another season together should see them improve as an overall unit. Unfortunately they’ll Finish 10th this year, Next!
Injuries have really derailed the Panthers chances at being a shoo-in for a run in September. A team whose future is brighter than any team in the competition, I do think they have adequate pieces to get into the finals, but they’re going to have to stiffen up their defence (I’m looking at you Bryce Cartwright) and keep their mistakes down. The game against New Zealand proved as much, with key players making errors at inopportune moments. They don’t have the horses to go toe to toe with the big boys, so smart footy is more paramount than ever for this team. A healthy dose of hard-nosed forwards, creative backs and an overall offload happy mentality should just do it. They’ll finish 8th, Next!
Of the Warriors 9 wins, how many have come in Australia? Try 2. The first win came against the Roosters in Extra time at the Central Coast and the other against the Knights. For a team who is in contention for the finals, having your only away wins come against the bottom two teams of the comp just isn’t good enough. The Warriors are a packet of skittles, you really don’t know what’s coming out of the bag at any given moment. All in all, they don’t impress me much (Shout-outs to Shania Twain). They’ll miss the 8 by a nose hair, 9th place finish for the boys across the Tasman.
Widely recognised at the start of the season as having a snowball’s chance in hell to finish higher than 13th, the Titans have gone gung-ho and commanded the respect of many a team. They’ve picked up some improbable wins and put in stout performances in tough losses. This team is the real deal, shaking off the disappointment of the Cherry-Evans debacle to hold the 7th best defence out of teams who haven’t rorted any salary caps recently (stay in the naughty corner Parramatta). With yesterday’s shock signing of Jarryd Hayne, the Titans now have a roster that looks very solid on paper. If the mistake free footy we’ve seen in recent weeks continues, the Titans may have the chance to cause an upset in the finals.
I’m picking the Titans and Panthers to find their way in to the big dance come September. I think of the remaining teams they’ve been playing the most consistent and as a team, which is important to make it far in the competition. Although they’re with their flaws, I think the Warriors could really challenge for that final spot. Hopefully we see a final round charge so the neutrals among us can sit back and enjoy the show.