NRL Finals Week 1 Tips & Preview

It feels like the season only began last week and every club had a fresh slate. Suddenly however, sixteen have become eight and following the forthcoming weekend of 2019 NRL Elimination Finals, only six will remain in line for the chance to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy.

The action is underway on Friday night when the NRL’s oldest rivals square off at the SCG, before the Storm and Raiders battle it out for a week off and subsequent berth in the preliminary finals.

The Sea Eagles and Sharks, Eels and Broncos’ seasons are on the line on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon respectively.

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Rabbitohs (+6.5)

As has somehow been the case several times in the last few seasons, a Round 25 game will be replayed in the first week of the NRL finals as the Rabbitohs attempt to make it two in a row, at the expense of the Roosters on Friday night. Both clubs have weathered rough patches, but also produced world-class footy throughout the season, and neither would looks out of place in the decider.

The Roosters have typically been my pick whenever they’ve come up against virtually every other club, but twice this season the Bunnies have made me look like an idiot and these things do tend to happen in threes. Last week’s win over the Roosters was particularly impressive, but with a lot more on the line this time, I can’t see them winning by ten points again.

At publish, head to head betting has the Roosters as $1.42 favourites; there’s $2.90 about South Sydney. The line is 6.5 points and I think that there’s every chance this could go to Golden Point. What an outstanding way to kick off the finals.

Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders
Storm (-6.5)

The Melbourne Storm recorded yet another comfortable win in the race to the minor premiership and are firm favourites to win through to another preliminary final when they host the Canberra Raiders on Saturday evening.

Anyone who blindly backs the Storm here certainly cannot be blamed, but we cannot forget the Raiders’ win down in Melbourne only a few weeks ago. What was most impressive on that occasion was the Raiders’ ability to keep the head up after going to the break three tries down, and ultimately fighting back into the contest before icing it late.

The Storm are typically the most controlled side under pressure in the league, but with that recent memory still in the back of their minds, perhaps the gate has been left slightly ajar for the Green Machine.

I don’t think that lightning will strike twice, however, and the 6.5-point line should be a reasonably easy feat for the home side.

Manly Sea Eagles vs Cronulla Sharks
Sea Eagles to Win ($2.40)

Arguably the most interesting game of the round will be played out somewhere in Sydney on Saturday night, when the Sea Eagles host the Sharks. The winner progresses, the loser heads to Spotlight to buy this year’s Mad Monday outfit.

The Sea Eagles have done an incredible job this season. They were seconds away from finishing with their first ever wooden spoon in 2018, but the return of prodigal son Des Hasler has been a beneficial revelation for both parties and boy, have they fought above expectations this season. While the loss of Tommy Turbo has probably decided their season, they can certainly win this game – particularly if asbestos doesn’t mean that it’s moved away from Fortress Brookvale.

Cronulla capitalised on a flat Wests Tigers to sneak into the eight and while they have started to gather a bit of momentum recently, they really have played below expectations and their potential in 2019. Gal’s field goal was hilarious and too be fair, the result was already locked in, but I tend to think that sort of gear underlines that they really aren’t a premiership threat, and I thought that they could be toughed out of this match by Manly.

Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos
Broncos to Win ($2.45)

The final six will be locked in after the Eels and Broncos square off at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday afternoon. All credit to these two clubs. Regardless of what any of us think of them, their performances throughout the entire season and their legitimacy as finals contenders, they’ve made the cut and one of them is going to go even further.

The Eels recorded a smart win over the wounded Sea Eagles last week, but ultimately limped into the finals after suffering losses to the Bulldogs and the Broncos in the two weeks prior.

The Broncos meanwhile suffered a demoralising loss to the Bulldogs last week, but their form otherwise has been pretty good. Moving Darius Boyd away from the final line of defence has been ideal and boy, is this a good forward pack.

I genuinely think that this one could fall either way, but I also think that the Broncos can potentially do more damage in the 2019 NRL finals and I’m happy to back them as outsiders.