Sydney Roosters vs Canberra Raiders
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaac Liu 14. Lindsay Collins 15. Sitili Tupouniua 16. Mitchell Aubusson 17. Sonny Bill Williams 18. Nat Butcher 19. Daniel Fifita 20. Matt Ikuvalu 21. Lachlan Lam
The Roosters look like a side running on empty after 2-plus years of getting themselves up emotionally, mentally and physically week after week to achieve the success they’ve achieved, and they deserve much credit for the way they fought back against the Panthers in week one of the finals. But the reality is, the Panthers were much younger, faster and more energized than the aging and battle weary Chooks. Whether the Raiders will pose the same threat remains to be seen, but if they do it is hard to see the back-to-back premiers holding on. Jake Friend is a huge in and SBW’s inclusion will give his teammates confidence, regardless of what he brings on the field, but I think Roosters need to start fast and inflict scoreboard pressure early if they are to win… or should I say, survive another week.
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Semi Valemi 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Jordan Rapana 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papalii’i 9. Tom Starling 10. Iosia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Dunamis Lui 16. Hudson Young 17. Corey Harawira-Naera 18. Sam Williams 19. Matthew Timoko 20. Kai O’Donnell 21. Michael Oldfield
I wasn’t overly impressed with the Raiders win over the Sharks in their elimination final last week. They looked complacent and lazy for most of the first half and had a bit of luck go their way with an intercept try which got them back into the game. But once they built some momentum, they showed how dangerous they are with Wighton running riot. If they are to progress to the preliminary final, they need to be more disciplined with their start against the Roosters and play with enthusiasm because they have the strike power to do some damage early. They probably won’t admit to using last years controversial grand final loss to the Roosters as motivation, but I think they will be hell-bent on revenge. If their Papalii-led forward pack can win the middle-third battle, the Raiders should have enough points in them to edge out the Roosters.
Raiders by 2
Parramatta Eels vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. George Jennings 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Will Smith 15. Andrew Davey 16. Kane Evans 17. Ray Stone 18. Oregon Kaufusi 19. Brad Takairangi 20. Haze Dunster 21. Daniel Alvaro
With both of their strike wingers injured, Sivo gone for the season and Ferguson looking unlikely to recover in time for their sudden death clash against the Rabbitohs, things are looking dire for the inconsistent Eels. Gutherson has been great all season but the concern is the inability of halfback Mitch Moses to take his game to the next level and close out big games and finals matches. I feel as if they relied too heavily on the return of 20-year-old Dylan Brown to spark their attack against the Storm and are relying on him again against Souths this weeks rather than Moses. Their shoddy defence will also be under siege against the Cody Walker-inspired Rabbitohs attack which has been almost unstoppable in recent weeks. I think the Eels are spent and have gone as far as they can go this year.
Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allan 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Liam Knight 16. Jed Cartwright 17. Keaon Koloamatangi 18. Steven Marsters 19. Hame Sele 20. Troy Dargan 21. Patrick Mago
Despite the Knights racing away with an early 14-point lead in their elimination final last week, I don’t think Souths at any stage felt like they were in trouble. The form of Cody Walker rivals that of Jarryd Hayne in 2009 and they’re so confident with their attack at the moment, they knew as soon as they got some ball in decent field position, they were going to lay on a few tries. They have scored 106 points in their past two games against quality teams and I think the only way they lose this final against Parramatta, is if they beat themselves, which is possible. Before their 60-8 thrashing of the reigning premiers, they lost to the then-last placed Bulldogs and have been inconsistent for most of the season. But I’m sure Bennett will have them primed and ready to ambush a struggling Eels.
Rabbitohs by 8