aThen there were six. Goodbye Sydney Roosters, see you later Melbourne Storm. Buckle up, because week two of the Finals series is here. For some reason everyone is running away except for the NFL, we still have three weeks left but we are already at the semi-final stage. But strange things have happened in rugby league. More exotic turns could be taken yet. Penrith and North Queensland now stand in beauty in the final qualifiers and will see Parramatta, Canberra, Cronulla and South Sydney for the privilege of facing them with a big final seat on the goal line.
Parramatta Ailes vs Canberra Raiders
Not only do Parramatta face a more complicated path to the Grand Final given their 27-8 loss to Penrith last weekend in the playoffs, but they may also have to play for their season without Mitchell Moses. The half-back navigates NRL’s concussion protocols after failing HIA after a worrisome header during a Panthers game, and while he insists he’s fine to get back on the field, the doctors may decide otherwise.
Moses this week made a plea to get involved, but should he be ruled out, coach Brad Arthur could ask his son Jake to help the England side advance in the last two weeks of the Finals for the first time in five attempts since 2017.
With a rare opportunity to make the most of it, Arthur will count on domestic support against the Raiders who took a fifth straight win 28-20 against Melbourne Storm in last Saturday’s Elimination Final. The only sad note on that forehead was Adam Elliott. Or, more specifically, Adam Elliott’s hip, who gave the lock so much grief that it called a night after 30 minutes and could be forced to sit outside that lock.
However, they had Josh Papali and Joe Tappin in their armory – two weapons that could still surprise – and the unpredictability that was on display against the storm. Having won just one of their past five games against the Eels, it’s an uphill task, and Ricky Stewart can only hope that Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell Gillard have a night off.
The winner of Friday night’s game scores a preliminary final with North Queensland in Townsville.
Cronola Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbits
The Sharks might be hosting at Allianz Stadium, but they probably won’t feel that deep in the Souths and against a team that is winning an important game at this very place. The Rabbitohs enter as confident as some tackled last weekend in the runaway elimination final of the Sydney Roosters. In the meantime, Cronola must recover both physically and mentally from the golden point loss he lost in the 93rd minute to North Queensland.
The physical strength and sheer chaos of the Rabbit’s 30-14 victory — which boasts an NRL era record of seven sins across the board — has left its mark. Tom Burgess was left out after Souths agreed to a two-match ban for a reckless high-intervention charge of the second-tier enforcer over a standoff with James Tedesco, meaning he will play no part in his side’s campaign to the Grand Final, if they succeed.
There’s something to be said about what breaking the Roosters’ eight-game winning streak can do for self-belief, as Jason Demetriou looks to become the first team in the NRL era to win a league title from outside the top four. The key for players will be to harness that positive energy while moving on from the argument. Late Monday night Mitchell posted on Instagram suggesting that Burgess’ ban should be postponed and then the issue re-addressed on Tuesday. “Like Peter [V’landys] “Mitchell said,” Mitchell said. “Tommy is a huge part of our DNA. We will definitely miss him. There is an argument to be made, and it is up to the people who are above me and the club.”
A great deal of weight will fall on the shoulders of superstar duo Mitchell and Cody Walker, both of whom have committed to avoiding being drawn into any tit-for-tat situation with the shark players trying to destabilize them. “I think we both understand that teams are going to try to lure us and do this kind of thing to us,” Walker said. “It’s about being mature and not getting caught up in that kind of game and playing our style of football. That’s what we did. [on Sunday]. “
The Sharks have just enough level on their side that they don’t need to cheat, halves Matt Moylan and Nicho Haynes pair well and a pile of muscle up front, helping them win the only meeting of the year with the Rabbits in July, when they prevailed 21-20 at the golden point .
On Saturday, the winner plays the Panthers in the second preliminary final.
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