• Owen’s Opinions: You don’t want to miss this weekend’s football. (AAP)Source: AAP
It’s almost the perfect script for the NRL with this weekend’s preliminary finals, so sit down and strap yourself in, says co-host of Over the Black Dot, Owen Craigie.
By
Owen Craigie

18 Sep 2018 - 1:27 PM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2018 - 1:41 PM

What a crazy weekend of football— it was just crazy. 

Souths just scraped home with three field goals in the one half by their halfback Adam Reynolds, and then the Sharkies managed to sneak home against the Panthers.

 

Sharks take on the Storm 

That Sharks versus Storm preliminary final this coming Friday should be a beauty and it’s one I’m really looking forward to.

The season gone was the most even regular season in history, with just four competition points separating the top eight, and then to see those semi-finals on the weekend, it shows how tough and tight this competition is.

Every year the game keeps moving forward with professionalism and from when I retired in 2005 to now, in 13 years the game’s grown and science has been involved so much, the improvement of people’s body weight and athleticism and their size and speed; it’s like they’re the perfect specimens for rugby league now. Second-rowers can play as centres and front-rowers can play anywhere in the forwards. 

The body shape and the game’s just become so fast and over the years those people’s bodies have adapted to the speed of the game and that’s why now it’s so quick and so close.

 

League's Fiercest Rivalry

For people reading who aren’t die-hards or weekly fans of the games, or for those of you who have family and friends who are just casual fans of the game, encourage them to sit down and watch this weekend’s games with you, because it promises to be massive.

You’ve got the old bull Greg Inglis set to tear it up for the Rabbitohs. Unfortunately there’s no young bull with Latrell Mitchell sitting out a week for a suspension, but the Roosters and Rabbitohs game will be huge.

This weekend is so even, it’s so hard for anyone to try and pick a winner out of the semi-finals. It’s very close and I’ve been playing football all my life and I’m so excited to watch the games, because I can’t pick them.

One point is the difference instead of six or eight in the past. It’s anyone’s game now.

And there’s so much pressure because when the game comes down to one point, if you drop the ball or lose the ball, you can lose the game.

Look at Ben Hunt the other night, he ran it on the last and gave South Sydney the opportunity to kick that field goal to win. So you make silly mistakes like that and it’s going to cost you your season like it did the Dragons.

 

A weekend you don't want to miss

So this weekend, the prelim finals are the Storm hosting the Sharks and the Roosters hosting the Rabbitohs. In terms of football and rivalries— it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s almost the perfect script for the NRL.

And in terms of the type of football, there’ll be a bit of attacking flair there, but these top four teams are the top four defending teams in the comp as well, which shows why they’re there. But at the same time, they can score points from anywhere.

They’ve got plenty of speed, plenty of skill and they’ve got blokes with great ball skills and footwork. But it’s going to come down to defence again. That’s the platform and how you win comps. You can play all season scoring points but it’s your defence that wins you these games, and then the grand final.

That discipline and defence sets the platform, but the great thing too about this weekend is you’ve got strike players right across the park for all four teams.

When they earn themselves that window to attack, look out.

 

Owen Craigie is a Gamilaroi man and former NRL star. Owen has played for the Newcastle Knights, Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs. He is co-host of NITV's weekly Rugby League panel program, Over The Black Dot.

For more Owen Craigie and Rugby League hot topics, tune into Over the Black Dot, live tonight at 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34). Join the conversation #OverTheBlackDot