The first week of the NRL finals is in the book and the Roosters are still clearly the best side in the competition; they have the best players up and firing. But it was a big upset for the Raiders over the Storm.
As I wrote last week, Melbourne have been playing a bit in their comfort zone and winning, but not knowing what it’s like being tested. That’s the hardest thing about coming into the finals especially having played the bottom teams in the final few rounds like Melbourne did.
It showed on the field and they just couldn’t get out of that sluggish gear that they were in.
But Canberra played well. Usually Melbourne Storm are really good in the ruck in defence and Canberra seemed to roll over them.
So that was a big shock that they even managed that, but good on Canberra. It’s going to make it a lot more interesting for the fans and a lot of people have been paying tribute to the Raiders shaking up the Storm-Roosters stronghold they’ve had over the competition of late.
Something that wasn’t really necessary though was Canberra coach Ricky Stuart saying he’s now got better players and suggesting he’s never had the talent at his disposal before to compete at that level.
He said that he didn’t mean any disrespect to the past players, but it was disrespectful. For him to talk like that, he was getting a bit carried away and he didn’t need to say that.
He chose those players in the past and potentially the way he coached wasn’t the right way, because a lot of those players are great athletes and were great football players. You can't go pointing the finger at the reason why you weren’t successful in the past and you're successful now, as just coming down to the players.
It’s a 50-50 split at the end of the day and the coaching is vital. If you’re not coaching the right way and understanding the players, it can take you a while to get to where you are now. You should be thanking those players because you’ve learned a lot through that process.
He could have gone in a different direction and unfortunately it sounded like arrogance. That sort of thing can backfire and you can shoot yourself in the foot talking like that and thinking that this team has made it and the grand final is yours for the taking, thinking you’ve got the best team etc.
I think he should have come out with a bit more humility about beating Melbourne. People are going to see that and they’ll prepare for that and he should be hoping he hasn’t put too much pressure on his team and the players now.
Manly Could Beat the Bunnies
They’re in a very good spot but there’s a long way to go. Their next opponent will be the winner of the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles clash on Friday night.
I think because the expectations will be on South Sydney, it makes this a hard one because the Sea Eagles can upset teams with the way they play. They play unstructured football, whereas South Sydney are very structured.
The Sea Eagles can upset teams with the way they play. They play unstructured football, whereas South Sydney are very structured
Wayne Bennett coaches sides to play to build pressure and waits for teams to make mistakes and then they punish them for it.
Manly will play unstructured football and sometimes playing that type of football against a structured team can make it difficult.
But I think the Rabbitohs can win it if they contain that element and ruin Manly’s confidence a bit. If they can get over them in the first 20 minutes I think the Sea Eagles will be done.
But the more South Sydney let Manly stay in the game, the more dangerous that gets for South Sydney.
Eels Matchup The Minor Premiers
The other match this weekend is the Eels against the Storm in Melbourne on Saturday. The way the Eels demolished the Broncos was a bit embarrassing for Brisbane.
Even though the Eels were on fire, the Broncos just played badly, and then on the other hand it’s not all that great for Parramatta because they didn’t really get tested.
It was 58-0 and playing in the semi-finals, you want to be tested on your goal-line defence and getting into an arm wrestle, because what happens when you get to the next week of the finals you haven’t experienced that?
This weekend I think you’re going to see a different Melbourne Storm. They’ve come up against a strong and determined Canberra side and almost got there, but to get beaten on your own turf hurts.
I think it’s going to come down to mental preparation again. Everyone’s fit, everyone’s strong.
Are Parramatta going in with big heads because the blew the Broncos out of the water? Do they think they can put on the same performance down in Melbourne?
Parramatta need to be going in thinking that it’s going to be a battle, that it’s going to be grubby and it’s going to be physical. I’d say that’s that attitude the Storm will be bringing and it’ll be a grubby and physical game.
Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot.
Over The Black Dot airs Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34).