• Broncos players are seen after a Cowboys try during the Round 20 NRL match at Lang Park (AAP Image/Darren England)Source: AAP Image/Darren England
Over The Black Dot's Timana Tahu casts his astute rugby league eye over the premiership hopefuls and the genuine contenders as the NRL gets set to kick-off its 2020 final series.
By
Timana Tahu

Source:
Over the Black Dot
2 Oct 2020 - 10:42 AM  UPDATED 2 Oct 2020 - 10:43 AM

Kevin Walters' Broncos

Kevin Walters is the right coach for the Broncos. The biggest issue at that club this year was the relationships between the playing group and its coaching staff. Looking from the outside, it didn’t look like a happy environment – to the point senior players were breaking down and crying on the field. That straight away told me that the wrong players were in charge.

Another big sign was Darius Boyd being dropped from fullback, his captaincy and senior player roll. Having a player of Darius' caliber would have changed the attitudes within the playing group. That was the start of where their season was heading and it became a disaster.

I think one of Kevin’s strengths is player management and building positive relationship between the players. Having them enjoy and appreciate being a part of a great club. This Broncos side have a lot of talent and the biggest hurdle is every player has to believe in themselves and leave the 2020 experience behind them.

Broncos will improve next year.

Finals footy is here

Penrith vs Roosters

The minor premiers, “The Riff” Panthers,  have had a great season dominating the competition with a talented young side.

They are oozing with confidence, have great energy, and a positive attitude amongst the playing group which shines out on the field. Their strengths lay around the forward pack. They hunt as a unit.

Api Koroisau takes a lot of pressure off Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai in controlling the ruck and directing the yardage sets and giving clean ball to his halves. Also Viliame Kikau their strike weapon! When in doubt they hit Kikau, who gets their sets flowing and moving forward.

 

For the Roosters, getting 60 points put on them before the finals was a big hit. They have been consistent over the years and especially winning back to back. I didn’t see the result last round against the Mighty Bunnies coming.

Souths exposed their weaknesses, but in finals football the game changes. It’s a different kind of footy compared to your week-in-week-out competition and the Roosters are experienced when it comes to finals footy. Experience in the big games gives them an edge over the Panthers.

Raiders vs Sharks

Ricky Stuart gave the majority of his starting side the week off to freshen up and the Raiders still won.

Playing at home for this final is a big advantage for the Raiders and the players to watch in this game are Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton. These pair share the award of player of the year for the Raiders, and you will see why come this week. Most of the season it has been a Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton show. Papalii special efforts this year have been gold standard, especially that big highlight of running down the Titans halfback Jamal Fogarty. Wighton on the other hand, when it comes to scoring tries Jack's individual brilliance in the attacking zone have been Laurie Daley-like taking on the opposition D line with ease. 

The Sharks have a massive task ahead of them on Saturday. They have a lot of casualties too, but they are a tough bunch and will challenge the Raiders middle. I just question their execution and skill level in attack without Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan.

It will be an early exit for the Sharks on this one. 

Storm vs Parramatta 

I applaud the Storm in regards to adjusting to the new rules. Melbourne's strength over the last decade has been their defence. Their defensive structures and ability to slow the play the ball down frustrated opposition teams out of the game. This was a well drilled team playing as a unit and not going outside the system. But with the new rules they have become entertainer with an unstructured attacking system.

They still have a great platform but the attack has been exciting to watch. They are undefeated in Queensland this season and will be hard to beat in this final.

Parramatta on the other side of the coin have been on the slide over the last month. They look disconnected and have looked like they have been playing under pressure and not enjoying the wins or having too high expectations of themselves.

This is a talented team and I have said this earlier in the season but their leadership in this team are not performing. Not having experienced leadership in the side can cause separation within the camp and the Eels seem not to be on the same page.

If Junior Paulo and Nathan Brown didn’t play last week, the Eels would of lost the game against the Tigers and entered the finals sitting in 5th position.

If the Eels' spine doesn't pick their game up they will get eaten alive by the Storm. 

Knights vs Rabbits 

The Bunnies are a team that can shake this finals series up big time. Their attacking ability with strike weapons on both sides of the field will have teams very nervous.

Souths forward pack is not like a Roosters or Storm pack in terms of being big, aggressive and powerful but they do enough to get their team in a good position to use their deadly attacking skills and blow teams off the park.

The Knights on the other hand should be happy to have made the finals but this is the end of the road for them.

They are playing frantic footy and the energy in the side doesn’t look positive. Again, great work for the Knights to get into the finals but this should be a training run for the Rabbits.