Trent Barrett, former Dragons and Sharks captain, NRL.com
Well it’s hard to believe we are again approaching the Telstra Premiership Grand Final ... and what a decider it is shaping up to be!
The last month of footy has had its share of controversy but the players have really given us some great games of football. The Dragons v Brisbane game last Saturday was as good a game as you will see. The Broncos' attack in the first half was scintillating and it was only because of the Dragons' defence that more points weren’t scored.
The game went to golden point and the Darren Lockyer fairytale continued, with him kicking the winning field goal and getting Brisbane through to another week and a chance to play in the big one. All the talk after the game was about Locky’s cheekbone and whether he would recover in time to play.
Early reports were that he would take the field and lead Brisbane into battle against the Manly Sea Eagles at the SFS on Friday night. However we learned on Tuesday that Darren has ruled himself out, laying his future in the hands of his team-mates. Losing their best player and captain for this game is heartbreaking in his last season and with so much to play for.
I believe the Broncos though can gain confidence in the fact that Locky has decided to sit out the week. He obviously has confidence in the team and believes they can get him to the Grand Final. For the young Broncos to know that they have an opportunity to give their captain the ultimate ending to his career is huge.
Sam Thaiday is back from suspension, the rest of the team is playing well ... I think they can get up and beat Manly. At first I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the more I think about it the more I believe they can produce a match-winning performance for their skipper.
Manly have had a disruptive month and a week off and without Glenn Stuart the pressure is mounting on the Sea Eagles. The loss of Stuart, particularly in this game with so much on the line, can’t be understated. He is a steady hand, a leader, an aggressor and takes a lot of pressure off the halves with his ability with the ball.
In saying that, both of these teams have had great seasons and neither would be out of place in the big one. Whatever the outcome it will make for interesting viewing!
In our other game I can’t look past the Storm. They are a great team: hardworking, disciplined and willing to work for a common cause. Throw in Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk and this is a formidable unit. The Warriors have unearthed a young halfback in Shaun Johnson who is a pleasure to watch; and Kevin Locke and Feleti Mateo are both playing well, but I think the Storm will grind them into the ground and get them at the back end of each half.
I am tipping a Melbourne v Manly GF!