AFTER a little game that will grip the rugby league world next Wednesday night and dominate discussions until we can all agree to disagree that ‘the best team won’, I thought I’d share the five things I know for sure with an eye to the climax of the Telstra Premiership regular season.
1. The Warriors, if they can find their way in, will be a threat to any team in the Finals Series. Their performance against the Rabbitohs last weekend would have beaten almost every other team in the competition and I was particularly impressed with the resilience of their defensive line. There’ll be eight very happy teams if the Warriors’ poor start to the season costs them a spot in September.
2. The Sharks have done an extraordinary job to put the drama surrounding the ASADA investigation behind them and work their way to within reach of a regular spot in the top four. They have had to do without Gallen, Carney and Gordon for extended periods but have put themselves in a position to have a real crack at the title, as we thought they would ahead of the season kicking off.
3. Either Trent Robinson or Michael Maguire will be Coach of the Year. If Maguire can guide the Rabbitohs to their first minor premiership in 24 years in the same manner they have played the first 17 rounds, it is a compelling case for such an honour. Robinson has melded a handful of superstars into a roster that was underperforming and produced a team with wonderful attacking capabilities and a defensive line that is the hardest to breach in the competition. An amazing feat.
4. South Sydney will play finals football. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you have only done so three times in the past 25 years it’s never something to be taken for granted.
5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is a superstar. There is all sorts of consternation at the Roosters because while Anthony Minichiello – a wonderful servant of 17 years – is desperate to play on, RTS is a fullback of rare talent. The club is facing a very tough decision.
And another thing… Be sure to grab your official guide to the biggest game of the year when the State of Origin III program goes on sale on Monday. Packed with features on the players doing battle next Wednesday, reflections of former Origin classics, insights from Steve Renouf and Brad Fittler and details of every Origin match ever played, it’s the must-have accompaniment to the thrilling Origin climax.