DOES experience reign supreme or are we witnessing a shift in the power base of the National Rugby League?
Are we headed for another Grand Final showdown between the two most dominant teams of the past decade or is the Rabbitohs-Roosters rivalry about to enter a new golden age?
Whatever happens this weekend, in a week’s time we will see two foundation clubs trying to prove they have the mettle to win the big end-of-season games while Manly and Melbourne will have the perfect opportunity to display exactly what it takes to win finals games and earn themselves a much-appreciated week off.
Jamie Lyon, in his usually laconic way, told us this week that his Sea Eagles don’t fear either South Sydney or the Roosters, despite not beating either side in four attempts this season. The fact that both the Rabbits and Roosters have been into the belly of the beast that is Brookvale Oval and wrested away two competition points in brutally tough encounters should be enough to convince any team they can handle whatever is thrown at them when September rolls around.
But finals games are a different beast. There is that lingering voice in the back of your conscious that says if you lose this one, the season’s over. Eleven months of blood, sweat and tears goes down the drain unless you can hold out for one more set, make one more tackle, push up in support just one more time.
We think we’ll have a greater understanding of who has genuine premiership credentials after Friday night’s ANZ Stadium blockbuster but I have a funny feeling the picture won’t become crystal clear until the following week.
There are a host of loyal NRL servants who have had to bring the curtain down on their careers this year either wearing a ‘moon boot’ or getting around on crutches so it is nice to see that there are some fitting finales happening around the NRL this weekend.
Newcastle legend Danny Buderus is able to play his final regular-season fixture in front of his home fans on Old Boys day while Matt Bowen and Benji Marshall – two men who have brought such joy to our game for more than a decade – will engage in one final hot-stepping shootout in front of an appreciative North Queensland crowd on Saturday night.
Nathan Fien plays game No.276 at the Dragons’ Wollongong base while, even though he is on the injured list, Joe Galuvao’s final regular-season involvement is against the team with which he made is name, the Panthers.
Thanks to efforts made by the NRL’s education and welfare department there are now career opportunities awaiting many of this year’s group of retirees but, for one more week at least, they are warriors who have done their clubs proud.