The influence of the four Burgess brothers - in particular standout rookie George - will have a huge bearing on Souths' battle with the Roosters for the minor premiership. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
South Sydney versus the Sydney Roosters – what a wonderful way to finish off the regular season! I’m really looking forward to this clash and particularly the battle of the forwards to see which pack gets on top.
I’m leaning towards the Rabbitohs to win at this stage. They’re playing better football and they’ve got a side that is building some confidence. It helps when Greg Inglis is out on the field, too.
Still, for both sides we’ve seen some wonderful performances from their forwards this year and that’s the main reason they have had so much success. I look at the Roosters’ pack and they’ve got a tremendous amount of mobility as well as being really strong in that middle third defensively.
On the other side of the ledger, South Sydney have the Burgess brothers’ influence and it was so good to see the four of them play together last week. They complement the other great forwards in their pack. Souths have really dominated the middle third this year. I saw a statistic recently that George Burgess leads the NRL for tries scored off the back of his play-the-balls and that is all because of his size and ferocity when hitting the ball up. He skittles defensive lines and then off the back of his play-the-balls they are the masters at scoring tries. Sides are trying to readjust their defensive lines but because it has taken so many players to stop him they are very vulnerable. It’s been an amazing debut season for him.
The Rabbitohs aren’t playing their bets football yet but that’s not a bad thing. You don’t want to be peaking too early coming into finals footy. I know that their best football is yet to be played but I think that will come soon. The coach has done an amazing job in getting his team ready so I’m certain come finals time they’ll be ready to go.
The Roosters have enjoyed a stunning reversal of fortunes this year and they are every chance of capping off their wonderful season by going all the way – although they have lost their past two games and will want to address the situation quickly. This really is a crunch game for them because you want to be going into the finals with some confidence and momentum. No side has ever lost their last three regular season games and gone on to win a grand final and if they lose again this week they will find it difficult to regain that confidence in the first semi-final. It wouldn’t be a good look if they were to drop this game.
The Roosters just need to get back to basics. That’s what they were doing prior to losing games against Cronulla and the Gold Coast – playing solid, simple football. Their completion rates have been right up there so they’ve just been gassing teams out, although it’s a bit worrying that they are the most-penalised team in the competition. That’s unbelievable given how well they’ve been going! They are a very slick team to be able to do that with those extra sets of defence but it’s something they will have to be very wary of heading into finals football because they can’t afford to gift opportunities to the sides they’ll be playing.
There is another little personal battle that will have a big say on the outcome of this match with rival halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Adam Reynolds going head to head. They’ve both been in great form for their respective sides and there will be some extra motivation there. You’ve got Pearce, who wants to prove to his critics he is still worthy of playing at State of Origin level, and the other halfback wanting to prove himself as the next contender. It will be a great battle of which man can direct the dominance of their respective teams.
This game aside though, I don’t recall a year where it was so hard to split the top four teams and that’s a wonderful testament to the strength of our competition. We all saw the performance of Manly in beating Melbourne the other day and it has everyone rethinking who could win the competition this year.
It’s going to be very exciting to see how it all plays out these next few weeks and I for one can’t wait.