Finals Week One: Freddy's forecast

This season of rugby league will be remembered for two things; off field drama and the demise of the McIntyre System. <br><br>Given the results and the happenings over the last two weeks - namely St George’s 37 point romping of the in-form Eels and the facial injury to Brett Kimmorley - I believe the 3rd and 4th position teams (Gold Coast and Melbourne) have become as vulnerable as an NRL coach.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/scores/tabid/10240/roundid/827/fixtureid/5785/infotabid/1/default.aspx">Melbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles</a></b><br><br>A repeat of last year’s grand final sees the Sea Eagles come off a terrific result last weekend. &nbsp;<br><br>This week they’ll venture down to the sporting capital of the world to take on the might of Melbourne.&nbsp; Not at Olympic Park – which has been the graveyard for so many sides over the last three years – but at&nbsp; Docklands. &nbsp;<br><br>Financial incentives have convinced Storm management to head across the road and sacrifice their greatest weapon… but did Manly’s Round 24 20-16 win at Olympic Park have anything to do with the change?<br><br>Maybe not - but I reckon if there’s ten minutes to go and the scores are locked… the Storm will be wishing they could take it back across the road!<br><br>Watching the style in which Manly ran through and over the Titans has given me confidence they can do it again to Melbourne. The Storm aren’t known for their big men and I’m not sure they can wrestle a win at Docklands. <br><br>Manly to win by 12.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/telstrapremiershipscores/tabid/10240/roundid/827/fixtureid/5786/infotabid/1/default.aspx">Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans</a></b><br><br>The battle of the northerners looks to be my game of the weekend. <br><br>Both sides get results when they are moving the ball and this match should be an absolute thriller. <br><br>You can’t mention the Broncos and not mention the name Wayne Bennett. The other name that sits right below or above is Darren Lockyer. I think after this year when they etch his name in the Broncos impressive record books they will go past the gold pen and find a pen which scribbles in diamonds, he is a real gem.<br><br>After a horror mid-season for the Broncos, it all fell on the shoulders of the ‘Great One’. I remember watching the game at Suncorp against the Sharks and coming to the realisation that they (the Broncos) are back. <br><br>Their passing was crisp and their commitment steeled. Taking knocks for each other and getting their assignment completed. <br><br>On the other hand, the Gold Coast Titans are a young, fast and energetic team. ‘Team’ being the operative word, they play for each other and more than any other team they play for their coach John Cartwright, a real weapon in semi final football. <br><br>The Titans will have a plan and they will execute that plan. Will it be enough? &nbsp;<br><br>I’m going the Broncos… then I’m going to search for a diamond crusted Biro. Broncos in a high scoring game. <br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/telstrapremiershipscores/tabid/10240/roundid/827/fixtureid/5787/infotabid/1/default.aspx">Newcastle&nbsp; Knights v Bulldogs</a></b><br><br>This is a toughie - the impact of no Brett Kimmorley cannot be underestimated…&nbsp; like the impact of no Brian Smith. (Couldn’t help myself!) <br><br>The way in which Kimmorley attacks his football has been the signature style that has given the Dogs so many of their hard fought wins this season. Replacement Daniel Holdsworth is a fine player, but I’m not sure he has the anger or fight needed to inspire those hard working forwards.<br><br>On the other hand, the Knights have been a confused team. At times looking fast and tough, but also sloppy and lethargic. <br><br>Hopefully last weekend’s thrashing of Penrith has given them the mental boost needed to overcome the bite of the Bulldog. Two really committed footy teams on their day. Look for a frantic finish but the loss of Kimmorley is too hard for me. <br><br>Knights to outlast a fast finishing Doggies.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/telstrapremiershipscores/tabid/10240/roundid/827/fixtureid/5788/infotabid/1/default.aspx">St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels</a></b><br><br>Rewind a few days. Parramatta has won seven in a row, they’re entertaining the world and showing the athleticism and team work that only our great game can provide. <br><br>Hit the fast forward button… and they’re reeling after a crushing 37-point drubbing at the hands of the newly crowned minor premiers.<br><br>Two totally contrasting teams.&nbsp; Last week the Dragons proved that if they are allowed to fight dirty, very few teams will have the muscle to compete with them.<br><br>The Eels’ flamboyant style is not immune to failing, but if they can hold their nerve and keep supporting each other then they are capable of turning what seems an impossible task.<br><br>On the other side, you have the Dragons who snubbed the NRL to keep their home ground advantage. This is a club that’s putting winning ahead of anything, even money. Around every premiership winning team there is always sacrifice and that’s what they have to do.<br><br>I think refereeing is going to play a huge part in this year’s final series and on Sunday at 3pm at WIN Jubilee the man who signals time-on will play a huge role in deciding the game. <br><br>If they allow the Dragons to play their aggressive, in-your-face game then I don’t think Parramatta have the size to compete. <br><br>But if he pulls them apart, then I feel an upset is on the cards. I’m backing they wouldn’t want to upset Wayne and I reckon they want to leave Kogarah in one piece.<br><br>Dragons by 10.<br><br>So back to the McIntyre system… and for the first time ever I believe the bottom&nbsp; four teams go into the final series with a real hope. If this was to happen, and the Eels can get away with the sausages against the Dragons, and Manly and Brisbane and Newcastle win… that would see Melbourne and the Titans eliminated in week one. That would be a huge blow to both clubs given the consistent form they have shown throughout the year.<br><br>It normally takes something dramatic to get a change in our game and I think the McIntyre system has had it’s day. Speaking to David Gallop on the eve of the Dally M’s, his comment was non-committal on the system and like all good politicians said it was up for review at the end of the season. <br><br>Either way, it won’t get in the way of the eight best teams fighting it out in the greatest game of all.<br><br><a href="http://www.bigpondsport.com/home/bigpondsportsweekend/tabid/554/default.aspx">You can catch Brad Fittler LIVE on BigPond Sports Weekend - click here for more information.</a><br>