Toyota Cup: Round 26 Preview
We are set for a thrilling final round to the Toyota Cup with six games to have a bearing on the finals. Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell previews Round 26.<br><br><b>Sound familiar…</b><br><br>The Titans host the Tigers on Friday with a big prize on offer – 8th spot.<br><br>It was exactly what happened in 2008 when the Gold Coast beat the Tigers in the final round to leapfrog them into 8th.<br><br>Will history repeat?<br><br>The Titans came from behind to beat Cronulla patiently last Saturday.<br><br>The Tigers were well below their best when upset by struggling Melbourne on Sunday.<br><br>A draw would be enough for the Tigers, who would love to “buy” more time to get Jake Mullaney back from a hamstring injury, and still hold hopes of improving on last year’s grand final defeat.<br><br>A win could see them finish as high as seventh.<br><br><b>Fantastic Friday…</b><br><br>The other Toyota Cup game on Friday will also help shape the finals.<br><br>Victory against the Broncos could see the Raiders crack the top four. Otherwise it is 6th.<br><br>The Green Machine will take plenty of confidence from the comeback win against high flying North Queensland last week, without Sam Williams.<br><br>The Team of the Year halfback is due for a return in the finals, if Canberra can stay alive.<br><br>Australian Schoolboy Jack Wighton is doing a good job in Williams’ absence.<br><br><b>I Likiliki that…</b><br><br>Warriors centre Siuatonga Likiliki was the only survivor from last year’s Toyota Cup Team of the Year when the class of 2010 was named on Tuesday.<br><br>Likiliki is one of five squad members already snapped up by opposition NRL squads – he’s off to Newcastle.<br><br>He hopes to farewell New Zealand with a Toyota Cup premiership and might first celebrate the minor premiership.<br><br>For the Warriors to finish on top, they have to beat Parramatta on Saturday and hope St George Illawarra can roll South Sydney.<br><br>The Warriors have won nine of their last 10 and thumped Parra 40-6 mid-season.<br><br>Now they have to stop Parramatta’s boom youngster Jacob Loko, who has moved from the centres to second row and scored three tries last week.<br><br>The Eels will finish with the wooden spoon but don’t discount their determination or ability to finish with a bang.<br><br>Footnote: The Eels have lost prop Peni Terepo to a three-week suspension.<br><br>You can see all the action as part of Super Saturday on Fox Sports 2 when I’m joined in the commentary box by Simon Woolford.<br><br><b>Play it again…</b><br><br>There are two games this weekend that might be “on again” in the first week of finals.<br><br>The Cowboys and Roosters are fourth and fifth and meet on Saturday night in Townsville.<br><br>Depending on other results, they could finish 4th and 5th, which would see them face off a week later.<br><br>A similar scenario faces the Bulldogs in 3rd and Sea Eagles in 7th.<br><br>They could easily finish 2nd and 7th and have to shape up again.<br><br><b>The favourites…</b><br><br>It is not a good climate to be talking about Canterbury and betting but… TAB Sportsbet prices do underline what an amazing comeback it has been from the Dogs Under 20’s.<br><br>When they were winless after seven rounds of the competition, they were $101 to take the premiership.<br><br>Having lost only one of their 16 games since, they are in to $3.50 favourites.<br><br>The TAB took $250 on the Dogs at $101.<br><br>Just for the record, Melbourne started the year as $6.50 favourites and will miss the finals.<br><br>The Tigers have been the most popular team betting wise ahead of the Dogs.<br><br><b>Half a chance…</b><br><br>Will the Toyota Cup Player of the Year be another halfback?<br><br>In 2008 Brisbane’s Ben Hunt took the prize and last year it was St George Illawarra’s Beau Henry.<br><br>Another No7 would make it three in a row.<br><br>There are some good candidates in the halves – Rabbitoh Adam Reynolds, Warrior Shaun Johnson, Raider Sam Williams, Rooster Brad Murray and more.<br><br>The whisper I’m hearing is that referees’ voting has been so close, the result will come down to this weekend’s final round.<br><br>The announcement will come as part of Fox Sports’ Dally M coverage on Tuesday night.<br><br>Cam Smith an Laurie Daley will look after the presentation.<br><br><b>Minor Premieship…</b><br><br>David Kidwell is one win away from taking the minor premiership in his first year as a coach.<br><br>After a long and decorated NRL career, the New Zealand international has his South Sydney side sitting one point clear on top of the table.<br><br>They can seal top spot and enter the final on the back of five straight wins IF they beat the Dragons in the final game of the regular season.<br><br>It is a big IF.<br><br>The Dragons trounced Newcastle 44-6 last week with Kalifa Fai Fai Loa and Travis Roche scoring three tries each.<br><br>At home and in their final game of the year, expect the Dragons to turn on a show again.<br><br>One team has nothing to lose, the other everything to gain.<br><br><b>Big start… and finish?</b><br><br>Melbourne won their first three games of the season before it all went horribly wrong.<br><br>Now the Storm can finish like it started.<br><br>If the Thunderbolts beat Newcastle on Sunday, it will be their third win in a row.<br><br>Melbourne has beaten Cronulla and Wests Tigers to carry plenty of confidence into their AAMI Park contest.<br><br>The Melbourne venue should be rocking too, with the special $1 ticket offer already resulting in a sell out.<br><br>We’ll televise all the action. I’ll be joined by Scott Sattler from 11.30am on Fox Sports 2.<br><b><br>TV curse…</b><br><br>For the second time this season a Toyota Cup television game has seen a player taken from the field with a badly broken leg.<br><br>First it was Parramatta debutant Keith Wicks and on Sunday it was Wests Tigers Joel Jackson.<br><br>Both have had surgery and face a long rehabilitation.<br><br>We wish them both well and hope to read their names in Big League again next year.