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We started with 16 teams – but just eight remain; and now the real competition starts. They say finals football is a whole new ball game, and they’re right. It’s tougher, it’s faster and it’s pressure-filled for the entire 80 minutes. <br><br>So… cometh the hour, cometh the man. If this type of footy is so different, then surely we should investigate which players have a proven record in finals football. <br>Okay, you twisted my arm…<br><br><b>Experience</b><br>* Broncos skipper Darren Lockyer holds the record for most finals appearances with 33 followed by Eels great Michael Cronin, Roosters legend Brad Fittler and Broncos hard man Tonie Carroll, who all played 26 finals games. <br><br>* Of the current crop of 2010 finals participants, Petero Civoniceva is at 18 games, Anthony Minichiello 17, Mat Rogers and Luke Priddis have 15 games’ experience, Jamie Lyon is on 13, Josh Perry and Luke Bailey are at 12, Jason Ryles, Ben Hornby and Brent Kite have 11 games to their name and rounding out those in double figures with 10 games are Preston Campbell, the likely suspended Steve Matai, Matt Cooper, Anthony Watmough and Nathan Fien.<br><br><b>Tries</b><br>* The most tries ever in finals football goes to St George great Eddie Lumsden who crossed 17 times in 10 finals matches, with four other players running second with 14 tries. Other St George greats Johnny King (12 games) and Reg Gasnier (eight games) plus Rabbitohs legend Ian Moir (nine games) and Eels sensation Brett Kenny (11 games) finished up just a trio of tries behind Lumsden.<br><br>* But, who should we be watching this weekend? Which players have tryscoring form in finals? Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello is equal seventh of all time, with 12 tries in finals football scored from just 17 games.<br><br>* The next star with form on the board is Titans five-eighth Mat Rogers who has eight finals tries from 15 matches. Then comes his team-mate Preston Campbell who has six from 10 starts. Others also on six tries include Michael Robertson (nine games) and Brett Morris (five games).<br><br>* Current players involved this week with five finals tries include Dragon Luke Priddis (15 games), Sea Eagle Jamie Lyon (13 games), Warrior Brent Tate (13 games) and Dragon Matt Cooper (10 games).<br><br>* With four ‘meat pies’ we find Sea Eagles Steve Matai (10 games) and Anthony Watmough (10 games) plus Dragons Mark Gasnier (nine games) and Darius Boyd (nine games) and Wests Tigers Lote Tuqiri (nine games) and Daniel Fitzhenry (four games).<br><br>* And those in the hat-trick club with three finals tries who will possibly take part in this season’s post-season include Civoniceva (18 games), Rooster Jason Ryles (11 games), Wests Tiger Todd Payten (eight games), Titan Clinton Toopi (seven games), Raider Joel Monaghan (five games) and Panther Luke Lewis (three games).<br><br>* The averages tell us Brett Morris is certain to score at least one try each game as his strike rate is 1.2, while Daniel Fitzhenry is averaging a try per finals match – as is Luke Lewis! If pedigree is a factor, Morris’ father Steve scored nine tries in eight finals matches – at a 1.13 strike rate!<br><br><b>Points</b><br>* Mick Cronin holds the record with 180 points in finals football, followed by Graham Eadie (165 points) and Graeme Langlands (149 points). Darren Lockyer and Hazem El Masri round out the top five, with 142 points each. <br><br>Of the names you’ll see this weekend, Mat Rogers has 114 points in finals and Anthony Minichiello is next on 48. <br><br>* If you take it on average points per game, Harold Horder is the man, having scored 20 points in his lone finals appearance. Dally Messenger averaged 12.67 a finals match, Sel Lisle grabbed 11 from his only appearance and Greg Alexander and Ron Rowles each average 10.5 points a finals match. Of the current guys, Rogers averages out to 7.6 points a game, with Warrior Brett Seymour next at 5.33 points a finals match. <br><br><b>Goals</b><br>* Eadie wins the race here with 76 goals in finals football; Cronin is next with 73, followed by Langlands with 64, Daryl Halligan with 61 and Keith Barnes with 59.<br><br>* As for the boys on show in 2010, Mat Rogers is the only clear experienced goal kicker in finals footy. He has 41 finals goals. (Just for you trivia buffs… did you know Michael Crocker has seven finals goals? Shame the Bunnies couldn’t get through for him to add to it!).<br><br><b>Field Goals</b><br>* Immortal Bob Fulton leads the all-time list with 12 field goals in finals football, followed by Rabbitohs wizard Eric Simms with 10 and former Magpies, Bears and Eels halfback Jason Taylor is third with six. <br><br>* Of the current guys Braith Anasta has three finals field goals. <br><br><b>Finals Match Stats 2002-2010</b><br><br>For the past eight seasons, NRL Stats has kept detailed finals games stats in critical positions. Let’s examine the leaders in the following categories and once again pull out the guys who are proven performers. <br><br><b>Average Runs</b><br>* In the past eight years former Cowboy and Wests Tiger Ray Cashmere averaged the most runs in finals with 18.7 runs a match, just ahead of former Raider Clinton Schifcofske and former Wests Tiger and departing Cowboy Luke O’Donnell, who each averaged 18.6 runs a game.<br><br>* Of the players we are likely to see in the 2010 finals series, Anthony Minichiello leads the way with an average 18.5 runs a game, followed by Jason Ryles (17.5), Wests Tiger John Skandalis (17), Titan Luke Bailey (15.7), Brent Tate (15.5), Titan Clinton Toopi (15.2) and Petero Civoniceva (15.1).<br><br><b>Average Run Metres</b><br>* Two of the top three leaders in average metres per game are still playing, but it’s in the UK! Clinton Schifcofske, now with the Celtic Crusaders, averaged 161 metres a finals match from five games. Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne is second with a 157-metre average from eight finals matches and former Dragon, now Catalans fullback Clint Greenshields, averaged 155 metres from five matches. <br><br>* Of 2010 finals players, Wests Tigers recruit Wade McKinnon and Rooster Anthony Minichiello lead the way at 152 metres a game, Brent Tate averages 140 metres, Petero Civoniceva pumps out 137 metres each final, Jason Ryles 135 metres and Clinton Toopi and Benji Marshall are at 130 metres. Others to watch are Brett Morris (127 metres) and Luke Bailey (126 metres).<br><br><b>Kick-Return Metres</b><br>* Billy Slater leads this category by almost 700 metres to his nearest rival! Slater has 1342 kick-return metres in finals football since 2002, with Anthony Minichiello the next best with 646 metres bringing kicks back. Matt Bowen rounds out the top three with 639 metres. <br><br>* Of players in action this weekend we find Darius Boyd at 476 metres, McKinnon at 320 metres, Ben Hornby at 249 metres and Brett Morris at 226 metres. Michael Robertson is at 159 metres, Marshall at 130 metres, David Mead has 127 metres and Manu Vatuvei has 96 metres.<br><br><b>Line-Breaks</b><br>* Australian and Melbourne fullback Billy Slater has been the most prolific line-breaker in finals football over the past eight seasons with a whopping 18 line-breaks from as many games. Darren Lockyer is next with 15 line-breaks in 16 matches with Matt Bowen third with 10 breaks from as many games. <br><br>* Steve Matai leads the way for players about to suit up this week (although suspension will halt any addition) with nine finals line-breaks but Dragons flier Brett Morris is on his heels with a stunning eight breaks from just five games. Brent Tate also has eight line-breaks in finals from 13 appearances and Clinton Toopi has eight from six games. Anthony Watmough has seven line-breaks, Anthony Minichiello six and Michael Robertson has five. <br><br><b>Line-Break Assists</b><br>* Former Manly and Melbourne halfback Matt Orford has been the man since 2002 when it comes to line-break assists in the finals with 13. Darren Lockyer is next with 10 and Brad Fittler and Scott Hill are tied third with nine line-break assists each. There really isn’t a major player amongst the guys ready to play in this year’s finals series, with the best of the bunch being Braith Anasta, Matt Cooper, Steve Matai, Benji Marshall, Clinton Toopi and Jamie Lyon who all have three finals line-break assists each. <br><br><b>Try Assists</b><br>* The top try assists in the past eight years is shared between Brett Finch and Matt Orford with 12 eac,h while Brent Sherwin is third with 11. <br><br>* Anasta leads the current finals players with five try assists, while Fien, Cooper and Lyon have four each. Tate, Matai and Marshall have three apiece.<br><br><b>Total Tackles</b><br>* The top tacklers since 2002 have been Dallas Johnson with 680, Cameron Smith with 620 and Corey Parker with 532.<br><br>* The class of 2010 is led by Civoniceva (338), with Bailey (324), Watmough (282), Brent Kite (270), Nathan Fien (252), Ryles (250) and Jason Cayless (238) following behind. <br><br><b>Tackle-Breaks</b><br>* It is becoming apparent Billy Slater has been the man of the finals for quite some time as with 94 tackle-breaks over the past eight years he leads the way again. However, he got those in 18 appearances where the second ranked Jarryd Hayne with 79 tackle-breaks did this in eight games. Justin Hodges is third with 68 tackle-breaks. <br><br>Of the players ready to rip and tear this weekend, Brent Tate leads the way with 60 tackle-breaks, Watmough comes next with 54, Matai has 39, Boyd and McKinnon 37, Minichiello 34, Morris 31, Kite 29, Hornby 27 and Cooper and Mark Gasnier with 26.<br><br><b>Offloads</b><br>* When it comes to popping the pass in the finals, over the past eight years Justin Hodges has been the number one man with 31. Three players in Lockyer, Ali Lauiti’iti and Fittler come in second with 27 each.<br><br>* Others likely to add to their tally this year are Toopi with 19, Ryles (19), Minichiello (18), Tate (17) and Watmough (11). <br><br>So there you have it. These are the guys with finals form on the board. But don’t be surprised to see some new names assert themselves on these lists this year. It certainly shapes to be a cracking and unpredictable finals series!<br>
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