Peter Sterling: Finals fate in the hands of four

It hasn’t been easy but on the field they make it look exactly that.<br><br>This weekend the fate of our preliminary finalists will rest very much in the hands of four tremendously talented playmakers who have all had to overcome varying degrees of adversity to get where they now are.<br><br>Whilst there will be any number of important contributions by a host of players in these upcoming finals, I’m confident that the decisions made by Scott Prince, Benji Marshall, Jamie Soward and Todd Carney will have the greatest impact on the prospects of their respective teams in search of a grand final berth.<br><br>The oldest of the quartet and already a premiership winner is 30-year-old Scott Prince.<br><br>His first grade career kicked off way back in 1998 with the Cowboys which was an obvious starting point for a boy from Mt. Isa.<br><br>After a couple of seasons in North Queensland he headed south to Brisbane for the opportunity to play under Wayne Bennett. What should have been a memorable period turned into a nightmare with two badly broken legs interrupting any influence he was hoping to have at the Broncos.<br><br>Adding to the difficulty of this time was the loss of his father Les in a car accident just days after his first broken leg. <br><br>In 2004 he joined the Tigers where things really picked up including a premiership title as captain the following season.<br><br>He was a marquee signing for the new Gold Coast franchise in 2007, becoming just the second player alongside Dale Shearer to play in the top grade for all three Queensland-based clubs.<br><br>Like the Roosters, it took a while for the Titans to establish their most effective halves pairing with Scott and Mat Rogers only teamed up in Round 20 when they beat the Dragons in golden point. This allowed Greg Bird to be moved to his most effective position in the back-row. <br><br>Since that time, the Gold Coast have suffered just the one surprise loss to Cronulla.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br><br>I rate Scott as the best player in the competition inside the opposition 20, and if the Titans can put him consistently into that field position he will do the rest. His experience in big matches has given him the necessary patience not to push plays as a result of frustration.<br><br>It is no coincidence that he has forced the most line drop-outs from other teams this year.<br><br>In week one of the finals he wrested his side the ascendancy back from the Warriors with clever kicks that led to tries and, just before half-time, his wide pass to stretch the defence allowed Mat Rogers to cross for a killer blow off a set move.<br><b><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=905&amp;fixtureid=50020102701&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=1024">CLICK HERE to see Prince's perfect touch off the boot to create a try for William Zillman.</a><br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=905&amp;fixtureid=50020102701&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=1647">CLICK HERE to see see Prince's accuracy in the air to create a try for Clinton Toopi.</a><br><a href="%20%09%20http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=905&amp;fixtureid=50020102701&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=2389"><br>CLICK HERE to see the set move which put Mat Rogers over against the Warriors.</a><br></b><br>Partnering Prince in the 2005 decider was Benji Marshall, who has also continued to blossom after severe injury setbacks.<br><br>Despite being just 25, the mercurial pivot has already undergone four major shoulder surgeries which we hope are now distant memories. They were a constant companion between 2004 and 2007 which led to long stints on the sideline and allowed us just flashes of his genius.<br><br>However, over the last couple of seasons, Benji has proven particularly durable and has missed just one of the Tigers' last 66 matches.<br><br>Every now and then we are given glimpses as to how confident he is physically these days. In the second half against the Raiders on Saturday his shoulder charge on Josh Dugan forced the full-back over the sideline to earn the Tigers valuable possession. A far cry from when he once hidden on the wing in defence. <br><br>Benji’s performance in Canberra after the draining effort the previous week was remarkable, especially considering he had been under an injury cloud.<br><br>His energy and enthusiasm set the trend for the Tigers and put the Raiders back on their heels. <br><br>Early points were always going to be vital and in the opening 16 minutes two sublime passes led to tries. The first a flick pass to Chris Heighington after a couple of Benji touches and the second a “soft hands” ball to a rampaging Gareth Ellis.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=906&amp;fixtureid=50020102801&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=369">CLICK HERE to see the famous 'Benji flick' in action against the Raiders.</a><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=906&amp;fixtureid=50020102801&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=960"><br>CLICK HERE to Benji's soft hand to put Gareth Ellis over.</a></b><br><br>Jamie Soward is the same age as Benji Marshall but has faced a bigger battle in establishing his credentials as a first grade footballer.<br><br>As a young player at the Roosters he set all kinds of point-scoring records in the lower grades, yet after making his top grade debut in 2005 he never looked like securing a regular spot.<br><br>He was released to the Dragons mid-2007 and only days later starred for his new club in a win over Brisbane and has never looked back.<br><br>After taking the reins from Nathan Brown, coach Wayne Bennett has been one of Jamie’s greatest admirers. He certainly has never been concerned with a perceived defensive weakness, knowing that plenty of great tacklers have struggled on the end of a Greg Inglis fend.<br><br>Whilst not your traditional ball-playing five-eighth, Jamie has vision with the ball but also knows his role in their relatively structured attack.<br><br>His biggest strength is speed, both off the mark and over a distance.<br><br>The Dragons tend not to take too many risks with the football and that makes his individual bursts in broken play invaluable.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=859&amp;fixtureid=50020102308&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=728">CLICK HERE to see Soward's phenomenal speed off the mark.</a><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=905&amp;fixtureid=50020102704&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=1816"><br>CLICK HERE to see how dangerous Soward can be in broken play.</a></b><br><br>Finally, former wild child Todd Carney appears to have come of age after being expelled from the NRL and exiled in North Queensland.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br><br>There has never been any doubt about his ability and he was just 17 when debuting for Canberra back in 2004.<br><br>Unfortunately his on-field deeds were continually overshadowed by his off-field indiscretions until he was shown the door by the Raiders in 2008 and de-registered by the league hierarchy.<br><br>He was even barred from his home town of Goulburn.<br><br>A stint in Atherton, which included some genuine soul-searching, and Todd has taken the competition by storm to be a leading light in the Roosters' resurgence.<br><br>His combination with Mitchell Pearce is obviously outstanding but he is a weapon in his own right.<br><br>Against the Tigers he was the catalyst in getting the tri-colours back into the contest. A couple of flashes of brilliance which resulted in tries to Braith Anasta and Pearce gave the Roosters confidence to go and win in extra-time.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=905&amp;fixtureid=50020102702&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=1264">CLICK HERE to see Carney's freakish ability to create something out of nothing.</a><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=905&amp;fixtureid=50020102702&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=2211"><br>CLICK HERE to see Carney's amazing combination with Pearce.</a><br></b><br>That saved the club’s season and a further win over the Panthers now gives them a real chance to finish off their journey from the cellar to the penthouse.<br><br>Todd has certainly fit plenty into his 24 years and fortunately now he is giving a great deal of pleasure to others instead of chasing his own at their expense.<br>