I am tipping the Tigers to beat the Warriors in their sudden-death semi-final at the SFS tonight but it will be a lot closer than people expect. There will be a lot of points in it because both teams like to throw the ball around.
The difference will be the Tigers duo of Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall, who have the ability to control big games, and having Chris Lawrence back in the centres will help. The Warriors’ halves pairing of James Maloney and Shaun Johnson have been going great but they are young and inexperienced. Maloney has played 52 NRL games compared with 154 by his opposing five-eighth Marshall, while Johnson has played 13 compared with Tigers’ halfback Robert Lui’s 42.
Marshall is one of my favourite players to watch, alongside Billy Slater. They are both brilliant. Marshall has been unfairly described at times as brilliant but inconsistent. People expect that brilliance all the time, but that’s impossible to do. If he doesn’t throw a brilliant pass or score a miracle try he is at times considered to be having a quiet game. He is a victim of being too good.
He's always one of their best players even if he isn't coming up with those freakish plays. But he still needs the forwards to be doing their job, and Lui, Farah and Lawrence all doing their bit too. He is not a one-man show. All he needs is half a yard and he’ll put them away pretty quickly.
In the other match between the Broncos and Dragons at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow I would have to tip Brisbane, but I would like to see the Dragons win.
The Dragons aren't playing as well as they would like to be, while the Broncos are playing really well. It’s Darren Lockyer’s last home game, and Justin Hodges is fit to play. It should be the best game of the weekend.
As far as the Dragons go there are the usual player disharmony rumours but I don’t believe any of that is true. If it was happening, it probably would affect them, but I think they have just looked tired. They have looked better over the past few weeks and were well in the game against the Wests Tigers. They just turned over too much ball.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if they kicked back into gear. I still think they want to win another premiership - winning it once just makes you more hungry. They are still playing with commitment. At this level, it’s a very small divide between playing your best and getting beaten. You only have to be a little bit off your game.
One of the key differences for the Dragons is last year they had an aura about them, this year Melbourne have it. Teams were turning up last year not sure if they could beat the Dragons. This year teams have convinced themselves they can beat them.
I really believe Melbourne will make the grand final. They have that aura back with them. They are playing with a real attitude of us against the world and they will be hard to beat, even without Adam Blair.
As good a player as Blair is, the Storm won’t miss him as much as the Sea Eagles miss Glenn Stewart. If they can get through another match without him he will be back for the decider.
There is every chance it could end up a Storm v Sea Eagles grand final, and what an awesome game that would be.