NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final 2011 - can you believe it’s here already? The Manly side has been very consistent all year and will play in their third decider in five years - quite an achievement.
The Warriors on the other hand snuck into the top eight on the back of some great performances in the second part of the season. Their win last week against hot favourites Melbourne was as good a performance I have seen from a Warriors team for a long time. They were composed, willing to get in the grind with Melbourne and still showed the flair that always made them dangerous.
Ivan Cleary has to be commended for his work during his six-year stint across the ditch. When he arrived in Auckland he inherited a team who was in the latter half of the table, were inconsistent and had financial problems. Take us to the present and we are witnessing three grades of Warriors in the Grand Finals. Awesome!
Many believed it was only a matter of time before the New Zealanders got it all together and it seems as if they have. They hold the World Cup, Four Nations title and now have the chance to clinch their first premiership in the history of their club.
So I ask the question: is Australia the number one rugby league nation in the world? At the moment, I don’t think so.
Have a look at our under 20s competition and you will find more Polynesian kids than Aussies. The Kiwis have been threatening for a while - physically and as athletes they are so suited to the game. It was once argued that the big athletes were making the game boring and the ball players were not coming through. Well when I look at Benji Marshall, Kieran Foran and the new kid on the block, Shaun Johnson, they are more than just athletes!
The Warriors are a genuine chance of upsetting Manly. The offloads and the ad-lib footy from Johnson, Feleti Mateo, Kevin Locke and co. is hard to defend against, particularly when they have you on the back foot. They have always had the ability with ball in hand, but now they have the attitude, defence and composure to go with it. Look out!
On Monday night the NRL celebrated its One Community Awards, a night in which the game recognises the achievements and selflessness of our players, clubs, referees and volunteers. It was a great night and a humbling experience when you hear some of the stories of people involved in our game.
Men and women giving their lives to the game for nothing but the self-satisfaction of helping their communities. Without the efforts of these people - the mums and dads, the referees, and the junior committees, our game does not survive, so thank you to all those people and congratulations to all the winners. Sam Thaiday won the Ken Stephen Medal for his work in the community in Brisbane. Many players do a great deal to help others and it’s great to see.
I hope you all enjoy the Grand Final. It will be a fantastic game. Good luck to both teams. Some lucky players’ dreams are about to come true!