Voss: Who will make the grand final?
Andrew Voss gives his tips for the two preliminary finals, has some special praise for a Cowboys unsung hero, and gives his thoughts on what lies ahead for the Sharks.
Who will be the first team through to the grand final?
The Sydney Roosters, but I'm tipping the match with Brisbane to be just as tight as their two previous meetings this year.
To highlight how good the Roosters have been, how about we examine their losses since they last played the Broncos in a golden point thriller back in Round 6.
They were beaten by the Storm by one point in Round 7, two points by the Dragons in Round 8, the Sharks got them by six points in Round 13, and the Storm by two in week one of the finals.
That's mighty impressive.
The Roosters finished the year as minor premiers and I believe they deserve a place in the decider. But only a fool would dismiss Brisbane as anything less than a huge chance of claiming a victory.
Suncorp Stadium. Full house. Everything to play for. Bring it on baby!
What about the Cowboys and the Storm?
I'm tipping the Cowboys.
I rate the performance of their forwards against Cronulla last Saturday night as the best I have seen from any side this year.
Put simply, it was awesome.
To emphasise their dominance, by half-time Matt Scott and Jason Taumalolo had run for more metres than the entire Sharks pack.
It would have been hard to imagine heading into the game that the Cowboys could win by such a margin without Johnathan Thurston playing one of his superstar quality games, but that was the case.
Thurston was good, but he wasn't required to be outstanding with plenty of others stepping up in the big match atmosphere.
As with the Broncos, it would be at your tipping peril to totally discount the Storm, but I just feel the Cowboys will get the job done again.
How good is Lachlan Coote?
He is unlikely to figure in any end of season awards, but let me declare Lachlan Coote has been absolutely outstanding in 2015.
And what a comeback. I reckon there would have been some Cowboys fans doubtful after Coote missed all of 2014 due to an injury suffered at the Auckland Nines.
Then take into account how well Michael Morgan had done at fullback last season, and it wouldn't have been wrong for some to ask, "Do we really need the former Panther?"
I believe Coote has proven himself this year, among many qualities, to be the best No.1 at defusing kicks in the NRL.
His positional play is spot on. His fielding of low kicks is close to flawless. And his strike rate of successful bomb takes would be right up there.
Cowboys teammate Johnathan Thurston is about to get all the major gongs. There are a number of other representative players in the squad who have had big years.
But for mine, Coote deserves a 'Sheriff's badge' among the top Cowboys.
A massive success in my book, despite the hammering they copped in Townsville.
From wooden spooners to losing their first four games this year, to getting within a couple of wins of the grand final. That is an impressive and steep climb.
Having said that, they are in for some interesting times over the next few years with forwards Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Michael Ennis, Chris Heighington and Anthony Tupou all in their 30s.
If they can just get the mix right on their spread of talent and recruitment, it could be a while before they finish bottom of the table again.
Can we learn anything from the Rugby Union World Cup?
Yes, and the thrilling victory by Japan over South Africa last weekend rammed the point home for me.
If you want international football to work, you've got to keep working at it, year in year out.
And in rugby league, sadly, I just don't see it.
Our international schedule is an afterthought. Even more worrying is that in the next television rights deal from 2018, it doesn't appear that the growth of Test football has been made a priority either.
If things don't change, the rugby league Test minnows will remain just that.
The GIO Schoolboy Cup has to be an omen for the Cowboys, right?
All of North Queensland would like to think so.
What an outstanding achievement it was by Kirwan State High in becoming the first school from North Queensland to win the national final.
They dominated the decider at Pepper Stadium against Patrician Brothers Blacktown, overcoming any possible affects of the long trip down from Townsville.
And while exciting five-eighth Julian Christian collected the prestigious Peter Sterling Medal for player of the year, mark down the name of Enari Tuala.
This 16-year-old centre, who scored two tries in the final, could be anything.
We're in for a special weekend of finals football folks.