You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
The six big guns that will decide grand final

The Roosters' strike weapons and big-game experience across the park should prove too good for the Raiders in Sunday's NRL grand final.

They have the aura of a team that is on track to be the first to win back-to-back titles since the Broncos teams I played in during the 1990s.

In those Brisbane sides we had players that you knew would step up on the biggest stage.

Those players often determine the result in deciders and these are the three players from each team that I believe will be crucial to the outcome on Sunday.

The Tricolours trio

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

He leads by example and from the front and the rest of the forwards file in behind him. Sometimes he can get a bit too aggressive for some, but I like that. He is always looking to intimidate and wants the ball in his hands.

Statistically the Roosters win when he is in the team. When he is not there he leaves a hole. He is fresh after having a two-week break since the first semi and is ready to go.

Who has that grand final X-factor?

Luke Keary

Keary has won two titles and was the Clive Churchill Medallist last year after coming back from a late-season injury. What made that a special performance was that Cooper Cronk played wounded. Keary stepped up into some big shoes and dominated. He directs the forwards and while only little he takes the line on bravely and will keep the Canberra defence guessing.

He is also good at bringing Latrell Mitchell into the game and unlocks his best. Keary picks his mark so well and his kicking game is second to none. His kicks are strategic and pinpoint. It is what he does for his teammates to make them look good that makes him so dangerous.

James Tedesco

Tedesco's kick-returns are so potent. He is the best player in the game and when he runs his leg speed and evasiveness makes him a real threat. He is a different player from Billy Slater but like Slater he is the full package. Slater would nine times out of 10 beat the first defender and Tedesco is the same.

His support play will be a real threat to the Raiders and he has developed his passing game so that now he sets other players up. He has turned into a great link man for the outside backs. Like Keary, Tedesco is one of those players for the Roosters who ignites the entire side.

Canberra's key components

Josh Papalii

He is in the form of his life and it all goes back to when Ricky Stuart dropped him at the start of last year. That was the kick up the backside Papalii needed and since then he has gradually built his form to the point where he is one of the best props, if not the best, in the game. I watched his game last week and he now has the confidence to play with all-out aggression.

Roosters v Raiders - Grand FInal

He is such a nice, quiet bloke off the field so I don't think it comes naturally to him but he has unleashed it on the field. This year he is scoring tries when the game is on the line. He did it for Queensland, in the round match against the Storm and then again last week against the Rabbitohs right at the death. I have no doubt Papalii will lead from the front on Sunday.

Josh Hodgson

He is the Raiders' version of Cameron Smith. In his own right he can direct that whole team. He has game smarts out of dummy half and is just so effective. He takes the heat off halves Jack Wighton and Aidan Sezer with his kicking. Long, or short, his kicks are on point. His short attacking kicks have brought Canberra plenty of joy and Ricky will be wanting more of the same.

He reminds me of Allan Langer like that. His kicks are with purpose and they get results. Hodgson is such a competitor and can change a game with a one-on-one steal or last-gasp defensive play like he did on Cody Walker last week.

John Bateman

He has to go down as the signing of the year. He is one of the best English forwards we have seen over here and with his own distinctive style. He is not the biggest forward running around but he is strong and smart. He runs at holes and not at blokes. His offloading is so dangerous and the Raiders have been good at following him in numbers because he nearly always gets the pass away.

It is one thing to know it is coming but the opposition can't stop him. He also has a winning mentality after coming across from Wigan. Just the will power and desire of Bateman is going to keep Canberra believing they can spring an upset.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners