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Renouf: The 'awesome foursome' who'll decide sudden-death semis

Finals football is where the big-game players have the most influence and this week there's an "awesome foursome" that hold their team's premiership hopes in the palms of their hands.

We saw a points festival in week one of the finals and I expect that to continue with the new rules and player fatigue resulting in more open football.

That is when the key men in the spine come into their own.

We watched it last week with Ryan Papenhuyzen and Cameron Munster for the Storm, Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary for the Panthers, Cody Walker and Corey Allan for the Rabbitohs and the Raiders halves Jack Wighton and George Williams.

I expect that to be the same in the two sudden-death showdowns this week, where I am tipping the Raiders to beat a mentally and physically drained Roosters and the razzle-dazzle Rabbitohs to have too much firepower for the Eels.

These are my game-breakers for week two:

Roosters v Raiders - Semi Final

James Tedesco

The Roosters may be jaded but you see no sign of it with Tedesco. He is a big-game player who can pull out a winning play when it is needed and when it is unexpected, like in last year’s Origin decider and in the grand final as well.

At fullback, he is always around the ball and you know he is going to get it a couple of times in sets, whether that be through set plays or kicks. I just love the way he is so competitive with the ball in his hands.

I look at him and he is not that big. I think he can’t be that hard to tackle but time and time again he has this leg speed that drags him through tackles.

He is always busy. In the Origin decider last year he wanted to be there to score a last-minute try. In the 73rd minute of last year’s NRL decider it was Tedesco who was there to support Daniel Tupou and score the match-winner.

It just shows what a weapon he is and he is the sort of player that can carry his team with him. In the 1990s Allan Langer was our man at the Broncos. For the Roosters of today, it is definitely Tedesco.

Jack Wighton

Last week the Raiders were behind against the Sharks and Brad Fittler said in Channel Nine commentary that "this game will turn around and it will turn around on the back of two tries by Jack Wighton".

It was a prophetic call by "Freddy" but Wighton has done that before for Canberra.

Jack can slip in and out of games at times but when he is "on point" he is so big and strong and hard to stop. That is what he has to get in his head.

The great catch he took last week from a bomb to score was an example of him putting his body on the line. Close to the line he is near unstoppable. He is a real presence and when he fires the Raiders usually win.

Ricky Stuart just needs to tell him he has three games to go to deliver his best. He will thrive with that expectation on him.

The Raiders have game-breakers across the park in John Bateman, George Williams, Josh Papalii and Jordan Rapana and I expect them to edge out the Roosters.

Get Caught Up: Finals Week 1

Clint Gutherson

Gutherson has emerged as the spiritual leader of Parramatta and an inspirational captain.

Last week against the Storm we saw him start and finish a cracking try and then thump his chest and really rally his men.

When he first came on the scene I thought he was OK. They called him "King Gutho" and he had that persona to go with it, but I couldn’t really see why.

He has really lived up to the title and I have changed my mind about him. When the Eels are winning he is on his game.

Gutherson has a go and he is passionate about it. He is one of those players that wills his team to greater heights and they will need to follow him against the Rabbitohs.

Parramatta needs more help from Mitchell Moses. He has been MIA for a while and needs to take a leaf out of Gutherson’s book.

Eels v Rabbitohs - Semi Final

Cody Walker

Walker is in the form of his life right now.

Two weeks ago in the 60-8 win over the Roosters he was 10 out of 10 and just so dominant. Everything he did turned to gold on the back of some really good forward play, and that is what you want.

Sometimes we see forwards fire and halves sit back and go through the motions. Not Cody.

He backs himself and is not frightened to run the ball. The way he plays with Adam Reynolds as a genuine combination makes him even more dangerous.

I watch Cody zip across the back of a ruck and it is not a set play. It is what at the Broncos we used to term a "hog" call, so if you want the ball you get it.

He has done that quite a few times because he sees an opportunity in front of him, and he sees it ahead of everyone else.

On the back of what Cody does the Rabbitohs can score three tries in quick time and crush the opposition, as they did against the Knights last week after a slow start.

On the back of Tom Burgess, Tevita Tatola, Jaydn Su'A and company in the forwards, and a rampant Damien Cook, I expect Souths to be too explosive for Parramatta.


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

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