South Sydney's win over Penrith in week one of the finals threw quite the curveball into the finals equation.
As well as ending any chance of a repeat of the 2020 Storm-Panthers grand final, it made the job of the defending premiers a little bit tougher as well.
Now, if Penrith are able to beat Western Sydney rivals Parramatta this weekend, they have a great chance to exorcise some of the demons of last year.
On the other side of the draw we find three Sydney teams - Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles and Roosters - who will all be feeling pretty good about their chances.
One thing that's certain is to expect the unexpected over the next two weekends.
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Experts' view - Who'll make the grand final?
After the weekend results, I’m going with the Storm to meet the Rabbitohs. How good of a clash will that be with the added spectacle of the Wayne up against Craig. I can’t wait. This end of the season is where good coaches rise to the top.
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Brett Kimmorley (former Test halfback)
Storm v Rabbitohs. Both teams will be rested and that is a massive help after a difficult year and only one bye. Defence wins big games and Souths were brilliant against Penrith last week. These are two coaches that know how to win and manage their teams this time of the year.
Storm v Rabbitohs. The week off is critical. South Sydney have that this year and it will make all the difference. The Storm are all class and that should set up a very interesting decider.
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Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers legend)
Storm v Rabbitohs. The benefit of the week off for both sides is a massive advantage. I'm backing Souths to finally win a preliminary final after the troubles of the last three years.
The Storm are still the most dominant team and demonstrated that against the Sea Eagles. They will meet the Rabbitohs in the decider. I had my doubts after the suspension of Latrell Mitchell, but it's foolish to doubt Wayne Bennett.
The Storm have been the best team all season, know how to win finals matches and are at full strength. No one has more big-match experience than Wayne Bennett and he has South Sydney playing with confidence and an enthusiasm that could see him become the first coach to win premierships with three clubs.
The Panthers can bounce back from their loss last week to eliminate Parramatta and then climb their Melbourne mountain while the draw has opened up nicely for Manly to end the under-strength Roosters' gallant run and continue South Sydney's preliminary final hoodoo.
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After the week that was, I’d love for another Rabbitohs-Panthers battle and believe that could happen. Penrith have had their focus on Melbourne and if they’re able to topple the Storm then the Rabbitohs will be waiting for them.
Panthers v Sea Eagles. The law of averages dictates that the Storm can't be too far away from an off-night in a final. The Panthers may be the lucky beneficiaries. As for Manly, if they can cut out the errors they can score enough tries to beat anyone.
The Rabbitohs marched into their fourth consecutive preliminary final by upsetting the Panthers and Wayne Bennett’s men will progress to their first decider since 2014 by disposing of the Roosters or Manly. Their opponent on grand final night will be the Storm, who look almost unstoppable.
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Storm v Sea Eagles. The rich rivalry of 2007 and 2009 will be reignited in the 2021 decider.
A freshened-up Melbourne will be too good for whoever they face in their preliminary final, while Manly will have their heartbreaking 2019 semi-final loss to South Sydney in the back of their minds when they meet in week three.
Storm v Roosters. Maybe it’s hope for a fairytale rather than logic talking here, but don’t discount the battered Roosters from digging even deeper and doing the unthinkable. The Storm, meanwhile, are nearly untouchable at their best.
The Storm and Rabbitohs are in the box seat now. It’s hard to see the Panthers or Eels troubling a well-rested Melbourne.
The other side of the draw is much more open but Souths should make it from here.
Melbourne and Manly. The Storm have more attacking threats right across the park than any other outfit and the best defence to back it up. Manly have Tom Trbojevic and such a phenomenal season can't end without another match-winning performance.
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The only games South Sydney has lost this year have come against Melbourne and Penrith, so I’ll tip the Rabbitohs to continue that trend and play their way into the grand final against a dominant Storm outfit.
The Storm look almost guaranteed to qualify for a spot. On the other side of the draw considering the Roosters are held together with sticky tape, and the Sea Eagles can’t quite get there when Turbo is muzzled, I'll take the Rabbitohs.
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