Even though the game had no bearing on the final eight I spent a lovely day in the sun at Leichhardt Oval yesterday drinking beer and watching the Tigers flog the Bunnies. Even with the both teams out of the finals there was that air of expectation as the crowd enjoyed the beautiful spring sunshine. As for the final eight, it has panned out as follows:
1. Melbourne Storm
2. Canterbury Bulldogs
3. Brisbane Broncos
4. Newcastle Knights
5. Manly Sea Eagles
6. St George/Illawarra Dragons
7. Canberra Raiders
8. Parramatta Eels
Back on August 13th I had another shot at predicting the 8 and got the teams right and apart from the Eels and Broncos, the final positions were close enough. The Broncos have really lifted their game over the past few weeks and maybe calls for Bennett’s head were premature. The incredible injury toll on the Eels front-row had been telling in the past two games. But with Nathan Cayless back and nothing to lose the Eels aren’t going to bow out meekly. They defied history by making the finals. Can they again defy history by becoming the first team placed eight to win in the finals? The head says no but the heart is all that counts on September.
The games for the weekend are (home team first):
Friday: Newcastle v Manly
Saturday: Brisbane v Dragons
Saturday: Bulldogs v Canberra
Sunday: Storm v Eels.
On form the home sides are the favourites. The Storm have won 20 games this year. The first side since Parramatta in 2001 to do so. But that means nothing in finals football. Last year teams four and five met in the Grand Final.
If the finals go to form then it will be a Storm v Bulldogs grand final via the League Unlimited finals calculator:
Knights defeated Dragons
Broncos defeated Sea Eagles
Bulldogs defeated Raiders
Storm defeated Eels
Knights defeated Sea Eagles (eliminated)
Broncos defeated Dragons (eliminated)
Bulldogs defeated Broncos (eliminated)
Storm defeated Knights (eliminated)
Bulldogs v Storm
The real fun begins when you factor in the Eels or Canberra winning. In such a situation only the Storm and the Bulldogs are safe. If by a miracle all four lower place sides win then the Knights and Broncos will be eliminated.
The finals will be quite exciting this year and I expect a few upsets along the way. Hopefully one of them will be on Sunday.
Also the Dally M awards will be announced tomorrow night. Cameron Smith will be player of the year with Craig Bellamy picking up the coaches Dally M. Nathan Hindmarsh to win the Provan-Summons Medal.