Four Factors That Will Determine the Grand Final: The Grand Final is finally upon us and it is a fairytale matchup between South Sydney and Canterbury. Here are the four factors that will determine the 2014 premiership season:
History – The Grand Final is South Sydney’s to lose. They are the better team. They have a stronger side. They are in better form. They rate better whichever way you chop it up. They have just two players with Grand Final experience though (compared to 12 from Canterbury) and the club has not played in a decider in 43 years. History has weighed heavily on Souths for a long time and Canterbury will be banking on it crushing them on Sunday.
The Hookers – Canterbury rake Michael Ennis has a broken foot. South Sydney hooker Isaac Luke will face the judiciary. Both are so important to their team. Ennis leads the way in terms of energy. Luke lays the platform for Souths with his sharp dummy-half running. If one plays and the other doesn’t, it will be critical.
The Poms – Sam Burgess has been Souths’ best player all year and in what will be his final game for the club the hopes of generations of Bunnies fans rest on his shoulders. He will come face to face with the most talented and inspirational prop in James Graham. It is amazing to see two magnetic Englishmen play such a big role on the game’s greatest day.
The Coaches – Des Hasler is a master tactician who can get his team ready for Grand Final day better than nearly any coach in history. Mick Maguire is an emerging genius who is revered for taking the Bunnies to the next level. The chess match and the mind game will be critical.
Dally M Predictions: It is time to look at all the major awards that will be presented at the Dally M Medal ceremony tonight, breaking down who will win and who should.
Dally M Medal: Johnathan Thurston will and should win.
Captain of the Year: Expect the NRL to give Anthony Minichiello a nice farewell. Nobody really knows who should get the award. I’d lean towards Johnathan Thurston.
Coach of the Year: This award begins and ends with Ivan Cleary.
Rep Player of the Year: It should be Paul Gallen but the NRL will whitewash that so Jarryd Hayne and Brett Morris seem the best chances.
Best Fullback: Jarryd Hayne is a certainty and is not undeserving but it would be super to see Matt Moylan recognised.
Best Winger: The NRL always cops out on this and will probably give it to a name like Brett Morris but Josh Mansour has been far and away the top winger.
Best Centre: This gong is wide open. The default on this usually is Jamie Lyon but for mine his partner Steve Matai has been his equal this year while Dean Whare has been awesome.
Best Five-Eighth: Johnathan Thurston spent half the season here and will probably be awarded this one.
Best Halfback: There are contenders left, right and centre. Ben Hunt will likely get the award but Adam Reynolds is the most deserving.
Best Lock: Trent Merrin is so underrated and should get recognition. He is a chance if Sam Burgess is recognised as a second rower.
Best Second-Rower: Sam Burgess has been the best forward in the comp and will be leaving with something.
Best Prop: This is a three-horse race between James Graham, Jesse Bromwich and Matt Scott. What Graham has added to the premiership is too much to ignore.
Best Hooker: Cameron Smith. Again.
Mick Will Play: Despite all the talk that Mick Ennis won’t play in the Grand Final, there is some who think that this may be a Dessie mind game. It would come as no surprise at all if Mick Ennis led the Bulldogs out on Sunday night.
How the Dally M Medal is Emblematic of NRL Incompetence: This week the NRL celebrates its night of nights with the Dally M Medal awarded to the game’s best individual talent. It will be a homage not only to the game’s best player – as adjudged by an array of News Limited and Channel Nine media types – but also a bright and shiny genuflection to League HQ’s embrace of mediocrity and short-sightedness. No single event is more emblematic of the gulf between how the AFL and NRL are run than the difference between the revered Brownlow Medal night and the hokey and haphazard Dally M Medal award. Rugby league and Australian Rules may be on equal footing when it comes to the quality of the on-field product but there is a gulf the size of a Pat Richards kick between how the leagues handle their business. Read more here at The Guardian.
Back To Belmore: A fantastic week for the Canterbury club was made even better with the announcement that the Bulldogs would play a premiership home game at Belmore in 2015 and presumably at least once a season going forward. The Bulldogs have not played at their traditional home since 1998. After enduring decades at the heinous Homebush, Bulldogs fans deserve the suburban experience. It will be something special to head back there in 2015 as part of the 80-year celebrations for the Bulldogs.
Vale, Nathan Merritt: Rugby League said goodbye to one of its favourite – and most respected – sons last week with South Sydney champion Nathan Merritt announcing he was hanging up the boots after a stellar career that saw him finish with 154 tries and eighth spot on the all-time list. Merritt achieved the feat on a Rabbitohs team that typically struggled with a two-year stint at the sorry Sharks. A late-career rep call-up didn’t work out and he will not get a farewell finale with the Bunnies this week but he should not be forgotten as one of Souths’ greats and a true league champion.
Fun Fact #1: The last time Canterbury won a Grand Final their captain missed the game after suffering an injury in the preliminary final against Penrith.
Fun Fact #2: This is the fifth straight ‘4’ year Canterbury have made the Grand Final after playing in deciders in 1974, ’84, ’94 and 2004.
Fun Fact #3: Des Hasler is coaching in his fifth Grand Final in just his 11th season as an NRL coach.
Fun Fact #4: South Sydney are playing in their first Grand Final in 43 years.
Rumour Mill: One prominent Rugby League official could be out of the game sooner rather than later. Revelations would be a huge scandal with the high ranking administrator believed to have a serious addiction. Manly are expected to make some signings following the likely release of Anthony Watmough with Feleti Mateo and Willie Mason likely to join the Sea Eagles. Ben Barba is likely to be granted a release and will move his career to the Titans. Sam Tomkins could return to Wigan as soon as 2016. Trent Merrin is shaping up to leave the Dragons and could end up at the Broncos. The Cronulla Sharks are the most likely suitor for Dr Marwan Koukash. Kris Keating will be at the Sharks next season. Josh Hoffman is expected to join Canberra.
Betting Market of the Week: The biggest part of this week’s Grand Final will be:
$5.00: George Burgess
$3.50: James Graham biting the ear off Sam Burgess
$2.80: Josh Reynolds’ ego
$2.10: The NRL somehow managing to make a mess on the biggest stage
What I Like About … a South Sydney-Canterbury Grand Final: Rugby League has been crying out for a Grand Final like this for years and now it has it with two popular and widely supported Sydney teams duking it out in the most important game of the season. There is no doubt 2014 has been a troubled season for the League so it is fantastic to finish with a Grand Final that has captured the imagination of the footy loving public. Both sides are full of big personalities, big histories and big fanbases and after years of Grand Finals featuring the likes of talented but hardly popular teams like Melbourne, the Sydney Roosters and Manly it is super to have something fresh.
Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Parramatta have been referred to the ICAC amid claims former supremo Roy Spagnolo was involved in election corruption at the board elections.
1. South Sydney 17-9 (1)
2. Canterbury 16-11 (4)
The Coaching Crosshairs: Expect Jason Taylor to be announced as the Wests Tigers coach within a matter of weeks. Taylor reportedly interviewed with the club last week and impressed with his tactical astuteness. The Tigers are desperate for experience and Taylor has achieved some results at the highest levels. It will prove a bad hire though as Taylor has struggled to keep the respect of the playing group at past clubs.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Just 12 players remain in the NRL from Ricky Stuart’s last finals win – a 36-10 Sharks win against the Raiders in 2008.
Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 3: South Sydney-Sydney Roosters, 32-22. The margin may have been a blowout but seeing two hated rivals go at it for a spot in the Grand Final was something else. The Chooks blew from the gates but when Souths got on top they were relentless. When the Bunnies are firing there aren’t too many better sights in footy, that is for sure.
Correspondence Corner: Burkey, nobody uses their foot to play the ball. It is why the good teams get such a roll on. And in Rugby League, we never fully take care of issues. We just patch over them. It is awful such a simple rule is not enforced.
Martin, I enjoy seeing Manly continually regenerate and they certainly have the top-end talent to again be good but it will be a big effort to challenge for the title.
Dan and Gazza and the truthteller, to quote Ron Burgundy, we will have to agree to disagree. When in Rome.
Mascot Maven, you make a compelling case for Jason Taylor and I admit to not caring much for his style of play but I thought he severely underachieved with a pretty good Souths side that he took over.
Cam, that was quite a tirade!
Beard Watch: Canterbury head into Sunday’s decider with a major edge in the beard stakes. Canterbury will feature the best beard on ground with Frank Pritchard while James Graham has some patchy work and Mitch Brown has the fashionable stubble. Souths have Greg Inglis, whatever it is Chris McQueen has and Kirisome Auva’a’s Zorro moustache. Advantage Bulldogs.
Watch It: With South Sydney and Canterbury meeting in the Grand Final for the first time in 47 years, we go back to 1967 and the classic decider between the Bunnies and the Berries. It was the start of Souths’ last great glory era while it was Canterbury’s first decider in over two decades. The game is remembered for Bob McCarthy’s intercept try but also featured some other remarkable moments including a fantastic kicking shootout between George Taylforth and Eric Simms, a spectacular field goal from Ron Raper and a controversial scrum penalty five minutes from time. Watch it here.
Tags: Grand Final couch