NRL Grand Final promises so much


The 2013 NRL season is coming to an end and the grand final between the Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea Eagles promises to be a fierce battle between two of the competition’s toughest teams. Fans can only hope that we see a game just as intense as the last time these teams met a couple of weeks back, when the Roosters battered their way to a brutal 4-0 victory.

The halves combinations of both teams have dominated discussions in the lead-up to the grand final, with so much resting on their shoulders. The Roosters and New South Wales pair of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney will be up against two players who I believe will both captain their national teams one day.

Daly Cherry-Evans and Kiwi Kieran Foran are in red-hot form for the Sea Eagles at the right time of the year. Last week against the Rabbitohs they held their nerve as 14 points were scored against them, steadied the team and without a hint of panic, steered the Sea Eagles to victory. Manly were supposed to be playing on tired legs, but they looked like they were running downhill as the game progressed and it was the work of Cherry-Evans and Foran that made it look like they were cruising.

South Sydney stuck to the game plan that carried them so far this year, the up-the-middle grind behind their monster pack. But when they fell behind Manly, they couldn’t find another gear. Finals football is about being solid, making the tough metres, but it’s also about being able to adapt and step things up when necessary. The Sea Eagles did that brilliantly last week and now they are in the grand final, while the Rabbitohs are done for the year.

The Roosters made their way into the big one by overpowering Newcastle through their forwards. The game was an arm wrestle early, but with inspirational leader Danny Buderus carried off, the Knights were worn down until they finally snapped. Once they did, the Roosters poured through their tattered defence.

It was a very good season for Newcastle. They will be a real threat next year, with Wayne Bennett still at the helm and Warriors prop Russell Packer boosting their engine room. Packer had lost his way a bit in New Zealand, packing on the weight and losing his effectiveness. The move to Newcastle could be just what his career needs and he will combine nicely with Kade Snowden up front.

The Roosters showed why they will be hard to beat on Sunday, with a powerful pack, a very smart dummy-half and halves and backs ready to pounce on any opportunity. Manly will be hoping to once again hold their ground in the forwards, survive the opening exchanges, then click their classy backline into gear.

It’s going to go right to the wire. The Roosters were victorious in their last match, but the Sea Eagles will have the benefit of Brett Stewart this time. Stewart makes so much difference to their attacking capabilities. His combination with his brother Glenn leads to many of their tries. I think the Sea Eagles might just sneak home to take home the title.

On a final note, congratulations must go to Cooper Cronk on winning his first Dally M Medal, the recognition was thoroughly deserved. It’s fairly well-known that Cronk spent some time in the pre-season doing high-altitude training with an AFL club. That sort of thing sums up the thorough professional that Cronk is. He is always striving for improvement, for that extra something to give him an edge over his opponents.

Cronk had a great year for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia and has really stepped up to share the spotlight with fellow ‘big three” players Billy Slater and Cameron Smith. The Storm may have ended the year on a disappointing note, but Cronk can look forward to the World Cup and preparing for yet another NRL season.

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