And thus, with the Raiders qualifying for next Sunday, the only current team to not appear in a Grand Final in the NRL era are the Gold Coast Titans.
Oddly enough, in the AFL, the only current team to not appear in a Grand Final are the Gold Coast Suns.
Something something about that strip of land being the Bermuda Triangle of Australian sport.
Canberra 16 defeated Souths 10 @ GIO Stadium
A record 26,567 patrons flooded Bruce Stadium to celebrate this glorious festival of green which has swept Canberra, and Josh Hodgson powered the Raiders to their long-awaited return to Rugby League’s second-biggest stage after 25 long years.
Not that Josh remembers, considering he somehow didn’t go off for a HIA after copping a hit to the head 11 minutes in.
After putting the early pressure on and failing to score, Souths were immediately in the crap when the Raiders took advantage of a cheap knock-on from Corey Allan trying to escape the in-goal following a grubber, a mistake forced by Hodgson chasing his own kick, leading to Jarrod Croker diving on the ball and scoring.
And yet, despite WAYNE’s claim that barely half the Souths team were 100% for the game, they were more than good enough to win with the amount of chances they had and promptly pissed away in Raiders territory.
Gagai provided an exception, scoring to make it 6-all at the break.
Once the final 40 got underway, Jack Wighton was able to break the deadlock through a cocktail of sheer luck, quick thinking and good reflexes to turn a knock-on into a successful kick and chase.
A few minutes after that, I figured out what Sticky meant when he decided to bring Josh Papalii off the bench as an impact player.
Adam Doueihi found out the hard way when Josh stood his ground and snapped him in two, which landed Papalii on report, which was thrown out 12 hours later.
And then as they both went off for HIAs, not even 2 minutes later in the 52nd minute, Sam Burgess just about tore his left bicep off after decapitating Jarrod Croker.
Everyone was fine.
The play that really summed up Souths for the night was when they bagged a penalty from an out on the full dropout to put them on the Raiders 10 with 20 minutes to go, and then on the first play, they fell asleep at the wheel and the Raiders did their trademark strip.
Reynolds made the play of the night with the intercept and streak into Raiders territory, which forced a desperate Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to go for the desperate strip to slow him down after the tackle was done, and the referee had no hestitation sending him to the bin for a professional foul, leaving the Raiders playing with 12 for the final 10 minutes.
Weird coincidences- The second game in a row that a player has been binned deep into a final against Souths.
It didn’t matter in the end, because like they did all bloody night, Souths froze like a rabbit in the headlights as soon they got inside the 20, and for some reason, the 6th tackle pass went to Damien Cook instead of Renyolds, and Cooky laced the kick straight to Jarrod Croker in the in-goal to give the Raiders a 7 tackle set.
Despite having 12 men, the Raiders strolled down the field, and capping off the night, Papalii discovered the comparative twig in Cook was the only Rabbit between him and the game-sealing try.
It went rather well.
By the time Souths finally scored through Campbell Graham with a minute to go, the ship had pretty much sailed.
The Raiders saw out the final 20 seconds, and for the first time since Paul Keating was treating Alexander Downer like the salmon that jumps on the hook, the Green Machine is powering to Sydney for a Graaaaand Final.
The Rabbits had 10 more sets, had to lay 60 fewer tackles, won the possession battle 56-44…. and yet they couldn’t figure out the defensive mechanisms of the Green Machine.
And then after the game, with the small matter of a retiring club games record holder in Johnny Sutton walking off the ground one last time, the Bunnies gave him a guard of honour to match their attacking performance.
There was nothing there.
The Raiders earned this one, and they’ll be there next Sunday, but by gee by jingo by crikey, they’d want to be better than that against the heaviest of heavyweights in the Chooks.
Ricky Stuart’s first Grand Final as coach of the Roosters was on October 6, 2002.
His first Grand Final as Raiders coach (Against the Roosters) will be on… October 6, 2019!
Easts 14 defeated Melbourne 6 @ The SCG
This week, on ‘Musings With Gus’.
Gus: “I’d love to be up there with the drone and watch the footy.”
Rabs: “It’d have to be a big drone, I’ll give you the hot tip.”
Freddy: “I think it’s called a blimp.”This is an actual conversation from the 1st Half.
Still, that wasn’t even the weirdest thing I endured in that 1st Half.
Not even 20 seconds in, on the first hit-up of the game, and Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Siosiua Taukeiaho decided to throw Clayton’s punches at each other (Nelson’s was closer to a slap), and they both ended up in the bin.
Thanks to Big Nelson throwing the first slap, the Roosters had a penalty on the Storm 10, which they used to put the opening points on the board, and funnily enough, that
Funnily enough, after that, the referees just let the game go, and allowed both teams to beat the crap out of each other in the ruck.
The Roosters once again peppered Will Chambers down the left, and it worked when Tupou out-jumped Chambers, looked like he was going to get held up in goal, only to work his arm free, and somehow get the ball to Boyd Cordner, who scored the opening try.
Highlighting the aggression of both teams, Luke Keary managed to pull out a decent chunk of Felise Kaufui’s hair with a swinging arm in revenge for copping a don’t argue, which coincidentally, resulted in Kaufusi going off with a rib injury… and for a HIA, which he ultimately failed.
To steal a joke, “I can see Keary now, my hair is gone!”
That sparked suggestions that Keary would be suspended for the Grand Final, but he was ultimately given the regulation hair pull fine, which I saw led to a nuff nuff argument that “If he was Sam Burgess he’d have been suspended!”.
Quick hint- Sam was suspended for hair pulling because he has a bigger list of priors than a gangster rapper, which ultimately counted against him.
The Storm looked to be struggling for answers in attack when they got inside Roosters territory, especially kicking into what was described as a swirling southerly to the Randwick end.
They’d most likely have put up at least 2 or 3 tries on at least a dozen other teams… but it was simply the Bondi Wall at it’s best.
Still, it was only 8-0 at the break, and if the 1st Half was brutal, the 2nd Half was quite simply put, the two best defensive teams going at it… which inevitably resulted in more players going off for HIAs than there were tries scored.
Ryan Papenhuyzen (Twice), Kaufusi, Mitch Abusson…
And throw in Keary and Mitchell hurting various parts of their lower legs, it was a wonder the final minutes weren’t just Smith and Cronk being left on the field, giving each other death stares.
After coming close several times, the Storm finally scored when Big Nelson took advantage of a quick play the ball from Smith and Smith, and crashed over in the 50th minute, and to be honest, with 20 minutes to go, I thought the Storm were a better chance of winning, with the way they were getting plenty of penetration into Roosters territory, only for the Tricolours to somehow hold firm.
Example: Brett Morris completely misreads a bomb on the hour mark, leaving the Storm with 7 tackles inside the 10, starting with the Roosters somehow holding out Kenny Bromwich, and then ending with Smith putting in a grubber on the 5th tackle, only for Morris to have it covered.
The decisive moment was in the 68th minute, when Cronk and Angus Crichton got something going, leading to Cronk being cut down 8 metres out, and on the next play, Joey Manu fed it to Taukeiaho who fed it off to Tedesco, who just about sealed it with a try, before Latrell’s conversion put the margin back to 8 points, and that was enough.
Adding further insult to injury, during that tackle attempt, The Pap was left bleeding heavily and concussed after a pretty awful head clash with Kenny Bromwich, which absolutely finished him off for the night with 10 minutes to go.
It was a shame, because he was arguably Melbourne’s best player, and the leading metre eater on the ground for the night (222 metres- The only player over 200).
As for the Roosters, Boyd Cordner led from the front with JWH out, scoring the opening try and always looking threatening in attack, Daniel Tupou was massive in the air, and the soon-to-be Dally M Medalist Jimmy Tedesco was Jimmy Tedesco.
With all this talk about this possibly being the end for Cam Smith, I personally don’t think that was his last game, simply because he won’t want to bow out with his last memory as a player being losing a final to Cooper Cronk, and having to hug him after the game.
9 Grand Finals in 16 seasons for Cooper… that’s nuts.
Fluke Tipping Performance Update- INTO THE TOP 500
No, this is not photoshopped.
In the future, they won’t regard flukes as “Pulling a Bradbury”, they’ll regard it as “Pulling a JT in the 2019 FootyTips NRL Comp”.