So the Finals are here, and just to touch on the events of last weekend, people say that things can’t get any worse for the Wests Tigers after their Wooden Spoon disasterclass of a 2022 season, but I’d point out that they can get worse, for one simple reason….
With Redcliffe entering the NRL in 2023, the Tigers can finish 17th instead of 16th.
And when they do finish 17th, they’ll be pining for those 9th-placed finishes of the late 2010s like they were some kind of an Indian Summer.
Of course, while half the clubs dissected the rotting carcasses of their season during Mad Monday, among them Des Hasler facing the arse at Manly, the NRL have decided that Penrith and Cronulla will actually get to play their home Qualifying Finals at Panthers Stadium and Shark Park respectively, ignoring the urge to get thousands more spectators by holding them at the Olympic Stadium or Allianz, which seems consistent with the NRL, who have never really cared about spectator attendance over TV figures.
Speaking of crowds, Souths are once again irate at the NRL, this time over the fact that their fans weren’t able to buy Finals tickets thanks to a code error from the NRL:
A computer error has led to thousands of angry Souths fans missing out on prized tickets to Sunday’s crucial finals clash with arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
Members were given priority to buy tickets on Monday morning to the huge game which is certain to be a sell-out.
But when frustrated Souths fans tried to punch in the code provided by the NRL to buy tickets for the elimination match, they were met with an ‘error’ message.
After about 20 minutes, they received a follow-up email from Souths saying: “The code provided by the NRL in the previous email was incorrect. Please use .”
But by that stage, many of the best tickets had already been snapped up, presumably by Roosters fans who had no such computer problems.
First of all, it’s a Roosters home game, so there still would’ve been at least 20,000 spare tickets, and second of all, I thought Souths fans would know that you can’t buy tickets with a Centrelink card.
And finally, the NRL made the rather unique choice of delaying Taylan May’s 2-game suspension for assaulting a teenager until 2023, allowing him to play in the 2022 NRL Finals, a decision Peter V’Landys claimed was based on not wanting to punish Panthers fans for an indiscretion by May…
Yes, I’m sure the entire NRL Community, not just those long-suffering Penrith supporters who’ve been starved of premiership success for 11 months, want to see the Panthers at full strength for the Finals, let alone see a bloke found guilty of assault (Albeit with no conviction recorded) on the field.
On that note, seeing as they’re happy delaying suspensions, when are the NRL going to announce Lindsay Collins can play in the Finals, seeing as he was suspended for incidental contact on the field, rather than for belting someone off it.
Now, enough of that monkey business, time to take a look at Week One:
Minor premiers & defending premiers Penrith, with 97% of the cavalry returning, get the chance to prove that third time’s the charm against Westie rivals Parramatta, while the Eels get the chance to complete an almighty hat-trick on a Panthers team who have hardly lost a game since 2020, and prove themselves one of the best thorns in the side of a champion team we’ve ever seen.
Melbourne missed the Top 4 for the first time since 2014, and now with their bodies and minds belted into submission, they have to play a Raiders team with the best away record at AAMI Park of any team in the NRL, (7 wins from 12 games including the last 4 in a row), but oddly enough on the betting front, the Storm are the most lopsided H2H favourite of the weekend.
The two hard chargers up the 2022 ladder in Cronulla and North Queensland play in the first final held at Shark Park since 2008, in what honestly looks like the friendliest match of the entire weekend, with both teams playing consistent footy throughout the season, although they are facing a few questions as to their finals credentials.
And on Sunday, the Roosters and Rabbitohs are back for Round 2 at Allianz with the stakes even higher than last week, with the pendulum swinging somewhat in favour of the Rabbitohs with Joey Manu gone + Damien Cook and Campbell Graham back for Souths, and Latrell Mitchell will no doubt want to extract a pound of flesh on those Chooks fans who booed him, as he plays his first final since the 2019 Grand Final.
Fun fact – If the Roosters win, they’ll tie the OG St George Dragons for the most Finals wins in First Grade history (62), while Souths aren’t too far behind on 57.
Round 25 Score: 6/8
Progressive Score After Round 25: 140/195 (71.8%), without Origin games 139/192
Week One Picks:
Major Random Pick of the Week, which isn’t that random because I picked 4 home teams…
SOMETHING TO DO WITH A STRAY CAT STRUT, BECAUSE THE PANTHERS ARE GOING STRAIGHT INTO THE PRELIMINARY FINAL, BABY!