NRL preliminary finals previews

NRL preliminary finals previews
Billy Slater will play his last match in Melbourne tomorrow night. Photo: Museumofinanity. Wikimedia Commons

This weekend the race for the NRL premiership heats up a notch with the preliminary finals. On Friday night the Storm play the Sharks in Melbourne, while on Saturday the Roosters take on the Rabbitohs in Sydney for spots in the NRL grand final next week. Both these games will be fantastic, with the battle-hardened Sharks and Bunnies taking on the rested Storm and Roosters. All four finalists have won premierships in the last 5 years, and all are loaded with representative and finals experience.

Two weeks ago the Melbourne Storm defeated Souths by a single point to progress straight to the preliminary finals. In the same round the Roosters handily disposed of Cronulla. The two losers have done things the hard way, each winning their semi-final with a drop goal at the death to reach the preliminaries.

The Storm will be at full strength and well rested after their week off, with the Sharks carrying several niggling injuries. Melbourne will be aware that they were lucky to avoid a semi-final, however they will have the belief that they can win the close games (as will Cronulla after winning by a drop goal last weekend). In Billy Slaters final season, the Storm will not lack motivation.

Paul Gallen, the inspirational Sharks skipper, is in serious doubt, although Luke Lewis has recovered well from a corked calf. Wade Graham, one of the Shark’s best all year, is also out – although this didn’t stop Cronulla beating Penrith. The Storm should have the edge in this match.

Saturday night will be tough for Souths. They have had two tough matches that have gone down to a single point in a row, and they could be forgiven for running out of steam. The Roosters, however, will be without attacking weapon and goal kicker Latrell Mitchell after he was handed a 1 week suspension for a crusher tackle.  They still possess plenty of star power in the backline, however.

The Rabbitohs have had their own issues to deal with, despite being at full strength. It is impossible for the sexting saga not to have taken its toll on the team, particularly the Burgii who are at the centre of it – and who Souths rely on to make metres in the mid field. On paper the two sides look equally matched, however fatigue will most likely come into play for the Rabbitohs to see the Sydney Roosters go into the final.