It's the penultimate weekend of NRL action for the 2022 season and we need to find two grand finalists out of the four remaining teams. Will it be the Eels or Cowboys first into the big dance? And who will they face: the Panthers or Rabbitohs?
Good luck with your tips.
Friday, September 23
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Tom Gilbert 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo Bench: 14. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 15. Luciano Leilua 16. Coen Hess 17. Griffin Neame Reserves: 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 20. Jake Granville
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 19. Bailey Simonsson 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali'i 13. Ryan Matterson Bench: 4. Bryce Cartwright 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore Reserves: 18. Makahesi Makatoa 20. Nathan Brown
Verdict: Which of these two teams will be first into the grand final? They met just the once this season, with the Cowboys thumping the Eels 35-4 in Darwin. I'm sticking with my theory that while the Cowboys and Sharks deserved to be in the finals, they probably weren't true Top 4 teams. The Cowboys played 10 games against Top 8 teams during the season and won five, two of them against the Raiders and another against the Panthers' reserve grade side. The Eels and Storm were their other two victims. They did claim 14 of their 17 victories north of the Tweed River, and playing this game in Townsville will be a huge advantage. The Eels have so much pressure on their shoulders going into this game. They have not been to a Grand Final since they lost the 2009 decider to a stacked Melbourne side, and we all know they haven't won one since 1986. If they can control their emotions and not crack under the pressure, and if Waqa Blake can catch a few high balls, they should be capable of winning this one.
Tip: Eels by 12
Saturday, September 24
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon Reserves: 18. Sean O'Sullivan 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. J'maine Hopgood 21. Sunia Turuva 22. Chris Smith
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 21. Richard Kennar 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray Bench: 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Hame Sele 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Jed Cartwright Reserves:18. Davvy Moale 19. Blake Taaffe 20. Josh Mansour 22. Jacob Host
Verdict: My thoughts are that the battle-hardened Rabbitohs should have an edge over the well-rested Panthers going into this one, but I said the same thing two weeks ago about the Eels, and the Panthers soon put that theory to rest. The Panthers won both of their clashes during the season, but both games were tough encounters. In last year's Grand Final the Rabbitohs very nearly upset the Panthers, and that was without Latrell Mitchell. The Bunnies will need all of their stars performing at their very best, and for the bounce of the ball to go their way wherever possible. If Nathan Cleary and the Panthers play like they did two weeks ago against the Eels, they will prove very difficult to beat. If they improve on that performance, the Rabbitohs could be in for a rough night.
Tip: Panthers by 8
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.