BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Oh rugby league you crazy old minx – just when we thought we had the answers, you change the questions.
The Brisbane Broncos can’t win without Darius Boyd they said. Messiah Brad Arthur’s Parramatta would have no problems with injury-ravaged North Queensland, Nathan Cleary is the next New South Wales State of Origin halfback they said. There’s no Cowboys without Johnathan Thurston.
Then, just like that, as quickly as you can say ‘Radradra’s scored again!’ she takes it all away.
There’s no such thing as an expert tipster in the NRL – we know less than nothing.
And even when she is getting kicked in the guts repeatedly by its bastard media children – she rises from the ashes stronger than ever.
This is why Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters fans should be shaking in their boots. If this finals series has taught us anything it’s to expect the unexpected and favourites tags are meant to be ripped to shreds.
Parramatta were meant to be the fairy tale story of 2017 but that was blown to smithereens on the weekend by a Cowboys team that implicitly believes in their journey. This humbled writer said that they would be lucky to win another game prior to round 25. They then beat Wests Tigers at Campbelltown to keep their season alive. The Cowboys have also busted the myth that you can’t win in September without your best players. What they’ve already done is monumental but you sense they have plenty more left in the tank.
Perhaps it was the Sydney media but the Broncos were apparently no chance without Boyd last Friday at Suncorp. In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, “life finds a way”.
For all the over-complication of the modern, professional game, next week comes down to 80 minutes of footy.
Storm and the Broncos at AAMI Park could be anything. Melbourne are the minor premiers and rightfully deserve everyone’s respect. They could win this by 20 but who knows what rugby league has in store for us?
To assume a Melbourne victory is a dangerous game. Just ask Cronulla, Penrith and Parramatta. While the Storm have been the runaway force in NRL 2017, it can all be knocked down.
Storm lock Dale Finucane is under no illusions heading into their clash with the Broncos.
“We never thought it was going to be an easy task to win games in the finals period,” Finucane said.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) September 16, 2017
“Any team is quite capable on their day. Probably we were guilty of some execution in periods of the games [throughout the season]. That will cost you this time of year.
“[Execution] is one of the main areas we need to fix up and making sure we hold the ball in the crucial moments.”
Roosters legend Brad Fittler had nothing but praise for North Queensland’s Michael Morgan ahead of the preliminary final in Sydney. Morgan is making his own footprint in Townsville rather than just another talent saddled alongside Thurston.
“I think players improve, you improve as you get older and learn a few things,” Fittler said on The Sunday Footy Show.
— NRL (@NRL) September 15, 2017
“But Michael Morgan’s changed. He’s a changed person. Remember when he used to be a quiet, shy, humble bloke? But he just turned into an absolute leader. He’s just nailing the moments, and he’s not missing at all.”
The Cowboys are nailing everything.
If the Cowboys can play to their potential again they will give themselves every chance of reaching a second grand final in three seasons. Trent Robinson’s Roosters are doing enough to win and that’s all you need to do at this time of the year but North Queensland would be justified in feeling they can cause another boilover.
Forget team form lines.
The only form that makes any sense in this finals series is that it doesn’t make sense.
It’s an old cliché but rugby league is the real winner.
All hail the great game.