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The Final Countdown - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 26 Sep 2008 14:52:00 GMT
Four teams will bring dreams to Aussie Stadium this weekend. Two sides will move one step closer to accumulating a fairy tale finish. But which one’s?

The historical consequences of these games will be enormous in a year when we celebrate the blood, sweat and tears that have represented 100-years of Rugby League in Australia.

Crowds as a result I believe will be stronger then is being anticipated by the media and league officials and I see the Sharks-Storm game having most of the pulling power this weekend.

Cronulla fans will pour every resource into winning their first premiership after 41-years of existence and that includes human resources lifting the spirits of the Sharks in this do or die clash.

In terms of physicality in week three of the finals, the Manly-New Zealand game I think will be nothing short of a clash of the Monster Trucks. Can’t wait for the opening twenty minutes. Somebody’s gonna get flattened.

I will now let the GRL Phantom preview all the action which will be spilling into your bedrooms, cars, pubs and other fine football outlets over the next twenty four hours.

Cronulla Sharks V Melbourne Storm
Friday 26th September, 7:45pm
Sydney Football Stadium
Referee: Tony Archer
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Matt Cecchin
Video Referee: Steve Clark
Phantom’s Tip: Sharks
Editors Tip: Sharks

I reckon the Storm's reign is over. It should have been last week in a tight and thrilling game which saw the Storm get home in the final 48 seconds through a try to Greg Inglis.
Ricky Stuart's men are ready to win and for the Sharks to be in the grand final for the first time since 1978 when they drew 11-11 with Manly and then lost the replay 16-0.
The Sharks did make the Super League grand final in 1997, but who cares about the Super League (sorry, but I didn't watch it that year). [Editors note: I was asleep during the final]
The Sharks have been the quiet achievers all year.
They finished on 38 points (the same as Manly and minor premiers, Melbourne) but in the end it was the for and against record which proved to be the difference.
The Sharks have beaten both Melbourne and Manly this year and in the first two rounds of the competition.
Tonight, the Storm meet their waterloo. They will be hard to beat as champions die hard, but their era of dominance is coming to an end.
It will be a mission impossible to overcome the loss of skipper Cameron Smith, Jeremy Smith and Ryan Hoffman.
The Storm have peaked and they did that when they defeated Manly 16-10 in a battle of Brookevale seven weeks ago.
Since that game, Melbourne haven't been the same team physically or emotionally.
Billy Slater saved their bacon last week when he held up Ben Hannant over the line.
Had the blond-haired prop scored it was all over red rover.
I fancy the Sharks tonight winning via mind over muscle.
Brett Kimmorley, Paul Gallen and Ben Pomeroy and Isaa De Gois will be the key quartet for the Sharks.
For the Storm, Michael Crocker, Billy Slater, Matt Geyer and Cooper Cronk are their key four.
It will be rough, it will be tight and probably a low scoring affair, but the Sharks will prevail and get one step closer to erasing their 41-year nightmare.

SHARKS: 1. Brett Kearney 2. Misi Taulapapa 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. David Simmons 5. Luke Covell 6. Blake Green 7. Brett Kimmorley 8. Ben Ross 9. Isaac De Gois 10. Adam Peek 11. Luke Douglas 12. Fraser Anderson 13. Paul Gallen (c) Interchange: 14. Danny Nutley 15. Brian Norrie 16. Kade Snowden 17. Terrence Seu Seu; Reserves: 18. Grant Millington 19. Mitch Brown Coach: Ricky Stuart
STORM: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Steve Turner, 3. Matt Geyer, 4. Israel Folau, 5. Anthony Quinn, 6. Greg Inglis, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jeff Lima, 9. Cam Smith (c)*, 10. Brett White, 11. Michael Crocker, 12. Sika Manu, 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 14. Aiden Tolman, 15. Adam Blair, 16. Scott Anderson, 17. Antonio Kaufusi Coach: Craig Bellamy

Manly Sea Eagles V New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 27th September, 7:45pm
Sydney Football Stadium
Referee: Shayne Hayne
Touch Judges: Steve Chiddy & Jeff Younis
Video Referee: Bill Harrigan
Phantom’s Tip: Manly
Editors Tip: Warriors
The Sea Eagles return from their one week finals vacation. Will the fresh air, the extra sun tan lotion and midday snoozes in hammocks on the northern beaches help them or hurt them?

Jet Lag. Could this prove to be the undoing of the New Zealand Warriors best performance in the finals under coach Ivan Cleary?

All these questions will be answered on Saturday night.

Manly halfback Matt Orford was awarded the Dally M Medal this year and now is his best chance to make the critics look like expert halfwits via a big game.

Manly are structured, strong, superbly fit, tough, durable and wear you down. When required, they can unleash the shackles and score several tries in a short space of time to win a game.

New Zealand are in hot form but if they squander possession like they did in the first half last week and don’t get defensive discipline right in pressure tight situations, the game could be over by half-time.

Where the Warriors have the advantage is in the head. Teams that are rated as favourites tend to play a more conservative type of footy where as the underdogs produce more offloads and free flowing attack not to mention greater risk-taking.

Manly however I feel will out fatigue the Warriors in the end and win by 12.
SEA EAGLES: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Michael Robertson 3. Steve Bell 4. Steve Matai 5. David Williams 6. Jamie Lyon 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Brent Kite 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Glenn Hall 13. Glenn Stewart Interchange: 14. Heath L'Estrange 15. Mark Bryant 16. Jason King 17. Steve Menzies; Reserves: 18. Adam Cuthbertson (1 player to be omitted) Coach: Des Hasler
WARRIORS: 1. Wade McKinnon 2. Aidan Kirk 3. Brent Tate 4. Jerome Ropati 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Michael Witt 7. Nathan Fien 8. Ruben Wiki 9. Ian Henderson 10. Steve Price (c) 11. Simon Mannering 12. Ben Matulino 13. Micheal Luck Interchange: 14. Lance Hohaia 15. Epalahame Lauaki 16. Sam Rapira 17. Grant Rovelli; Reserves: 18. Logan Swann 19. Evarn Tuimavave Coach: Ivan Cleary - Read More, Here