Digicel Cup finals here


Hello everyone, welcome to the 27th ‘Churchie’s Comment’ for the year in your favourite rugby league newspaper — The National.
The restrictions in Queensland remain in place and therefore our round-18 clash with Brisbane Tigers will now be cancelled this weekend.
Restrictions are set to be lifted by Sunday afternoon, in doing so the Intrust Super Cup can resume round 19 against Souths Logan Magpies next weekend. Following round 19, we will then play the Capras (round 16) and Tweed Heads Seagulls (round 17) to finish the season before the finals.
With the lack of football for the SP Hunters, I thought I’d share some insights from Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL). What for a long time looked like a race between Melbourne and Penrith for this year’s premiership has seen some contenders emerge out of the pack.
No team has won the premiership from outside the top-four in the NRL era. I do, however, feel it’s possible. We can, however, rule out anyone below sixth position on the ladder. More than likely teams that secure seventh and eighth spot will have lost more games than they have won, meaning they lack the consistency to challenge the top sides.
Parramatta seem to be in free fall at the moment, highlighted by their loss to Manly last weekend. The Eels have been using our training facility last week and assistant Coach Paul Aiton and myself took in a couple of their field sessions. What struck me most about their training was that they didn’t seem to value the ball. Often dropping the ball during the sessions that mostly happened unopposed.
The Roosters have been a remarkable story, a huge list of injuries or retirements have plagued their season. They continue to perform and remain in the top-four. While the injury list has been something they have overcome in the regular season, I’m just not sure they have the firepower left to take it to the next level.
Manly, with some doubt over Tom Trbojevic’s cheekbone injury, might have a quiet few weeks while he recovers. It’s assumed it’s not serious so he should be back for the finals. I like the way Manly moved the Storm defence around two weeks back, it’s the most disjointed I have seen Melbourne defence in some time.
Penrith have just got Nathan Cleary back from shoulder injury in time for the finals. They have been a bit disjointed without Cleary controlling the play but if he stays fit, expect them to push deep into the finals.
The Rabbitohs seem to be firing at the right time, outscoring opponents in a nine-game winning streak since they were beaten easily by Penrith back in May. Wayne Bennett has them priming at the right time, no one has done it more or longer than Wayne. The Rabbitohs possess strike across the park and Cody Walker has been in career best form.
The Storm have been ever consistent, as we have come to expect, winning their past 18 games straight. For mine, there has been a slight drop in intensity from the Storm in the past couple of weeks. They are shooting for the record of 19 consecutive wins this weekend against the Titans.
For me, completing your sets well, kicking for pressure, taking your chances and having a quality halfback to steer you around the park, is the recipe to get you into the grand final. The last four teams I assessed all have that. I’m tipping a Storm-Rabbitohs grand final.
The Digicel Cup finals series back home starts this weekend. Congratulations to Lae Tigers for securing the minor premiership title. Well done to Mendi Muruks for being there right until the final hooter against Port Moresby Vipers in Lae last Sunday. Both teams have a break this weekend.
The eliminations finals between Waghi Tumbe versus Rabaul Gurias and Vipers against defending premiers Hela Wigmen sets up an intense and interesting finals series.
We are cheering for you all from the Gold Coast. All the best and may the best teams win.
Until next week, stay safe, play safe and let’s all respect and be kind to each other.