War to launch hostilities
Arch-enemies first to do finals battle
THE fiercest rivalry in the NRL will kick off the finals series in a blockbuster that returns to the hallowed turf of the SCG for the first time in 32 years.
Staunch rivals the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney are poised to clash on Friday night for the second time in eight days.
Welcome to the first week of the NRL finals.
After six months and 25 rounds, only 80 minutes remains in the NRL season proper, with ninth-placed Wests Tigers needing to beat eighth-placed Cronulla for the final top-eight spot at a sold-out Leichhardt Oval this afternoon.
The showdown in the suburbs is the final piece for the NRL to lock in ahead of the 2019 finals series.
The NRL held meetings yesterday with broadcasters Fox Sports and Channel 9 to determine who plays who — and where.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal:
The Raiders’ shock loss to the Warriors yesterday was massive, leaving them to face a trip south to tackle minor premiers Melbourne at AAMI Park on Saturday;
Despite fears their home ground may be deemed unfit for finals football, a bruised and battered Manly will host the Sharks or Tigers on Saturday night at Brookvale’s Lottoland;
Brisbane’s 30-14 flop against Canterbury last night left them needing to prepare to play Parramatta in a historic first semi-final in front of a sold-out 30,000 crowd at the newly built Bankwest Stadium on Sunday afternoon;
The Broncos can still miss the top eight if the Tigers and Sharks are drawn at the end of golden point extra time at Leichhardt Oval today. In that case, both the Tigers and Sharks would advance;
The NRL will return finals footy to suburban grounds due to the unavailability of Allianz Stadium.
Despite yesterday’s upset defeat, the “Green Machine” travel to Melbourne with confidence, having beaten the Storm just four weeks ago.
On a famous night for the club, Canberra rallied from behind on the scoreboard to beat the Storm on their home turf, 22-18.
However, coach Ricky Stuart faces a nervous wait to learn if gun forward Hudson Young faces scrutiny after making contact with Adam Pompey’s eye during the match yesterday.
Young has already served a five-game suspension for eye gouging earlier this year.
In the wake of Melbourne’s professional finalround win over North Queensland on Friday night, Bellamy said the Storm would need to be better — particularly his plethora of young talent who are untested in finals footy.
But without doubt, the build-up to the Roosters-Rabbitohs semi-final on Friday will dominate the Sydney media.
Undeniably, Roosters coach Trent Robinson will have his side mentally charged for the rematch after they went down 16-10 on Thursday night.
The NRL will meet again today before confirming the final top-eight fixtures at the conclusion of the Tigers versus Sharks clash.
Tickets for members go on sale tomorrow, with the general public getting their chance to buy them for as little as $25 on Tuesday.
Canterbury winger Nick Meaney dives over in the corner to score one of his three tries in the win over the Broncos last night.