Melbourne Storm vs. Canberra Raiders
Suncorp Stadium, 7:50pm, Friday October 16
Team News: Melbourne are unchanged from their win over Parramatta, though Dale Finucane has been named in the reserves, and remains a chance of playing his first game in two months. Canberra have named the same 17 that defeated the Roosters, with Tom Starling and Sia Soliola again named to start with Siliva Havili and Hudson Young on the bench.
Prediction: Two sides who have enjoyed some mammoth clashes over the past two seasons, none bigger than their week one semi-final contest last year. There’s a host of great matchups across the park – but the potential retirement of Cameron Smith will overrule them all. The NRL’s all-time most capped player could farewell Suncorp on Friday, but he won’t be farewelling the NRL this week.
The likes of Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton are better with each passing ‘pressure’ game, and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was immense last week. But Melbourne are Melbourne – the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Brandon Smith and many more are aching for their first premiership, and with Cam Smith retiring and Suliasi Vunivalu departing for Union, this is the Storm’s week. Melbourne by 10.
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Penrith Panthers vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
ANZ Stadium, 7:50pm, Saturday October 17
Prediction: The best team of the season against the form team of the comp, this will be a cracker. Reports circle that Penrith are unhappy about playing the Saturday game because they feel they should’ve been the first to qualify for the Grand Final. Now, they are playing their preliminary final at their opponent’s home game, and if early reports ring true, will be outnumbered by South Sydney fans. Kikau is a monumental loss but the Panthers have a great deal of depth, and with the way their spine is playing, they’ll cope.
The Bunnies? Well they’ve outscored their opposition 144-52 over the last three weeks, a converted try away from averaging 50 a game. Cody Walker is the man in the limelight but it’s been Damien Cook and Adam Reynolds steering the side, while Corey Allan is playing above his weight.
Both these sides can attack, we know that, but defence is where this game is won. It’ll be heartbreak for South Sydney as they lose their third consecutive preliminary final, but this is the Panther’s game to lose. Penrith by 8.