As the footy season draws to a close it might be worthwhile looking back on the year and reflecting on what has gone on and finish with a humble prediction for this weekend.
From the start we should be appreciative of what the authorities have done to ensure that matches and indeed competitions went ahead. It would have cost the NRL millions for instance to locate all the sides in Qld for the duration of the season proper. $5million a week was the bill for the AFL. I feel sorry for the Melbourne Storm who have had to endure two years of being away from home. Interesting to note that the same club has given its supporters free membership next year as a way of saying thanks.
Even the Rugby officials did well to get the whole international season for southern hemisphere sides on track. All four countries relocated to Qld for the duration of the games and that move really boosted the Wallabies who have found form in the nick of time and will be the chief beneficiary.
Early in the year (Magic Round) there began a clampdown on head high tackles and many people said it would ruin the game. It didn’t and player welfare has been paramount. Players adjusted their tackling style, and the game is just as aggressive as it always was. Whilst there will always be incidents during a match that cause controversy; in the main, the authorities (including the bunker) got it right most of the time.
Then there was the complaint that the new ‘six again’ rule (instead of a penalty) would see scores blow out. Even South Sydney had 50 points put on them (twice) during the season proper. But during this finals time the best sides showed that you could still have close tight games. Witness Penrith’s finals wins over Parramatta and the Storm (12-10 and 10-6) to illustrate that if you are good enough with your defence, scores can be low.
The Melbourne Demons finally won an AFL premiership after more than fifty years. They are the Manly of the AFL with membership mainly consisting of the well to do and movers and shakers in business, who often choose to go to the snowfields instead of the footy. I enjoyed the game and although they trailed at halftime, they kicked 14 of the last 17 goals. Quite amazing really.
So, to this weekend’s grand final. Both are worthy winners, but I think South Sydney will win for a few reasons. Penrith have not been that impressive in their two finals victories. Last week Storm suffered when they lost two of their best players for the duration of the match after just 15 minutes and that affected their rotation of players. How they missed Cameron Smith when they needed that calmness. Storm also chose to have their worst game of the year given the number of errors and bombed opportunities. However, credit to Penrith’s defence which was outstanding and contributed to such errors.
Souths will be much fresher. They have the big match coach in their corner who has been there with four different clubs (don’t forget Canberra). He will get the best out of them and then you have the fairy tale finish for Benji Marshall who was on the scrapheap not long ago but remains everyone’s favourite.