Andrew Pelechaty previews the 2019 NRL grand final between the Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After an easy qualifying final win over Souths – and a week off – the Roosters had a tougher preliminary final against Melbourne. The game erupted on the first tackle, with Siosiua Taukeiaho (Roosters) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne) sin-binned. The Roosters led 8-0 at half time (try to Boyd Cordner, two goals to Latrell Mitchell), before a converted try to Asofa-Solomona got the Storm within two early in the second half. James Tedesco’s try with 12 minutes left sealed another grand final appearance for the Roosters, living up to their #EastsToWin hashtag. There’s a lot at stake: not only can they become the first back-to-back NRL premiers (and the first back-to-backers in a united comp since Brisbane in 1992-93), but can also send Cooper Cronk out a winner.
Canberra entered their first grand final in 25 years after an epic GIO Stadium preliminary final win against Souths. With over 26,000 packing Bruce – and an amazing Viking Clap – the Raiders responded. Captain Jarrod Croker scored Canberra’s first try, before Souths levelled 6-6 at halftime. Some quick thinking footwork by Jack Wighton – losing the ball, but kicking ahead to score before it became a knock-on – gave Canberra a 10-6 lead. Souths dominated the second half possession, but Canberra soaked up the pressure. A barging try to Josh Papalii with seven minutes left sealed victory. Like the Roosters, Canberra have plenty to play for on Sunday: they can break the second-longest premiership drought among current clubs, and win their fourth premiership on the thirtieth anniversary of their first.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returns from his one-match suspension, while co-captain Jake Friend is named in the reserves. Friend hasn’t played since July, so it could be a big risk against a fired up Raiders team.
Sydney Roosters’ squad: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Brett Morris, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Isaac Liu, 9. Sam Verrills, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Boyd Cordner (c), 12. Mitchell Aubusson, 13. Victor Radley, 14. Angus Crichton, 15. Zane Tetevano, 16. Nat Butcher, 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 18. Sitili Tupouniua, 19. Drew Hutchison, 20. Jake Friend (c), 21. Ryan Hall.
Canberra name an unchanged line-up from the preliminary final. Josh Hodgson missed training with a virus, but is expected to play.
Canberra Raiders’ squad: 1.Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Iosia Soliola, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joseph Tapine, 14. Bailey Simonsson, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Corey Horsburgh, 17. Dunamis Lui, 18. Sam Williams, 19. Ryan Sutton, 20. Siliva Havili, 21. Sebastian Kris.
HEAD TO HEAD
These side have met twice this year, both ending in close wins to the Roosters (30-24 and 22-18). The first was during Magic Round. On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Lang Park, the Roosters shot out to a 30-6 lead early in the second half (two tries to Latrell Mitchell), before Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jack Wighton, and Michael Oldfield got Canberra within six. The Raiders narrowly missed a chance to level the scores when a last-minute try scoring chance went begging. The rematch in Canberra saw the Roosters outscore the Raiders four tries to three (a double to Daniel Tupou). Canberra have played one game at ANZ Stadium this year, beating Canterbury-Bankstown 12-10. The Roosters defeated Parramatta 32-18, Canterbury 20-12, and lost to Souths 16-10.
James Tedesco vs Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
A big battle of two in-form fullbacks.
Tedesco has been sensational for the Roosters and NSW. He has 17 tries in 23 games this year, including the winner against Melbourne in the prelim. He has the big game experience and temperament to turn the game for the Roosters. If he finds some space, he’ll trouble the Raiders’ normally solid defence. A familiarity with Homebush – scoring two tries in this year’s Origin decider – will help.
CNK has had an almost faultless season at Bruce, starting as a no-name and ending as a cult hero. With Jack Wighton switching to five-eighth, CNK has slotted into fullback and ensured a smooth transition. While he was sin-binned late in the preliminary final, it was only after a magnificent chase to stop Adam Reynolds scoring a runaway intercept try. CNK has scored 11 tries from 25 games, and he’s safe and dependable under the high ball. He’ll need every bit of that dependability as the Roosters – and the pro-Roosters crowd – will test CNK on last tackle kicks.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday October 6.
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Homebush.
WHO WILL WIN?
With the Roosters’ recent grand final experience, they will be heavy favourites, but Canberra’s recent winning form and momentum is a big factor. They’ve faced a tough month-and-a-half of footy to get here: beating Melbourne twice (in Melbourne) winning in Golden Point at Shark Park, and the emotional preliminary final win over Souths (resisting everything Souths’ attack threw at them in the second half). Those kinds of wins galvanise a team and create unbreakable self-belief. Neutrals will jump on the Canberra bandwagon, and club legend Mal Meninga is leading a special Viking Clap. That will fire up the Raiders, which could be enough to get them home.
Canberra by six.